Kitchens – A Beginner’s Guide
If you promote yourself as the kind of person who burns water, this guide may be for you. Or, you may be fresh out on your own and unsure what you should have in your kitchen. Try this on for size – it’s an introduction to your kitchen – the greatest room ever!
Your kitchen is the homiest part of your house – it’s where you prepare, and in many cases, eat most of the meals of the day, but it also contains some major machinery. The tools that keep your kitchen running can be divided into two major categories: major appliances and minor appliances. Check out the list below to get the low-down on the machines that make your kitchen hum.
Most modern kitchens have a combined stove-top and oven appliance, although separate stove-top and oven set-ups are becoming increasingly common. “Stove-top”, “range” or “cooktop” refers to the part of the appliance that provides direct heat through coiled burners or smooth top “hidden” burners and are operated by dial temperature controls. Sauces, soups, and frying usually take place on the range, which can be powered through either gas or electric energy. While gas burners heat up more quickly, both options are safe for cooking.
The oven is the most common kitchen appliance and is used for baking or roasting foods such as breads, desserts, and meat dishes. There are several different kinds of ovens, but the most popular models fall into one of three categories: conventional ovens, convection ovens, and combination ovens.
Unlike the range, the enclosed design of the conventional oven allows you to control not only the temperature, but also the direction of the heat, which is why it is used for both baking and roasting foods (in which the dish is heated from below) but also for broiling (in which the dish is heated at a high temperature from above).
The oven can be heated safely with either gas or electric energy, and is usually operated by a dial temperature control or an electronic keypad. Conventional ovens are versatile and efficient in preparing a wide variety of dishes. Many models that come with built-in special features, such as rotisserie attachments and pre-set temperature panels for “one-touch” cooking, are also becoming more popular.
Provide faster and more-even heating than conventional ovens. They work by blowing hot air around the oven interior, a process that “insulates” the food so that it cooks faster. Convection ovens are especially popular in commercial and restaurant kitchens.
The refrigerator is where you keep all your perishable foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and meats. Separate compartments within the fridge allow you to store different types of items separately. Typically, the temperature of a refrigerator is set by a manual dial or digital keypad at 4°C (37°F) or slightly colder, although newer units feature multiple temperature controls for different areas of the unit. For example, the meat bin could be set at 0°C (32°F), while the vegetable crisper is set at 3°C (37.4°F). Keeping the refrigerator at 4°C (39.2°F) or colder is the ideal temperature for slowing down the growth of bacteria. Just make sure you don’t set it too cold so your food doesn’t freeze and also don’t overstuff your refrigerator since the cold air needs to circulate around your food. Many modern refrigerators feature convenient add-ons such as ice dispensers.
A refrigerator usually features a freezer component in the top part of the appliance, although separate fridge and freezer units are common in smaller spaces. In many modern fridges, the freezer is located at the bottom or at the side of the unit for convenience. The deep cold of the freezer, usually set to -18°C (0°F), allows you to store foods for extended periods of time. Modern freezers often come with an ice-maker.
Unlike manual dishwashing, which requires scrubbing to remove food from plates and utensils, the mechanical dishwasher works by spraying hot water (54-65°C or 130-150°F) to which detergent has been added onto the items. Dishwashers typically have three cycles: wash, rinse and dry. Most plates, cups, and utensils can be washed in a dishwasher, but many pots, knives, and other cooking equipment can be damaged in the dishwashing cycle. For info on which kitchen items are dishwasher-safe, and which should be washed by hand, check the bottom of the item for a label or read the manufacturer’s website.
A staple in most kitchens, a microwave oven uses microwave radiation to cook food. Temperature and cooking time is controlled with either a digital keypad or a manual dial. While you can cook many dishes in a microwave, it’s used most often for defrosting and reheating food that’s been cooked on a stovetop or in an oven.
There are two main kinds of toasters you might encounter in a kitchen: automatic pop-up toasters (which are used to toast sliced bread you insert in slots) and toaster ovens (small electric ovens that allow you to cook or heat food on a tray).
Crock Pot or Slow Cooker
This countertop electrical cooking appliance is designed to sit on your countertop. It cooks food over low temperatures for many hours and does not need to be attended. Great for roasts and stews. You can place all the ingredients of your stew in the crock pot in the morning before class and come home to a fully cooked meal…very convenient and easy!