Budding cook; microplane or vacuum sealer?
Well, I've finally got my kitchen set up with all the basic tools I need like a good set of pans, good knives, etc. I'm trying to figure out what new tools I'll get the most out of. Unfortunately, I'm on a bit of a budget; I can't justify spending more than $50. I've been looking at Microplane graters (mostly for zests), but I'm waffling between that and FoodSaver's FreshSaver handheld vacuum sealer. I think I'll get more use out of the vacuum sealer, but it seems designed mostly for veggies and cold cuts; I'm not sure if it'll perform as well for freezing meats and batches, which is a big reason I want one. Does anybody know it the handheld unit works fine for freezing stuff? Should I just go for the microplane? I like adding zests to dishes, but it's kind of a pain with the box grater, so I don't do it very often. Any input would be welcome; and, of course, if there's some other (uncommon) tool that you think is absolutely essential and will be used again and again, I'm open to suggestions. Thanks, everyone!
I have never owned a vacuum sealer, but I use my microplanes (1 coarse and 1 fine) almost every day. Since I only use the microplanes for peels, I usually just run a brush over them and rinse them.
Unless you intend to cook sous vide, the vacuum sealer is hardly essential. You can use ziploc freezer bags and other means just as well for freezing.
Anyway you can buy your microplane zester for 15 bucks or less. They are easy to clean and work for ginger as well as citrus peel. You will enjoy. Im big on silicon spatulas these days too if you need another tool. they come in lots of shapes and degrees of stiffness but good for all kinds of things from blending and stirring to scraping out your food processor, etc.
Definitely a microplane! like most others, I use mine almost daily! As far as "vacuum sealing" goes, unless you need an absolutely perfect vacuum seal.. just stick whatever it is your sealing into a zipper bag, and submerge everything but the zipper into a sink full of water. The water will do a mighty fine job of pushing most of the air out of the bag. Unless your making sous vide, I would pass on the vac sealer. And for that matter I've made a few excellent sous vides using the zipper bag/sink method anyways..
Other wise, if you don't already have one, a Japanese whet stone for your knives and a good sharpening steel would be a good idea. As would a silicone baking mat, a few squeeze bottles (if presentation is important to you) and a good heavy meat pounder.
Otherwise you could invest that $50 into a window sill hydroponic herb garden, and supply yourself with more fresh herbs than you know what to do with. That could certainly be a good way to turn your cooking up a notch.
Let us know what you do!
I have both a microplane and a foodsaver. Neither is essential but the microplane is nice to have and it's only $10.
I love my full size Foodsaver BUT - if you don't have a dedicated place to keep it on the counter, you probably won't use it. The handheld Foodsaver bags are very expensive. They are reusable but you would have to carefully wash them after freezing meat with them. I doubt that their seal would hold well under freezing conditions. I think you would probably do just as well with ziplock bags and evacuating as much air as you can from them. You could even wrap the whole thing in foil (for sure for sure).
As far as knives, start with a chef's knife and a pairing knife. Those fancy brands are nice but start with Victorinox, they are much cheaper. Get a steel with the knives. As for pans, All-Clad is very nice ... and very expensive. Look for Try Ply Stainless steel. Tramontina Pro is nice and fairly inexpensive. You need a 10 and a 12 inch stainless steel skillet. A 10 and a 12 inch "stick free" skillet. Get the cheaper teflon coated pans. You will have to toss them when their coating gets ruined. Next a 1, 2 and a 3 quart saucepan with lids. A 5.5 quart enamel over cast iron "Dutch Oven" allows you to braise and that is a very good thing. A Le Creuset will cost $250.. a Tromontina will cost $40.
There are a few tools that are very useful such as:
Hot pot mitts
Digital Thermometer that is inserted into meats and signals you when a certain temperature is reached.
A set of mixing bowls
A set of small prep bowls for your mis en place
A set of dry measuring cups
A set of liquid measuring cups