Lecture 12: Specialty Equipment

Required: Vegan in Volume : page 24, Simply Vegan: page 211-213
Recommended: Visit an appliance store and check out some of the equipment described in this lecture

******* Are you thinking about your next project???******

By the end of this lecture the student should be able to:
Explain how to set up a home vegetarian kitchen
Describe kitchen equipment that may be useful for a vegetarian quantity kitchen

Bubble, bubble, boil, and trouble
To be quite honest, vegetarian cooking does not require any specialized equipment. A knife, a cutting board, a pot and a stove and youíre in business. However, there are some types of equipment that can make life easier, cook foods more evenly or free you up to do other things while your items are cooking. Here are some suggestions for the home kitchen:

Just as you need to select the ingredients you know you will use, you need to select kitchen equipment with which youíre comfortable. The recipes in your books require the minimum amount of equipment while still taking advantage of labor-saving devices.

A good knife (and a way to sharpen it) and a cutting board, several mixing bowls, a small and a large frying pan, a large and a small pot (with lids), several baking dishes, a blender and a microwave, along with the usual necessities, such as can openers, stirring spoons, spatulas and a strainer or colander should do it. Weíre assuming you remember where the stovetop and the oven are, and that they are in good shape (i.e., the stove burners stay lit and the oven actually heats up to the temperature at which you set it). Be sure to have a good supply of foil and plastic wrap or waxed paper on hand, as well as an assortment of storage containers for extra portions of foods and ingredients.

If you like kitchen gadgets, you can certainly find a use for a food processor, an electric mixer, an electric can opener, a spice grinder, a coffee (or tea) brewer, a dehydrator, and a barbecue grill. These are not necessary for the recipes in the book. A microwave is not necessary, just a time saver. Weíve included directions for conventional and microwave cooking. If you are using a microwave, be sure you have an assortment of microwave-safe dishes, with lids.

Kitchen Safety
We donít want to hear about your adventures with E.coli or salmonella. Just because thereís no animal products around, doesnít mean there arenít any foodborne illness-causing bacteria lurking around. Bacteria like protein, whether itís from meat or from beans, rice, pasta, soy products, etc. Bacteria donít grow well below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees, so keep food either hot or cold, but not in-between.

Keep lots of towels, soap, bleach or bleach alternatives around. If you use sponges and towels, sanitize them frequently, with diluted bleach or in the dishwasher. Bacteria are rendered harmless by water that hotter than 180 degrees or by chlorine, so make your choice (you donít need both, just one or the other).

Avoid cross contamination (spreading bacteria from a utensil or food to another utensil or food) by sanitizing your hands and your utensils every time you switch dishes. You donít have to peel fruit and veggies, if you donít want to, but you do have to wash and scrub them well.

Label and date prepared food and ingredients. Do a refrigerator-sweep at least every five days and discard what does not resemble what it says it is on the label. If you think you wonít eat something in a day or two, freeze it. Remember to thaw foods in the refrigerator, not on the counter, unless your kitchen is below 40 degrees or above 140.

Invest in a thermometer to check the refrigerator, the freezer and the oven. This will not only keep foods safe, but also keep them fresher, and in the case of the oven, foods will be cooked properly. If you have a dishwasher, you might want to put the thermometer in it to be sure the water is heated to a sanitizing temperature. Remember that everything can be cleaned and sanitized. That means the oven racks, the inside of the freezer, the interior of the dishwasher and the pantry shelves. We wonít mention your travel cup and your insulated lunch bag.

Store foods safely. In the pantry, everything should be off the floor, in airtight containers and there should be enough room between boxes, cans and containers so that air can circulate. The same goes for the refrigerator and the freezer. If air canít get around, then the cool air canít get around either. If anything is going to drip in the refrigerator (like a package of thawing tofu), then place it on the bottom shelf, so it canít drip on foods beneath it.

Donít get too attached to pots, pans and utensils. If they rust, scratch, chip, corrode, crack or discolor, itís time to say "bye bye." Remember, when the non-stick coating starts disappearing from your nonstick pan, itís disappearing into your food (not a pleasant thought). And the scratches left by the coating disappearance are a perfect place for bacteria to grow (also not a pleasant thought). Try to avoid heavily painted serving dishes or eating dishes, especially for storing food. You donít want paint chips or heavy metals, such as lead or mercury (sometimes used in paint pigments) in your food.

Those are suggestions for the home kitchen. If you are cooking for a larger crowd, here are some thoughts on time-saving equipment:

  1. Food Processors: chopping, dicing, slicing and pureeing by hand is okay when cooking for two or three people. Food processors are turbo-charged knives. Since you will want all types of textures for your wonderful vegetarian cuisine, a food processor can come in handy. A food processor can puree beans for dips or soups, chop fruit for baking recipes and blend vegetables for sauces, to name a few.
  2. Slow Cookers: if you like to get as much flavor as possible from that vegetarian minestrone or that root vegetable stew, and if you have the time, then you might want to look at a slow cooker. Great for developing flavors and creating soft, smooth textures. Youíll need several hours for menu items to be prepared in these cookers.
  3. Steamers/Pressure Cookers: the opposite of a slow cooker, pressure cookers and steamers use the pressure of steam to hasten cooking. You can steam carrots or broccoli in minutes, like three or four, depending on your equipment. You can have brightly colored, al dente veggies, fruit (such as apples for pies) or grains in half to a third of the time as conventional cooking.

  4. Microwaves: microwave compartments arenít very large, so restaurants and caterers may only use them to thaw or reheat portions of food. In a pinch, white or sweet potatoes can be "baked" in three or four minutes, vegetables can be "steamed" (some studies show that microwaved veggies retained more nutrients than steamed veggies).

  5. Woks: you can always stirfry in a large frying pan. But, if you do a lot of fast sautťing or stir frying, you may want to invest in a wok, as it is more efficient to do large batches in this.

This is just a taste of the equipment and gadgets available. If you are interested in purchasing large pieces of equipment, you may want to contact your local utility companies. They usually have food service centers where you can view or work on the latest types of equipment.

Youíll note that your reading from Simply Vegan for this lecture is not about kitchen equipment, it is about vegetarian lifestyle products. Many vegetarians are concerned about everything they use, not just food. As one of my vegetarian students put it, "Iím concerned about everything that goes on me and in me." You should be aware of the types of products available and where they are available so you can be of help to people who are attempting to locate them.

On to Lecture 13!

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Last Updated
January 23, 2001

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The contents of this web site, as with all The Vegetarian Resource Group publications, is not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional.

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