How to use kitchen appliances

I popped into Lakeland in Nottingham the other day and overheard a really frustrating conversation that I ultimately butted into. A customer was asking a shop assistant what sort of food processor she needed, and the assistant’s main reply was “I don’t know – I do everything by hand.”

From the sorts of things she was saying – I need to do a little light chopping, but don’t want cupboards full of useless attachments – it was clear to me that she needed a stick blender, and ultimately, after quite a lot of hemming and hawing from the shop staff, I actually interrupted and told her so.

As a result of that, I’ve had this mini-how-to forming in my head about the inter-relation of different kitchen appliances and what you use them for.

Stick blenders Also known as wand blenders or hand blenders.

I think this is the sort of thing that the lady in Lakeland was looking for. They’re relatively cheap, have fairly few accoutrements, and are essential if you want to make soup. They can blend soup in the saucepan you made it in, thus avoiding decanting it into a bigger blender, and dripping soup all over the kitchen.

Mine is inherited from someone I shared a house with once. I was just about the last person to leave a shared house in my 20s, so I ended up with all the various bits of pots and kit and cutlery that wasn’t actively claimed by someone else when it was their time to leave. As such, I just have the blender, and its mixer attachment, but not the little pots it presumably came with.

A hand blender, plus its pots, is very good for fine chopping of veg, for puréeing fruit, presumably making baby food.

Apparently the gold standard hand blender is the Bamix , but that’s a bit pricey for me. It’s apparently super fast at whizzing and can even make mayonnaise.

Food processors food processor is the next step up. It’s more expensive, has more attachments, takes up more space in a drawer, and is very fiddly to wash up.

Somehow, I managed to convince myself that I needed a food processor when I left for university, so I got a cheap one for my last birthday at home. My parents didn’t have one, and still don’t, so I think I must have got the notion from some cooking programme on the telly. It did stirling service about once a month for years, until I dropped the lid and the safety catch broke off. Without it, you couldn’t close the machine so that it would run. I tried looking for replacement lids, but ultimately had to buy a whole new food processor. I freecycled the remaining parts to someone who had the same model and an unbroken bowl, but a knackered motor part.

Most of them have a bowl attachment and a blender attachment, sharp knives, and some sort of mixing or kneading attachment. You can definitely use them for chopping a lot of veg finely very quickly, and mine also has a grater and a slicer disk, a blender top, a coffee or spice grinder and still more attachments I never thought I would use that are still in the box in the attic.

Whenever you plan to use it you have to have half a thought about washing it up. Is getting it out worth the hassle of washing it up? It’s fiddly, big, and sharp. It can go in the dishwasher, but it’s so big it fills the dishwasher right up, and there are lots of pockets that also trap dirty water, so you end up having to give it a once over in the sink as well anyway.

The thing I use it for most is pastry and crumble mix. Any recipe that requires you make fine breadcrumbs by rubbing fat into flour you can do by just bunging the ingredients into the bowl and pressing the whiz button a few times.

Keep meaning to use it try and make my own pesto, and never quite get round to it.

You can use it to make cake, but the blades are too sharp for fruitcake – they just liquidize the currents – and the beaters on mine are too weak to get on too well with a bowlful of cake. I found out last time I tried that whilst you can grate carrots for carrotcake in seconds, the bowl isn’t quite big enough to hold enough mix for two 2lb loaf tins, so for that use, you would need a big bowl and a…

Hand mixer actually don’t have one of these – I make do with a mixer attachment for the stick blender, which isn’t ideal, because the ergonomics are totally off, the beater attachments unscrew themselves as you beat.

Use this to make cakes in an ordinary large beating bowl, because it’s quicker than a wooden spoon and a whisk. Use it beat egg whites for soufflé and meringue.

Stand mixer put a Kenwood Chef on our wedding list, not really expecting anyone to buy that – but a whole group of P’s family clubbed together. Wahey! I opted for Kenwood, over the slightly more stylish KitchenAidbecause that’s what my parents have, and because they have a reputation for being very hard wearing.

Stand mixers are for making larger volumes of cake and bread. Kenwoods have a classic “K” beater for fruit cake, a balloon whisk for beating eggs and a dough hook for making bread and pizza dough. They also have all manner of outputs for a huge number of different attachments, including pasta makers, meat and spice grinders, more types of blender, icecream makers and even a sausage-making attachment.

Was having a bit of a think the other day – when the very welcome addition arrives, can I get rid of any of the smaller appliances? And unfortunately, I don’t think I can, as they each have a different role to play. I don’t think you could make pastry in a Kenwood…

The one final big ticket item I do have is the…

Breadmaker bought mine for a bargain price in a weekly special from Lidl a few years ago.

Although a Kenwood Chef can make the dough, the key thing a breadmaker does is cook it as well. So you put the ingredients in the night before, taking care to put them in in the right order (usually this means keeping the yeast away from the water until mixing begins), set the timer, and you wake up to fresh bread.

True, it’s fresh bread that’s a weird shape and with a hole in the bottom, but the whole total lack of input from you other than a little light weighing is really rather nice. If you don’t want funny shaped bread, you can use the machine just to make the dough and shape it yourself. The breadmaker can also, apparently, make pasta dough, jam and cake, although I’m really not sure I would trust it with jam, and have lost the instruction booklet. It would certainly not be able to make very much jam at any one time.

Finally here’s a few gadgets even I don’t think I need:


One comment on “How to use kitchen appliances

  1. Penny says:

    Of course a Kenwood Chef can make pastry!
    I think the only thing I use the food processor (acquired through Freecycle) for is soft breadcrumbs – my mother always used the raspy bit on the grater for that – and chopping lots of parsley for the freezer.
    I do have a hand mixer – wouldn’t want to wash up the Kenwood bowl when I can mix up a batter in a measuring jug 🙂

    Um, gadgets even you don’t think you need…?

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