Essential Equipment for Your Food Allergy Kitchen
How to stock your kitchen to cook allergy-safe meals
A review of kitchen equipment for new food allergy cooks
As the parent of a child with severe food allergies, you will probably need to do quite a bit more cooking than you did in your “before food allergies” days. This may be your first experience with cooking three meals a day “from scratch” or making “home made” baked goods without using a mix. If your previous cooking experience was limited to opening up the package of pre-cooked food and placing it in the microwave, then you might want to start with our terrific article on "Cooking 101
". But if you already know how to cook (or are in the process of learning) and you need some help figuring out what kitchen equipment you ought to have, this article is for you.
Pots and Pans
Frequently referred to as "pans", "saucepans", or "pots", these have long handles and tight-fitting lids. Purchase a high-quality set that includes various sizes, such as 1-quart, 2-quarts, and 3-quarts. A good, strong pan with a riveted handle and a thick bottom will last for many years. Thin, inexpensive cookware is likely to break or dent. Most cooks prefer pots with heat-proof handles to reduce the risk of burns.
- Large 2-handled pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- Used for making large quantities of soups and stews.
- Available in various sizes; a set that includes a 4-quart stock pot and an 8-quart stock pot should cover most of your needs.
- A deep metal cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid that is used for moist-cooking methods, such as braising and stewing.
- Not a necessity, as your stock pot can be used for the same purpose.
- Also called a frying pan.
- A round, long-handled pan with low, gently sloping sides that is used to cook or fry foods over high heat.
- A 12-inch diameter pan is a standard size for many recipes.
- Look for a non-stick skillet with a tight-fitting lid.
- A wide, long-handled pan with straight or slightly curved sides which are usually a little higher than those of a frying pan.
- Be sure to buy one that has a tight-fitting lid.
- A 12-inch diameter pan is a standard size for many recipes.
- Note: you can probably make do with either a skillet or a sauté pan.
- A long-handled pan with a flat bottom and shallow, sloping sides.
- Available in sizes ranging from 6 to 10 inches in diameter.
- Designed for cooking omelets; obviously not a necessary kitchen item if you are dealing with egg allergy.
- Has 2 saucepans, one of which nests partway inside the other.
- The lower pot is used to hold simmering water that gently cooks or melts the heat-sensitive food that is placed in the upper pot.
- Although it is very useful for melting chocolate, it is not needed for that many recipes. Nice to have, but not an absolute necessity.
9" x 13" glass or ceramic baking dish
- A deep, round-bottomed pan used to make stir-fried foods in Asian cuisine.
- Also called a casserole dish.
- Extremely versatile; can be used for everything from making casseroles to baking chicken, roasting vegetables, making a sheet cake, and more.
Standard cups for liquid measuring
Standard cups for dry measuring
- Have pouring spouts; measurement marks are on the side of the cup.
- Available in various sizes.
- Recommend purchasing microwave-safe measuring cups (for versatility) in 1- and 2-cup size; if you have a very large family and anticipate making extra-large batches of most recipes, also purchase the 4-cup size.
Standard measuring spoons
- Come in sets that include 1 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup and 1/4 cup measures.
- Do not plan to use your "liquid measuring cup" for dry ingredients.
- Used for measuring both liquid and dry ingredients.
- Look for a set that includes 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/3 teaspoon, and 1/8 teaspoon measures; although it can be hard to find, it is very convenient to also have a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon.
- Buy 2 sets. When baking it is nice to have 1 set for the dry ingredients and 1 for the wet ingredients.
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- A good set of knives is indispensable in the kitchen.
- Used for stirring ingredients, especially when making baked goods.
Long-handled utility spoon
Long-handled slotted spoon
- Used for stirring and serving.
- Used for serving items or removing items which have been cooked in a liquid, without also serving or removing the liquid.
- Used to transfer liquids; primarily used for serving soups, also handy for scooping up pancake batter to be placed in the pan or on the griddle.
- Used to scrape down the inside surface of a mixing bowl containing a batter, dough, or other mixture of ingredients.
- Used for folding mixtures together.
- Sometimes called a "turner" or "pancake turner".
- Its many uses include lifting or removing food such as pancakes, hamburgers, and cookies from a pan or baking sheet, or turning food that's been cooked on one side so that the second side can brown.
- Used to spread frosting on cakes.
- Used to beat ingredients together, and to mix and aerate batters, eggs, and more.
- Used to pick up pieces of food, such as meats and vegetables.
- Used to "suck up" liquid from a baking dish (such as the fat that accumulates in the roasting pan when you are cooking a turkey) and then either remove this liquid from the pan or drizzle this liquid over the cooking food.
- Very nice to have if you plan to roast a lot of meats and poultry; not necessary otherwise. Be sure to purchase a model that easily comes apart for cleaning.
- Used for any cutting job that involves food or food packaging (because you don't want to contaminate your food-allergic child's food with whatever happens to be on the scissors in your "junk drawer"!).
- Buy one that is fully (and easily) washable, and wash it after each use.
2-tined kitchen fork
- Used to peel carrots, potatoes, apples, and other thin-skinned produce.
- Used to holds raw or cooked meats and poultry in place for cutting.
- A small, washable brush used to brush sauces and marinades onto raw or cooked food, or to brush glazes onto breads, pastries, and cookies before baking.
- A microwave-safe set of mixing bowls in varying sizes (small, medium, and large) with matching lids is ideal, as they can also do double-duty as food storage bowls.
- Used as a surface on which to cut raw or cooked food.
- If you expect to do a lot of cooking throughout the day, it is useful to have a few cutting boards.
- Look for cutting boards that are dishwasher safe – and that actually fit into your dishwasher.
Thin mesh wire strainer
- An absolute essential, especially if you have small children who are likely to distract you while you're cooking.
- Most ovens and microwave ovens have a built-in kitchen timer, but if yours does not then you can buy a freestanding one.
- Versatile tool that can be used for straining foods (such as small batches of cooked pasta or steamed vegetables), rinsing small batches of fruits or vegetables, or sifting dry ingredients for baked goods.
- Used for draining liquids from solids; can be used for straining cooked foods (such as pasta or steamed vegetables), or rinsing fruits or vegetables.
- A rack or basket that is filled with vegetables and placed over boiling or simmering water in a covered pan. Essential for making fresh steamed vegetables.
- Unless you plan to open a lot of cans, an electric model is not necessary. An electric model is also harder to clean and may be a cross-contamination risk.)
- Used for grating cheese, citrus peel, and other foods.
- Used to remove the core from apples.
- It is especially nice to have the type that simultaneously removes the core and cuts the apple into slices.
Bakeware and Baking Equipment
Round cake pans
- Come in a few sizes, with the measurement referring to the pan’s diameter.
- A standard 2-layer cake generally requires two 9-inch rounds; you should therefore purchase two of these.
- The standard size is 9-inches by 5-inches.
- Used for making yeast breads, quick breads, meat loaves, and other recipes.
- It is nice to have two of these, so that you can make a double batch of bread or quick bread – one to eat immediately, and one to freeze.
Muffin or cupcake pan
- Often referred to as a "brownie pan", a standard size is 8-inch square.
- Used for a variety of cake and bar cookie recipes.
- You should purchase one of these.
- Also called muffin or cupcake tins.
- A special baking pan with cup-shaped holes that hold the muffin or cupcake batter; a standard pan has holes that are about 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
- For muffin baking you will want to be able to bake up to 12 muffins at once; for cupcake baking you will want to be able to bake up to 24 cupcakes at once.
Jelly roll pan
- Used for baking cookies, pizzas, and other items.
- If you plan to bake cookies, buy the biggest baking sheets possible to fit your oven, so that you can bake a lot of cookies at once.
- A rectangular baking pan with approximately 1-inch-deep sides that is used to make sheet cakes or sponge cakes used for jelly rolls.
- Can also be used as a baking sheet.
- Used for cooling cookies, cakes, pies, and other baked goods.
- A deep round baking pan with a tube in the middle and fluted sides that is available in a variety of decorative patterns.
- Used exclusively for making Bundt cakes, and is therefore unnecessary if you do not plan to make this item.
- A round pan with high sides and a removable bottom.
- Used for making cakes, tortes, and cheesecakes that might otherwise be difficult to remove from the pan. The pan's bottom (with the cake intact) is simply removed from the sides of the pan.
- Recipes that require a Springform pan usually cannot be successfully made in (and removed from) a standard round cake pan. Only essential if you plan to do a wide variety of baking.
- Also called a "pie tin".
- Standard size is 9-inch diameter; used for baking pies.
- Essential only for making pies.
Pastry bag and tips
- Used when making pastry dough or streusel topping to cut cold fat (such as butter or margarine) into a flour mixture.
- Not a necessity; used for decorating cakes.
- If you have small children and will need to make all of their birthday cakes yourself, you may want to take a basic cake decorating class to learn how to use these.
- Used primarily for rolling out cookie or pie crust dough, but also useful for crushing crackers and flattening meats such as boneless chicken breasts.
- These are fun to have if you have small children, but if you don’t have cookie cutters you can always use an overturned glass to make cut-out cookies or biscuits in the shape of a circle.
- Available in either hand-held or freestanding models.
- You can get by with a hand-held mixer, but the freestanding type will handle more heavy-duty jobs (such as mixing dough) and free up your hands to do other tasks while the food is mixing.
- Used to chop, blend, puree, and liquefy foods.
- Also called a crock pot, considered by many to be an indispensable appliance.
- An electric appliance that cooks food with low, steady, moist heat over a period of four to 12 hours, without heating up the kitchen.
- Using a slow cooker is a "no fuss" cooking method, as once the food is put into the slow cooker and the unit is turned on, you generally do not need to touch the dish again until it is ready to be served.
- Look for a slow cooker with a removable ceramic crock. For maximum versatility, buy a 4-6 quart model.
- Used to make waffles; also called a waffle iron.
- When buying a waffle maker, be aware that a "Belgian waffle maker" has particularly large, deep grids that may require different recipes than a "standard" waffle maker.
- A necessity if you plan to make waffles.
Bread making machine
- Used for chopping, grating, shredding, and mixing ingredients.
- Look for a model that is easy to use and clean.
Ice cream maker
- Considered indispensable by many who are coping with wheat or gluten allergies. Some brands have special gluten-free cycles.
- Computer-driven machine that mixes, kneads, rises, punches down, bakes, and sometimes cools bread.
- Available in a variety of models, including those that make 1/2-pound to 2-pound loaves, and in loaf shapes ranging from rectangular to cylindrical.
- Many people who are coping with food allergies find it difficult to find commercially available ice cream (or dairy-free "ice cream" products) that are not cross-contaminated with allergens. Making your own ice cream is a solution to this problem.
- There are a wide range of varieties, sizes, and models of ice cream makers available, ranging from large, electric, freestanding models to small hand-crank ice cream makers with canisters that must first be placed in your freezer (and must therefore fit into the space available in your freezer). Which one is right for you depends on many factors, including how easy you want the ice cream making process to be, the quantity of ice cream that you want to make, the size of your freezer, and your available storage space.
Approved June 2007. Updated January 2009.
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