The term ‘Unitasker’ in the kitchen can be attributed to Alton Brown and his continuous rally against single-use kitchen accessories. Here we submit for your evaluation some of our favorite multi-tasking cooking accessories that can help you navigate through the extensive tunnels that exist below the culinary rabbit hole.
The Swiss Army Knife of Cast Iron
We use cast iron for a multitude of applications. Some typical uses include:
- Cooking protein inside – a good sear and immediate transition to the oven.
- Baking quick breads, cobblers, skillet cakes, giant chocolate chip cookies.
- Sauteing vegetables on the grill for things like fajitas.
- Dedicated searing for Sous-Vide.
- Baking bread in the manner of FWSY (Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast) and Tartine Bread.
- Frying Chicken.
The beauty of cast iron is it can easily transcend from the kitchen to the grill or even the campfire. However, if you do not think of this holistically it would be easy to wind up with a number of cast iron pieces to accommodate these various roles. Lucky for you we have considered the overall strategy for you.
The Lodge 3.2 Quart Cast Iron Combo Cooker will accommodate all of these and more while saving some space in your kitchen. This clever piece of iron incorporates a nice 10″ diameter and 3″ deep skillet that nests perfectly with a second 1 1/2″ deep skillet to provide for a number of skillet/lid combinations. This is the exact model recommended by Tartine Bread and works perfectly for the recipes in FWSY. Additionally, the 10″ diameter is ideal for the majority of cast iron dessert recipes you will find such as cobblers, cakes, cornbreads, and cookies. The overall size of the unit works on both 18″ and 24″ round outdoor grill surfaces. It holds two good size steaks with ease and Lodge themselves recommend this unit for their fried chicken recipes. Not enough? One-half upside down makes a perfect trivet for the other half! The Combo Cooker can cover a lot of cast iron ground!
The Jekyll & Hyde Baking ‘Stone’
A Pizza Stone is good for a couple of things. A Baking Steel Griddle is good for a heck of a lot more. The Baking Steel Griddle is a 25lb. slab of 18″x14″x3/8″ steel that is reversible. One side is flat and simple which is perfect for baking pizzas and cookies. Reversing the unit exposes a surface with more sizzling intentions complete with a grease groove around the entire perimeter. This can be placed directly on the stovetop or on any 24″ round grill to provide a perfect griddle surface for breakfast, teppanyaki, or smash burgers!
The Amphibious Vessel
Sometimes you need an ideal container for Sous-Vide. Sometimes you need an ideal container for mixing and folding bread dough with some easy to read rise indications. Sometimes you just need a really big storage container. The 12 Quart Rubbermaid Food Storage Container with Lid is your ticket. Yes, in FWSY Ken Forkish recommends a round container rather than square for mixing the dough when making bread. However, we presented this question to the most popular bread baking group on Facebook as well as our logic that the square unit would double as an excellent container for Sous-Vide. Current owners of this container agreed that they had no issues with the rounded square corners when it came to mixing the dough and gave this a solid recommendation. As far as Sous-Vide is concerned if you want to fire up the hot tub just pair this container with an EVERIE Silicone Sous-Vide Lid custom fit to your particular cooker. Perhaps add a SO-VIDA Jacket for insulation. At this point, you are ready to get your cook on! Lastly, this container is awesome for general food storage, brining, and transportation! For general storage a set of proofing baskets and a compact Sous Vide Circulator like an Anova Nano all fit safely inside so your entire kit can be stored in a rather compact footprint!
The Peter Pan
Just like its fictional namesake this thing never gets old. You can call it a rimmed baking pan, a half-sheet pan, or a Jelly Roll pan. It doesn’t matter what you call it these things rock. Everyone used to covet the Vollrath model. Then everyone wanted the Lincoln Wear-Ever because Cook’s Illustrated said so. Well in 2009 Vollrath bought Lincoln so now the choice is easy. You want the Vollrath 5314 18×13 Sheet Pan made of 13 gauge aluminum with the CIA Masters Collection 17×12 Cooling Rack. Make sure your pan is stamped 8314 on the bottom as some folks have reported mistakes from various resellers resulting in the receipt of a lesser gauge pan. You are now smarter than that. Please note this is not a fancy non-stick pan. This is an absolute culinary workhorse that is just at home in the kitchen as out on the deck. It will solve problems for you.
We can’t tell you whether you’ll want to baby this pan and keep it pristine and shiny or if you’ll want to beat the absolute hell out of it until it develops a rich patina from overuse. What we can tell you is that at first, you will say, “It’s just a pan.” As time moves on you will realize that you use this for EVERYTHING. Trust us and get this pan. Or gift this to a foodie friend. When they aren’t sure what to say just let them know they will thank you later.