Broadly, kitchen tools or utensils are essential elements used in a kitchen for cooking purposes; these may be appliances used to simplify processes or utensils used in preparing and serving food. Kitchen tools are often prefixed by the word ‘ware’ – e.g. kitchenware means tools and utensils in a larger sense but the term is used from a functional and merchandising point of view; similarly bake ware and ovenware categorizes utensils and tools used for baking, inside ovens etc. while cookware is for utensils used for specific cooking purposes.
Some significant categories like cutlery etc. are both eating as well as kitchen utensils – for e.g. knives are part of the cutlery in a kitchen which includes other cutting equipment, but are also used in dining, as are spoons and forks.
Other types of kitchen utensils, although not particularly referred to for any specific usage are also denoted using the word ‘ware’ – earthenware (clay, mud etc.), glassware, silverware; these specifically represent categories of kitchen utensils.
At the beginning of the 18th century most kitchen utensils were made of copper, iron or earthenware. For high temperature cooking these were coated with tin, enamel and other metals. However, each of these metals had individual properties and reactionary effects on the food that was cooked in them. In the 20th century, along with the above, aluminum, nickel, steel and tin utensils started making an appearance.
Copper is a popular kitchen utensil because of its attractiveness and durability; however they are rather heavy and need to be cleaned thoroughly to remove compounds that tarnish the color of copper. They can last for a long time if maintained well, and are not subject to cracking or breakage. But copper is unsuitable for cooking acidic foods.
Iron utensils are very popular but are prone to rusting as compared to copper. Cast iron utensils are better to use because they are not so prone to rusting. After use, they can be simply washed with mild detergent and wiped clean. Cast iron utensils are usually “seasoned”, a process where they are allowed to form a coat or corroded iron that prevents further rusting. Certain cast iron utensils are used for particular purposes like frying or roasting; as long as water is not allowed to accumulate or heat on the cast iron utensil, rusting can be avoided and these utensils can last for a long period of time. Since oil and water do not mix, and since the presence of water specifically promotes rusting, it is very essential to keep these utensils dry all the time. Large iron utensils are stored for a long period by coating them with non-salted paraffin or fat. Iron utensils are perfect for high temperature cooking and very simple to clean; they become smooth with constant use, are very strong and durable.
Earthenware is a very eco-friendly method of cooking and is believed to add to the taste of the cooked food. But there are many disadvantages like:
• Coating with lead
• Reaction to acidic foods
Therefore, earthenware only if made from particular kind of clay or mud that can withstand temperatures and are not glazed with lead should be used.
Pottery and porcelain utensils are used in kitchens for cooking as well as serving food but they are more suitable for slow cooking in even heat like slow roasting or baking. Cooking on direct high flames cannot be done with these.
Enamelware is prone to thermal shock and requires careful handling because the layering can chip; however, kitchen utensils made from enamel do not react with acidic foods, can be cleaned easily and are very durable. The use of alkali elements in cooking is not recommended with enamelware.
Aluminum has proved to be beyond doubt one of the best materials for kitchen utensils replacing enamelware and tin utensils. However, some aluminum utensils are believed to leach the metal in cooked food leading to gastric problems for people.
In the long run, old fashioned cast iron utensils made smooth by continuous usage are far superior to other metal categories for kitchen utensils.