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8 Essential Kitchen Accessories for a Simple Kitchen

With limited space and storage in many HDB flats, setting up your new kitchen can be a rather unnerving task. Overtime, this seems like an overwhelming topic, especially if you're a first-time homeowner.

In the last couple of years, many new ware from kitchen accessories suppliers have emerged. Nearly all of these trendy inventions encompassed some sort of cutting-edge technologies meant for the kitchen at home. While some became immensely popular, many others came and went quickly.

One look at today’s kitchens prove one thing: kitchen trends are fickle and short-lived. Even though ‘intelligent’ kitchen accessories are a far cry from those in our parents’ time, still the awesomeness of some classic utensils, like the traditional wok turns out to be super versatile, and a must-have in kitchens.

So, whether you’re a ‘half-bucket of water’ cook or an aficionado, here are 8 kitchen accessories you essentially need to set up a simple working kitchen.

1.  The Food Processor

This is probably the most expensive kitchen accessory you will need to invest in. It is definitely a worthwhile investment because this countertop workhorse easily make quick work of tedious tasks like chopping, mincing, grating, grinding, pureeing, slicing and shredding. 

If you have not used one before, we suggest you to start off with a smaller and cheaper model. A lower range food processor starts at around $60. As you feel more comfortable working with this baby, it’s time to upgrade. Spend a bit more to buy a good-sized, top-of-the-range version with a powerful motor to serve you in the long run.

When you choose a food processor, watch the blades level inside the bowl. They should be positioned as low level down as possible. The higher they are, the less effective they will be because the blades will not be able to reach food ingredients at the bottom.

To sum it up, the convenience of a food processor will potentially save a lot of your time and energy. For the hardcore drama fan, it’s an absolute good buy, because you won’t have to miss another episode of your favourite sitcom while preparing dinner in the kitchen. 

2.  The Kettle

You might not even think of getting one, since we’re spoilt for choice with a variety of water purification systems and water dispensers (that not only filters water from the tap, but also dispense cold and hot water instantly). 

So, do you really need one in your kitchen? We say yes because this is a piece of must-have kitchenware.

An electric kettle heats water quickly and it is energy efficient. For the new models, you could also control its water temperature - a feature that tea and coffee enthusiasts would appreciate in order to achieve a good brew. 

If you’re busy with cleaning chores or on a phone call, you never have to worry about water boiling over because it shuts itself automatically.

3.  The Wok

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Not sure why you should own a wok in your kitchen? Here’s why.

Beyond being an ideal choice for stir frying food, it's extremely adaptable and perfect for deep-frying, boiling, steaming, stewing and indoor smoking. In fact, it is probably the most commonly used cooking utensil in our kitchens locally.

Woks that you find selling now in departmental stores are mostly made from aluminum, stainless steel, carbon-steel and non-stick coatings. A lot of us no longer use the traditional cast iron wok because they are heavy and rust easily.

Keep in mind that choosing a good wok isn’t about picking the cheapest or the shiniest one off the shelf, because almost every experienced Asian cook ‘sifu’ we’ve spoken with swears by a carbon-steel wok for their kitchen.

Not only is a wok relatively inexpensive, but it also heats quickly and evenly. So when you stir-fry meat, vegetable or ‘hor fun’, the heat sears them perfectly, imparting a wok fragrance also known as ‘wok hei’.

If you’re buying a Teflon coated non-stick wok, use it only for steaming, stewing or boiling. DO NOT deep fry, pan fry or stir fry dishes with it because at those temperatures, the non-stick coating will break down and contaminate your food! 

Watch a video below by Dr. Leslie Tay and learn how to correctly prep and ‘season’ your new wok.

4.  Pots and Pans

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Seriously, which kitchen doesn’t have pots and pans? These are timeless utensils for every kitchen for more than a century - actually a few to be precise. 

Even if you do not prepare meals at home frequently, the occasional ‘ultra’ light culinary action such as cooking your ‘Maggi’ noodles or frying an egg would call for these essential utensils. 

When it comes to selecting pans, don’t be stingy. Choose good quality, non-stick coating ones with thick bottoms to distribute heat well. They are ideal for searing meat, a quick stir-fry or reducing pan sauces.

Most popular and moderately priced are the stainless steel "clad" type that has several layers of copper or aluminum sandwiched in between. They usually have an aluminum disk on the pan’s bottom to provide good heat distribution to facilitate even cooking. 

These stainless steel pan models are usually good for all-purpose cooking, are easy to clean, scratch resistant and exceptionally durable.

Another commonly available and affordable choice would be aluminum cookware. You’d usually see them at the kitchen utensils section in Ikea. Most has a non-stick finish and has been anodized to strengthen the aluminum, thus making it dent and scratch resistant. 

They are also very good heat conductors, are relatively light to handle and easy to clean. Choose the heavier ones because they will give better heat distribution. Avoid unfinished aluminum ones because they could discolour if you put acidic foods in them, and might also impart a metallic taste to your foods. 

If you cook frequently, then go for larger sized pots (with a lid) that are fairly deep. With them, it’s easy for you to cook large volume of liquid such as preparing stocks, soups, sauces and curries - a real time and life saver. 

5.  The Colander

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Undoubtedly another one of those frequently used item in every kitchen and very handy. A colander is a bowl-shaped kitchen utensil with holes used for draining water from vegetables, fruits, rice or pasta etc. 

They are made either in plastic or stainless steel, are lightweight, and could be stacked for easy storage and ideal for everyday use.

Colanders could also be used for other things such as –

  • Hold moisture-sensitive produce like berries, grapes or mushrooms, in the fridge so they won’t get mouldy easily and will last longer.
  • Turn it over to cover your food and keep flies away.
  • The metal colander is a good substitute as a steamer basket. Simply fill it more than halfway with fresh veggies and steam them in a slightly larger pan with water in the bottom.

Are you using yours to its full potential? 

6.  Knives

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From slicing to dicing, knives are critical kitchen accessories. Having the right type of knives and knowing how to work with them is key for both efficiency and safety. 

The most basic and frequently used type of knife in every kitchen’s collection is none other than the classic Chef's Knife. It performs more than 90 percent of daily kitchen tasks – such as slicing, mincing and dicing of fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish. 

According to acclaimed chef and culinary instructor - Brendan McDermott, he recommends an 8 to 10-inch one for your home kitchen. Also, consider putting aside a good budget (between $100 & $150) for a high-quality chef's knife when you go shopping. 

"Remember that knives are heirlooms," he says. "And the good ones should last forever."

In Singapore, most of us would be familiar with the Cleaver or Chopper. It has a heavy and thick rectangular blade which narrows to a sharp edge. Other than splitting or cutting meat and bone, it could also perform and handle kitchen tasks similar to those of a Chef’s knife. 

If you are a meticulous cook, then you might also want to add a Paring knife into your collection. This comes in very handy for small precision tasks such as slicing, peeling and trimming small fruits or vegetables like shallots and garlic.

7.  The Chopping Board

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Knives and chopping boards are inseparable. Even if you only cook occasionally, it’s actually important that you have the right type of chopping board in your kitchen. 

There are 2 types of boards commonly available here made from plastic and wood. Each type of material has their pros and cons, where one is better than the other depending on your needs in the kitchen. 

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Plastic Chopping Board – They are relatively cheap to buy. If you are infused with artistic genes, these boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours making it easy to match your kitchen decor. They are also easy to handle, store and clean.

However, plastic chopping boards have their downside as well. That’s because when you do regular cutting on the board, your knives will eventually create cut grooves in the plastic, which aids bacteria to grow and thrive. Studies have proven that knife-scarred plastic surface is impossible to clean and disinfect manually.

Hence, always buy the thickest one you can afford (they are not that expensive), so you could use it safely for a longer period of time, without having to worry about bacteria contamination. As a rule of thumb, old plastic boards should be discarded and replaced with new ones every 7 to 8 months.

For hygiene reasons, you should also consider using plastic chopping boards of different colours for cutting different kinds of food. For example: A white one for raw meat or fish, and a red one for vegetables or fruits.

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Wooden Chopping Board - They have been used for centuries. A heavy wood chopping board is kind to knives and will not dull blades easily. Although they are heavy and rustic looking, there are still many supporters of wooden boards who likes using them. 

While it takes a slightly more effort to clean and sanitize them, the good thing is bacteria in general do not like wood, because it contains natural substances which kill them. So even with age and knife scarred with grooves, bacteria can't reproduce easily in wooden chopping boards. 

8.  Kitchen Scissors (Kitchen Shears)

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This little darling is the one thing that most households in Singapore overlook in their kitchens - for one reason or another. In fact, a good pair of kitchen scissors or shears is incredibly useful to have at your disposal, as they actually make the work of cutting some foods safer, faster and even neater than a knife.

A sturdy pair of kitchen scissors will help you easily deal with tasks such as cutting cleanly through the joints and backbone of cooked or raw poultry, cut meat into bite-sized chunks, cut and clean seafood, snip herbs and spices etc.

You can find a good variety of kitchen scissors at reasonable prices in departmental stores. A good pair would usually cost around $50 or so. 

When you’re choosing a good pair of shears, make sure you look out for these features –

  • They should have thick and sturdy blades accompanied with characteristics of good balance, solid construction and weight.
  • Go for soft handles that will fit your hand comfortably and have a good grip for ease of use, and safety.
  • The blades should be well-aligned, sharp, open and close with little effort. They shouldn’t be too short otherwise it will make cutting difficult. 

On a final note, other than its role in the kitchen, the pair of kitchen scissors could also be used for trickier jobs on other materials like rubber, aluminum sheets, carpet and even soft plastic.