10 Pieces of Equipment to Help You Beat the Clock

1. Large (preferably 12-inch) skillet. A must for sauteing chicken breasts, fish fillets and medallions of veal or pork. Choose a nonstick surface to use less fat.

2. Large (preferably 12-inch) saute pan. With a larger capacity than a skillet, it lets you make short work of stews and soups.

3. A 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet. For frittatas and Spanish tortillas, two omelets that go under the broiler. Also great for pan-fried steaks and chops.

4. My wok sits permanently on my stove, which should give you some indication of how often I use it. It's particularly good for fast meals because, in addition to being used for stir-frying, sauteing, braising and steaming, it can be used as a mixing bowl. Invert the ring that comes with the wok so it sits closer to the flame, giving you greater heat intensity.

5. I generally use only two saucepans, one with a two-quart capacity for rice and the like, and a larger heavy pan for polenta, risotto and pilafs.

6. An eight-quart capacity pasta pot is essential, not just for pasta but for boiling, steaming, and poaching as well. Smaller pasta pots can boil over while you're performing another task. You might also consider a pasta pot with its own colander insert.

7. A meat pounder beats pork tenderloins or chicken breasts into medallions and cutlets for faster cooking. A meat pounder is a flat, heavy piece of metal that may be round or rectangular and is attached to a handle (not to be confused with the toothy meat tenderizer). The side of a weighty cleaver will also do the job.

8. A salad spinner whips moisture from salad greens through the slats of an inner chamber into an outer bowl, where it falls to the bottom. It works much faster than draining in a colander.

9. For chopping and pureeing and for making no-cook sauces and dressings, a food processor can't be beat. I use the stainless steel blade 90 percent of the time, but I also recommend using the shredding and slicing attachments.

10. Peeling, except for garlic and onions, goes a lot faster with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler, especially one with a fat, easy-grip handle.

Sam Gugino is a former chef and restaurateur and the author of Cooking to Beat the Clock.


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