Five food tools you need when cooking for a crowd
Cooking for a crowd doesn’t have to be a complicated or intimidating experience, especially when you have the right tools for the job.
1. A sharp set of knives
The most important tool a home cook can own, a set of sharp knives will shave off a significant amount of prep time, make easy work out of tough ingredients such as lemongrass and fresh ginger while simultaneously helping to prevent accidental injury. Keep your knives sharp (and your fingers safe) with either a sharpening stone or an electric or manual knife sharpener. Hand wash knives in warm, soapy water and allow them to air dry (unless using a knife made from carbon steel, in which case use a soft cloth to dry in order to prevent rust from forming.)
2. Sheet pans
Sheet pans are so much more than a flat surface on which to bake cookies! Use sheet pans to cook entire meals: line the tray with parchment paper, add the protein of your choice and plenty of fresh or frozen vegetables and then season to taste before baking in a hot oven. Sheet pans can also be used as trays to marinate large quantities of fish or meat and are particularly helpful when cooking outdoors — simply transfer the entire sheet pan from the refrigerator to the grill. If your oven is large enough (a boon if you’re cooking for a large group of people) try shopping at professional bakery and restaurant supply stores for jumbo-sized sheet pans.
3. Glass storage containers
Glass storage containers are ideal for storing food in any form: whole, prepped, and leftover from a previous meal. Owning a variety of sizes, from very small containers to large, meal-sized containers, means you can store everything from minced garlic to marinated turkey breasts in the fridge prior to cooking. Use glass storage containers to preserve leftovers instead of relying on opaque plastic containers — the fact that you can see through the glass is a great reminder to use up the food before it needs to be thrown away.
4. Serving dishes
A set of serving bowls in various sizes encourages family-style dining, saving you the time it takes to plate out individual place settings for each family member or guest. Wide, shallow bowls or serving plates can be used to present salads, cold pasta salads, and grain dishes while casserole dishes or Dutch ovens are ideal for heartier fare. Estate sales and thrift shops will often have eye-catching statement pieces or entire sets for a bargain price, which means you can grow your collection of serving dishes without spending a fortune.
5. Food processor
A food processor can turn hours of pre-meal prep into mere minutes of work. This workhorse of an appliance can puree, grate, slice, chop and grind — giving you precious time to set the table or take a well-deserved breather before dinner is served. Food processors are particularly useful for quickly chopping, grating and slicing vegetables for fritters, soup, slaws, and sauces. Make homemade frozen yogurt for dessert in a food processor by combining plain yogurt, frozen bananas, a couple of handfuls of your favourite frozen fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and blending until smooth. Depending on the model and its attachments, some food processors can beat egg whites, juice citrus fruit and grind nut or seed butters with ease.