Cooking with Tan Chef Tan Mackay

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Chef Tan Cooking with Tan

Home    Introduction    Basics 

Recipes    Contact


Cooking with Tan

Home    Introduction    Basics 

Recipes    Contact

Basics for the Novice Cook


You may or may not be in possession of a substantial amount of cookware. If you are starting cooking for the first time, (perhaps leaving home and moving into a flat, or a student going off to university), then there are some basic utensils that I would recommend. Some of the following I even take with me on self-catering holidays, just in case the kitchen at my destination doesn't have them.

Chef’s knife

As a minimum you are going to need a sharp knife - You can’t chop vegetables or dice, cut, and trim raw meat with a blunt one.

good quality chef's knifeThey range from £5 to more than £100 and trust me, the £5 knife will only be good for chopping chicken bones in half or hacking the stubborn head off of a fish. If the knife is to be fit for purpose, the thickness of the metal should be thin enough to go through a raw carrot without cracking the carrot, and the blade sharp enough to cut through a raw mushroom without having to saw through.

If looked after, the knife can last a lifetime, so it’s worth investing in a good one. You’ll also need a way of keeping it sharp, for example, a suitable “steel”.


non stick wok The wok is probably the most versatile cooking utensil ever. It can be used for boiling, shallow frying or deep frying food. It will out-perform any frying pans when dealing with big portions. I can’t recommend their use highly enough.

In the far east, woks are relatively cheap, and after being used they are wiped clean. This practice “seasons” the surface to prevent the food sticking. However, Teflon coated woks are more popular in the western world.

You will also need some utensils for spooning, stiring the food, etc - if you choose a Teflon coated wok, ensure you only use it with plastic or wooden utensils to ensure the non-stick surface doesn’t get damaged.

Oven Proof Metal Pot

7 litre oven proof pot Time wise, it’s nearly as easy to make a large quantity as a small quantity, whether a casserole, stew, or whatever. If you are going to peel and cook one potato, you may as well peel and cook the whole bag.

Most domestic large saucepans hold in the region of 2.5 litres and most cannot be used in the oven. Most domestic casserole dishes hold about 3.5 litres and cannot be used on a hob. As with chef’s knives and woks, no kitchen should be without a large oven-proof metal (eg stainless steel) cooking pot and lid. Such a utensil will allow you to start your cooking on the hob and transfer it to the oven and even to transfer it back again to keep warm while you’re adding more ingredients.

The versatility of such a pot should not be under-estimated.

Size wise, these pots come in various sizes; 3.5 litre, 5 litre, 7 litre and so on. For domestic purposes, anything larger than 7 litres will probably be impractical – it could be too big for your oven and also too heavy to lift safely when full of piping hot food.

Vegetable Peeler

vegetable peelers Several vegetable types (potatoes, carrots, root ginger, and frequently cucumber) need to be peeled.

Using a sharp knife can be dangerous and the old potato peeler designs aren’t as efficient as the new ones shown here.

They are not expensive so I recommend that you buy one.


stainless steel saucepan Although a wok can perform most tasks on the hob, sometimes, for example, if you are cooking two veg, you’ll need further pans.

They come in various materials; aluminium, stainless steel, non-stick, and some have fancy bottoms, for example, copper. My preference is to use a stainless steel saucepan that has a thick bottom, as this is better for achieving an even distribution of heat.

Buying them in sets of 3 (one small, one medium, and one large) can be more economical.


kitchen utensils You will need some tools for stirring, etc. These can often be purchased in sets, and can be plastic, wooden or stainless steel.

As a minimun I would recommend buying a large spoon, a slotted spoon, and a "fish slice", to get started with. If you've got any non-stick cookware, I would recommend buying plastic utensils.

The chances are you will also need a can opener, and possibly a bottle opener, and a corkscrew.


colander with handle Trying to drain scalding water from vegetables, with one hand on the saucepan handle and the other stopping the lid from falling into the sink can be dangerous. Therefore, I would always recommend using a colander - they are a very efficient way of draining vegetables or even washing them under a running tap.

I wouldn’t be without a colander and, if we ever go on self-catering holidays, I always take a colander with me in case there isn’t one in the kitchen.

Graduated Oven-Proof Jug

Pyrex JugI use these for measuring liquids and, because they can tolerate boiling water, I also use them for mixing gravy and sauces, etc.

I even use one for heating up soups and baked beans in a micro-wave oven (covered with cling film of course) as I find them easier to clean than a saucepan.


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