THE rise of television chefs and the popularity of reality cooking shows has many of us rushing back into the kitchen as we exchange easy takeaway meals for top notch restaurant-quality creations.
Carried away by an enthusiasm to channel the inner master chef we often stock up on the latest kitchen trends and gadgets thinking we have to look the part to produce five-star meals.
Somewhere kitchen gadget manufacturers are rubbing their hands in glee as we fill the utensil drawer with incredulous inventions that will probably never make a second outing.
Those 4-in-1 avocado peelers and mashers are great - if you have to prepare 100 avos a day.
Have you seen those colourful banana slicers and corn pluckers?
What's wrong with just eating your food in a conventional fashion?
Good chefs and cooks will tell you that delicious food is about passion, fresh ingredients and a handful of the best-quality tools you can afford - not little gimmicks that will soon be relegated to the back of the kitchen cupboard.
Here's our list of the essentials we can't do without, ones that will truly make your life a bit easier.
Now we all know that kitchen knives, the really good ones that is, can be rather expensive.
But I'm afraid you will have to bite the bullet because this is probably the best cooking investment you will make. Remember you don't have to get a set - just one non-serrated cook's knife 18-21cm will do.
The Cuisineart 20cm Cook's Knife (from $49.95) and the Victorinox Chefs Knife (from $134) are just two choices.
A high grade non-stick frying pan would be next on my list.
Sure you can buy a cheap $10 one but they are more likely to warp, burn and usually require more than a generous dose of oil to be anywhere close to non-stick.
Most of the top chefs have their own range of cookware and we like Jamie Oliver's Tefal 26cm stainless steel copper frying pan from $199.95.
It is a good size for a family, is oven and dishwasher safe and uses Thermo-spot technology.
A sharp versatile vegetable peeler (Victoronix Rex, $4.95), a reliable can opener (Target, $12) and a pepper mill (Maxwell & Williams, $34.95) that works for more than a week are invaluable in a busy kitchen as is a manual juicer (Kmart, $5.95) for those small jobs, a meat thermometer (Barbeques Galore, $14.95) and a kitchen scale (Harvey Norman, $29.95) for recipes that demand accuracy.
Of course there is a place for electronic gadgets in your kitchen especially those that will be well-used.
Hand-held blenders (Sunbeam Stickmaster, $56) are great not only for baby food but also for blending soups without fuss as well small crushing and whisking jobs.
They are easy to use and take up far less space than fancy food processors.
If you like a bit of spice in your dishes and find a mortar and pestle too hard going, invest in a coffee grinder.
Freshly-ground spices will only enhance your dish and coffee grinders (Breville coffee 'n' spice grinder, $48) and do an excellent job.
Just don't use the same one to grind your coffee beans.
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