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Utensils--What You Really Need

January 10, 1985|FERN STORER | Storer is a former food editor of the Cincinnati Post

"I know you've done a roundup of the most useful microwave cooking utensils and accessories before, but I didn't have a microwave oven then. Don't you think it's time for a review?" Obviously, this query was from a new owner. Yes, we think it's time.

These are mostly items that have survived in my own kitchen through more than 10 years of microwave cooking--the ones left after many have been tried and discarded. You'll undoubtedly have many of these. If storage space and/or budget are limited give priority to those that can be used interchangeably in the microwave and conventional oven.

OVEN-GLASS MEASURES--1 quart, 1 pint and 1 cup. These are not only for measuring--use them for heating or cooking small quantities.

OVEN-GLASS MIX 'N' POUR BOWLS--2-quart and 1-quart with sturdy handle on one side, pouring lip opposite. Anchor Hocking has the best design--wide at top tapering to bottom to let you cook a little or a lot of sauces or other foods that require frequent stirring or whisking.

ROUND, FLAT-BOTTOM CASSEROLES WITH COVERS--1 1/2-quart, 2-quart or 2 1/2-quart. Flat bottoms permit foods to be an even depth throughout for even cooking.

NESTED SMALL CASSEROLE SET WITH COVERS--2-cup, 3-cup and 4-cup sizes.

NESTED POLYSULFONE COOKWARE SET (Rubbermaid)--Eight pieces (casseroles, colander, rack, covers)--make many cooking and storage combinations. Useful for those who cook for 4 to 6. Lightweight, these nest for compact storage. Not for use in the conventional oven.

OVEN-GLASS COVERS--Never throw an old one of these away--they fit many dishes. Several of mine fit my 1-quart and 2-quart mix 'n' pour bowls and pie plates to make improvised casseroles or heating dishes.

OVEN-GLASS PIE PLATES--Preferably pairs-- deep 7-inch and 9-inch plates. One of these inverted over the other makes a useful dish for some cooking or for warming leftovers.

OVEN-GLASS CUSTARD CUPS have a multitude of uses--melting butter, toasting nuts, muffins (lined with muffin cup papers) and many mini-jobs.

OBLONG OR OVAL BAKING DISH--about 2 inches deep and 12x8 or 13x8 inches--for roasts, chicken pieces, fish fillets, bacon.

MICROWAVE ROASTING RACK to fit above dish--for beef roasts, bacon, etc.

DEEP OVAL DISH WITH COVER--2 1/2-quart to 3 1/2-quart, at least 4 inches deep--for whole chicken, pork roasts, smoked pork rolls, large quantities of soups.

INDIVIDUAL SERVICE DISHES--If cooking for 1 or 2. These in white glass ceramic are attractive for table service.

SMALL ROUND OVEN-GLASS CASSEROLES--1 or 2 servings--with flat covers double for refrigerator storage and for cooking small quantities.

Keep these near your microwave oven:

AN INSTANT-READ THERMOMETER (Cuisinart about $10--others slightly higher). You need this only for checking internal temperature of beef or pork roasts or smoked pork rolls near the end of cooking. For meats cooked longer in moisture, simply test for tenderness with a sharp fork.

STIRRERS--An 8- or 9-inch microwave-safe sturdy plastic paddle, wooden spoons and small wooden or plastic paddles.

WIRE WHISKS--7- or 8-inch and 10- or 11-inch--indispensable for whisking sauces smooth at intervals during cooking. Never leave one of these in the oven.

PAPER TOWELS--Preferably white and the least expensive for limited use only. Use for wrapping small breads, rolls, doughnuts, etc. for brief heatings or for light covering of briefly cooked items to prevent spatters and for quickly wiping up spills. A microwave oven should be kept scrupulously clean.

WAX PAPER--For a light covering to prevent spatters, or to partially hold in heat without inducing steaming.

PLASTIC WRAP--Use when you need a tight cover for a dish for which you do not have a close-fitting cover.

WOOD PICKS--For testing muffins and cakes, pricking egg yolks before cooking, and for testing doneness in many foods.

THICK, EASILY WASHABLE POT HOLDERS--Not only for dishes that become hot from the food, but to pad a cold surface on which you will set a hot oven-glass dish. The shock to a very hot oven-glass dish of being placed on a cold surface or in contact with drops of cold water may cause breakage.

Do you need these? Some do; some don't.

SPECIAL BACON COOKING DISH. How often do you cook bacon? How much storage space will it need? Will the glass baking dish with microwave rack (mentioned above) serve the same purpose?

MICROWAVE TURNTABLE. Be aware that you need only give any dish a half- or quarter-turn once or twice, if at all, during any microwave cooking.

A MICROWAVE SCALE. Usually you know the approximate weight of the food you are cooking, and you'll quickly learn how to time it. Microwave cooking is just like conventional cooking--you cook it until it's done--or at least until it will be done with the recommended standing time.

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