Types of equipment
When you are new to kitchen operations, the range of equipment can seem overwhelming. Everything has a particular (and probably odd sounding) name, everything has a place and you have to learn that too.
To make things a little easier we can think of equipment as belonging to one of two categories. First there is small equipment, things that are easy to carry and move about the kitchen. Then there is large equipment, these items are usually immobile and are often fixed to the floor or a bench.
The difference between hand tools and utensils is that hand tools can literally be held and operated by hand, and usually only one hand at that! Utensils include implements (specialised tools like an olive stoner), or vessels (pots, pans and mixing bowls) that you use in a kitchen. Many of these require more than one hand to operate.
Apart from their size, we can also categorise equipment as being non-mechanical, mechanical or powered.
Non-mechanical equipment generally does not have any moving parts and is usually small. Most hand-held tools and utensils fall into this category that includes knives, mixing bowls and spoons.
Because many kitchen tasks are time consuming and repetitive, many kitchens also have a variety of mechanical devices in order to make these tasks easier. Most of these pieces of equipment are small enough to either be held in the hand or moved around freely. A good example of this type of equipment would be a mandolin.
Finally there is powered equipment. These pieces of equipment need electricity, gas or steam to work. Some power equipment, like electric knives, are small and are hand-held. Others, like ovens, are so large and heavy that they are fixed in one spot.
Most powered equipment with moving parts, like mixers and blenders, are driven by electricity. Ovens, boilers and steamers, which have few moving parts but generate heat, are usually powered by gas, wood or electricity.
Improvements in the design and manufacture of powered equipment have meant that one person can do the work of several people in a very short time. Also some tasks are performed better by machine than could ever be done by hand.
Many pieces of kitchen equipment use a chopping or mincing action with sharp blades moving at high speed and can cause serious injury if not used properly. You need to be extra careful and follow the proper health and safety regulations when using this type of equipment.
Before you use any piece of kitchen equipment, you should spend some time reading through the operators manual. The manual will not only contain information about how to use the equipment but will also tell you how to clean and maintain the equipment.
The following chart is a useful way to categorise the different types of kitchen equipment.