Kitchen vault

Graceful CuisineOutfitting your kitchen with a selection of tools that are useful for the way you enjoy cooking is a lifelong process.  Once you have acquired the basics, you will be able to create a wide range of dishes.  Base these choices on the things you enjoy preparing, rather than what you think you ought to have in your kitchen.  Then you can spend some time discovering a type of cooking that appeals to you and then develop your specialty.  Specialty tools make particular tasks easier and cooking more pleasant.

The other side of dressing your kitchen with the proper equipment is keeping a well-stocked pantry.  When I refer to the pantry, I also include the fridge and freezer as well as the cupboards.  Having to stop at the market on the way home from work just to buy the stuff you need for dinner will discourage you from cooking.   I always keep a number of items that are commonly used on hand at all times to simplify my meal planning and preparing process.

I have found that many people are interested in learning what types of cookware I use in the kitchen and what types of stuff I keep in my pantry.  So I have started revealing my kitchen vault for your interest.


Recent Posts
Tips for preparing ingredients with measuring cups and spoons
Measuring dry ingredients using a Salter digital kitchen scale
Flour and sugar storage canisters
All Clad stainless steel cookware reviews
Conversion charts

As I mentioned in my previous post, recipes that use the imperial system measure many ingredients by weight instead of volume.  This can be confusing especially if you don’t own a kitchen scale and you’re likely using measuring cups or spoons.  Rest assured that this not a problem if you are aware that these volumetric tools (cups and spoons) can be very inaccurate if used improperly.  I mentioned in my previous post that the proper way of adding dry ingredients to the measuring cup is by using a regular spoon to scoop it into the measuring cup until it overflows, and then leveling it off with a straight edge.  The second issue to note is that there is a difference between liquid and dry measuring cups.  It’s important that you own both types of cups and that you know when to use them.

Dry measuring cups are used to measure the volume of bulk solid ingredients such as sugars and flours.  They usually come in a set, typically of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, and 1 cup.  Some dry measuring cup sets include the odd cup measurements such as 1/8, 2/3, and 3/4 cup.  These measuring cups may be made of plastic, glass, or metal, and do not have a marked scale on the side since you measure by filling the ingredient right to the top and then leveling off with a straight edge.  I own the Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Cup and Spoon Set.  I like the modern design with stainless steel, and they include the metric conversion.

measuring cups and spoons

measuring spoons

Liquid measuring cups are used to measure the volume of a liquid ingredient such as water, milk, whipping cream, or oil.  These measuring cups generally have a pour spout and have gradations on the side of the cup where you measure the liquids.  There are different sizes of liquid measuring cups, ranging from a capacity of 250 ml (approx. 1 cup) to 1000 ml (approx. 4 cups).  The scale markings may be in multiple units such as milliliters with fractions of a liter, the cup unit with its fractions, pints, or fluid ounces.  I’ve seen liquid measuring cups made in clear plastic, metal, glass, and more recently, silicone.  I own a set of 3 silicone Flex-it measuring cups:  1 cup, 2 cups, and 4 cups capacity.

measuring cups

These are my favorite measuring cups.  They are microwavable, heat resistant up to 500oF, and they pour nicely because you can squeeze in the sides a little while pouring.  And best of all, they nestle inside one another to save space in storage.  They’re fantastic measuring cups with milliliter and fractions of a liter scale on one side, and cups and ounces on the other.

dry measuring cups  Flex-it measuring cup storage

I also have the OXO Good Grips 4 cup angled measuring cup which has served me well in the years before I found my silicone measuring cups.

In my previous post, I talked about measuring ingredients by weight.  With the advent of these accurate digital kitchen scales, it is increasingly more common to weight liquids for use in recipes to avoid the need for fiddling with multiple volumetric measuring cups and spoons.  The most common liquids used in the kitchen are water and milk, which weight approximately the same when considering the relatively low volumes used in cooking.  If you do not have a kitchen scale, I’m going to let you in on something useful I learned in Chemistry class:

1 ml of water = 1 cm3 and weighs 1 gram
1 liter of water = 1 m3 and weighs 1 kilogram

So a recipe calling for 300 g of water can simply be substituted with 300 ml of water, and vice versa.

Another way to get a pretty accurate measurement of dry ingredients without a kitchen scale is to know the weight of your dry ingredients so you can calculate the weight needed for a recipe using volume.  For example, if you determine the weight per cup of flour you are using, then you can calculate how many cups of flour you need if your recipe prefers weight measurements.  I have compiled a weight conversion chart for common ingredients in my recipes for your reference.  I determined these weight measurements using the method I described in my previous post.  For example, now you know the weight per cup of the type of flour you are using.  So if a recipe calls for 270 grams of all-purpose flour, divide 270 by 120 (the weight of one cup of flour).  The result is 2 1/4 cups of flour.  Sometimes flour is used in small amounts that are more easily calculated by knowing the weight of a tablespoon of flour.  Be aware that 1 cup = 48 teaspoons = 16 tablespoons.  Use this information to determine smaller increments of weights:  1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 120 grams, so 1 tablespoon weighs 7 1/2 grams.

My rule of thumb is to be consistent in your methods.  If you are using volume to measure your dry ingredients, make sure to use volume throughout the entire recipe.  That way you can be sure that your proportion of ingredients is correct.

Common ingredient weight conversions

Precise measurements can be vital to cooking and baking success.  In any recipe, quantities of ingredients may specified by mass or volume.  Liquid ingredients are generally measured by volume, but the confusion lies in measuring the dry bulk ingredients (like sugar, flour, pasta, rice).  A guide for all the volume and weight conversions is an important tool to have in the kitchen.  When halving or doubling a recipe, making the correct conversions can make or break your final results.

Most recipes in North America, Australia, and Sweden measure mostly in volume rather than weight, while recipes in other countries list ingredients in weight measurements such as ounces, pounds, grams, and kilograms.  For example, 110 grams of all-purpose flour is approximately 1 cup of flour.  But if you take a measuring cup and scoop it into the flour, level it off, and then weigh it, you will find that it weighs up to 25% more than 110 grams depending on how much you pack the flour.  To correctly measure flour using volume, use a regular spoon to lightly scoop the flour out of its container into a measuring cup until it is overflowing.  Then use a straight edge to level off the flour with the top edge of the measuring cup.

Measuring flour

I believe that using weight to measure ingredients offers more accuracy, especially with ingredients like flour that may become compact during storage.  A kitchen scale is necessary to measure ingredients by weight.  Simply place a bowl on the scale, use the tare function to deduct the weight of the bowl, and then spoon the flour into the bowl until the desired measure pops up on the display.  Thus you are assured of accuracy in weights when the recipe prefers to use weight.  For example, sometimes you may need to use an amount of flour that is in between 3/4 cup and 1 cup.  Using weight to specify this amount is more precise than saying 3/4 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons.

With the vast amount of recipes using the North American preference for volume rather than weight, do I really need a digital kitchen scale?  We must also consider that also sugar and flour are now commonly measured by volume, meats are generally measured by weight worldwide:  one 2-kg chicken, or 3 pounds of ribs.  More and more recipes measure vegetables by weight because of the inherent imprecision of measuring by count given the variability in the size of the vegetables:  1 1/2 pounds of broccoli instead of 1 small head of broccoli.

I chose to buy a digital kitchen scale and it was another one of those good investments to outfit my kitchen.  I have the Salter 1406 glass top nutritional scale with a slim design that I keep tucked between the wall and my toaster oven.

kitchen scale  digital kitchen scale

The important features of the best kitchen scale include its ability to switch between various weight scales like pounds, ounces, fluid ounces, and grams.

best kitchen scale

The Salter digital kitchen scale will allow you to easily switch the weight scale while you are in the process of weighing.  Another important feature is to have a tare function (or zero function) that allows you to deduct the weight of the measuring container and thus show only the net weight of the object that is being measured.  Check to make sure that the scale allows you to press the tare button repeatedly so that you can measure various items and add it to the same bowl on after the other.  I don’t prefer the scales that have built in bowls because those are harder to clean and to store.

My Salter kitchen scale also displays nutritional readings for foods whose food code is provided in the enclosed instructional booklet.  When I’m developing my recipes, having a kitchen scale makes it doubly efficient because I can measure precise amounts of ingredients quickly and calculate nutritional information to make healthier choices.  So for example, 8.5 fluid ounces (about 1 cup) of whole milk (code 085 on my Salter kitchen scale) has about 147 calories, 300 mg of salt, and 8 g of fat.

whole milk nutrition value

The same volume of skim milk (code 088 on my scale) has about 84 calories, a bit more salt, and no fat.

skim milk nutritional value

A raw egg (code 106 on the Salter digital kitchen scale) weighs 56 grams, has 84 calories and about 6 grams of protein.

raw egg nutritional value

This same egg, when hard boiled (code 111 on the Salter kitchen scale), loses 1 gram in weight and has approximately the same nutritional values.

hard boiled egg nutritional value

You can begin to appreciate the value of having a digital kitchen scale for making informed choices when designing a healthier diet or healthier methods of cooking.  Now let’s compare some cooking oil choices.  Canola oil (0.2 fluid ounces, or 6 milliliters, or slightly over 1 teaspoon) has about 62 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Canola oil nutrition

The same volume of peanut oil has 53 calories and 6 grams of fat.

Peanut oil nutrition

The same volume of extra-virgin olive oil has 62 calories and 7 grams of fat.

Extra virgin olive oil nutrition

It may not seem like much of a difference here, but when you add the nutritional information of all your ingredients, then you will see the difference.

What do I do if I don’t have a kitchen scale?  Don’t fret.  I am always willing to help my readers figure out what may have caused a variance in texture, yield, volume, or color in baking.  The art of baking stresses the importance of getting the right proportions of the ingredients that are being used.  It is important for the balancing of acids and bases and could make the difference between a beautiful fluffy cake and a sunken dense cake.  But remember, it’s the right proportion that we want when baking.  If you are using volume to measure your ingredients, be sure that you are consistent in your method of adding the ingredient to the measuring cup that you use.  You can still use volumetric measuring cups and get perfect results!

I have a full kitchen.  By that I mean that all my cupboards, drawers, shelves, and storage compartments are occupied to capacity.  Nevertheless, I have a designated space for everything, and everything is always in its space.  On occasion, between my frequent cleaning sprees, I like to reorganize to find a better and more efficient way to store things.  And when I reorganize, my goal is always to improve my current conditions so that getting specific items is easier with less hassle.  This is especially the case for heavier items, or items that are clumsier to handle.

Heavy bags of flour (all-purpose, bread, pastry, whole wheat, etc.) and sugars (brown, confectioner’s, caster, granulated, etc.) are especially a hassle to store in such a way that makes getting them an easy task.  I’ve tried putting them in on the floor of my cupboards with the taller bags at the back, but then reaching for them is such a hassle when they are clumsy, heavy, and the bags might tear!  Leaving the bags on the kitchen counter tops is out of the question for me because it is just too unsightly, even though they would be so easily accessible if they were always right there on the table!  I tried putting them strategically on a Lazy Susan rotating tray in the cupboard, but they were so heavy that the Lazy Susan squeaked under the weight and they kept falling over every time I turned the tray.  All the huge flour canisters and sugar containers that were made of ceramic were distasteful to me because they were too heavy and the lids were often too fidgety.

On one of my days off from work, I decided to hunt for organization paraphernalia.  More specifically, I was on a mission to find the perfect flour storage container.  Then that was when I found it.  It was one of those moments when you first see something and you have to pause to let it soak in because you feel it’s so perfect.  At that time, I’ve never seen it before, but I knew that it would work and I just had to try it.

The brand name is Progressive.  The first item is the Progressive International Flour Keeper.

Progressive Flour Keeper

It has a capacity for 3.6 liters, stores up to 5 lbs of flour, or sugar, or whatever baking ingredient you want to keep in it.  But best of all, it comes with a built-in leveler for measuring ingredients accurately.

Progressive powder sugar keeper

The airtight seal and clear material was a bonus.  I bought more than one to store all my flours and granulated sugar.  This container is 6.1 x 7.75 x 8.5 inches with a slim modern looking design.  I purchased this flour container at a local kitchen store, and at that time, the price was around $30.  It wasn’t cheap, but definitely well worth it.

I’ve recently found that it is actually cheaper on (even with shipping included), since it is only priced at $18 + shipping.  Getting the Progressive International Flour Keeper on Amazon would have not only saved me some money, but also the time it takes to drive around and look for it in store!

On the subject of, if you purchase a lot of items on (like my hubby and I), make sure to enroll in the Amazon Prime program.  Not only do you make back the membership fee’s in all the free shipping you get on many items, but there are many perks as well!

In addition to the Flour Keeper with the built-in leveler, they also make a matching Brown Sugar Keeper that comes with a terra cotta insert to keep your brown sugar soft.

Progressive Brown Sugar keeper

Just be sure to soak the terra cotta for 15 minutes every time you empty your container and have to refill it.  This one has a capacity of 1.4 liters and stores up to 2 lbs of brown sugar.  The Progressive Brown Sugar Keeper is 6 x 5.5 x 5.6 inches and looks just like the Flour Keeper except without the built-in leveler.  You don’t need a leveler for brown sugar anyway, since brown sugar is usually tightly packed when measured.  I use the sides of the container to pack the sugar for measuring.

I purchased the Brown Sugar Keeper for around $20 in store, and have also found it to be cheaper on, as the Progressive Brown Sugar Keeper on sells for only $13 + shipping.

And for my confectioner’s sugar, they make a matching Powdered Sugar Keeper, also with a built-in leveler.  In addition, it has a mesh top covered by a flip lid that is useful for dusting confectioner’s sugar.  It has about a 1 liter capacity and stores about 1 pound of powdered sugar.  I cannot comment directly on the Powdered Sugar Keeper because I usually buy my confectioner’s sugar in much larger quantities that won’t fit in this container.  So I store my confectioner’s sugar in the Progressive International Flour Keeper.  However, I also saw this product too, and I wanted to share it here.

So now I store all my baking ingredients that are normally sold in bags inside one of these Progressive keepers.  I have them stacked on my kitchen shelf, and they slide on and off the shelf nicely when I need to get them.  They are easy to grip, easy to open, and the ingredients are hassle-free to measure without having the powders fly all over the place as they would if I were measuring them out of a bag.  I don’t have to worry about clumsy bags that tear easily if handled the wrong way.  And I don’t need to struggle with bags that don’t stack well when I want to save room!  The best thing is that they are all dishwasher safe for that cleaning I give them before I have to refill them again.  I have had no problems with these flour canisters, and I really think they are magnificent products.  The flour canisters are also very versatile, since I find that they also work very well as a sugar container.

Bravo, Progressive, for thinking of this brilliant idea for home chefs like me.

When I was in university, I moved a lot from basement to basement where most of my belongings could fit into two large suitcases.  I didn’t enjoy this nomadic lifestyle, but I made the most of it by hosting a housewarming party every time I moved into a new place.  I shared with my friends that someday I wished to have a permanent address and a large contemporary kitchen.  One summer, I received a set of non-stick cookware as a gift from a group of friends.  At that time, the cookware was just what I needed to replicate a home that I was dreaming of with a professionally equipped kitchen.

Five years later, I used the most of the pieces from my set on a daily basis, and they served me well with all the dinners I’ve hosted in at my various residences.  But my culinary skills became more honed, and I desired a more professional, heavy duty set that could give me more perfect results with a beautiful design and controlled handling.

I started looking around for my ideal cookware set and I came across All Clad at a local kitchen store for professional chefs.  Later when I got engaged to be married, I set up a wedding registry with my fiancé at that same kitchen store, adding All Clad cookware pieces that I dreamed of having to complete my set.  We received an All Clad copper core frying pan, which I immediately put to good use.  Needless to say, we ended up purchasing the All Clad original stainless 10-piece premier cookware set, which served me very well.

all clad stainless steel cookware

all clad 10 piece stainless steel cookware   all clad stainless steel pans

Using the All Clad set brought my cooking to another level with professional results, and nourished my passion to start this food/recipe blog.

The All Clad copper core is designed for true connoisseurs with superb heat distribution and an elegant design showing a ring-around of copper near the base.  It has five layers:  a stainless steel cooking interior, two aluminum layers with a copper core in between, and a polished steel exterior.  My copper core frying pan heats so evenly and quickly; it is wonderful for searing meat with picture-perfect results.  I’ve also used it to simmer sauces that are prone to clumping or where even heating is important.

The All Clad original stainless steel is ideal for busy home chefs and veteran chefs alike.  It has three layers:  a stainless steel cooking interior, a highly conductive aluminum core, and a polished magnetic stainless steel exterior.

all clad cookware  all clad

I find that it delivers exceptional culinary results every time on gas or electric ranges.  My experiences with this cookware confirm what many of the All Clad reviews say about this product’s quality.  The skillets and fry pans heat evenly and retain their heat, so searing meat results in perfect browning, while the meat releases nicely from the pan when it’s ready, as long as I’ve heated it properly with cooking oil in the pan.  The saucepans, similarly, create an even layer of heat on the base and sides, yielding perfect results in cooking everything from a pot of homemade chicken soup to perfectly tender beef brisket.  The matching lids fit snugly, and handles are comfortable and stay cool on the stove.

all clad stainless steel triply

One of the most attractive features of this series is that they can be placed in the oven with a roast, for example, at temperatures up to 500oF.

There are three issues that I should mention, but are minor in my opinion.  The cookware is heavy enough to feel indestructible, which may be too heavy to toss with one hand.  However, even the larger pieces (such as my 8 qt / 7.6 L stock pot or my 10 inch fry pan) are still manageable with the help of handle grips particularly in lifting a hot pan from the oven.  The other issue is that the polished stainless steel interior and exterior will scratch and discolor over time no matter how careful you are.  And I am VERY careful.  It is just impossible to maintain that newly polished steel finish with daily use.  It is important to know that this is not a defect; even new utensils will have some scratches after a few washes in the dishwasher.  The kitchen sink will become scratched up after a few weeks of daily use.  The good thing is that this cookware is designed not to react with food, and a simple cleaning with Bar Keepers Friend liquid cleanser will completely remove any discoloration from cooking.  Bar Keepers Friend liquid cleanser is ideal for stainless steel surfaces and it has always removed any unsightly stains from my All Clad cookware almost effortlessly.  I have also found many ways to minimize scratching, such as using only rubber, silicone, or wooden utensils when cooking, and storing them in a single layer instead of stacking.

The third issue is the price of All Clad cookware.  Purchasing my All Clad as a 10-piece set worked out to be less costly than buying each piece separately, but the cost of the All Clad brand is higher than the more common brands of cookware available at department stores.  My decision to go with All Clad has been a great investment with marvelous returns, as these pieces will last a lifetime provided proper use with the bonus of having the elements of professional culinary outcomes and presentation in my own kitchen.


calphalon contemporary 10 pieceHowever, if price is a major concern, I do suggest that you consider two other brands which are respectable substitutes.  The Calphalon contemporary stainless 10-piece cookware set is about 2/3 the price of the corresponding All Clad set.  It also has a 3 ply construction with an aluminum core in between a brushed stainless steel interior and exterior for good conductivity, and oven-safe up to 450oF.  However, I have heard that the Calphalon contemporary stainless cookware is constructed with much softer materials than All Clad which makes it easily dented and prone to staining or discoloring.


cuisinart multiclad pro 12 piece



The other brand I would suggest is the Cuisinart multi-clad pro stainless steel 12-piece cookware set.  This set is about 1/3 the price of All Clad, making it the best value because of price.  It also has a 3 ply construction with a mirror-finish stainless interior, an aluminum core, and a brushed stainless steel exterior, and oven safe up to 500oF.  I have heard that the Cuisinart stainless steel set is quite prone to discoloration and food sticking that create permanent unsightly consequences even from first use.

When I started my food blog, I was burdened with the decision on whether to use the imperial or metric system when specifying quantities of ingredients by mass and volume.  While the Internet is a great venue to find different recipes from around the world, it also creates a lot of confusion about the different measurements.  Converting from metric to imperial or vice versa is not always straightforward, especially since a cup in the UK is not quite the same as a cup in the States.  So if you want to be precise, it is crucial to know where the recipe is coming from.

You must be wondering where I am writing from, right?  I am based in North America, but I have decided to incorporate both imperial with metric measurements into my recipes.  I will measure different ingredients in different ways:

  • Liquid ingredients are generally measured by volume.  And since there is no internationally-agreed upon standard definition of the cup, one cup will refer to a U.S. cup (commonly defined as 240 mL or about 8 fl.oz).  However, as long as you use the same sized up to measure all the ingredients in a recipe, you don’t have to worry about having your ingredients in the wrong proportions to one another.
  • Dry bulk ingredients, such as sugar and flour, are measured by volume (1/2 cup flour).  This includes small quantities of salt and spices (1 tsp ground cumin).  
  • Meats are generally measured by weight (2 lb ground beef) or by count (4 pork chops).
  • Vegetables are measured by volume (2 cups broccoli florets).

Most of my recipes don’t require an exact conversion.  But for my international friends, I have provided a quick and easy conversion table using approximate numbers.  If you have chosen a particularly tricky recipe, or you just happen to be a perfectionist, have a look at the precise table for conversions from imperial to metric.All conversion charts