This article is part of a series; for the rest of the series, visit Food and MS.
Whether the kitchen has been remodeled or not, it's almost time for dinner. What now? Today I am talking about counter-top appliances and kitchen utensils. These small appliances broaden our cooking experiences and make cooking easier. You can use the same devices as anyone, but first decide if there is a reason you should be careful, and if it is worth it to you.
If you experience fatigue, weakness, unsteadiness, lack of balance and sitting in a wheelchair, you want to plan your cooking times. When you're feeling good is the time to cut, chop, grate, separate and store extra ingredients. Then when you are not up to the task you can use some of those saved ingredients, skip the work but still eat. When you are feeling fine, it may be helpful to plan preparation in stages gather your ingredients, heat, and clean up to guard against wearing out. Prepare a super meal only on those days you're feeling super. Always be willing to take advantage of help. That way, you can enjoy your meal, your family's company, and have a nice evening. Also, be willing to stop any time your MS says it is time for a break.
Now, let's start with counter-top appliances.
Counter-top appliances help make kitchen tasks easier. Many of these devices are very helpful for everyone; however, some are heavy and awkward, and you may need help when using them. Plan to use the awkward ones only when you have willing help available. When help is not available, it is time for a simpler meal.
Here are some popular counter-top appliances that are functional for all of us:
- Food processor - This may take the place of several separate devices.
- Meat grill - Some grills have replaceable plates to perform as sandwich makers, griddle, waffle irons, and other devices. They are getting much easier to clean, also.
- Crock-pot - A meal can be prepared one day, stored in refrigerator, and slow-cooked the next day.
- Stand mixer - A table mixer with a bowl firmly in place is often a better choice than a hand mixer.
- Electric skillet - Heavy and hot, helpers recommended, but with the right placement, this may be safer than stove burners.
There are also many small table appliances with specialty functions, such as boiling eggs. Of course there are standards like toasters, coffee brewers and can openers that are made in easy-to-handle styles, if needed.
Preparing meals requires consideration of pans and bowls used, especially when your abilities are limited. Let's look at them separately.
If you prefer the range and oven, and have the strength and dexterity, use whatever cooking utensils you choose. If you have a problem with strength, however, be sure they are light and easy to handle. I still use a light skillet and medium sauce pan as well as baking utensils, but I rely pretty much on the microwave.
Bowls are useful for storing ingredients, dishes that are cooked ahead, and leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer. These same containers are also used for cooking or heating in the microwave. Glass bowls are nice and at one time essential for heating cheese, but glass bowls tend to be heavy. Plastic bowls are lighter, but long microwave cooking times, sauces or heating cheese can cause the finish on a plastic bowl to become scarred or scratched. I have found that Tupperware and Rubbermaid grades of plastic do well with long cooking times, and Rubbermaid has a line of clear plastic bowls called Stain Shield that stay like new. I use both glass and plastic, but all my bowls are lightweight. I have all types of sizes from very small for ingredients to very large. All of my bowls have lids.
A special Microwave lid large enough to cover your biggest bowl is always useful when cooking or heating things that may splatter. An extendable colandar that fits over the sink is sturdy when rinsing vegetables or fruit as well as draining pasta.
It is useful to have a large mixing bowl with a handle. You may not always require large sizes, but it is better to have a small amount in a large bowl than too much in a small bowl. The handle allows the bowl to be steadied while stirring. In my wheelchair, I find it useful to manage the bowl in my lap.
Measuring devices are often needed, even to prepare pre-packaged mixes. The little plastic cups usually used for dry measuring from 1/4 to 1 cup, can be used for liquids, too. For smaller measures like teaspoons, tablespoons, ounces and milliliters, a labeled shot glass sitting on a counter is easier than trying to pour with one hand while holding a spoon steady with the other.
Chip bag clips and zip-lock bags often come in handy, especially when saving chopped ingredients in the freezer or refrigerator. I have several sizes just in case.
There are many tools and gadgets designed specifically to ease the task of cooking for people who have limiting conditions like MS. Almost any tool, regardless of its intent, may be useful in the kitchen. Deciding which tools you need or want is dependent on what you can or cannot handle. Following are some examples: Opening Everyone, with or without limitations, has problems opening bags, boxes, jars, containers and cans, and everyone can use help opening them. Scissors or a knife puncture gets them started.
Jar tops that are often closed so tight they need something extra to be opened can be held under hot water or tapped against the floor to allow opening. For jars twisted shut, a folded rubber glove does the trick. Lisa Emrich recommends jarpop for vacuum tops.
Many people also have problems with pop tops on soft drinks. Now, the grocery industry is sealing many canned products like chunky soup in pop-top cans, but they are difficult to open and could use help. With or without pop tops, I prefer to use electric can openers. There are different styles of manual and electric can openers that work by themselves. Find the one that works for you. You don't want to get tired or frustrated before you even get started.
Many ingredients require cutting, such as meat, fruits, vegetables, and spices. Lisa Emrich recommends the Alaskan ulu knife, especially for painful or awkward hands. This sounds good to me. Along the same line are utensils with angled handles. Regular household scissors are great for meat, soft fruits, cooked vegetables, and herbs. I keep my special scissors in a kitchen drawer.
Television watchers are familiar with the small chopper tool. The chopper works well with crisp fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Along with the chopper, a grater is offered. I have used a rotary grater for years. It has blades for two sizes of grating as well as one for slicing.
Miscellaneous Utensils with big handles are easier if you have difficulty grasping. You will find over-sized handles in many catalogs. A spoon or spatula should be strong enough that using it is not awkward and it doesn't bend when scooping or stirring. If a floppy spoon causes something to spill, you have to clean it up. Why cause extra work? The idea is to make it quick and easy. A large, strong spoon is useful for stirring and serving into individual plates or bowls. Any size can work, but the small ones take time and motion you may not want to spend. You will find a large spoon and a large slotted spoon very useful.
Reachers are as helpful in the kitchen as in any room. I find kitchen tongs especially useful for heavy items that are not too far away.
I use a lap-sized cutting board when working on my lap. This is my most useful working space. These are only some of the items that make a kitchen complete. I'm sure there are many more. Your kitchen is ready.
Next time I will begin to talk about food.
Notes and Links.
This article includes links to products offered by different companies. As always, I do not endorse a particular product. The links are examples for illustration only.
roll out cabinet shelves, assistive devices, kitchen gadgets, including a method to hold onto utensils and turn oven controls