This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
The kitchen is a most interesting room, and, in the hands of a skilful woman, can be made the most attractive in the house. But rest assured that it will not be attractive arid loved, if, three times a day, it is the scene of nerve-racking attempts to cook without adequate tools. There are always a certain number of pots and pans that are indispensable; bowls, of various sizes, are needed; wire utensils, others of wood and various other little conveniences; beyond this the list swells towards luxury.
It is not a good plan to furnish the kitchen in "one ware" for the various kinds on the market all have different uses. If one is buying for durability, a partial aluminum equipment is a good investment; this costs more than other wares, but seems to wear almost indefinitely. It will not break or chip, has no seams or joints in which bacteria may collect; any indentures may easily be straightened out by light hammering; it is light and easily cleaned. For large utensils, like a teakettle, stock pot, etc., aluminum is invaluable. However, only guaranteed wares should be selected.
Enamelware of standard quality is always satisfactory, but, unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain the best grades, as price is no indication. I purchased a large amount of enamelware at a high price, only to find it chipping within a month; later securing a cheaper grade which has been in constant use for five years. The safest way to buy enamelware is to get one piece and try it out by putting some water in it, boiling it up, and then dashing it in cold water; if it can stand this vigorous treatment you may be sure it is good. This brings up the question of "seconds"; buying them is always a gamble, for though unpopular shapes or job lots are often so classed, and may give satisfaction, the next lot might chip in a minute.
Although sometimes called "old-fashioned," tinware still has a place in the kitchen. Not in the line of pots and stew-pans, perhaps, for it has a tendency to discolor boiling liquids, but for the dishpan, bread tins, layer, sheet, and loaf cakepans. For durability only heavy well-tinned ware should be purchased, and, whereas this costs more than the thin, stamped variety, it is worth the extra expense. Iron, too, still has a usage - it is the best possible medium for the old-fashioned pot roast - while an iron skillet, when properly heated, is more satisfactory than any other kind. An iron frying kettle, that fits the stove, is preferable to other types, because it is not easily overturned.
Now that we have finally learned to adopt our grandmother's method of oven cookery, earthenware or glass baking utensils are indispensable, not only because they develop delicious flavors, and are really time-savers, but because they are attractive enough to use as serving dishes. The varieties of these articles are innumerable - pie plates, casseroles, baking dishes, custard cups - the selection varying with one's pocketbook. However, earthenware is sometimes a "delusion and a snare," cracking with the first cooking and, like enamelware, should be tested. Before using put them to boil up in a kettle of cold water, let come slowly to boiling point, then cool in the water. If they crack with this process, the manufacturers will replace them - if they are not "seconds." It is always advisable to include a few china, glass, or earthenware bowls for beating eggs, etc., but the mixing bowls should be of enamel or aluminum as they are lighter to handle and more durable. In fact, for actual practicability, there is no better utensil for mixing than a saucepan, because of its handle.
This brings up a very important point in the purchasing of equipment - that of making each utensil do the double duty of saving space in storing and extra handling, and at the same time be durable and adapted to the convenience of each individual housekeeper.
Glass fruit jars with screw tops, in pint and quart sizes, are excellent for storing supplies, while jelly jars with covers are useful for spices, etc. They are also particularly good for the ice-box, as they can be covered, a glance sufficing to show the amount and condition of foods.
The choice of utensils depends, somewhat, on the rest of the furnishings; for instance, if a kitchen cabinet is to be used, it will not be necessary to provide a moulding board or sugar bucket.
One should also consider the shape of the utensil; for example, food will boil more quickly in a broad and shallow sauce-pan. The edges should be rounded rather than angular to permit quick cleansing, and all double boiler tops should be provided with handles.
The following lists, while not cast iron, represent a necessary equipment for good work. The luxuries - a double roasting pan, a steamer, bread mixer, ice-cream freezer, etc. - may be slowly acquired. One clever woman put away, into a jar, twenty-five cents every week, from the housekeeping money, towards new utensils. Her kitchen became a model of convenience, and with its pretty scrim curtains, white paint, pale green walls, red-cushioned rocker and shiny utensils, developed into the most attractive room in the house.