The Top Ten Appliances…

9th September 2011

…Good Cooks Would Love To Own

If you’re an experienced cook, says Alma Collins, you’ll know it’s not the shininess of the chrome or the brightness of the silicone that counts with kitchen equipment. Rather it can be the solidness of the build and the efficiency with which machinery works or the seasoning effect gained from the use and reuse of pans that matters. Sometimes it is simply an aesthetic appeal that comes with age and style. Second hand is definitely not second rate…

At number ten are Antique Jelly Moulds – an aesthetic must have. You won’t save any money by buying these in glass, brass or other metals but they can be beautifully displayed on walls and shelves where cheaper plastic models will be housed in cupboards, and may never see the light of day.

At number nine: the Fish Kettle. A 60cm fish kettle new can cost £40+, whereas a used one can be purchased for under a tenner (although rather more for copper to be fair), and can be displayed on top of a cupboard as a subtle nod to your cooking prowess.

With an emphasis on eating more fish nowadays the fish kettle is a very useful item for promoting a healthy diet. A poached salmon, for example, is a simple yet impressive way to feed hungry guests. Just add a little hollandaise, some Jersey Royals and asparagus spears and you have a meal with class.

Number eight: Breadmakers…
Which of us isn’t tempted by freshly baked bread? Breadmakers can be a real bargain. Mine, used only once, was just £15 on eBay. Admittedly, it sits in the corner of my kitchen much of the year, but in winter it works while I’m out, and when the kids get home we simply take soup from the warming plate and tip the bread out of the machine: instant lunch. And, of course, the added bonus is the wonderful smell bread that gladdens our hearts as we walk in the door…

Number seven is the classic Belfast sink. In excess of £100 new but can be picked up second hand for as little as a tenner. With a little work and some elbow grease, it can be returned to a seemingly new condition. Not only have you saved some money but you’ll have a sink that will last longer than most of us will be fit enough to wash up at it…

At number six we have the vintage butcher’s block. On new versions of these the wooden top may only be an inch thick, but older blocks can have a top nine or ten inches thick at the edges, although thinned a little in the centre by years of chopping and scrubbing. These aesthetically pleasing imperfections are what make these solid items so sought-after and with prices of up to and in excess of four figures being paid for second hand butcher’s blocks, there must be more than a few people that agree. You can get a new block with the thinner wooden top for about £100.

Number five: vintage scales with brass bell weights. They are accurate, and they are a visually pleasing addition to your kitchen. An used set of scales with weights will set you back around a tenner; new, you will be paying from £40 for the scales and a further £15 plus for the weights.

Number four is the choice of professional chefs: copper pans.
Copper conducts heat very well. Pre-loved pans will cost at least £30, but if you consider that new pans can go well into the hundreds it’s well worth watching out for a pan that, with a bit of a clean, can be a beautiful and very useful addition to your kitchen – and an outstanding bargain to boot.

At number three is Le Creuset, whose pans, and, in particular, casseroles are something many good cooks own but with a 28cm casserole costing over £100 new and a set of three pans costing nearly £200, they are certainly pricey. Pick them up in ones and twos second hand. Over the course of three years I’ve managed pick up a full set of pans and casseroles for less than £30. A reasonable set bought new would have cost something in the region of £800.

At number two is my favourite kitchen ‘toy’: the Kenwood Chef. A Chef the same age as my 1966 model is currently selling on eBay for over £75 but there is good reason for this. A new Chef does not have the heavy glass bowl that came with the older models, which has now been replaced with an option that does not have the solid feel of the original. Kenwood is making each new model to look more and more like the old – but somehow vintage Chefs just have more X factor for me. I can rely on my Kenwood – and when a new model costs £270, and is not capable of all the functions that a 45 year old machine can perform, why would anyone want a new one?…

Number one on the recycle list is the epitome of home, of class, of warmth, of kitchen and of motherhood. It is the cooker of farm kitchens and country mansions. It is the kitchen’s absolute style icon: the one and only AGA. It may well last longer than you will, and when it dies you can have it re-enamelled and reconditioned and it will live another long life. Even second hand this most desirable of all kitchen items is beyond many of our budgets: reconditioned a two door model can cost £2,500, a four door £5,500. But then… you can raise a new born lamb or kittens in the warming oven, dry your laundry above the hob on an airer, keep soup at ‘just warm’ on the hot plate while you’re out or semi-dry tomatoes on the same plate.

It can also heat all your hot water. If you consider what a new boiler and cooker cost, and how many times you will pay for those in a lifetime maybe an AGA isn’t so expensive after all…

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