by Lauren Bull, CKC Writer
"I say, beware all enterprises that require new clothes," Henry David Thoreau once wrote. If you spend any time traveling on the Internet Cooking Train, passing stops called Pickle Picker, Strawberry Stem Remover, and Asparagus Peeler, you could easily swap Thoreau’s "clothes" for "kitchen appliances.” Is the secret to kitchen proficiency a multi-edge brownie pan? Yes. (Kidding, it's not at all.) But when attempting to master the cuisine of a particular culture, the tricks of the trade require a few specific tools. They're not gadgets — they're essentials.
Here is a list of the most important tools for Korean cooking, the ones that will give you an edge when you've long been working with dull blades.
1. Pressure rice cooker
It's hard to overstate the importance of rice in Korean cuisine, especially considering Koreans often use the words "bap" (rice) and "meal" interchangeably in conversation. Consistency and quality are paramount when you're eating something so frequently.
We'll be real: Rice cookers can get pricey, but it's best to think of this as an investment piece. The difference between good rice and bad isn't small — it's a giant chasm where lots and lots of ho-hum rice goes to be forgotten forever.
P.S. The benefits of a rice cooker extend far beyond Korean cooking. Spring for the sure thing.
Recommended: Cuckoo Electric Pressure Rice Cooker
2. Rice paddle
Put away the metal spoon, and hide your wooden spatula. Once your rice is perfectly cooked in the pressure cooker, a flip with a rice paddle keeps clumps at bay and prevents that annoying sticking when you scoop. Here's what we mean by flip: use the end of the paddle to cut into the rice and fluff. No squishing allowed! Don't skip this step — The Flip is essential for an even finish and proper plating.
3. Korean mortar and pestle
Mincing, smashing, chopping — however you slice it (ha! oh, man), garlic can be kind of a pain to prep. But because it is so ubiquitous in Korean dishes — and lots of other dishes, too, for that matter — having a tool that gets the work done quickly is worth the investment, especially when you've got ten or twenty cloves staring at you from the cutting board.
The secret to the Korean mortar and pestle is the combination of the ridged, plastic mortal and a wooden pestle. The friction between the two really breaks the garlic down and grabs at those pesky chunks that want desperately to live. They must be crushed.
4. Radish slicer
So, first of all, we're not talking about those small pinky-red radishes in the plastic bag. These are big boy radishes, and getting them properly julienned is the secret to successful kimchi and other Korean side dishes. An adjustable, multi-blade mandoline is ideal for achieving even slices of all kinds of vegetables.
Recommended: Benriner Mandoline Slicer
5. Dolsot (Stone bowls) and Earthenware Pot (Ddukbaegi)
With their cook-and-serve functionality, Korean stone bowls are the epitome of kitchen versatility. They can be used on an open flame, on an electric coil, in the oven, under the broiler, and right in the microwave — basically any way you can think of to get something hot. You can eat directly from the bowl once it's ready, and the stoneware actually keeps the food hot while you're chowing down. Though traditionally made with natural stone, it's common now to see ceramic versions, which are more practical for the home cook. Dolsot is more commonly used for rice dishes like bibimbap, while ddukbaegi is used for soups and stews.
Bonus points: Aside from withstanding high temperatures for cooking, the bowls are dishwasher safe.
Recommended: Korean Stone Bowl
6. Pink rubber gloves
These rubber gloves are the secret weapon of versatility for Korean mothers everywhere. They're ideal for everything from kimchi prep to cleaning dishes to keeping a family in line, and given their low cost, it's easy to have several pairs on hand. Consider this both a culinary and beauty tip. (And yes, they have to be pink.)
Recommended: Pink Rubber Gloves
7. Sesame seed grinder
Just as you might assume an American household will have a pepper grinder, you can figure a Korean household will have a sesame seed grinder. The nuttiness of sesame seeds is major flavor profile in many Korean dishes. The concept is similar to the pepper grinder: simply add whole roasted sesame seeds and crack them over your dish. Soups! Salads! Vegetables! Ice cream! Whatever you'd like. The point is, it's a low budget item with a high budget touch.
Recommended: Kotobuki Sesame Seed Grinder
8. Kimchi container
Kimchi is the sweet, sour, spicy, and aged condiment that's not only a staple of every meal in Korean households, but has also found fame in fusion dishes over the past few years. (Kimchi tacos, anyone?) The "special" odor kimchi acquires during fermentation is the trade off for its deliciousness, but there are ways to keep the stink manageable. The proper kimchi container allows the ingredients to work their funky magic without releasing the smell into the wilds of your refrigerator (and house).
P.S. To give you an idea of how important kimchi is to Korean cuisine, some people even have specialized kimchi refrigerators that hold the product at the optimal temperature. It's like a wine fridge, but funkier.
Recommended: Crazy Korean Cooking Premium Storage Container
9. Cooking scissors
We still wonder why every person doesn't have a pair of scissors in their kitchen, as they are probably more useful there than in any other location in the home. Koreans have long seen the value in having scissors at-the-ready for cutting through meat, noodles, kimchi, and the like. They're cheap, fast, and effective. How many things can be described that way?
10. Stainless steel mesh for anchovy broth
Though a few floating anchovy heads might not intimidate true braveheart eaters, there are others who prefer their broth headless, and we shouldn't judge them for that. Anchovy broth is a Korean staple, and a mesh infuser will allow all that deep, rich, salty flavor in there while leaving the heads behind. It also creates an overall cleaner final product.