We just received a question from a reader about how to start a cooking demonstration program.
Which cooking equipment do you recommend for doing cooking demos?
Our best advice? KISS – Keep it short and simple. For 2 reasons:
1) You need to use what consumers are using in their own kitchens so they walk away with an ‘I can do this’ attitude. While a copper gas stove is entertaining on the Food Network, a simple kitchen setup is better for consumers who want to learn to cook healthy. Use equipment they already have and what you are used to using yourself!
2) Simple is just better for speaking and working in front of a live audience in a demo kitchen atmosphere.
Two pieces are in our ‘must-have’ category:
– Stove top burner – can be portable and powered by electricity or propane/butane (make sure you have adequate ventilation for gas
–Microwave – this is a must for us and we have done demos using just a microwave – you can cook anything in it – even pasta in boiling water if you must – we have even baked a cake in one! And we actually prefer to have 2 microwaves in a demo kitchen (and even our own kitchen) so you can keep moving and keep the audience interested.
But most important is that it is easy to cook vegetables and even fruits in a microwave!
Vegetables cook fast and with little water in a microwave so they retain better color, texture and nutrients. There is less mess when using a microwave for steaming and you can often cook, serve and store the items in the same glass dish.
Of course a real range with a stove and oven is even better.
There are three more pieces of cooking equipment that are important for teaching healthier cooking, in our opinion:
- crockpot – because you can demo beans and soups – those cook without attendance time and make it easy for today’s time-pressed consumer to prepare these items on a regular basis
- pressure cooker or instant-pot because it cooks many things in 10 minutes or less including soups, potatoes, vegetables, grains, protein, and some legumes (many legumes cook in 20 minutes or less with no soaking needed!
- a rice cooker – we find this item makes cooking brown rice so easy that people are inclined to do them over and over and over. And you can cook other whole grains in it. The best part about a rice cooker is that it cooks rice and other grains perfectly and you don’t have to stand over a stove stirring. You set it and forget it.
Finally, here are a few more things you shouldn’t forget:
- New cutting boards and wet paper towels to stick them to the table – we prefer white plastic cutting boards or bendable boards that can go in the dishwasher when done
- Sharp knives
- Containers, cups and bags to put pre-measured ingredients – no one wants to watch you measure everything – have it ready to go
- Multiple cooking utensils, measuring cups and spoons (have enough so you don’t have to wash anything while doing your demo)
- Rubber scrapers
- Can openers
- Platters for display
- Cups/plates/napkins/utensils for taste samples
And our ‘nice-to-have’ equipment list for really wonderful meals and finishing touches:
- toaster oven – to roast asparagus, nuts, whole grain bread, oven fried potatoes, tomatoes (great for a kitchen that doesn’t have an oven)
- food processor – for salsa, roasted marinara sauce
- mixer – if you are going to be baking or making mashed potatoes
- hand held immersion blender – wonderful for creamy vegetable soups
Where would we go to buy equipment and small wares?
Walmart or other discount stores, department store sales, Amazon or a local restaurant supply store. We have picked up very nice items on Amazon and enjoy reading everyone’s reviews.
How can you set up a small room for client cooking education:
Consider a portable “island” cart that has wheels, a counter top, and drawers and cabinets. You can use it for storage when not teaching classes. And it can be pushed out to become the demo table for class time. Just make sure you lock the wheels so it stays put while cooking. If you are teaching an interactive class be sure to have a few work stations and to split your group into teams of 2 to 4 so they can each make a recipe. It is always good to give each group a different recipe because they will learn everything by doing it and observing others.