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Top 7 Essential Cooking Equipment

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Fortunately, Latin Caribbean cuisine doesn't require a bunch of special cooking equipment. Most of the cooking equipment you already have will be sufficient. The following specialty pots, pans and utensils will help you in preparing your favorite recipes anytime. If you don't have the following items, substitutes are suggested.

1. Caldero (Cauldron)

Caldero - Cauldron
The word caldero means cauldron in English. A caldero is a cast iron cooking pot, similar to a Dutch oven, with a tight-fitting lid. They come in a variety of sizes. In Latin cooking, the caldero is used to cook rice, braise meat, and simmer stews and soups. It can even be used for frying. Acceptable substitutes are Dutch ovens or appropriate sized cooking pots with tight lids.
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2. Tostonera (Plantain Press)

What it looks like when you flatten the tostones © Hector Rodriguez
A tostonera is a tool used to make tostones. It can vary in size and be made of wood, plastic or metal. There are two types of tostoneras. The first type is a plantain press used to flatten rounds for frying. It is flat on one side and has a round indentation on the other. The second type is used to stuff plantains. It has a ball on one side and hole on the other; when you press them together your tostone is shaped into a cup for filling. I have not found a substitute for the second type, but for flattening rounds you can use a meat mallet or bottom of a drinking mug.

3. Pilón (Mortar and Pestle)

In Latin Caribbean Cooking, a mortar and pestle (pilón) are used to crush, grind, and mash ingredients, herbs and seasoning. Mortar and pestles can be made of ceramic, metal, or wood. There is no good substitute for a mortar and pestle; the flavor just won’t be the same. However, if you do not have a mortar and pestle you can try using an electric coffee and spice grinder for dry ingredients or a food processor for wet ingredients.
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4. Rice Cooker

A rice cooker isn’t really an essential piece of equipment, unless you haven’t mastered cooking rice in a caldero, yet. If you feel the need to invest in a rice cooker, choose one that can be used for more than cooking plain rice. For example, some rice cookers can be used as steamers or to cook stews, soups, and chili.
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5. Flan Mold

Flan is the number one dessert in Latin Caribbean cooking and there are too many recipes to count. If you plan on making flan a regular dish in your repertoire, you might want to invest in a quality flan mold. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. A good substitute is a glass casserole or baking dish small enough to sit in a water bath inside a roasting pan.
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6. Sandwich Press

Cuban sandwiches are pressed, just like Italian Panini sandwiches. You can invest in a Panini press or a handheld grill press. For a substitute, you can use a cast iron skillet to press down the sandwich or a heavy brick wrapped in tinfoil.
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7. Fryer

Puerto Rico, Cuba and The Dominican Republic all have their versions of fried foods and snacks. An electric deep fryer is essential because you can control the temperature of the oil and many come with timers. If you feel comfortable using a frying pan, then by all means, use it. You can also substitute a caldero or Dutch oven for frying, but beginners should use them with a frying thermometer and timer for accuracy.
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