Have you ever wondered what tools every kitchen should have? You may know a recent college grad, a couple planning on getting married and building a registry. Maybe you have a friend who is starting over new, or someone who has lost everything for one reason or another. Maybe you were never interested in cooking, but over the years, you’ve wondered what it would be like to whip up some delicious home-cooked meals.
I have compiled a list of items that I tend to use on a regular basis and would not want to miss. I have also browsed several websites for ideas like, thekitchn.com, epicurious.com, bonappetit.com, and a few more and for the most part, we all agree. So here it goes:
A rimmed sheet pan has many uses in a kitchen. You can roast up broccoli as a side dish. How about a batch of cookies? Need to roast a chicken or some pork chops topped with apple butter? These pans also come in handy when making your own granola or roasting various nuts. Sheet pans are also perfect for chilling food. They usually come in various sizes and it is a good idea to invest in a few as they tend to be not that expensive.
There are of course options when it comes to skillets. You can choose from a nonstick, a stainless, or cast iron. Not sure what each is best suited for? Let’s break it down, shall we?
Nonstick is good when you don’t plan on making your own pan gravy or want the learning curve on how to use stainless or cast iron. You don’t want to use nonstick cookware on high heat, it will mess with the coating. Nonstick skillets are great for making eggs and for easy clean up afterward. Just keep in mind that you can not use metal utensils or knives in these pans.
Stainless skillets are great for high-temp searing, which gives you a fond (brown bits on the bottom of the pan). This you will turn into a delicious pan gravy. With stainless you have a learning curve when it comes to cooking. An easy trick to keep in mind is: when the meat is ready to be turned, it will release from the pan, if it sticks, leave it be a little while longer. Stainless can go in the oven, so you can get a nice sear on your steak on the stovetop and finish it off to the desired doneness in the oven. When buying stainless steel cookware, make sure it has aluminum or copper wedged between the stainless-steel layers for even heat distribution.
There are a lot of cooks out there who swear by cast iron. Cast iron also requires a learning curve and may not be for a brand-new cook. Cast iron needs to be seasoned regularly for it to build up a nonstick-like coating. It goes on the stove top and withstands high temperatures in the oven.
With all cookware options, don’t choose the cheapest one on the shelf. As Doris Christopher (founder of the Pampered Chef) once said: “The most expensive set of cookware, is the set you replace every 3 – 4 years.” Look at it as an investment. A good set will be your companion for 20 years or more down the road.
A Dutch Oven is a work horse in the kitchen. You can use it boil pasta or potatoes, make stews and chili in it. Need to braise meat? This is the pot to use.
Did you know that a professional chef will spend a couple of hundreds, if not more on a Chef’s knife? This knife will travel with them from kitchen to kitchen to kitchen. It will be his/her most important tool. With practice, a Chef’s Knife can slice, dice, and chop, and you will not need any other specialty tool at all. Any kind of professional knife should never be washed in the dishwasher. It dulls the blade and a dull blade is more dangerous than a sharp blade. You also want to hone it after each use to keep the blade straight and depending on how often and extensively you use it, get it professionally sharpened every year. A good resource I found about choosing a knife is in this blog article on The Kitchen Journals website.
A Paring Knife is also essential for the smaller jobs around the kitchen, like peeling fruit and vegetables, small cutting chores and so forth. Again, look for a high-quality knife, which will be in your kitchen for years to come.
Remember we said that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife? A cutting board will keep a knife sharper longer. Not every cutting board will do though. Stay away from glass, metal, or stone boards. They may look pretty, but they will dull your knife more quickly as they do not allow to absorb shock. Stick with a wooden cutting board for everything but meat, and one made from polyethylene or polypropylene. You do want to be able to see cut marks on your cutting boards. This is a sign of your knives staying sharp longer.
Measuring Cups & Spoons
You can’t really measure your ingredients without these, well you could, if you have a food scale and know how many ounces or grams of flour and sugar you need for that cake. But seriously, a set of measuring cups and spoons is essential in every kitchen.
Garlic is one of the healthiest ingredients. You can crush it, mince it, slice it, and depending on the method you use, it changes the flavor and intensity. A good garlic press should be easily accessible while cooking. Best news of all, you don’t really have to peel your garlic cloves. Just pop them in there and squeeze.
Scrapers easily mix, stir, scrape, or scoop ingredients. Ensure they can withstand high heat so you can use them in all your nonstick pots and pans and won’t have to worry about silicone bits in your food.
Have you ever watched Spongebob Squarepants? If yes, you know about his favorite spatula, if no, well, he has a favorite spatula. I guess a spatula could be like the Chef’s Knife. Use it for eggs, fish, chicken, crab cakes. Just make sure you don’t use a metal spatula in a nonstick skillet. There are of course lots and lots of options out there.
A Whisk will make you whipped cream or will beat egg whites. It will make a gravy, or pudding. Again, when using in a nonstick pan, choose a silicone coated or nylon whisk. For all other uses, a regular stainless-steel whisk will do just fine.
Tongs come in handy when turning meat, grabbing individual pieces of shrimp, or using them to mix up ingredients. They will also let you serve spaghetti easily.
If you don’t feel comfortable using a paring knife to peel apples or potatoes, get a y-shaped vegetable peeler. These can usually handle anything from kiwis to butternut squashes and you do not have to fear the loss of a digit.
Fresh squeezed citrus juice does make a dish more delicious. A good heavy citrus press will make adding some lemon or lime juice easy.
Not every can opener is made the same. Look for a smooth-edge can opener. Why? These types of openers don’t cut the can, so there is no chance of you cutting yourself on the lid or ruining your scraper when getting every last bit of tomato paste out. They basically release the glue between the lid and the can itself and voila, no sharp edges, no ragged spatulas.
A good pair of kitchen shears will help with cutting open packages, snipping herbs, and even cutting through chicken bones. Invest in a pair that allows for professional sharpening, which will extend the lifetime by quite a bit.
You will need a coarse grater for your softer cheeses and a fine grater for your hard cheeses, ginger, nutmeg, and even for zesting. Plus, grating your own cheese, you do get more out of a block of cheese than buying it pre-shredded.
Don’t want to keep guessing if that chicken is done? A good thermometer to the rescue.
Colanders are great for rinsing fruit, lettuce, draining potatoes or pasta. Look for a set of three in different sizes to fit the different needs in your kitchen.
Mixing Bowl Set
A set of stainless-steel mixing bowls will be with you for a lifetime. Mix up cake batter, chill them first and then whip up whipping cream or egg whites. Use them to marinate meat or to store fruit. They may not be the cheapest, but over a lifetime, they will pay for themselves over and over again.