I am not a professional chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I HAVE been cooking for my husband and kids for 25 years now (including a begrudging switch to gluten-free cooking 4 years ago), and I think that gives me at least some ‘hands-on’ kitchen cred. :-) Over the last quarter century I have bought (and gotten rid of) probably hundreds of kitchen tools. Through the process of elimination I have narrowed down my list to what I consider to be my absolute kitchen “must-haves.”
This list is definitely not all-inclusive, but it’s not bare bones either…it’s somewhere in between. Hopefully it will be useful and possibly even introduce you to something new.
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My Top 20 Must-Have Kitchen Tools:
Pots & Pans.
You don’t need a cupboard full of pots and pans to get by very handily in the kitchen. I think most of us tend to have too many overall. All you REALLY need is:
- a small sauté pan and a large sauté pan
- a small sauce pan and a larger sauce pan
- a pot for cooking pasta, stock, etc.
You don’t need a big block of knives. You need a chef knife, a paring knife, and a bread (serrated) knife — these will handle most everything you’ll need to cut. Invest in as good a quality of knives as you can afford, but I wouldn’t go crazy.
A large cutting board, a 15″ x 20″ is good. Nothing is worse than watching your chopped-up veggies fall to the floor because you don’t have enough work space. Don’t forget a smaller plastic cutting board for handling meat and poultry safely.
I actually have several whisks in different sizes. I prefer one with thin wires rather than thick heavy ones and I prefer a solid handle so food doesn’t get stick in it. Most important, make sure it fits well in YOUR hand.
I also have lots of these in different sizes. They are inexpensive and come in very handy, especially when cooking with non-stick pans because they won’t scratch.
I know microplane graters are all the rage, but I’ll stick with my sturdy box grater. It’s versatile with four different grate options to shred, shave, dust, and zest.
Another fairly recent acquisition to my kitchen, but once I experienced the joy of fresh squeezed lemon juice in my salsa and other lemony dishes, I was sold! SO much easier than trying to squeeze with just your hands.
I rarely “whip” my homemade mashed potatoes anymore. We prefer them a little more “rustic” with lumps and all, so a potato masher is a must-have for that. A masher with a curved head allows you to get into corners of bowls and pots.
Another newcomer to my kitchen that I can’t live without now! I use a Thermapen from ThermoWorks because it’s super fast and accurate and because my nephew Cameron, who is a Grand Champion Pit Boss and owns BamBams BBQ, HIGHLY recommends it. :-) They are pricey but you will never ruin an expensive steak on the grill again!
A MUST for baking. You should have at least one Pyrex liquid measuring cup (I prefer the 4 cup size, very handy!) You’ll also need a set of measuring cups for solids.
I switched to a peppermill (and to a salt bowl instead of a shaker) when I started watching the Food Network several years ago and saw all the chefs using one. At first I did it to be “cool” like the Food Network chefs, but soon I was sold on the taste of FRESHLY ground pepper. You can also easily adjust it from a coarse grind to a fine one. I like that.
I’ve always owned a blender, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I upgraded to a Blendtec blender and, once again, don’t know how I functioned in the kitchen without it. Of course, a good all-purpose blender of ANY kind is a definite must-have in any kitchen. It can puree, whip, and chop at a fraction of the cost of a food processor.
I don’t think I need to explain this one. Well, maybe just a little. Slow cookers are cheap to buy, economical to use and they’re great for making the most of budget ingredients. Not to mention the convenience of throwing in all the ingredients and then walking away. What’s not to love?
Silicon Baking Mats.
They make baking a non-stick DREAM and are reusable, rather than having to toss them out. They are also very useful for rolling jelly rolls, etc.
I love my stand mixer and use it OFTEN. I love the hands-free aspect of a stand mixer and that you can mix BIG batches with ease. Basically it just makes mixing anything a lot easier…and that makes me happy. :-)
And last but not least….
I highly recommend a cast iron enamel Dutch oven. Enameled cast iron is heavy, heats evenly and stays hot. Its surface allows browning but is virtually non-stick. It can be used on top of or in the oven. And they are so pretty to look at! :-) The best brand out there, in my opinion, is Le Creuset.
It’s ideal for simmering, marinating, poaching, braising, and browning. It even goes from the stove or oven to the table and can store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer!
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