Recently I had the chance to do some cooking at a friend’s kitchen. Her setting and home is beautiful, but it made me aware that all of the kitchen tools that I have invested in and acquired through the years, I completely take for granted.
My husband and I made a deal when we were first building our wedding registry that he wouldn’t question my kitchen tools and I wouldn’t question his garage tools. He was not a fan of my desire to buy things like a KitchenAid mixer and high-end knives, but at the end of the day as he was the beneficiary of my cooking, and he ceased to question my choices.
I thought it might be helpful, for those of you that are newer to cooking, to see what I consider my list of kitchen essentials. Where appropriate, I included a high-end and a starter option, but if only one thing is there, I really feel strongly about that version, and I provide some insight into why they are worth it.
- Knives. Ceramic or Shun. Ceramic knives are super sharp and relatively cheap at about $20 for a pack. The Shuns are handwash only Japanese steel knives, that I love when I’m doing a lot of chopping and need a heavier knife, but if I don’t want to wash by hand I grab the ceramic knives 80 percent of the time. For starters, you only need a paring and Santoku knife.
- Silicone and nonstick classic spatula. They last forever and the silicon ones will not melt if you leave them on a skillet too long. Get the good ones so you don’t have to replace them as often or see them stained from tomato sauce.
- Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons. OK, plastic is fine. They don’t have to be stainless, but they are easier to clean and measure accurately with.
- Liquid measuring cups. It’s hard to improve on Pyrex.
- Colander. Use for washing vegetables, blanching them, rinsing pasta, etc. The folding strainers are much easier to store.
- Cutting board – plastic or bamboo. I use a plastic one for meat or anytime I’m using my ceramic knives and want to be able to stick it in the dishwasher. I use a bamboo one with my Shun knives to take care of the blades for anything except meat.
- Cookie sheets – I like the heavier duty Nordic Ware sheets so they don’t warp when they get super hot and instead of getting non-stick ones, I always use them with parchment paper or silpats to make cleaning up easier. I use them for roasting all the veggies, all the time.
- Silicone baking mats – These take a lot of abuse and I haven’t noticed much difference between the silpats and the Costco versions.
- 10 or 12-inch skillet – You really only need one good skillet, but the kind you like will depend on the kind of stove top you have, whether you prefer non-stick and how many people you are cooking for typically. My go to is an enameled Le Creuset cast iron skillet. It’s easier to clean and care for than a cast iron skillet and more durable than nonstick. I’ve also heard the Lodge ones are good alternatives. If you want a non-stick option, go with a U.S. made or European made ceramic non-stick skillet, like this one. A 10-inch skillet will work for me most of the time unless I’m trying to do a large batch of meat or sauce, in which case I either need a larger skillet or enter the InstantPot.
- InstantPot or Dutch Oven. An InstantPot really needs it’s own complete post, but suffice it to say that of all my mini-kitchen appliances it is the one that gets used the most. At least once a week, I use it to cook a large batch of chicken or pork and full meal. The thing I found it replaced though was my Dutch Oven, not my slow cooker, which I was never really a fan of. Slow cooking in a dutch oven is pretty delicious and the pot is multifunctional for stove top or oven cooking. Lodge makes a good one. Staub makes an amazing one, which I was delighted to find at Home Goods once. But really you should get an Instant Pot.
- Kitchen scale. I’ve used several and I like this one for being able to weigh heavy things, the length of time it stays on and the way it is designed makes for easy clean up. I use it to weigh my food daily for accurate tracking, but also in cooking recipes.
- 9×13 casserole dishes. Every time I try to upgrade beyond Pyrex I break them, but my Pyrex dishes are going strong at 16 years. I’m now coveting these though since I break ceramic at an alarming rate, but don’t have them yet.
- Snapware storage containers. I like these because they are glass, so I don’t have to worry about popping them in the microwave and all the lids fit together to keep them marginally organized. The combination of sizes works well with our food prep system also. I got ours from Costco, which seems to have them year round.
- Pyrex nested bowls with lids. These are great for cooking, mixing, marinating and storing things like fresh cut fruit or salads, which need bigger containers than available in the Snapware set.
I’ll reiterate that these are what I consider to be essentials. I use them every week and not sure what I would do without them. Believe me there are plenty of other things in my kitchen since I’ve been collecting, updating and experimenting with things for more than 15 years, but these are the tools the get me through each week. Well that and all the different brew methods of coffee.
What would you add to the list from your kitchen?