I tell everyone that cooking is fun and easy (well at least it can be)… the truth is, you must have the right tools and organize your kitchen effectively so when you begin to try a new dish or want to get creative, nothing is stopping you, especially the fact that you can’t add fresh lemon zest because you don’t have a microplane grater/zester, or you need to puree something and don’t have a food processor or blender. That is why I am giving you the must have “Top 20” kitchen essentials list and will discuss placement of these items in your kitchen so the next time you go to cook…you will find this time it is more enjoyable for you and the rest of the family.
- A great set of knives or at least three essential knives for chopping, slicing, and dicing. The key is making sure the knife feels right in your hand. The handle and weight in your hand are just as important as the blade, since proper use and sharpening should take care of that. A chef’s knife, a sturdy paring knife, and a cheap serrated bread knife have you covered for most things. Skip the boning/filleting and utility knives, because you definitely don’t filet fish or slice giant mozzarella wheels that often. Your time will be wasted if you are trying to cook and improve your knife skills & have a dull blade….and a dull knife is one of the most dangerous items in a kitchen. (If budget permits invest in a sharpening stone)
(A great space-saving tip is getting a magnet board to go on your back splash or wall and your knives can be easily accessible and off of your counter.)
2. A butcher block &/or flexible cutting boards. Even if you are in a small space you can place the butcher block over the sink and create more counter space. It is crucial for cooking and gives you a defined and efficient work space. The flexible cutting boards are plastic and store easily with your baking sheets. I would recommend getting various colors for practicing good sanitation. (I.e. Blue for Fish, Green for Poultry, Red for Pork)
3. Microplane Grater– These are so handy & come in various sizes & take up very little space in your gadget drawer. They can be used on everything from nutmeg, to garlic, to cheese, & lemon and lime zest is a very common ingredient.
4. Kitchen Shears– “Stop using the teeth to rip open a bag, I’ve done it, but it’s gross!” Keeping a designated set of kitchen shears will come in extremely handy from snipping twine to cutting open packages to trimming vegetables and meats.
5. Kitchen Timer- If your household is anything like mine, it can become easily distracting, and even a chef can burn things without using a timer at home. Keep it above the stove or with your spices and if you leave a room you can take the timer with you (i.e. while you’re doing laundry or helping the kids with their homework)
6. Heat Resistant Spatula This will inevitably replace your spoons! You can use these babies for stirring, sautéing, flipping, etc. They hold up to a very high heat, mine have a red handle, but now they come in all colors, make sure they are very sturdy not flimsy. I don’t know how I would cook without them.
7. Various sized whisks- Eggs, egg-white, baking, marinades, and vinaigrettes all require the use of whisks. I recommend investing in various sizes, one small for vinaigrettes, a medium and large one for baking and whipping, etc.
(For efficiency, I suggest putting your spoons, spatulas, microplanes, peelers, measuring cups, etc. in the closest drawer to your stove so they are easily accessible when you are cooking. Also you can find some unique bottles or antique jars and keep them on your counter.)
8. Dry and Liquid Measuring Cups- “I hope it is safe to assume that these are a must have kitchen essential because when it comes to baking, you can’t eyeball the measurements!”
9. Measuring spoons- Same as above
10. Frying pans/saucepans– Invest in good quality non stick pans. Get small, medium, and an extra-large. If you go cheap you will be throwing it out after a week. “Trust me.” When looking for medium saucepans anything with a sturdy thick bottom will suffice.
11. Sturdy set of sheet pans (baking sheets)
12. Large Colander (In Ky we call it a strainer)
13. Can opener- “enough said”
14. Vegetable/Potato peeler- go for a higher quality, it will save you time and energy
15. Glass or stainless steel mixing bowls, all sizes. If you have ever heard the term “Mise en place” it means that everything is in it’s place and before you begin cooking you want to make sure you have all of your ingredients, measured & ready. The cooking process goes much quicker, smoother, and your dish will turn out better because the cook time was correct because you had everything together at the beginning.
16. Food processor –Your not a chef, you don’t want to be a chef, and you’re not operating a restaurant, so don’t go out and buy a crazy expensive food processor, middle of the road will work fine. I would advise to save space that you invest in a food processor with blender attachment.
17. Mixer- The kitchenaide mixer’s are great, but not necessary if you are just starting. If budget permits go for it, you won’t regret it; however, I am old-fashioned and learned how to cook from my grandmother, and a hand mixer can get you most of the results you are looking for. (Obviously not if you are wanting to make all different kinds of bread and pate choux etc. In this case, spend the money and get a great mixer. These mixers look so sharp that they can stay on the kitchen counter and add to your decor.)
18. Tongs- Well unless you want to burn your fingers trying to flip something over I suggest you invest in a set of metal tongs.
19. Rolling Pin- It’s ancient, not used that often, but when you need one, nothing else will substitute.
20. Mortar and Pestle- This will be used quite often once you get in the swing of things and learn the beauty of mixing spices together. This can also be a great way to relieve some of the stresses at home, just keep grinding until you feel better. 🙂
I know that you will find all of these kitchen essential items helpful. If you are serious about becoming a better cook for yourself and your family, this is the first step. Also, stay tuned to my Pantry essentials post for the “How-to-guide” on stocking your pantry. Cooking CAN be simple and I am here to show you how!