When I started buying the “essentials”–assembling my kitchen tool-by-tool, the same way a superhero assembles a team of other superheroes each carrying a unique ability– I kept running into the same wall.
A wall plastered with articles of essential tools a cook can’t live without and living without them in everyday use.
I wondered, are these really essential?
& the truth is:
Some are, but most aren’t.
Covering the basics in your kitchen repertoire for simple weeknight dinners or to appease the tool qualification list for simple recipes, doesn’t require a meat thermometer, sous vide machines or much of the other fancy equipment popping up on these lists.
Though, the aforementioned tools are useful once you get the jig of it and it’s always fun to have a new tool around.
B is for Basics and that’s what you ought to stick to, for now at least.
Below is a small list of a few kitchen essentials I rely on every time I cook for the last two years.
1. Cast Iron Pan
You’ve heard it echoed amongst chefs and home cooks alike; a cast-iron pan is the Creme-de-la-creme in an arsenal of pans. Simply superior in more ways than I have fingers to count.
I reach for this pan every time I cook, and even sometimes when I bake.
It’s like a super tough friend you take with you so you never have to worry about anything because it handles everything.
Need a hard sear on that steak?
Don’t have a meat pounder?
One drop of a cast iron pan and the meat will spread like butter on burning-hot toast.
Superior heat retention, you’ll need your oven mitts even after a few minutes of cooling down.
The possibilities aren’t endless, but there’s more than 1.
Buy a good one, take care of it and never buy another again.
2. Prep/Mixing Bowls
Prep bowls are a game-changer, especially if you hate running around your kitchen looking for ingredients.
Have you ever seen the cooking shows on Food Network where all of their ingredients are flawlessly organized?
Cut to the next scene and they’re just dumping all the ingredients together like some sort of mad scientist crafting a magic potion.
And VIOLA! WHALLAH! The meal is complete.
It’s not magic though, it’s the mixing bowls creating this illusion of ease without a drip of sweat.
And they double as a set of mixing bowls too, without being too tall and a wide bottom.
More importantly, you can measure the tiniest of ingredients out since the bowls just large enough for 2 tbsp and big enough to fit a large pizza dough.
Some chefs stand behind metal bowls despite the reflective quality, while some prefer glass for illustrative cooking; you decide.
Whether you’re cooking or baking your recipe will almost always demand the use of a mixing/prep bowl.
3. Large Cutting Boards
There are so many reasons you should be using a cutting board: sanitation for ONE.
A cutting board gives you a sanitary surface for all of your food.
Identified by universal colors: blue for fish, red for beef, green for veggies, etc.
Two, stop wasting your wax paper cutting up your veggies and stop cutting up raw chicken on paper plates.
The knife cuts through and unless you have quartz are another high-grade countertop don’t be surprised when you see a few splinters.
Three, a cutting board is a flat sturdy surface to avoid casually cutting off your finger and bleeding out all over your organic chicken thighs; you know, every cook’s worst nightmare.
4. A Set of Knives ( w/ Shears)
With a good set of knives and shears:
You’ll cut any and everything from stiff, no-give vegetable likes watermelon and squash and cut with precision and ease chicken and other proteins like running through a field of daisies.
Another important point here, make sure the grip is comfy too.
Any Chef’s knife you use should have a comfortable hold –almost natural– and not dig in the hammock between your thumb and pointer finger.
5. Rimmed Baking Sheet
What can I say about a rimmed baking sheet? The most basic of all kitchen-must haves.
6. Food Scale
I don’t consider myself a lazy cook, but I dread using dry measuring cups.
They have a place in kitchens everywhere don’t get me wrong, but cooking by volume is moons easier than spooning flour, leveling and creating flour bombs all over your countertop and my pants.
Just the messiness of dry measuring should be enough for you to make the switch.
The volume will NEVER be as exact when using those clunky-clacky dry measuring cups.
Portion control is another pro for a scale, if you want 4 oz. of meat you can have 4 oz. and not an oz. over.If you’re putting together grandma’s famous meatballs this help with uniformity and for things to cook more evenly.
7. A Utensil Set
A utensil set is a one-stop-shop for every basic utensil (and a few complex ones) you’ll ever need.
Coming in so many variations, and with so many uses, for under $100 you can purchase a +10 piece set with a balloon whisk, garlic press, masher or slotted spoons or graters, measuring spoons, plus a ton more essential small utensils.
8. A Solid Pot and Pan Set
The best pots and pans will cook your food evenly, with consistent heat and a stick-resistant surface. To avoid a serious burn look for heat-resistant handles.
With so many cookware brands–from Cuisinart & Williams Sonoma to Kitchen Aid and All-Clad– your brain may become jumbled with so many sets promising the same results.
But you can narrow down the playing field with factors such as pricing, material, and the most sure-fire way, reading tons of reviews.
9. Fine Mesh Strainer/Colander
When your spaghetti noodles are perfectly al dente, don’t waste your time using a soup spoon to scoop the water out.
Reserve a little for thickening your sauce and dump the rest through a colander.
A fine mesh strainer functions in a similar way, except for smaller grains and especially well for sifting flours for baking and creating a strain of pure silk out of sauces.
Potatoes, fruit, veggies, and your finger if you’re not careful– a peeler will quickly scrape the skin off of whatever fruit or vegetable you’re working with.
Most chefs prefer a Y-peeler, I use an OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler.
In a review article published on Wire Cutter comparing a swivel peeler and y-cutter, researchers found the swivel peeler and y-peeler equally approachable.
So it’s really up to you, but do consider the Y- peeler “will generally rotate more (basically in a 180-degree range)” according to researchers at Wire Cutter.
A straight peeler is considered to be more traditional in the hold and can be compared to using a paring knife.
11. Glass Pyrex Storage Containers
You have to store food in something, don’t you?
Mixing bowls take up too much space in the fridge, but pyrex storage containers are the right size for every bit of leftover food.