If you were to come into my house you would probably think that I’m a kitchen gadget hoarder, which maybe I am. Our kitchen has limited storage so we’ve set up an area in our basement to hold everything, which is quite a lot. I have stock pots, serving dishes, juicers, mixers, skewers, pastry bags, deep fryers, crockpots, a smoking gun, and handheld torch…the list keeps going. I love all of it. I love having my kitchen tools just like my husband has his household tools. If I could get a tool belt to wear in the kitchen instead of an apron I probably would.
Most people either don’t have the space or the interest to own as many gadgets as I do so I came up with a list that I think is a great starting point for anyone who wants to get in the kitchen a little more. There are many more that I consider my “essentials” but these are the things I use every time I’m in the kitchen. I also ended with a few things I think are unnecessary, they either take up a lot of space or are a single purpose tool. My biggest tip, which I learned from Mr. Cooking Wizard himself, Alton Brown, is that no one should have a tool in their kitchen that only performs one task. Try to purchase things that can do a few things for you. Check out what I mean below:
The zester is a tool I use almost as often as my knife. I currently have a version similar to the picture above but I would like to add a couple other sizes to my collection. If you don’t own one start with a medium to fine zester. You can find these in the utensil aisle at any store. It’s so much easier to clean than other graters since you can easily get to both sides. I frequently use this for garlic, ginger, cheese, chocolate, citrus, etc.
If you want to be efficient in the kitchen you’re going to need a good everyday knife. For me, I was lucky enough to get a set of the Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Professional S cutlery. These knives are amazing, very sturdy and very sharp. Look for a knife that has a handle and blade made out of the same piece of steel. This will help avoid the wobbly blade and rusting around the handle. Also, go to a store that allows you to hold a couple since they will all have a different feel. If you’ve never used a good knife it might feel heavy at first but just make sure it’s not too awkward in your hand.
Proper Cutting Boards:
I have a few different types of cutting boards but they fit into two basic categories:
I have a VERY heavy wooden cutting board for my fruits, veggies, herbs and breads. This cutting board won’t slide around like a lightweight plastic board will. You don’t have to store this away. They come in such pretty designs you can easily use this on your counter as a decorative piece when not in use. Cleaning and sanitizing has to be done by hand since it’s so large. For that reason I avoid using any meat on this board. Now, I know it’s a myth and they say it’s fine to use wooden boards for meat but since I’m a vegetarian it is less of a sanitation issue and more of a cross-contamination issue.
My plastic boards are either hard or flexible. I get both for really cheap at ikea and like to replace these fairly often. The white, hard type are my choice for cutting meat. They have a little ridge around the edge so juices don’t immediately pool onto your counter. The flexible multicolored type are great for when you have to chop something and dump into a pot or pan. They bend to allow you to slide everything in. It’s also great if you are baking and using a stand mixer. I always have a problem trying to dump my dry ingredients into the bowl while it’s running. With these you can make a little slide and pour all your dry ingredients down the slide and into the bowl. These are both usually dishwasher safe.
Other things I have that I use often are a large food processor for dips, desserts, salsas and soups. A small food processor, one that has an individual cup size that you invert on the base (like a Magic Bullet or Ninja attachment), I like these for mixing smaller things like salad dressing, sauces or grinding nuts or spices.
Please throw this away. Please, oh please, oh please!! These take longer to clean than they do to actually use. You don’t have time to poke a toothpick into every little hole trying to clean it. I’m impatient, you’re impatient, this is not for us. Instead use that zester I told you about above. Remove the skin from the garlic clove by either gently twisting the clove or lightly squishing it under the side of your knife (you know, that brand new one you have now) then hold on to the top end with the stem and run it back and forth across your new zester. When you’re finished you will have perfect garlic paste and cleanup only involves quickly rinsing both sides of the zester.
Ok, I get that these are funny and make quick gifts for that friend you know that just LOVES bananas (I won’t mention any names) but how often do you really use them? Again, they take so long to clean and they are only designed for ONE item. With your new knife you will be able to quickly slice through all of those things and get your knife washed before you locate said slicer and remember how to use it. I will eventually do a post explaining the easiest ways to prep some of those items using regular kitchen utensils. Just for fun check out the reviews on this slicer. It will totally make your day. I’m sorry if you spend far too long here though….
Yes, we have one but my husband and I like to have veggie smoothies in the morning and protein smoothies after we work out so we use it many times during a week. If you have it just for the occasional margarita then you don’t need it. Unless you’re having daily margaritas, in which case I want you to buy two and call me over! Instead of buying a new blender invest in a good food processor which will make cooking much quicker. Or just get a small individual size cup mixer for salad dressings, sauces, and single beverages.
Unless you’re starting a bakery out of your own kitchen you probably don’t make enough bread to justify a bread machine. I like making fresh bread but can someone explain to me how you make a French Baguette in a bread machine? Anyone?
My final point is to ignore anything I’ve said above if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Don’t buy something you know you’ll never use. Don’t get rid of an appliance if you actually like it. Cooking should be fun, not overwhelming and scary. If every time you attempt to make a meal you’re digging through a drawer of unused utensils it’s just going to make the night more stressful. Limit what you have in your kitchen to the essentials, if you have extra storage space put everything else in that area and only take it out when you use it. It will make you more relaxed and your kitchen a little more organized.