When you open your kitchen drawers do you see a collection of gadgets and gizmos that seemed wonderfully useful at the time but have languished untouched for months or years? You know what I am talking about, right? Items like this. Or how about this? Still wondering when to use this. As a personal chef, I need to make sure that I am packing tools that are practical and serve many purposes. Want to know what I invest my money on?
First and foremost, I don’t skimp on my knives. I make sure to buy good quality knives that will last a lifetime. Here’s some help if you feel overwhelmed by all the choices. While the knives may be a bit pricey, I recommend that you buy just of few knives that can be used for all your kitchen tasks. No need for the big ol’ butcher block of knives. Here’s what I use:
1. Chef’s knife
For most of my cutting needs, I turn to my chef’s knife. I chose a 10″ Japanese Santoku knife which I absolutely love.
2. Bread knife
To cut bread and tomatoes, a good bread knife makes all the difference. While there are many different sizes to choose from, I selected a medium-sized knife that I can use for all jobs.
3. Paring knife
For more delicate cutting tasks and to keep you from cutting off a finger or two, invest in a small paring knife. They are great for coring a piece of fruit or making more precision cuts.
4. Knife sharpener
After a number of uses, your knives will no longer cut as effortlessly as they once did. A dull knife is actually much more dangerous than a sharp one so I make sure to sharpen my knives regularly. To take the guess work out of the process, I chose this. You know your knife is sharp enough when you can easily cut down through a piece of paper while holding it in air.
There are only a few key utensils that I use each and every time I cook making them must-haves in my kitchen.
5. Zester Microplane
I love, love, love my zester microplane. Not only do I use it to zest citrus fruit but it also is wonderful for grating fresh Parmesan Reggiano cheese and nutmeg. Well worth the $15 investment.
A sharp, good quality peeler can make all the difference when you have a mountain of potatoes to get through. If the peeler in your drawer is a cheap, plastic one from your college days (you know who you are!), throw it out and spend a few dollars for a new one. Your aching hands will thank you.
7. Wooden utensils
To make sure those pots and pans you spent hundreds of dollars on last for years, treat them kindly by using wooden utensils. Wooden spoons are also great for working with rice.
I have about 3-4 spatulas in my arsenal in various sizes and shapes. Do I need that many? Probably not but somehow I seem to dirty up at least 2 almost I every time I cook.
Oh.My.God. What would I do without my tongs? I love them as much as my zester microplane. They are so handy for flipping, tossing, plating. You name it. I have one pair that you can lock in place by pushing in on the tab at the top like this one and I have another pair that you lock by facing them towards the ceiling and squeezing them together. Whatever you do, get ones that lock.
10. Wine opener
Gotta have at least one whisk in the toolkit, if not two. I prefer having one larger one and one smaller one to accommodate all my beating and frothing needs.
Food Prep Tools
When prepping my food, I only need a few critical items. No fancy egg slicers, mango pitters or garlic crushers. Just these simple items:
12. Nested mixing bowls
I go through a lot of mixing bowls when I cook. Just ask my husband. I also don’t want to worry about bowls that can slip out of my hands and shatter, so I rely on a simple collection of 5 nested metal bowls and a plastic bowl.
13. Cutting boards
There is nothing worse than having a small cutting board that leaves me feeling cramped and results in food falling on the floor. I like to use these because they are light-weight and I can tuck them neatly away in the cabinet but if I had my druthers and had a permanent place for my cutting board I would get this nice, big wooden one instead – maybe even two side by side.
14. Measuring cups and spoons
Gotta have measuring cups and spoons, although I try to eyeball things as much as possible to speed up my time.
15. Colanders (large and small)
One large and one small colander are really all I need. The larger one I use for pasta and the smaller one for sifting dry ingredients or washing fruits.
Pots and Pans
As with knives, only a few pots and pans are really needed and investing in top quality equipment is key. I prefer to use stainless steel since I find that it cleans up beautifully. I religiously use the following:
16. Non-stick saute pan
If you want to ensure that your omelets slip right out of the pan, buy a non-stick saute pan.
17. Medium-size sauce pan
I actually have a few medium size sauce pans in my collection but you may be able to get away with just one or two.
18. Large stock pot
A large stock pot is wonderful for making soups, stews and pasta. I actually prefer to get the ones with the see-thru lids so I can see when the water is starting to boil.
While I would love to have an electric mixer one day, I really only rely on the following:
19. Food processor (small and large)
It may not be a necessity, but I really like having a small chopper in addition to my heavy-duty food processor for handling jobs like chopping nuts and onions. It saves my back from having to lug that thing across the kitchen and it saves space in my dishwasher too. Worth the cost in my mind.
There really are so many beautiful serving bowls and platters on the market but I find to really showcase the food, it is best to keep things simple.
20. White serving pieces
Nothing makes your food look better than a simple white serving dish. I have a few bowls and trays in various sizes that really are the staples I use every day whether it be for a casual family meal or an elegant holiday dinner.
Well, that brings us to the end of my list. What other items are on yours that you just can’t live without?