Some things are more important than others when it comes to cooking tools and equipment: knives, cutting boards and pots for starters. Take knives for example…when I was starting out, I’d Google hints for cutting onions without crying…and then, I decided to ask a few chef friends. Their answer? Not lemon on the cutting board or any of the tips I read online. Good knife skills and sharp knives! (ie: working faster with good tools.)
Everyone has tools they use all the time and would be lost without. I taught a cooking class at a friend’s house recently and left my favorite spatula behind – you would have thought I’d left my dog there – I missed it so much! Yes, it’s probably weird that I have a favorite spatula, but here are some of my faves – a few of them are things that are newer (Spurtles!) and other things I’ve had for a while now (cast iron skillet.) To say that I can’t live without these things is a bit dramatic, but they do make my life a whole lot easier.
Microplane – I use it to grate cheese, zest lemons, finely mince garlic, onions, chocolate and more!
OXO angled measuring cups – So easy to use – no more ‘eye balling’ your liquid measurements.
Victorinox chef’s knife – Amazing quality for the price, America’s Test Kitchen recommends them, so that was my first clue to buy one. Also, leave the knife sets and blocks at the store. It is much better to piece together a collection that works best for you. Also, on a whim, I bought these chef’s knives at Sam’s Club a few months ago and they are actually great!
Henckels paring knives – Great value and the colors make them easy to spy in kitchen drawers.
Cuisinart immersion blender – Great for soups, salad dressings when you don’t feel like pulling out the food processor or blender. My kitchen is very small, so this comes in very handy and works great.
Melamine mixing bowls – I use mine every single day. They have no-slip bottoms and spouts and are super easy to clean.
Williams-Sonoma silicone spatulas – I have several in different shapes and sizes and use them constantly.
Mad Hungry Spurtles – I use them for everything from the usual (stirring, deglazing and scraping a pan) to getting the last of almost anything out of the bottom of a jar, removing coffee grounds from my little espresso machine to spreading toppings (jam, butter, cream cheese) onto bread and bagels. My favorite is the Acacia Skinny Spurtle. (left)
Martha Stewart Dutch oven – Very heavy when full, but you can make nice big batches of soups. Way less expensive than Le Creuset. I recommend starting with a 6qt size, which works for a lot of cooking projects. Then if you feel you need something bigger, go 8qt (but remember that it will be pretty heavy.) I just bought a 6qt today in persimmon today while doing this online research (oops) but it was on super sale!
My mom’s old cast iron skillet is my favorite thing in my kitchen. It was one of her wedding gifts in 1955. And, as much as I love it and use it a lot, sometimes a nonstick skillet works better for me (like making eggs) and I used many other pans, of course. Like, for instance, at the recommendation of one of the most talented chefs in the city, I bought new saucepans on Restaurant Store website. So cheap and total workhorses!
This list is just a starting point…there are so many other helpful kitchen tools out there. For example, I love my food processor, cutting boards, digital kitchen scale…the list could go on and on. And on.