Basic Kitchen Equipment Essentials
Cooking can be one of the most daunting activities. Why can’t my refrigerator read my stomach’s mind and produce exactly what I’m craving? Is that too much to ask?
I’ve shared my special cooking essentials before that highlight items I keep in my pantry/fridge regularly to keep my wannabe [vegan] Anthony Bourdain chef goals alive, so I thought it would be useful to also share the tools that have kept me afloat in my culinary endeavors the past two years.
There are ways to make cooking easier and (hopefully) enjoyable. The first step is outfitting your kitchen with the most basic tools. No one enjoys starting something they’re not prepared for - it’s discouraging and frustrating, and that’s how it can feel when trying to cook without the basics.
Besides the standards of pots and pans, forks and knives, there are specifics in each category that can make a significant difference in your cooking experience. A poor craftsman blames his tools, but what if you aren’t even using any tools at all? This list should help guide you towards building a basic culinary artillery so you feel comfortable and confident in your own kitchen.
The Basic Basics
There are a lot of knives that chef’s regularly use but the most important ones are a chef’s knife (what a surprise), serrated knife, and paring knife. Each are different sizes, with different purposes but so incredibly useful that they’ll transform your prep time. One is for cutting large ingredients, the other for tough skins, and the tiniest makes pitting a breeze. This article from New York Magazine outlines some great options for all three in addition to a range of prices.
No, it does not need to be high speed. It does not need to have a “bottle attachment”. It just needs a sharp set of blades and a solidly functioning motor. It can be useful for making soups, smoothies, sauces, and more. A good blender is an investment, but will expand your options and capabilities in your kitchen.
If you have a blender, this may seem a little less necessary. I lived without a food processor for a couple years and only caved (AKA asked for one for Christmas) because I was exploring my own culinary universe. It definitely has made certain recipes easier (like these blueberry oatmeal bites), but it isn’t 100% necessary if you already have a blender and would prefer to invest in a different piece of equipment. Food processors are particularly good for chopping, doughs in some instances, and dips for when you don’t need a full-on puree that a blender would result in.
This tool will make prep work so much easier! It can be used to remove the skin from vegetables but also for creating thin noodle like strips with a little extra attention to detail. It’s also good for removing the skin from most fruits, like mangoes or apples.
My citrus juicer has made me feel like a strong woman, above all other useful purposes it’s brought to my life. I’m not a weak person per say, but if you asked me to juice a lemon with my bare hands you’d think I was born yesterday. My citrus juicer saves me that embarrassment tenfold. This may sound odd, but I feel like I get every possible drop of juice when I use this tool, so I end up using [wasting] less produce!
There are a couple differently shaped products that will all give you the same results but here are two that I own and regularly use (either are a great choice):
This little basket can be extremely useful if you don’t like using a microwave to cook your frozen or fresh veggies. The steamer basket sits in a shallow pool of water in your covered saucepan or pot, holding the vegetables while the flame below causes the water to boil and steam your vegetables. It also limits the need to constantly toss or stir the vegetables to prevent burning because the basket is slight elevated off the pan.
Silicon Baking Mat
There is nothing worse than trying to scrub baked-on food off a baking sheet, especially when the dishwasher can’t get the job done by itself, either. I use my silicon baking mat to prevent all of that unnecessary frustration - all food that would regularly get stuck practically peels off. Silicon baking mats can also be used as a surface for rolling out or kneading doughs. They’re dishwasher safe and environmentally friendly, too!
If you’re a frequent baker or want to be, this tool is a necessity. It will make everything about your baking experience one thousand times easier. On the rare ocassion I bake, I love my hand mixer - it makes the whole process move so much quicker and my batters are smoother, with no dry clumps.