This morning I was in the kitchen and looked at the four containers in which we store kitchen tools and “gadgets” and, among other things, I wondered why we need four containers and if we actually use the things in them. I emptied the containers to determine if I could get rid of anything and I couldn’t bring myself to discard anything. But I was able to ask and answer, “What are the 10 tools you couldn’t cook without?”
Unfortunately I was only able to answer the question with 11 items! I know, I always have to be difficult. A friend of mine told me once that she never buys a gadget if it doesn’t have more than one use. In looking through my containers, I realize I have inadvertently followed her theory. The following are the items I couldn’t cook without. I thought about ordering the list from least to most important tool, but I truly cannot decide which would be the most important – I just know that I wouldn’t want to do without any of them in the kitchen.
Disclaimer: All items in the following photographs are well-used. I don’t have the budget the fancy magazines have to show you only pristine, brand new products!
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I have them in different shapes and sizes, but on any given day there is at least one in the dishwasher because it’s been used to beat eggs until they are fluffy, to stir polenta or gravy to eliminate lumps, or to beat something by hand rather than getting out the mixer. If you find yourself without a whisk – a situation I hope to avoid at all costs – you can use two forks facing one another so the tines interlock.
- OXO Good Grips Vegetable Peeler
For some items the brand is not important to me, but for others I find it makes a difference. In the case of my vegetable peelers, I like the OXO Good Grips. Specifically the Swivel Peeler. Having peeled an inordinate amount of carrots and potatoes in my lifetime and having used many not-so-great peelers, I prefer the OXO because it’s comfortable in my hand, the food doesn’t get stuck in the blade and the blade swivels nicely around curves.
- Salt Box and Kuhn Rikon Pepper Mill (Vase Grinder)
Technically I know this is two items, but they both fall under seasoning and you can hardly even say “salt” without “pepper” so surely you can cut me some slack! The salt box is a round wooden “box” with a lid that swivels open to reveal the salt yet stays attached. It’s a good size and fits neatly on my counter blending nicely with the cabinets. The Kuhn Rikon Pepper Mill (Vase Grinder) was a gift from my mother-in-law and I’ve never used another pepper mill in the many years I’ve owned this one. It grinds the pepper just the way I like it, holds a lot of peppercorns at one time and never (knock wood) jams.
This tool is amazing. I have two and they’re usually both in the dishwasher because we use them so often. My favorite use is grating parmesan cheese (my absolute favorite food); but I also use it for zesting all kinds of citrus fruits (this is quite different than a zester that gives you longer “strips” of citrus peel), for finely grating chocolate over tiramisu or other desserts, for grating whole nutmeg, ginger, etc. I like this brand because the grating blade is longer than others I have tried.
- Hand-Held Citrus Juicer
I have no idea what brand mine is, but I like the design because it keeps the seeds inside while the juice flows though the holes. The only drawback of the model I have is that while it is terrific for smaller fruits like lemons, limes, and mandarin oranges, larger citrus fruits just don’t fit into it. I am typically not in need of so much juice that I would pull out an electric juicer so I don’t even own one.
- Williams Sonoma Green Herb Snips
Because I grow a lot of fresh herbs in my yard, these are an invaluable tool – particularly during the growing season. The snips are dishwasher safe and come apart so they dry completely without rusting. They have an “on board” stripper that removes leaves from woody herbs such as rosemary.
- Seven Inch Hollow-Edge Santoku
I love this knife! The brand of mine is Wusthof. It fits very comfortably in my large hand and is weighted quite nicely. I really appreciate the hollow edge, which reduces drag when cutting and helps prevent food sticking to the blade. If you use your knives as much as I do, I would highly recommend investing in a knife sharpener.
- Ramekins and Pinch Bowls
I am a firm believer in mis en place. This is a French phrase that translates into “everything in place.” It means you get all your recipe ingredients prepped and in place before you start cooking. In order to do that, I use ramekins and pinch bowls of different sizes on a regular basis. I find prepping all my ingredients ahead of time helps reduce the chance of missing an ingredient and requires me to review a recipe so there are no surprises when I actually start cooking.
- Food Processor
Again, this is a tool I use quite regularly. It’s great for making pesto, for grating large amounts of cheese and/or veggies quickly, for making pizza dough and/or bread dough, for incorporating butter into pastry dough, etc. In fact, I use mine so often that I purchased a second bowl so that I’m not constantly washing the bowl. My current food processor is a Kitchen Aid and I have had very good luck with it.
- Silicone Spoons with Stainless Steel Handles
I am a lover of wooden spoons. I think they are quite beautiful – particularly those in funky shapes made from exotic woods; but I don’t like the hassle of cleaning them. For the hard core cooking I do, I like being able to throw my spoons into the dishwasher. Over time I have found that silicone spoons with stainless steel handles really hold up for the long haul.
- Half Sheet Pans
We use our half sheet pans at least once a day. We use them for roasting meats and vegetables, for baking cookies and cakes, for reheating leftovers, for making chocolate barks, among a zillion other uses. You can tell by looking at them that they are well loved. We own two, but honestly I would say it’s not enough. Of course, if I owned more I’d dirty more and then I’d be complaining more often because they don’t fit into my sink.
I hope the above information is helpful to you. I would love to hear the tools you can’t cook without – especially those with more than one use!