We polled our subscribers to see what essential tools they keep in their kitchens. Here are some of the top answers and some tips on how to buy the right equipment for you:
1) Chef’s Knife
- There is no one-size-fits-all knife for everyone. First key to a good knife is one that you feel comfortable wielding everyday.
- A quality knife should be somewhere between 8-12 inches. It should also be equally weighted, neither the blade nor the handle should feel too heavy.
- You will likely find two options: stainless steel and carbon steel. Carbon steel knives tend to be sharper and more precise blades but require a lot of maintenance and typically can rust or erode if exposed to water or acidic fruits/veggies. Stainless steel is easier to maintain and typically less expensive, so this is a trade off to consider.
- Also consider what you typically dice up. If you primarily slice and dice veggies, a thinner lighter weight blade may be all you need. If you like to break down poultry and meats, look for a meatier, heavier duty blade.
- First figure out what you blend most. Are you looking to make smoothies and blended drinks? Or are you looking to puree soups? This might dictate the power you need.
- The higher the wattage the more powerful the blender. Look for a blender with at least 350 watts. Also look for at least three speeds and up to 16 or more.
- Also pay attention to cup capacity. A typical blender will range between 4-8 cups. You might also want to look for options to blend single serve cups if you are making smoothies to go. Or consider a handheld or immersion blender (one that is submerged into your mixing container) for day-to-day use.
- Glass blenders tend to be heavier to wield but more sturdy. Plastic can be less expensive, but scratch easily and can sometimes absorb smells, so consider these trade offs when you purchase.
- This may seem like a no-brainer, but not all spatulas are alike. Some are born for different purposes and deciphering which is which can be the key to success in your kitchen.
- Plastic or Silicon: These spatulas are good for mixing and scraping of bowls, the standard tool for home bakers. Silicon spatulas are typically made to withstand high heat so they are useful when cooking on the stove-top.
- Stainless Steel/Slotted Flexible: These spatulas are built for scraping and flipping. If you like to make fish, omelets, pancakes, cookies or anything that requires getting in and under, this spatula is a must have.
- Wooden Spoon: The trusty wooden spoon can last forever. These are a great staple to have on hand for mixing cookie dough, making soups, any stirring need really. The downside is they can often stain easily and retain the color of certain sauces even after cleaning.
4) Cast Iron Pan
- A cast iron pan can become your most loyal friend in the kitchen. Not only are they durable, they generally keep a consistent heat, can be used on the stove-top or in the oven, and they get better with age. Who doesn’t love that!
- When purchasing, decide if you want a traditional or enameled pan. Traditional pans will need to develop a layer of “seasoning” (ie. oil and food scrapings baked at high temperature to create a coating), and at first must be hand cleaned and maintained with oil to retain moisture. Once a pan has seasoned it can be washed and even placed in the dishwasher. Enameled pans come with a non-stick coating and can be washed right out of the gate. Note that the enamel can chip and wear down over time.
- Consider your shape and size options. Skillets and grills are great for stove-top cooking like frying and stir-frying, and cooking traditional griddle foods like french toast and grilled cheese sandwiches. Dutch ovens are great for slow cook meals, sauces, and baked dishes.
- New isn’t always better. Since traditional cast iron pans require a breaking in period sometimes seasoned pans can be found used at a reasonable price, ready for cooking a great meal.
5) Food Processor
- The key to a deciding on a food processor is again, deciding what you prepare most. Do you like to whip up fresh salad dressing? Knead bread? Mince garlic? Narrowing this down will help you decide on the size and power you need.
- Look for a minimum of 7 cups, but for larger jobs 9-11 cups.
- At the very least it should be able to chop dried nuts, puree fruits and veggies, form emulsions (ie. salad dressings/mayonnaise) grind meats and knead bread.
- Higher wattage might be useless if if the motor isn’t up to speed. Some experts recommend looking for a solid state motor (rather than a side-mount motor) that is attached directly to the blade shaft without belts or chains. Others recommend looking for at food processor with at least 750 watts of power.
What is your must have kitchen tool? Share with us in the comments.