My cousin, a friend and follower, recently asked my top ten kitchen tools. She has a smaller kitchen in her Florida home and space is a premium. Here are my top twenty-two tools that everyone needs from a travel camper to an apartment to a gourmet kitchen. These are the things you really can't live without. I've left out my baking supplies because that can be Pandora's box and really has no end. The top three are the most essential.
1- Chef's Knife
The single most important piece of equipment for any cook is a great, sharp chef's knife. You need at least three so you don't cross contaminate. My favorite for chopping is the nikiri which is rectangular with no sharp point. A santuku or traditional chef's knife is also good to have in your batterie de cuisine. Make sure the knife fits your hand. The worst mistake is to use too thin or too long a knife to chop. I also keep a paring knife and bread knife in my drawer.
Once you chopped your food you are going to have to cook it. If you have no other piece of equipment you can make gourmet meals with a good skillet. I love one with a copper bottom as it cooks very evenly but whether cast iron or stainless it is a must for any kitchen. Loose the Teflon; it scratches and gets in your food. Just clean your pans well after use. If the skillet has baked on food, leave it overnight filled with water and some dishwashing powder. In the morning it will come right off! Thank you Aunt Fran for that trick I use all the time!
3- Wooden and Plastic Cutting Boards
Chopping your food and protecting your counter is a must. I keep several boards of differnt sizes. I use wood for veggies and plastic for meats so they can be scalded in the dishwasher. Always be careful about cross contamination with meats and flavors so keep several on hand. Large ones are great for heading out to the grill. Keep a large wooden one on your main prep space all the time to make clean up easier and protect your counter. Bamboo is my new favorite material as it is cheap, beautiful and sustainable.
4- Kitchen Aid Mixer
There is no other mixer, than Kitchen Aid. This is the single appliance I can't live without. I even pack mine away to take to the beach if we stay a week in a house. I can't make any baked good or pasta without the thing. They last forever and come with a host of attachments. It's worth the money, trust me! Also, get a color you can live with no matter what color your kitchen may be, it will outlive several kitchens and paint colors. Mine is white.
5- Food Processor
I'm fairly brand specific here too. My Cuisinart is the first and probably the last food processor I'll ever buy. Food processors help you make sauces, pastry, and certainly you've got to have them to chop nuts and veggies. This is a huge time saver in my kitchen! Buy the best you can afford.
6- Dutch Oven
Oh, Le Creuset how I love thee let me count the ways! If you plan on making any French dishes or anything that needs to go from the stove top to the oven then a Dutch oven is a must. No, it does not have to be Le Creuset but changes are you will buy a couple of cheap ones that chip and stain and finally give in and buy one that lasts your life time. Trust me, its worth the cost in the long run.
7- Pots and Pans- Sauce Pan and A Large Pasta Pot
You need at least two or three very nice sauce pans and a large pot for boiling pasta. Don't skimp on these.
8- Rubber Scrapers
I can't live without my rubber scrapers. These let you get the last bit of any sauce or batter out of the bowl and are a must for making a cake.
9- Wood Spoons
This is a no brainer. You need a spoon if you are going to cook anything. Wooden spoons protect you hands from heat as they don't conduct. I have to admit to burning my hand on one years ago making caramel apples, ouch!
10-Strainer or Sieve
At some point you are going to have to sieve flour, strain berries or get the clumps out of a sauce. A good Strainer meets so many needs.
11- Cookie Sheets
For cooking cookies but also for sheet tray dinners and roasting everything from potatoes to shrimp a cookie sheet is a must. They are also great to place under dishes that might leak in the oven like pies, making cleanup a snap.
You need one but you can also have a standard (French), ballon and flat wisk for all different types of jobs.
13- Sets of Prep Bowls
From small mise en place bowls to large mixing bowls. You are going to need to mix at some point. Make sure they are dishwasher safe. I love cheap stainless bowls from the kitchen supply or IKEA and a small glass bowl to layout ingredients. Recycled glass yogurt containers make a cheap option. A large melamine bowl or a huge glass measuring cup with a spout is also great to have on hand.
14-Measuring Spoons and Cups (& Pyrex Cup)
You can't eye ball everything! A set of teaspoons and measuring cups is a must. I don't buy expensive ones so I can put them in the dishwasher, and I like to have a few sets. If you only have one set they are always in the dishwasher when you need them. A two cup Pyrex glass measuring cup is also a must for measuring hot liquids and microwaving small liquid amounts.
From the grill to the stove top I have many of these to help flip meat. Get several so you can change them out as the meat cooks so as not to spread bacteria. I like silicone tipped for the stove top and metal for the grill. Also, you want both long and short. Short are great for heavy items and long ones are excellent to make sure you don't burn your fingers. Ouch!
16- Vegetable Peeler
You really can't peel a peach or apple with anything else. I like a good ole fashioned simple cheap one. Keep it simple.
17- Micro Plane
If you ever want to zest a lemon or an orange you really can't do it any other way. Invest in a very good one.
18- Juicer of Some Type
We love fresh orange juice and an electric juicer is a must in our house, but you need to at least have a lemon reamer or press in your kitchen. At some point you will need to juice a lemon.
19- Box Grater
To grate a block of cheese for just about anything I use my box grater almost every day. Don't get the fancy one, just a sturdy one.
20- Fish Spatula
My first cousin says you know you are an adult when you have a favorite spatula!
21- Cork Screw
Even if you don't drink at some point your recipe will call for wine. I have so many but a rabbit style is probably the most fool proof.
22- Can Opener
You can't open the can of tomatoes with a butter knife or prayer. Get a simple but good key can opener to keep in the drawer.
Visit your local kitchen shop for all of these tools and support family owned business when you can. I also love Williams-Sonoma for quality equipment.