Fortunately for foodies and cooking enthusiasts everywhere, the recent “Paleo diet” trend only requires that participants eat like cavemen, and not prepare food like them. Because let’s face it: tools are good. Tools help humans prepare food and cook faster, making it easier to create delicious meals. But those who don’t have a lot of money for kitchen gadgets and cookware often wonder which kitchen essentials top chefs would choose if on a limited budget. In short: What are the basic, must-have items every cook should own? Below is a list of the top 10 tools recommended by professionals to make every kitchen complete:
1. A Good Knife Set— Invest a decent amount of money here if you’re prioritizing, because knives are the most often used kitchen tool for food prep, and those vegetables aren’t going to cut themselves. By purchasing a high-quality set of knives, you’ll save yourself time and money, because knives that stay sharper longer work better and don’t need to be replaced as soon. Try to buy a set that includes a knife sharpener if possible, and treat them right—no running knives through the dishwasher, unless you want them to dull, rust and fall apart.
2. A Solid Cutting Board— Plastic cleans well, but most chefs prefer a big wooden cutting board that will stay in place during cutting. If you have the counter space, a larger board will conveniently allow for prep of all the meal’s ingredients, rather than one at a time. If you can find a non-slip pad to keep underneath your cutting board, this is a great addition that will prevent knife slippage and accidents.
3. A Slow Cooker or Crock Pot— Whether you’re using it to make the meal, or simply to cook one of the components, a slow cooker can be a wonderful way to save yourself time in the kitchen. By reducing the work to prep-only, a slow cooker essentially makes the meal for you, and the option to use low heat ensures food will be tender and delicious without being burned.
4. A Cool Colander— Whatever material you prefer is fine—ceramic, plastic or metal—just be sure to get a colander with small enough holes (or mesh) so that liquids can drain while foods like angel hair pasta and diced vegetables stay in. There are also nesting colander sets for those with minimal storage space that give different sizes from which to choose, depending on the task at hand.
5. A Sharp Peeler— Cutting the skin off fruits and vegetables with a knife can not only be time-consuming and inaccurate, it can be dangerous, depending on the blade skills of the cook.
Vegetable peelers are generally affordable, so replace old, rusty, dull ones with sharp, shiny, new ones. You’ll save yourself major time preparing the next mashed potato side dish, and avoid the frustration of trying to peel thin veggie skins with knives.
6. Measuring Devices— Especially if you do a lot of baking, a measuring cup set for dry goods is a necessity, as we all know that baking is the math of the cooking world. One faulty measurement and the whole recipe is ruined. A good glass measuring cup for liquids is required in every kitchen and will be used constantly, not only for gauging amounts, but for heating up liquids in the microwave and whisking eggs. Also be sure to have a real measuring spoon set on hand at all times, because silverware is not accurate.
7. Magnificent Mixing Bowls— At least two bowls are needed for a properly stocked kitchen, with one medium and one large mixing bowl generally recommended. You’ll find yourself pulling these out often, so if you have the room, consider getting a nesting set of them for mixing bowls in every size.
8. A Wonderful Whisk— While many believe that liquids can be mixed with forks and spoons, real pros know that a whisk is the right tool for the job and can’t be replicated with mere silverware. Whisks properly fluff food by blending in air, and can mix substances that don’t generally blend well, such as oil and vinegar, making a huge difference in texture and flavor.
9. Cast Iron Skillets— Do you want to be taken seriously as a culinary competitor? Show them you mean business by going old school with cast iron skillets and pans. Chefs love cast iron cookware because foods cook more evenly in them, and cast iron lasts forever. Health advocates appreciate that they aren’t coated with chemicals that can come off in foods. (Ceramic non-stick pans are another great no-chemical option, however, if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into cast iron.)
10. Rubber Spatulas— An assortment of these in different sizes is a handy thing to have, as they work for anything you’re cooking and don’t stick to food or surfaces. Whether you’re making eggs, a stir-fry, keeping a pan of gravy from burning, or mixing food in a bowl, these incredibly versatile tools will become your go-to grab items for all stirring needs.
With the basic tools above, your kitchen should be stocked up with everything you need for culinary success. You’ve got the right gear… now all you need is ingredients and inspiration. Happy cooking!
Cathy Little is a professional is a professional blogger that shares advice on healthy cooking for your family. She writes for RecipeChart.com, where you can find a large selection of delicious recipes.