Just as every good workperson has his/her tools, so is it that every good cook has his/her utensils! (You’ll note that I went very PC there).
Yes, if you enjoy to cook on a regular basis, and let’s face it, if you are reading this blog you must like cooking enough to put up with my drivelling on and on and on… then you need a decent set of essential utensils.
I don’t mean the obvious essentials like a kettle, toaster, cutlery and plates etc, I mean the sort of equipment that will allow you to cook quickly, efficiently and easily in your kitchen be it when you have guests over or just for the family dinner.
Lets start with the electrical items, well lets not, because to be honest you don’t NEED these things, anything that a food processor can do, you can do with a knife or a cheese grater, anything that a toastie machine can do, you can do under a grill, anything a mixer can do, you can do with a bit of muscle and a mixing bowl, anything that a microwave can do, you can do in a regular oven… you get my drift here yes? That said I don’t HATE these machines, quite the opposite in fact, I have a microwave which gets used to reheat food in a hurry or start of baked potatoes, I have a Breville sandwich toaster because both my girls and I are addicted to those lovely gooey cheese toasties which go down a treat on a rainy day. I also have a waffle oven because it’s in the shape of Mickey Mouse and we have a 4 year old, and, horror of horrors I have not one, but TWO food processors, one regular processor which has a liquidiser attachment and which is great for blending soups and making smoothies or grating huge amounts of cheese, making breadcrumbs and chopping in a rush, and one mini processor which is a fantastic bit of kit which I got for Christmas last year and which gets a fair amount of use chopping onions and herbs and making pesto (you can pick these up for as little as £15). And yes, I have a mixer, because it’s always easier to use a mixer for making dough, cake mix and whipping up cream etc. Basically, these things are not ESSENTIAL items to have in your kitchen, but they can sometimes make your life easier if you are very busy.
So here is my list of must have essentials for a good running kitchen…
- A good set of knives is definitely one of the most essential things in the kitchen, I have a complete Jamie Oliver set along with a diamond sharpener (which is awesome) but you need not break the bank with a whole knife set, the essentials are a good chef’s knife for chopping, a good paring knife for peeling and cutting smaller things in your hand and a bread knife for cutting.. well bread really.
- A decent chopping board is next on the list, although health officials will tell you that plastic is better as it doesn’t trap bacteria, I find a couple of wooden boards, one for vegetables and one for meat, are much better, the larger and thicker the better, you don’t want them warping and bending on you unless you’re happy to use your board to cut off a couple of fingers. You can also use the boards for serving food as well as preparing it!
- Pans are another obvious essential, you ideally want to have a set of 3, a small pan for sauces and gravies, a medium pan for veggies and smaller portions and a large pan for potatoes, pasta etc. I have an additional large pan which I use for soups, curries and stews as well but it isn’t essential to have one of these unless you make a lot of them. You also want to make sure that your pans are good quality with heavy bases so that heat distributes evenly when cooking with them.
- Another pan that is essential is a good sauté or frying pan, I also recommend buying a good cast iron griddle as well for that BBQ char on meats.
- A decent selection of wooden spoons is something I wouldn’t be without, you will use more than you think when cooking and as they are inexpensive to buy, it’s a good idea to have a few handy for different pans so you don’t have to keep going back and forth to wash them. Also included in the wooden utensil list (though not entirely essential) are a spaghetti fork, stir fry spoon and rolling pin.
- Get yourself a decent grater, now I’m not talking about those ones that are £1.00 in supermarkets which grate 4 different sizes of cheese, I’m talking about the handheld ones, with a good one (starting off at about £3.50) you can grate lovely fresh parmesan over pasta or lemon and orange zest into a cheesecake, you’ll use it a lot more often than you think you will so go out and get one.
- Another tool that I wouldn’t be without in the kitchen is a set of prongs, I use them when making almost every meal! I used to have silicon ones but they were a pain, so I invested £2.50 in a pair of stainless steel ones from Asda. I use them for everything from turning sausages and meatballs in the pan to fishing rolls out of the oven!
- A crock pot (or slow cooker). OK yes, this isn’t an essential because the oven does the same job, but you can’t leave the oven on while you’re out at work can you? So the humble crock pot is on my list of kitchen essentials because they are inexpensive and invaluable in the kitchen, I use mine for all manner of things, slow cooking meat, stews, even pot roasts!
- Finally, you can use saucepan lids, but I personally recommend a good colander or sieve for draining vegetables and pasta. The amount of times I lost my dinner down the sink because I lost my grip on a saucepan lid whilst straining just wasn’t worth the hassle any more so I went out and bought a colander and never looked back!
And that’s it, along with a few other items which you can pick up along the way such as mixing bowls and serving dishes, this list will give you the tools to cook up a veritable storm in the kitchen!