No matter your station in life, food remains a top priority on a daily basis. Whether you are just starting out in your very first efficiency apartment, or you are a honeymooner working hard in the kitchen to please the taste buds of your significant other, having the top rated non stick cookware as well as perfect gadgets and gizmos for your kitchen is very important. These items, coupled with a solid set of tried-and-true recipes, will go a long way to not only keep you adequately nourished, but help to please any palette.
Walking the aisles of a favorite home goods or department store, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the items suitable for kitchen use. There are literally thousands of items on the market today touted as essential products for every kitchen. Many of these items are overpriced and, simply put, unnecessary. However, we have shopped, tested, poked, and prodded an enormous list of items in order to come up with the perfect catalog of must-haves for every kitchen that won’t leave your bank account empty. We’ve researched the products and know how to find high-quality items at reasonable prices. We will not only explain each item’s use and requirement in the kitchen, but will give you helpful hints for overall culinary success. In no time flat, your abilities in the kitchen will grow to proportions that will far exceed your expectations. Every dish for years to come will be relished by those around you, and requested event after event.
One of the first, and most important, items for any cook is a good, high-quality, set of knives. Unfortunately, there is almost no room for wiggle on the price with this item. It’s a good area on which to extravagantly spend money. A good knife will last for many years and make all the difference in how well your food is prepped and, ultimately, prepared. Our preference is stainless steel that is rated with a high carbon count. This construction has the ability to ward off rust and unsightly stains for many, many years. There are, however, different types of knives, and this fact may quickly become overwhelming when out shopping. There are three basic types that tend to be the most helpful, and we’ve listed them in order of importance:
This knife is the one that will be used most often for chopping meats, vegetables, fresh herbs, and nuts. It’s the knife that will make life in the kitchen so much easier. It should feel sturdy, yet highly manageable in the hand. Make sure it fits the hand with regard to size. Typically, chef’s knives are available in three sizes: 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch. Therefore, finding the size that fits perfectly in your hand should not be a problem, but holding and maneuvering it is a must before making the purchase.
This precision knife is one of the most handy items to have in your collection. It’s used for all sorts of tedious work such as scoring and prepping cuts of meat, peeling fruit and potatoes, and dicing garlic and ginger. It’s important to choose a paring knife that fits your personal preferences with regard to performing these tasks. A 3-inch or 4-inch paring knife will usually do the trick, but make sure to try both sizes to see which one it right for you.
Serrated knives are best for two tasks: slicing bread and slicing delicate-skinned foods such as tomatoes. Having a serrated knife will make life so much easier with large loaves of bread or when slicing a tough, french bread loaf. Choosing a serrated knife is pretty standard, but form and comfort in the hand are still just as important as with chef’s and paring knives.
Now that the knives are in place, it’s important to have a surface on which to cut that will not damage your new knives and will keep your countertops safe. Cutting boards are an essential part of any kitchen. However, there is no one-size-fits-all cutting board that is suitable for all applications. There are several types of boards that will serve overall purposes of protecting your knives, reducing the presence of harmful bacteria, and aid in the cleanup process. Our number one pick is a plastic, polypropylene product that is non-porous and odor resistant. You’ll want to make sure your board comes complete with the these benefits:
- dual-sided use
- built-in wells for spill avoidance
- slip-resistant edges to keep the board in place while in use
A stick blender is one of the most helpful items in the kitchen when whipping up soups, sauces, and creams. These blenders are hand-held and allow you to work right in the pot or bowl without being confused on which coffee makers should you use or if you’re going to use a separate blending appliance. Immersion blenders, as they are sometimes called, are incredibly convenient and, with one-handed operation, they are easy to use and provide for much less cleanup time at the end of your beautiful meal.
Preparing steamed vegetables is an easy and nutritious way to add color and pizzazz to any plate. There are many products available, from steamer baskets that fit into a stove-top pot to electric devices that work as a stand-alone appliance. Our best choice is a simple steamer basket that fits inside of a standard, stove-top pot. These baskets should have feet that keep the veggies out of the water on the bottom of the pot as well as handles for easy lifting. All you’ll need is seasoning, a little oil, and a small amount of water for perfectly steamed vegetables that are nutritious and delicious additions to any meal.
One way to save money in the kitchen is by using a salad spinner. These devices will eliminate the need for pre-packaged salad greens as they make washing and preparing greens easier than ever. Make sure to choose a spinner that has an adequate starting and stopping mechanism that works without too much effort. There are many brands on the market that have mastered the technology required for this appliance. As an added bonus, most spinner bowls will also serve as a storage or serving bowl.
A seemingly simple item, the cheese grater is actually a very versatile tool that is a definite must-have. Used for grating cheese, vegetables, and some herbs, a grater can be used for so much more. Most come complete with a slicer on one side that can be used to slice larger items such as potatoes and tomatoes. Stainless steel is our preferred material for ease of care, and many come with optional holding trays to transport grated items to bowls and dishes.
As much as we would like to think that we will never use canned food, this just isn’t an option for most people. Canned foods serve great purposes with many chefs, and will be a welcomed addition to your kitchen as well. Buying a good can opener is essential in order to eliminate that well-known struggle with opening cans. There are many options out there, but make sure to look for one that has safe-edge technology, is easily held and gripped in the hands, and has an easy-turn knob.
This little tool serves many purposes besides just removing skin from potatoes or carrots. A good quality vegetable peeler can provide perfectly slivered slices of hard cheese to top a pasta dish or flawless lemon zest for recipes and added color for dessert toppings. When choosing a peeler, make sure to find one that feels good in the palm of your hand and won’t slip out with harsh movements. We prefer stainless steel blades that are wide enough to provide maximum coverage with a smooth, even, cutting flow. The y-peeler is our number one choice for larger amounts of food and ease of use on oddly shaped fruits and vegetables. A quality product will have a small scooping mechanism, called an eyer, that is perfect for removing imperfections on the food quickly and easily without disrupting much of the flesh.
Knowing when your food is done to perfection can be a very difficult task. It’s nearly impossible to know when meat is done simply by looking at or feeling the product. Therefore, having a food thermometer is crucial in order to avoid under or over cooking your dishes. Look for a thermometer that rises to at least 200 degrees, and has digital technology. This will be a more precise reading without the guesswork of some, lower-end, models.
Often thought of as a grilling accessory, tongs are actually a very functional kitchen utensil. A good set of tongs are heavy duty enough to be used on the grill, yet lightweight and versatile enough for the kitchen. Tongs are perfect for stir frying vegetables, flipping a delicate, pan-seared, salmon steak, or simply dressing a salad. Buying tongs is a pretty straightforward process. We recommend a longer set, at least twelve inches, and those made of sturdy stainless steel. It’s imperative to purchase tongs that come with a durable locking apparatus to keep the set closed when not in use, and make storage in a drawer or utensil jar a snap.
Oven mitts are absolutely required if you ever plan to use your oven for baking and roasting. These products will serve to protect your hands and arms from burns when using the oven. Styles range from cloth gloves and squares to silicone mitts and cups. Cloth styles may be easier to bend and grasp, however may not be as resistant to heat as our choice – silicone mitts. Silicone options have many different general styles and colors that will easily match any decor. You may even want to hang them near the oven as a form of decoration to be seen by all.
Real estate in any kitchen often comes at a premium. There are often more appliances, bowls, and gadgets to store than there are drawers and cubbies in most kitchens. It’s important to choose storage items that are, themselves, easy to store and neatly tuck away when not in use. In addition, sturdy containers that will stand the test of time is crucial in any kitchen in order to maintain adequate organization that is easily accessible to the fabulous cook you are.