Every master of his or her kitchen craft needs the right tools! I have purchased my favorite cooking tools both new and used. I find that vintage cooking tools are often of much higher quality and more affordable than new, so I’m always on the lookout for them. My large cutting board, prized cast iron skillet, glass mixing bowls and Pyrex Flameware pot all came from garage sales, thrift stores or online auctions. As for the new ones, I look for sturdy, quality items, and I find the product reviews on Amazon really helpful when making a purchase decision. I do most of my food preparation and cooking with the following:
- Knives: a 10-inch Mundial chef, an 8-inch Henckels chef and a few inexpensive Rada utility and paring knives.
- Cutting boards: wooden boards in a few sizes and flexible plastic cutting boards.
- Oxo salad spinner: my kitchen workhorse! Mine has lasted me a good 10 years and is showing no signs of quitting. I use it for lettuce, greens, fresh herbs and other veggies. I love the big push-button operation – just give it a couple pumps and let it spin itself out. Brilliant!
- Colander and strainers: I have a “pedestal” colander that can be placed in the sink and a couple handled mesh strainers.
- Graters: I have a couple of Microplane rasps that I use on occasion and a cheese grater (somewhere).
- Measurers: I’m not religious about measuring quantities. But I do have stainless steel measuring spoons, stainless dry measures and a small “shot glass” with ounce, teaspon and tablespoon markings that I love. One of my favorite all-time kitchen tools is my glass Pyrex measuring cup, which I use for cooking or food prep more often than measuring! I love it for whisking together a quick salad dressing, beating and pouring eggs or microwaving a serving of veggies.
- Pots and pans: 8 and 12 inch sautes, a beloved square cast iron skillet, a 2-cup sauce, a 3-quart sauce, a covered braiser and a stock pot.
- Cooking utensils: a stainless steel spatula, ladle, pair of chef tongs and large (15″) commercial serving/basting spoon. I have an olive wood spatula for sauteing. I use a fork for whisking. I only rarely use a peeler or potato masher.
- Glass food storage: I use of Pyrex or Anchor Hocking covered storage containers and my collection of re-purposed food jars. The covered glass bowls are especially handy – you can cook, store, mix and even eat out of them. I also love my collection of repurposed peanut butter and condiment jars. I use them to store dried beans and grains, to refrigerate and freeze foods and pack drinks and lunches to go.
That’s pretty much it. I’ve created a wishlist on Amazon that includes some favorites and many of tools mentioned above. Note there aren’t many “gadgets” in the list. Despite what the glossy magazine ads tell you, professional chefs rely on just a few basic tools to do do a LOT of cooking. So home cooks can probably get by without garlic peelers, mushroom brushes or strawberry stemmers, too. Peeling garlic is easy if you just smash the cloves with the heel of your hand or the side of a chef’s knife. Mushrooms just need a rinse right before you use them. When you work closely with a kit of fresh foods, you begin to see how truly simple it is to prepare them.