My Favorite Kitchen Tools
Years ago, long before we became parents, my husband bought me a very fancy camera and as he lovingly watched me unwrap it - he said "just because you have a fancy camera, doesn't mean you're a great photographer". For obvious reasons, this line stuck, as did my middle finger in an upright position.
For years I watched him diligently create spreadsheets for his tennis rackets. He would often buy multiples of the same racket and string them with slightly different strings or weight the handle ever so slightly different than one or the other and I thought, really? Do YOU, of all people, really truly believe that our tools don't matter. YOU, my Swiss, Product Designer husband. Really?
What I later realized was that he was right. Sort of. I'm ashamed to say, I barely used the camera. It was, the wrong tool for me. I didn't need a fancy camera with all the bells and whistles a girl could ever dream of. I needed a minor upgrade from what I was using. The trick, is to find the RIGHT tool for YOU.
This lesson taught me a lot. What we sometimes think we need is not at all what we need and often what we need is the most basic, simple item that we may already own.
I'm a sucker for gadgets but after hearing the great Alton Brown say that he would never buy a kitchen tool that didn't have multiple uses, I was transformed. Sure, a banana slicer might come in handy if I'm ever found without my fingers, and I'm sure a corn kernaler is super handy if I needed to de-kernal more than a dozen cobs at a time on a regular basis but for the most part I can slice my own mushrooms and de-stem my kale without the need for a specialized tool. Though, no judgements!
When working with clients, many choose to embark on my Kitchen Confidence Program where we work within their own kitchen fears and constraints to feel not only comfortable, but truly confident in executing meals that work for them as an individual or as a family. The first question is typically, "What do I need?" And they're usually pleasantly surprised when I say, "probably nothing you don't already have!"
Over the years my habits, processes and tastes have changed but I literally cannot do without these puppies. I use them, without fail on a weekly, if not daily basis. They are my kitchen saviors. They save time. They allow others to help out. They're basic. Nothing fancy. Well, except for the serrated knife. An excellent set of knives is a very worthy investment and should last 20+ years!
From left to right (all underlined words will lead you to more info) ....
Benriner Mandolin - I bought this at the amazing Pearl River Mart on Broadway back when we first moved to NYC. Sadly Pearl River shut its doors last year but my Benriner is my single most used "specialty tool" that I own and it is still going strong at over 15 years in service! I slice and dice on this thing covering one to two meals a day. It makes fast work of slicing any hard fruit or veggie. It comes with a primary blade which gives a clean slice in a variety of thicknesses and 3 secondary slice blades, each one is invaluable. The smallest one is great for adding veggies like zucchini and carrots to dishes in such tiny sized pieces that kids can't even be bothered to complain about them. The middle one is great for adding slivers of apples or cucumbers to salads and the large one is great for onions and potatoes and anything you want hearty slices of.
The Zoodle / Spiralizer / Veggetti - This is a little bit of a one trick pony in that it has one basic function but if you like to make noodles from vegetables, it's a must. I've tried quite a few of these and they range in price from under $10 to a countertop version with a hand-crank at over $100. This under $10 version has been the perfect one for me. I can make "zoodles" out of 2-3 zucchinis, add some fresh homemade Kale, Basil, Avocado, Hemp Seed Pesto and have a light summer dinner on the table in 10 minutes flat.
Vegetable Peeler - a pretty obvious one for sure, but a good one like the OXO Good Grips Peeler will be invaluable and should last for year to come. In addition to peeling your favorite fruits and veggies it's also great for chocolate shavings, slivers of hard cheese and thin slices of garlic.
Tongs - Oh my goodness, I probably use tongs more than the average bear but I swear I feel like I wash these things all day. We have about 4 or 5. Great for grabbing pasta to check doneness or for serving. Toss and serve a salad. Turn a hot pan in the oven without removing it. Toss a stir-fry. Grab something from a high shelf. Pull a baked potato out of the oven. Grab corn out of the pot. Snap at your spouse/kids bottoms. Turn protein in a pan. Serve guests. The list is endless. In my opinion, these should be all metal (bar grips on handle), the ones with plastic ends/teeth are sure to melt by accident before the springs wear out. Pick up a set of two here for a great price!
Spatulas - Ok, I take back what I said about my tong usage, these bad boys are actually the most used items in the kitchen. They're silicone so can withstand any heat I'm creating in the kitchen (up to 450 degrees). I use them whenever I'm cooking. They help flip, stir, mix, sear, check, smear, unstick, toss, scrape etc. all without damage to the food or the pan. They are, in my opinion, indispensable. I don't even know how many we have of these, but it's a lot and still it doesn't seem to be enough. Always in use and always useful. Make sure they're silicone - rubber will melt, plastic will melt. Once really only used in baking, these are absolute necessities in my everyday kitchen now.
Handheld Citrus Juicer - akin to the spiralizer, this is a one trick pony for sure but oh my is it handy. Need lemon juice in a sauce? This makes it so much easier, especially if the lemon is a little dry. I have the lemon size which works well with limes too. As a one handed tool its great for when you need to add a little citrus while stirring with the other hand. As an added bonus this comes in very handy when you want to whip up a quick margarita!!!
Knives - I do not believe knives should be bought on-line, on TV or via catalogues until you've held it in your hand. Everyone has a different hand and every knife will feel different to every person. We've bought crazy expensive knives, cool looking Japanese knives, high-end German knives, late-night knife purchases on the home shopping network (don't judge me! I was 21, slightly drunk and still have a few of them!). I don't think you need a butcher block knife set either (been there too!) as you'll only use 2-3 of them on a regular basis. Don't waste your money - save up and buy 2 high quality knives that make you feel like cooking!! I truly believe knives can make or break your relationship with cooking and ultimately with food. In my opinion you need a great Chefs Knife, and a great Utility Knife - the two shown here are not your average of either and honestly took years to narrow down but besides a bread knife and the occasional paring knife - these two are the only knives in constant rotation for both my husband and I. Both knives have hybrid qualities making them very handy in all situations. The Chefs knife is actually a classic Japanese Santoku knife but it has a Granton edge (the dimples) making it super user friendly for slicing & dicing while handling all heavy duty needs with ease. It is super light weight and has a great hand feel. Our Utility knife is serrated which is pretty rare for this knife but to me it means it can handle anything that needs serious power or delicate attention. These knives are both pushing 10 years and with proper care and treatment (don't let them soak in water too long and never put knives in the dishwasher!!!!) - these knives will likely out-live me! Not bad for an approximately $160 investment!!
Coffee Grinder - I do a lot of cooking without salt, oil and sugar which means I'm constantly making herb, spice, nut and seed blends and the coffee grinder is my little engine that could. Far quicker than a pestle and mortar (though I do have one of those too), the coffee grinder is so handy when you need a quick flavor burst of dried herbs and spices or are making up the recipe as you go along. I do grind up seeds and nuts too however some nuts (macadamia for example) are very oily nuts so the grinder can get pretty messy pretty quickly and as this needs to be carefully hand washed - you may want to do larger nut quantities in a food processor.
Whats your favorite tool in the kitchen? Do you have a kitchen hack that saves you loads of time and energy? Please share it all - this is a community for like minded folk who want more love in the kitchen!!!