I love spending time in the kitchen. I really mean that! One of my favourite things to do is to prepare a meal for friends or family. There is just something so satisfying knowing that you’ve created something that others can enjoy. I’m sure not everybody feels the same as me. Some find it stressful and unenjoyable. Whether you love cooking or hate it, there are a few essential kitchen tools that can make your time in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable.
So today I thought I would share with you a list of my favourite kitchen essentials that I find make my food better and the process easier.
There is just no way I can make a list about kitchen tools and not stress the importance of having good knives. If you love to cook, a quality knife just makes the whole experience more enjoyable. If you don’t love cooking, having a good knife makes the process easier and more efficient. A good knife is comfortable, balanced and maintains its edge much better than a cheap knife. Truthfully, you can get away with just two good knives. In my knife collection I have a high quality chef knife and a high quality paring knife. Just about every knife job can be accomplished with these two knives.
If you’re going to spend money on good knives, you should also buy some tools to help you keep them sharp. A good quality knife will be very sharp right out of the box, but it won’t stay that way forever. Having the right tools will help keep it sharp or restore the edge when it gets dull. There is a bit of confusion regarding sharpening tools so allow me to bring a bit of clarity to this.
A Knife Steel: A knife steel doesn’t actually sharpen your knife, it’s job is to help maintain the edge. Every time you use your knife, the thinnest part of the edge gets slightly folded over, causing it to become dull. A steel straightens those bent areas back out, thus restoring the edge.
Manual Sharpeners: This refers to a hand held tool made up of two abrasive wheels that you run the edge of the knife through. Some of these sharpeners can be very effective, while others can do actual damage to your knife. You’ll want to avoid any manual sharpener that uses abrasives made of ceramic or carbides. These materials only rough up the metal, leaving the knife edge jagged and uneven. Diamond abrasives are by far more effective.
Electric Sharpeners: These sharpeners use the two-wheel system that manual sharpeners use, however, they employ electric motors to turn the abrasive wheels at high speeds. These units are excellent for sharpening knives as long as the abrasive wheels are not ceramic or carbide. As I just mentioned, diamond abrasives are the only way to go. The one drawback of these sharpeners is that they are often in excess of $200
Whetstones: These abrasive stone blocks are another excellent way to sharpen your knives, however there is a bit of a learning curve to them. If you’re able to master the technique, however, what you’ll end up with is a kitchen knife that is so sharp, you can shave the hair off your arm (I know this cause I may have tried it). Considering how effective they are, whetstones are fairly affordable as well. They can usually be found online for anywhere between $15-$30 (links above and below).
Leather Strop: A strop is a finishing tool. Once you sharpen your knife, you wipe the edge on a piece of leather and it puts the finishing touch on your blade. The strop will remove ultra fine bits of metal left behind from the sharpening process. A strop isn’t able to make a dull knife sharp, but it can make a sharp knife even sharper.
These fine graters are a must-have for any kitchen. I actually don’t use a garlic press anymore, because I prefer to use a microplane – you don’t lose any flavour by crushing the juice out of the garlic and they are much easier to clean. Microplanes also do a great job grating things like ginger and lemon grass as well as hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano. Need some lemon, lime or orange zest? A microplane is perfect for that job. In our kitchen we have 2 different sizes…one extra fine and the other slightly more coarse. If you can, I would suggest having both on hand for various uses.
Cast Iron Pans
Having quality cookware is a no-brainer if you want things to go well in the kitchen. And today, more than ever, you can find good pots and pans at very reasonable prices. I think most people see the value in that investment. Unfortunately, many people don’t see or understand the value in having cast iron cookware. Having one or two cast iron pans in your cookware arsenal is an absolute must! Cast iron pans are made of a very dense material which produces a very even heat when cooking. Cast iron is also great for holding heat, meaning that the pan won’t cool down when you begin putting your raw food in. These two traits will produce an evenly cooked meal with a great caramelization of the food surface…what more could you want from a pan!
Cooking things at the right temperature is crucial for achieving the results you want in the kitchen. If you are able to accurately monitor the temperature that your food is cooking at, you are far more likely to have success. I use a few different kinds of thermometers in our kitchen, depending on what I’m cooking. I have a basic cooking thermometer with a pot clip for jobs like poaching eggs, deep-frying or melting caramel. When I’m grilling meat on the barbecue or in a pan, I use a handheld digital probe thermometer. Lastly, when doing a roast or turkey in the oven, I use a digital probe thermometer that has a separate, heat resistant probe. That way I can put the probe in the meat at the beginning and monitor the progress as it cooks without constantly opening the oven and checking on it.
I didn’t start out using all these items, but as I have acquired them over time, I have found that they are absolutely essential in my kitchen. Give them a try and I’m sure you’ll find that they make your time in the kitchen easier, more efficient and help you produce a better dish in the end!
What are your kitchen essentials? I would love to hear about what it is that you just can’t live without when you’re cooking. Leave a comment below and tell us about your favourite tools!