Your kitchen essentials – tools and toys

Let’s talk about our kitchens. Some of us spend a lot of time there. Others, not so much. Even then, you need the kitchen to unwrap the carryout and get utensils, so you should read this. Some things you must have in a kitchen, many are optional. I’m going to talk about the essentials today. No matter how little you use your kitchen, you’ll appreciate these. Someone you invite to use your kitchen will appreciate them too. Plus, your Mom and Dad will be impressed.

I am going to assume you have some sort of plates, bowls and feeding utensils. If not, I can do a whole blog about that later. I have opinions and experience. Then we can get to serving implements which show off your kitchen skills and prove they really do rock. Then I can talk about things I re-create. I can’t make pots and pans. I can restore cast iron though.

Knives, sharp ones… just like you

Yes, you need them. The day may come when things get all intruderish. A serrated steak knife will not do. You need a chef’s knife. Seriously, for cutting, chopping and a backup for stabbing, nothing else will do. Even if it only impresses your mom and your dates, get one. Who knows, they might use it for you. I like the eight or ten inches size. No, you don’t need to spend $500. Also don’t get a set of 6 knives. You need a chefs knife and probably a 3 or 4-inch paring knife. 

I have this chef’s knife: A Victorinox 8 Inch, which I love and have gifted to others. I think it’s $45 dollars when I checked, but there are a lot of others in that price range you can get. I also have a Vardegan from Ikea which was cheaper, but it’s heavier and I don’t feel it holds an edge as well.  But money is money and I used it for a number of years and still have it.

Then keep’em sharp!

Cutting board

If you like to cook, you might like a good wood board.  Take care of it and it should last a good while. But most of us can get by with a reasonably quality plastic one. Don’t make faces. They are less expensive, can be easily cleaned and you don’t feel bad about buying a third one. Don’t get a glass or anything crazy like that. It will just dull your knife and sound terrible until it shatters on your floor. Though the marble and slate ones are really nice for serving things.

Shown below, is one of a few I have remade from larger sick, abused boards.

Usually, it’s said your board should be roughly the size of your knife placed diagonally on the board. So a 12-inch board is a good size for m0st. Mine is 12 x 18 but smaller works just as well. Since I use plastic usually, I can have more than one and do. Makes it easy to switch from meat to vegetable items. 

Some recommendations. The truly impressive board is any Boos Board, this one is 20 x 15 and pretty thick in Maple. it is an awesome board if you can afford it or have someone give you a present. If you want wood, at least 3/4 inch thick. For plastic, there are a lot of ones that work well. I have this Faberware one (12 x 18) actually, I bought it years ago and it’s still working. And then there is IKEA again. If you can do get a smaller one too.

Two pans and a pot?

You can live with one pan and one pot. You can’t live with a crappy pan. You’ll burn your butter and impress no one even if you pull off the scrambled eggs. I’m kind of a two pan, two pot guy. But only if you cook enough. Let’s get into details.

Like, I said. I am for two pans.  The essential one is a nonstick skillet, 8 inches or so. The first one I had lasted 6 years. This one is for eggs, quick reduction, some onions, and even burgers. It is your everyday pan. It is worth a little bit more money. I got my newest one at Home Goods on sale.  It’s a key tool for small batch cooking that most of us do all the time. It will feed you healthy things. Plus people who cook for you will be happy you have good tools and non-burnt food.

Next, we want a larger skillet for bigger things like a steak or a bunch of chicken. So a 10-inch skillet is just about the perfect size. You can go larger, but you won’t use it as often. Again make sure it is heavy and has a sturdy bottom. I would get cast iron for the first one. You can get them at a better price usually. All my cast iron came from thrift stores or garage sales. And for warming your pizza, they are perfect! I think one is missing from the picture.

Kitchen Cast Iron

My Skillets

You’ll get more over time, but that’s enough to cook every day. 

And some pots now. Again two will cover 90% of what you do. One will do though for starters.

A one-quart or two-quart saucepan is just the size for one or two people.  That’s big enough for most things and still small enough to make rice and other grains for a few people. You can boil potatoes and make a small soup from scratch in it. I still use my one-quart more than anything bigger. Get 3 or 4-quart saucepan is you have a larger household.

And a big pot to boil water. Called a stock pot or soup pot or pasta pot. Try to get one with a thicker bottom. Burnt and stuck things can be difficult to clean. You will use it to make pasta and soups. It’s really the only way to cook pasta properly. You might be able to get this pot at a garage sale or thrift. 

A couple of tricks, free of charge

There are two little tricks if you have trouble controlling the heat or the pots are thin and things get scorched. A lot of old stoves have really bad heat controls. And some pans don’t transfer heat very well.

  1. Use your cast Iron Skillet to give more mass to the bottom of your pot. It will slow heating, but make it less likely to burn. Mass spreads the heat more evenly.
  2. Get a cast iron heat diffuser. I have one because I have an old hard to control stove.This diffuses heat and actually acts as a thicker bottom for your pans. I use it whenever I make soup or it I want to slow things down a bit.

The cooking utensil issue

Currently, I  have two separate cooking utensil holders and most of two drawers dedicated to them. To be fair, they are bulky things. Plus, you collect them over time. But how many does one really need?

I will skip over the grilling ones and get down to kitchen essentials. And again a lot of thrift stores and garage sales can supply your needs a lot cheaper than Walmart.

First, a spatula. that’s the thing you turn your food with it that’s in the pan. I like mine slotted. It makes it much more usable. I rather like this one, it works with your non-stick pan. And you can use it as a quick whisk.

Thin Slotted Nylon Spatula

Thin Slotted Nylon Spatula

I started with cheap Kitchen Aid one that I still have. And still use. Don’t buy that pack of black plastic tools ones at Big Lots though. You will regret even the few dollars it costs. They break, melt and are weak.

Now get a bag of wood or bamboo tools. They are sturdy and include most things you need for everyday cooking. Even spatulas for a lot of uses.  It’s like $8 at most places.

There are three other things if you have money. Not essential to start, but in t6ime you’ll want them. A set of tongs, a ladle, and a whisk. Tongs are great for turning larger meat in your pan and lifting things out of sauces. A Ladle is great for serving sauces and soups and transferring liquids.

Everything else can wait until you think you need them.

Some kitchen extras you might like

A stand for your iPad or phone on the kitchen counter is always cool to have, many of them can also hold a cookbook. Just don’t pay $100 for one. Please! I think I will do a blog some day on things not to own or pay to much for. 

Cylinder e stand

They come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve made more than a few. I think the favorite was actually formed from a record. It fit into a kitchen cabinet door, keeping it off the counter and away from the food. But you had to keep the cabinet closed.

edevice holder

This is how simple it is to use

A stick blender. As usual, I got mine, a Krups, used.   They are great for mixing drinks to Gazpacho, a sauce or a soup. Usually, somewhere between $15 and $25 is enough to spend.  Of course, they can go up a lot from there. Spending too much money in the kitchen is easy to do.

Get this kitchen extra

Get a funnel at some point. A collapsible one will save a lot of space for you and you will use it more often than you think. Spilled liquids take time to clean up and waste your money. In fact, get two, you probably need one for your car. 

Then a baking pan. Make sure it will fit in your oven. You will end up using it a lot. You could get a silpat to go with it if you want. I usually use parchment paper though. 

Then to the thrift store for a lot more things. A hole ‘nother post kids.

Tiki Candles


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