Kitchen Essentials by hmmessinger on Polyvore
Here are the 20 things that I believe absolutely every good cook should have in his or her kitchen. They are tools that will serve you well and if you care for them properly, they will last throughout your lifetime and possibly on into your children's'. Some of them are very affordable. Others, such as the Le Creuset french ovens, are what I like to call "investments." I recommend that you wait for your perfect french oven to come along. Pick a color, a size, a shape. If it goes on sale, great. If you have to save up for it for a year, so be it. Don't settle on something that is inevitably going to play a huge part in your culinary life.
1. Emile Henry mixing bowls. I especially like these bowls for a number of reasons. They are heavy and will not slide. They nest to save space. They are freezer, oven, broiler, microwave and dishwasher safe. You can literally take them out of your freezer and put them straight into your oven. Indestructible. As an added perk, they're pretty enough that I can use them as serving bowls.
2. Two 8" cake pans. I couldn't live without my cake pans. Period. I make chocolate cake constantly. If you're more of a cupcake person, buy a cupcake pan. If you're more of a cookie person, buy a cookie sheet. I usually make pies in my cast iron skillet, but should you want a pie dish, I like this one.
3. OXO vegetable peeler. Obviously you need a vegetable peeler to peel things like carrots, but I also use mine to make big chards of parmesan and to create vegetable "noodles." The OXO peeler is ideal because it has a sturdy grip and it stays sharp. I highly recommend the OXO brand because of their customer involvement- you can follow them on Pinterest to see how to use their tools and you can tweet them @OXO with any questions or concerns. Best of all, they matched our donations dollar for dollar during the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, which meant more than $4400 went to Cookies for Kids' Cancer.
4. Microplane zester/grater. What a multi-tasker. I use mine to grate cheese, citrus zest, ginger, garlic, onions, shallots, nutmeg and chocolate. Be sure to wash it well and only run your sponge with the grain of the holes, otherwise it will grate your sponge.
5. Emily Henry casserole dish. Once again, the Emily Henry casserole dish does all of the same amazing things as the mixing bowls. The casserole dish can be used for lemon bars, brownies, roasted vegetables, lasagna, casseroles, enchiladas, spanakopita, baked mac and cheese...I mean, the list goes on and on.
6. Bamboo cutting board. Everyone needs a big, heavy cutting board. My heart drops every time I see the small, lightweight plastic cutting boards at Target. Seriously, those things are a safety hazard, big time. I don't care if they have plastic grips on the bottom or whatever, they just don't cut it (pun intended). Space and sturdiness are absolute requirements for cutting safely. Here is how to clean and preserve a bamboo cutting board.
7. Pyrex two cup liquid measuring cup. I'm sure you know by now, but it's very important to measure dry ingredients in dry measuring cups and wet ingredients in wet measuring cups. I like a good 'ol Pyrex, nothing fancy. To learn more about the difference between wet and dry measurements, see #19, Ratio.
8. Lodge cast iron skillet. I own this pre-seasoned skillet and one small non-stick pan. And that's it. Mine is a 12", but they size you choose to buy will depend on your lifestyle. Cooking with a cast iron skillet is a labor of love; it is completely imperative that you care for it properly in a timely manor. I season mine the super old-fashioned way- with bacon grease. You can bake a pie, a cake, a tart tatin, a clafoutis or a fritatta right in your cast iron skillet. One of my very favorite things to make right now is deep dish pizza baked in a cast iron skillet. Of course you can use it for eggs, vegetables and meat too.
9. Le Creuset 2 and 2/4 quart French oven. Ideal for heating up soup, making sauce, cooking rice or other grains and boiling vegetables. Great for cooking pasta for one; use the 7.25 quart if making pasta for a crowd.
10. Le Creuset 7 and 1/4 quart French oven. I use this thing non-stop because I love soup so freaking much. An employee of mine once asked if someone gave me five million dollars, would I stop eating soup? NO, I replied in a moments time. Several days later, he suffered an injury that made him delirious. "What do you daydream about?"another co-worked asked him. "I bet Hannah daydreams about swimming in a giant vat of soup, and with each stroke it turns into a different kind," he replied.
11. William Sonoma silicone spatula. What I like about this little guy is that the head comes off so that you can get every little nook and cranny clean. The shape is curved enough that it scrapes down the side of a bowl beautifully, but flat enough that I can use it to flip pieces of chicken or pick up hot cookies. Silicon, as opposed to rubber, is highly heat resistant.
12. William Sonoma maple wood spoon. Wooden spoons have to be one of the oldest and the most useful cooking tools around. They are non-conductive and non-reactive. This means that if you're stirring something like tomato sauce, a wooden spoon with neither heat up and burn your hand, nor will it react with the acid in the sauce. The spoon pictured is particularly useful because you can use the flat edge to scrape up bits at the bottom of your pan without doing any damage. And here's one I bet you didn't know: You can place a wooden spoon across the top of a pot of water to keep it from boiling over.
13. Dry measuring spoons. Even if you're not big into baking, measuring spoons are useful when you're making a dish that calls for something like cayenne pepper or fish sauce- just a tiny bit too much of such a strong ingredient can ruin your entire dish.
14. Dry measuring cups. Dry measuring cups are used for flour, rice, beans, sugar, oats and other grains. Here is how to use them properly with flour.
15. Salt bowl. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your KOSHER SALT out and at your disposal at all times. My salt bowl sits right on my stovetop in the middle of all the eyes. As Tamar Adler says in her book (#20), "All ingredients need salt. The noodle or tender spring pea would be narcissistic to imagine it already contained within its cell walls all the perfection it would ever need."
16. OXO Whisk. You may have noticed that I did not include any electronics on this list. For centuries, people used whisks instead of stand mixers and electric mixers. Putting a little elbow grease into your cooking and baking will make it all the more gratifying.
17. OXO 8" chef knife. Please, for the love of all things delicious, buy a knife sharpener when you purchase a chef knife. Cutting with a lightweight, cheap or dull knife is laborious and dangerous. Trust me, a cut from a dull knife hurts far worse than from a sharp one. A chef knife is all-purpse: with it you can do everything from cut a chicken into eight pieces to chop herbs.
18. OXO 4" paring knife. The paring knife is the chef knife's kid sister. It should be used to do more delicate tasks, like slice strawberries, de-seed chiles and devein shrimp.
19. Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. Ratio is as scientific as I dare get when it comes to cooking. According to Ruhlman, a ratio (bread for example, is five parts flour to three parts water) determines whether as dish is "good" or "bad" and "Only when we know good can we begin to inch up from good to excellent...Technique will ultimately determine the quality of the end result. Ratios are the points from which infinite variations begin." After reading Ratio, you will probably also want to purchase a kitchen scale. I own this one.
20. Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. As the title suggests, this book is beautifully written. It is modeled on M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf. In the introduction, Adler writes, "This is not a cookbook or a memoir or a story about one person or one thing. It is a book about eating affordably, responsibly, and well, and because doing so relies on cooking, it is mostly about that." On the subject of Economy, she says, "Meals' ingredients must be allowed to topple into one another like dominoes. Broccoli stems, their florets perfectly boiled in salty water, must be simmered with olive oil and eaten with shaved Parmesan on toast; their leftover cooking liquid kept for the base for soup, studded with other vegetables, drizzled with good olive oil, with the rind of the Parmesan added for heartiness."