It's fun to ogle the latest single-purpose kitchen gadget, whether it scoops out the flesh of an avocado while slicing it or removes all the leaves from a sprig of rosemary. While these tools may seem indispensable at first, they can end up in a dusty back corner of your bric-a-brac drawer. Beyond your pots, pans and bowls, we've assembled a list of true kitchen essentials, the items enable you to do everything those funny bits of plastic can do and more.
Having a good chef’s knife can make all the difference for any cooking project. When you have a sharp, well-made knife on hand, suddenly a mountain of broccoli or a tough celery root seems much more approachable. Knives are definitely worth investing in, and you should shop around before committing. If an expensive knife isn’t in the cards, be sure to keep any kitchen blades sharp for efficient chopping and slicing.
Citrus juice is called for in some of our favorite recipes, like Lemon Bars or Orange Ginger Tofu. It’s wonderful to fresh-squeeze the juice from the fruit you have on hand, but frustrating when you just can’t quite extract all that tart goodness. Enter the reamer. These handy gadgets help you squeeze out every last drop, so that you can make really delicious lemonade—or limeade, or grapefruit juice—with whatever life hands you.
Need grated cheese for pizza? Done. Citrus zest for baking? Check. Your box grater is certainly handy for these common applications, but can do oh so much more. Grate ginger rather than mincing it for use in ginger tea, marinades and baked goods. Same goes for garlic, or even onions, if you want to skip the knife work. Grated beets or carrots make excellent salad toppings, and if you don’t have a food processor on hand, a grater will do just fine to prep kohlrabi for use in these tasty fritters.
Completing a baking project without a way to measure your flour and sugar can be a challenge. We’re not saying you have to go all out and buy a kitchen scale (our style is a bit less fussy), but it’s good to have some measuring cups on hand. For cookies that keep their shape instead of spreading out like oily puddles, or marinades that have the right flavor balance, or quinoa cooked to perfection, turn to your friendly neighborhood measuring cups. We like having nesting sets for scooping, but whatever works for you will do just as well.
Having a good work surface is nice for any project, food-related or otherwise. It helps set the tone and mark out your space. A cutting board can do this in your kitchen, while protecting countertops, facilitating clean-up and providing a vehicle to convey chopped produce to the cook pot. Having more than one can even help enhance the flavor of your food. Avoid garlicky watermelon slices by designating a sweet cutting board for fruit or other flavor-sensitive items. For food safety, consider keeping a separate cutting board for meat as well.
Sometimes you just need to separate things, and not just rowdy kids. Mesh strainers and colanders complete this function in the kitchen. Drain your pasta or beans, filter out seeds and pulp when juicing or strain out the liquid from potatoes in preparation to make delicious Grilled Cheese Latkes with Basil Pesto. A large strainer will satisfy most of your cooking needs, but for a cup of loose leaf tea or a small amount of citrus juice, having a small one handy will keep everything easy peasey.
Rubber spatulas aren't just useful to facilitate licking the cake batter bowl, though that certainly is part of why we like them. Make sure you get every last drop out of your cup, bowl or pot, no matter the cooking project. They are also useful when cooking with a non-stick pan; you don't want to scratch the delicate finished surface with a metal or wooden utensil. We also like having flat spatulas for flipping eggs, roasting veggies, pancakes or burgers. Keep in a jar or container by the stove for easy access.
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What are your must-have kitchen tools? Let us know below!