There’s no doubt that having the right tools for the job makes any task easier, and there’s no better place to illustrate this than in the kitchen, where having the right cooking utensils can be the difference between creating good meals and great meals.
Many cooks think about major appliances such as the stove and refrigerator when planning to equip their kitchens, but to be a success in the kitchen, you need to have a good selection of cooking utensils in addition to the bigger items. And don’t forget…cooking utensils means more than just spoons; there’s a host of small cooking utensils ranging from cutting devices, juicers, graters and more, that belong in your culinary “toolbox”.
Note: the links provided below are examples of the brands/models that we’ve tested, like, and use ourselves. There are many options for each, and most should be available at your local kitchen supply store.
Making a List
When thinking about outfitting (or re-outfitting) your cook space, think about what you do in a kitchen and about how different cooking utensils come into play for each task:
• Washing and drying fresh produce – always easy to accomplish with a strainer and salad spinner. The salad-spinner has gotten a bad rap from comedians over the years, but I can tell you from personal experience…if you don’t like a soggy salad, they’re a hard-to-beat tool to have around! A good vegetable peeler, with an ergonomic handle (this is the one I use) is also an important addition to your cooking utensils closet.
• Slicing, chopping and dicing all kinds of food and garnishes – a food processor is nice to have (I have one), and makes short work of vegetables, but mandolins, knives and graters are more versatile, and don’t require electricity. Very helpful cooking utensils to have on hand.
Baking, on the other hand, is as much science as art, and recipes should be followed as precisely as possible so measuring dishes, cups (both wet and dry measures) and measuring spoons are invaluable cooking utensils.
• Weighing – depending on what you like to cook, you may want to add a food scale to your shopping list of cooking utensils. Such a tool can be excellent for portioning meat and other products that have cooking times affected by weight.
Small digital scales are easy to use, don’t take much space, and can be found fairly inexpensively at just about any grocery store these days.
• Temperature – as important as measures are temperatures, which can affect the success of your kitchen endeavors. An oven or meat thermometer is key to having properly cooked meat that is safe to eat, and should be included in your pantry of cooking utensils.
• Mixing – no kitchen would be complete without a cadre of mixing bowls in its cooking utensils cupboard. Having a selection of bowls in assorted sizes is essential to fast, efficient cooking.
• Manipulating, poking, prodding, lifting and stirring – perhaps what most often comes to mind when you think of cooking utensils are implements used to move food: spoons, forks, knives, spatulas, wire whisks, pastry blenders, tongs, salad lifters, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, serving spoons and more.
So, do you really need ALL of this stuff?
Probably not, few do. But by visualizing the tasks you do every day in the kitchen, you’ll get a better idea of the cooking utensils you should consider keeping on hand.
Think about every stage of the food preparation process, from storage and cleaning, to prep, cooking and presenting.
Other cooking utensils you may or may not need: pastry brush, kitchen shears, rolling pin, salt shaker, pepper mill, cutting board, ramekins, flour sifter, rotary beater, ladles, juicer and a can opener.
Anything I missed that you can’t live without in your kitchen?
Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids, in our MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.