A while back, I wrote about the things that I found essential to a starter kitchen here. Those items got me through many years of basic cooking. However, as my skills (and tastebuds) refined, I began to attempt more complicated methods and recipes. Naturally, I found that I needed additional equipment. Below is a list of equipment that I find particularly useful in a kitchen, but that are by no means necessary.
As a French major, I took a class on Louisiana and got the wild idea that I should try to make a big ‘ole pot of gumbo. That was the first time I realized that a boiler was useful. It is much larger than a saucepan and is also useful for chili, large quantities of pasta, or just about every Cajun/Creole dish you can cook. (See where my tastebuds lie?) If you like soups, stews, or large quantities of pasta, I highly recommend a decent boiler.
The blender and the food processor share many similar functionalities mainly the blending and mixing of food. For most people, they can be used interchangeably. However, you should know that the blender is for mixing soft foods or liquids, so if you want to make smoothies, icy beverages, and even blend soups like black bean soup, then a blender is for you. However, if you want to chop vegetables or blend beans for hummus, then you should go with a food processor.
For me, a coffee maker is a necessity, but for others the addiction isn’t strong. Even if you don’t drink coffee, it is nice to have a coffee maker if you entertain or have parents that enjoy a cup of coffee. A small 5 cup maker is 20 dollars or under, so it’s not a huge investment. You don’t even need to keep coffee filters. I have successfully used a double thickness of paper towels in a pinch.
Toaster/ Toaster Oven
Some people may consider a toaster a necessity, but since you can toast in the oven, I consider this a nice to have item. I own an awesome toaster/toaster oven combo that lets me toast both sides of my bread before melting cheese on top. Genius!
At some point in my culinary journey, I was introduced to Anthony Bourdain—chef, writer, tv host. Ever since I read his first book Kitchen Confidential, I was in love. He also convinced me to learn how to use a chef’s knife with one simple statement, “Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chef’s knife, as large as will fit in your hands” (76). He was right. Once I learned how the knife felt and worked in my hands, I only ever use my chef’s knife and occasionally my pairing knife for EVERYTHING!
I swear by a cutting board that is dishwasher safe. I really don’t think it matters what material it is made of, even though there are many people that will tell you otherwise. The only thing I recommend for cutting boards is that you keep one for cutting raw meat and another for everything else to cut down on cross-contamination.
Wanna make the fluffiest omelette or scrambled eggs in town? Get a whisk! They are useful for mixing cake batter, brownie mix, jello, etc., but I like to use mine to make eggs that rock!
You can use a whisk to mix most anything, but when you are beating the lumps out of a cake batter, a hand mixer saves your arms and shoulders a lot of trouble. Hand mixers are also great for making fluffy mashed potatoes.
If you are a regular tea drinker (hot or iced), a tea kettle really makes things easier when pouring boiling water into a pitcher or cup. You can purchase one of the fancy electric models, but the old fashioned stove top models have always served me well.
Are you a wine drinker? Do you have guests who like to drink wine? You should probably have one of these.
Yes, you could drink wine out of the gameday cup collection in your cabinet, but if you are stocking your kitchen with non-necessities, why not go ahead and get something a little classy? A set of four wine glasses are very inexpensive. If you are worried about breaking the stems then there are stemless models available.
Every cook is going to have differing opinions on what constitutes the basic spices one should have besides salt and pepper. I have found one website that lists a good list of basic spices here and another that lists spices that are necessary to cooking different ethnic cuisines here. If it were me, I couldn’t live without my sea salt, black peppercorns, oregano, basil, cumin, bay leaves, and paprika.
Electric Skillet-“Controversial” amongst the bloggers
I say controversial amongst the bloggers because Kate uses hers to cook the pre-made pasta dishes that are perfect for a quick meal. In using the electric skillet, she eliminates the need for using the stove. I however use a skillet or wok for anything I would fry. As with all cooking, it is up to the preferences of the chef!
As many of us are very busy and don’t have time to cook when we arrive home, a crockpot becomes a great way to start something in the morning before we leave and then cook it all day long until we are home. There are tons of crock pot cookbooks on the web, in the bookstore, or in your mother’s head. The smaller models are useful for keeping Velveeta cheese dip or little cocktail wienies hot during a party.
I have used paper clips and rubber bands in the past, but a good couple of bag clips seems to keep my chips and pretzels that much fresher. If you have a tendency to lose small items, there are clips that have magnets on the back and can live on the fridge when you’re not using them. Just one caveat, I have gone to get one of my fridge magnet clips, only to discover that they were being used to hang something important on my fridge!
A knife will cut a pizza, but a pizza cutter just does it better.
Hope that inspires you to expand on your kitchen and your culinary repertoire!
À la prochain,