10 Essential Cooking Utensils Every Kitchen Should Have
Who hasn’t been to a specialty cooking store and stood in front of the utensils wondering exactly what it is they must have in their own kitchen? It's easy to get sucked into purchasing the shiny, cool-looking, expensive gadget that then sits in your kitchen drawer taking up space and is only used once every two years, if ever! I speak from experience, because my wife has lots of these. I am going to tell you exactly what tools you need to get almost any cooking job done.
The 10 essential cooking utensils every kitchen should have:
There are really only two knives that you need to have. One is the chef’s knife. This is the large one that tackles all the big jobs, like chopping vegetables and fruits or cutting large pieces of meat or fish. This is a very versatile knife. Find one that you are comfortable with and one that fits well in your hand. The second is the paring knife. This is the small one that you need for more delicate, close jobs like de-boning chicken pieces or removing seeds from an apple. The most important thing is to take good care of your knives and keep them well sharpened. A sharp knife is much less dangerous than a dull knife because there is less chance that the knife will slip and cut you.
2. Cutting Boards
The cutting board is the knife’s best friend. I like both wood and plastic. However, the wood takes a little more effort to keep it disinfected and in good condition. The plastic board can be put in the dishwasher and sterilized so there is no danger of leftover bacteria. I like to keep two cutting boards, one for veggies and fruits and one dedicated entirely to raw meat products. You can get boards in different colors to help with this, like a red one for meat and a green one for veggies. Remember, no meal is good if someone gets sick from cross contamination!
3. Vegetable Peeler
Yes, you can peel fruits and vegetables with your knives, but it takes much longer and you have to be pretty skilled to peel with a knife if you want to minimize your waste. A peeler is a great little tool and doesn’t take up too much space in the kitchen.
4. Large Spoons
These are indispensable. There are many different types that you can buy, but I think the most invaluable are wooden spoons which can be used for pretty much everything and are easy on any non-stick surfaces. You should also consider a slotted spoon for scooping out things that need to be strained and a good stainless steel spoon for heavier scooping jobs.
Silicone spatulas can perform a variety of tasks and are safe for all non-stick surfaces. You can spread, scrape and sometimes even spoon with them, depending on the shape. I recommend two large, two small, and two that are spoon-shaped. Choose ones that are heat resistant so they can withstand high temps. You don’t want them melting in your dish!
Tongs can be utilized for many different jobs. I prefer using tongs instead of forks when turning meat. When you turn meat with a fork you have to poke it and it releases the juices, but with tongs, that doesn’t happen. They can also be used for tossing salad, serving, and pulling hot things out of the oven. Get the good stainless steel ones with the lock, which makes them easier to store. Also, a pair of tongs with silicone on the ends is necessary when using non-stick surfaces. Do not get the flimsy aluminum ones. They will bend and could cause you to drop whatever it is you are trying to lift.
A whisk is great when you have to mix smaller jobs and don’t want to break out the electric mixer. There are lots of shapes and sizes, but lets face it, you don’t really need that many whisks. I think one sturdy small whisk and one large one will do the trick. The only other style you might want to consider is a plastic one if you have non-stick pans and want to emulsify a sauce while it is cooking in the pan.
You might not think about a sieve until you need one. They are indispensable when you need to strain veggies, drain the water off from pasta, or rinse off fruits and veggies in the sink. I like to have a smaller hand-held sieve and a good large one that you can expand over the sink.
9. Measuring Cups
If you are using a recipe, you need measuring cups - especially when baking. A set of stainless steel measuring cups for dry ingredients and a good glass set for liquids is really all you need. Make sure the glass on is at least 2 cups.
Last item on my list is a thermometer. No one wants to be the one who cooked the turkey at Thanksgiving and then cuts into it and finds that it’s still raw in the middle. Take the guess work out of the equation and get a thermometer. You can find one for practically any budget from the low-tech old fashioned types to the fancier digital ones with timers and other bells and whistles. There is no reason to be without one.
So that’s it - the ten essential utensils a well stocked kitchen should absolutely have. Of course, there are lots of other fun little toys that you can get, but I refer to those as gadgets and will go over them in a future blog.
Alex Kinzler has been a professional chef for over 20 years. Although he is a classically trained French chef, he is passionate about foods from around the world. He lives in sunny California with his wife and four kids.