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For me, half the battle with cooking is having the right tools to get the job done. My knives aren’t very sharp, and my non-stick pans are starting to chip (Did you know they could chip?). I enjoy cooking, but doing it with less than ideal equipment can be a pain.
I spoke with culinary experts from across the country to find the must-have kitchen items these chefs swear by to find out why they’re necessary in your kitchen.
After a long day, cooking can feel like a chore. Take the pressure off your shoulders with a pressure cooker!
Chef Dominic Valenzuela, of Cloak & Petal, a San Diego hot spot that serves up innovative Japanese dishes says a pressure cooker is one of his must-have kitchen essentials. “I’m able to get the same tenderness and flavors of cooking something all day long in a matter of minutes,” Valenzuela says about his pressure cooker.
Instant Pots are arguably one of the most popular pressure cookers right now. There are countless recipe books made specifically for these pressure cookers and are pretty readily available at box stores and online. You can buy an eight quart instant pot from Amazon for $159.95.
Every chef (and home cook) needs a good chef knife. “It is the one knife that you can use for all of your cutting needs anytime you’re cooking,” according to Deborah Hunter of Cooking with Honey and Friends.
It’s more than just convenience, says Claudia Sidoti, Head Chef at HelloFresh, “Less accidents happen when you’re cutting and prepping vegetables or proteins with a good-quality, sharp knife. Additionally, you want to have the right knife for different kinds of prep. You don’t want to try to chop a bunch of veggies with a paring knife or use a serrated knife when prepping items like steak, chicken or fish. Get a good set, care for them and make sure you sharpen them regularly. They should last you a long time.”
Most home cooks could use a simple, three piece set that includes a chef knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. This starter set from Zwilling J.A. Henckels is just $150 and can get you well on your way to proper knife skills. But don’t forget to pick up a good knife sharpener as well.
If you’re going to have good knives, you’re going to need something to use them on. No one wants knife cuts on their counter. Sidoti suggests the John Boos cutting board and a few plastic ones for meat and fish.
“Having a good, solid wood cutting board gives your kitchen a chef-like feel. It’s also handy to have on the counter at all times so you can prep fruits and veggies quickly. However, when handling meat or fish, I like using the flexible plastic type. You can carry them to the sink for easy cleanup and reduce the risk of cross-contamination,” she says.
A reversible, maple John Boos cutting board is $100 on Amazon.
Cast Iron Skillet
Ahh, the cast iron skillet. The heavy duty, nearly indestructible pan that every home cook needs – at least according to Hunter.
“The cast iron skillet is the crowning jewel of my kitchen,” she says, “Being a southern girl, this is definitely a must-have. With over 2,000 years of history, it’s the perfect kitchen tool.”
Cast iron skillets are great for frying, blackening and even roasting! Its uses are almost limitless. Williams Sonoma offers a 13-inch cast iron fry pan for $51.16
While these are great investment pieces, they do require special care. Instead of washing this pan in the dishwasher or with traditional dish soap, you’ll want to clean the skillet with hot water and a sponge immediately. Don’t soak it though, too much water can cause cast iron to rust. For tough, stuck on pieces, you can scrub the pan with salt and warm water.
Next, dry your skillet and rub it with a thin coat of vegetable oil. Coating the skillet in oil keeps the pan seasoned and helps food not stick to it.
For an on-the-go home cook, a good quality blender will be a game changer.
“This small appliance comes in handy for everything from smoothies and pureeing soups and sauces to making pesto and salsas,” according to Sidoti.
For a double-duty essential that can quickly whip up a morning smoothie or a sauce for your dinner, try the Vitamix Explorian Series blender, only $220 on Amazon.
Stand mixers might be the best thing to happen in a kitchen since sliced bread – literally. They are huge time savers, plus they look cute on your counter. It’s a win-win.
Phyllis Maierle, owner and baker at Rolling in Dough Cookies, says. “As a home baker, I use my stand mixer often. Like two – three times per week minimum, sometimes for hours at a time depending on mixing the dough.”
She recently bought a new stand mixer for capacity purposes, but still has (and uses) the one her family has had for more than 12 years. She uses it for more than cookies too! The baker says it helps her whip up mashed potatoes in no time.
“Especially as someone with arthritis, it takes the load off of my wrists allowing me to get more done in a shorter amount of time and allowing me to multitask,” adds Mairele.
Although it’s an investment piece, the baker recommends opting for a KitchenAid stand mixer if your money and counter space allow for it. A KitchenAid stand mixer will cost you roughly $250 – $300 and comes in a wide array of colors to match your kitchen.
“The one kitchen item I can’t live without is a top-notch rice cooker,” says Katie Moseman, author of Fixin’ to Eat: Southern Cooking for the Southern at Heart, “I couldn’t live without my Zojirushi rice cooker to turn out perfectly cooked rice for curries, sushi, jambalaya and rice puddings.”
She adds that once you start using a rice cooker, you’ll wonder how you got along without one!
The Zojirushi rice cooker Moseman mentioned is $45 at Macy’s.
If you’re how much use you’d get out of a rice cooker, you might be surprised to know that not only does it cook rice, it can also cook other grains like quinoa, polenta, barley and oats.
Last but not least on our list of the ultimate kitchen must-haves, is a Dutch oven.
“I’m addicted to my Dutch oven,” says Sidoti, “I use it for everything from boiling water for pasta, to making soups, stews and slow oven braises. It’s also great for deep frying too!”
Dutch ovens are great because they can go from stove top to oven easily and a good quality one can last a lifetime. If you’re in the market for a solid investment piece, look for an enameled, cast-iron Dutch oven like the ones from Le Creuset. They are an investment at $200 each, but they’re worth it for their versatility and long lifespan.
Did you see your kitchen essentials on the list? If not, tell us what they are and why you love them in the comment section.
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