What are the essential tools every cook needs in the kitchen? Both new and experienced cooks can benefit from going back to the basics. First up: essential prep tools and utensils.
Note: We've offered a few product recommendations in each category based on personal preferences, experience, and editor and reader reviews. In general, we favor stainless steel and glass over plastic because it's higher quality and infinitely more durable (and we think that balances out the higher cost). Most of these tools can be bought on Amazon, but a terrific and cost-effective resource for basic kitchen tools is a restaurant supply store. Just buy the best quality you can afford! (According to Mark Bittman you can outfit a kitchen well for $200 or really well for $300.)
1. Measuring Spoons: For measuring spices and small quantities. Make sure the spoons are clearly marked so you don't confuse a teaspoon with a tablespoon!
2. Dry Ingredients Measuring Cups: Standard cup sizes for dry measurements include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 cup sizes. Look for measuring cups with long handles and wide, shallow bodies. We prefer stainless steel for its sturdiness and durability.
3. Liquid Ingredients Measuring Cups: Specially calibrated for measuring liquids, which differs from dry ingredients. Make sure there's a spout for pouring, clear measurement markings, and a sturdy handle. We prefer glass since it doesn't scratch.
4. Three Mixing Bowls: Small, medium, and large. A very large one is great for general mixing and baking, while a small-medium size is needed for mixing dry ingredients or beating eggs. We prefer stainless steel, preferably with lids so the bowls can double as food storage.
5. Cutting Boards: Wood is our preferred type, as it's kind to knives and won't dull them as quickly as plastic. Care for it by oiling it regularly with a food-safe oil to protect it from staining and warping, and it'll last you for years.
6. A Chef's Knife and a Paring Knife: a basic Chef's knife is your go-to knife in the kitchen for almost anything, including chopping meat and vegetables. But a paring knife is also essential for smaller, more precise tasks like mincing herbs or garlic.
7. Wooden Spoons: Endlessly useful, long-lasting if you take care of them properly, and versatile. A few sturdy wooden spoons are essential in any kitchen.
8. Vegetable Peeler: this tool will be in heavy rotation if you cook a lot from scratch.
9. Colander or Fine-Mesh Strainer: For rinsing fruits and vegetables, dumping out pasta, and, well, straining things!
10. Ramekins and Small bowls for Mise en Place: when you have everything "set in place" you'll be a better and more efficient cook!
11. Microplane grater: The smaller Microplane graters are so much easier to use than bulky box graters. We recommend them.
12. Can Opener: This is pretty self-explanatory, unless you prefer hacking into your cans with a knife... which we don't recommend.
Readers, do you have anything to add?
* And look for our guides to essential cooking tools, bakeware, and small electrics coming soon!
(Image compilation: Cambria Bold)