I Worked at Food Network for a Year — Here’s What I Bought and What I Ditched After My Time There
I took a contractor position doing the social media for Food Network in February 2020. Then the pandemic hit. And I think you can guess where this is going: I spent several hours a day watching cooking videos, looking for interesting tips and tidbits to pull for social, and, when the workday was over, I had nothing better to do than to try the recipes out for myself. I learned how to perfectly dice an onion, poach an egg, get a great sear on a piece of meat, and use recipes as guides rather than unchangeable gospel.
The more time I spent listening to chefs and cooking for myself, the more I realized I needed to update some of my cookware, much of which was hand-me-downs or cheap products I’d bought after college. Here is what I decided to part with in my kitchen and what I’m using instead.
Ditched: Flimsy, Warped, Wooden Cutting Boards
Prep work is the basis of good cooking. If your chopping and prep experience is a bad one, you’re not doing yourself any favors. I previously used a thin, wooden board with a plastic coating around the edges. I wasn’t putting it in the dishwasher (I don’t have one), and I was setting it out to dry thoroughly after a simple wash. But the board still became warped over time, making it tough to chop without it wobbling all over the place. I didn’t actually get rid of the board — now I only use it to chop things that will likely stain my other one, such as beets or strawberries.
Bought: Boos Edge-Grain Rectangular Cutting Board
Boos Boards have a fair amount of hype surrounding them and are quite pricey, so I get it if you just rolled your eyes. But in my opinion, you do get what you pay for here. The board is high quality and doesn’t crack, warp, or excessively dull your knives. I love the large surface area it provides, so I can chop ingredients in different quadrants of the board and have everything ready to go. Food Network chefs rarely mention brand names, but you can see nearly every chef using a Boos Board when cooking from their home kitchens.
Ditched: Old Nonstick Pans with Worn Coating
My go-to pans all used to be nonstick; it’s what I grew up using. But I am here to make the bold claim that you probably don’t need a nonstick pan at all, and Chef Michael Symon tends to agree. Nonstick pans are typically not meant to be heated to a high temperature, otherwise the nonstick coating will start to degrade. This is why they typically need to be replaced every few years. Many nonstick pans are also not oven-safe, which limits the types of things you can cook in them. Because my kitchen is small (NYC-life), I have opted to store only a few super-versatile pans. Which brings me to …
Bought: A Cast Iron Skillet
A good cast iron is a heavy-hitter in more ways than one. I actually already had one at home, but I rarely used it because I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a hand-me-down from a friend’s mom, so I knew it was already going to be well-seasoned. After watching so many chefs use them, I came to understand that a preheated pan + oil + more time = a pan to which your food will not stick! I have to give bonus points for the versatility of the pan, too. I have made chicken, steaks, salmon, eggs, pizza, a giant cookie and even pancakes in this baby. If you’re concerned about upkeep, check out Kitchn’s Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Cast Iron Care.
Ditched: Plastic Cooking Utensils
Another set of items I didn’t entirely ditch, but repurposed, are the plastic cooking utensils that came in some weird starter kitchenware set. Instead of using them for cooking, I now use them only as serving utensils. (Because some of them have seriously started to melt!) In addition to the melting risk, they were never sturdy enough for my liking. Try flipping a hefty burger with a wimpy plastic spatula: It’s a struggle.
Bought: Sturdy Silicone Utensils
If you don’t know the magic of GIR yet, let me tell you. GIR stands for “Get It Right” and it’s more than just a clever name. These silicone tools are sturdy; come in a variety of sizes, colors, and options; and they’re incredibly easy to clean.
Bought: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Frying Pan
This isn’t much of a one-to-one tool swap, but I needed another pan to replace one of the larger nonstick ones that I’d tossed. A 5.5-quart stainless steel pan was the solution. It has a large surface area, so I can pan-fry several chicken thighs without overcrowding the pan. It is also oven-safe, so I can start things on the stovetop and then transfer into the oven without having to switch pans. It is also the best for one-pot meals, such as stir-fry or pasta.
Ditched: A Smoothie Blender That Didn’t Actually Blend Well
Homemade sauces and dips were sorely lacking in my kitchen. I made them only a handful of times in the blender I had at the time — an inexpensive smoothie-and-sports bottle version. Getting the sauces out of the bottle was a huge pain, and the machine clearly wasn’t meant to handle heartier ingredients. I switched to a different two-in-one option (again, those who live in small kitchens must choose their appliances wisely).
Bought: 2-in-1 Blender and Food Processor
The immersion blender and food processor combo that I purchased was still fairly inexpensive, but man does it get the job done. I’ve used the food processor countless times to make hummus, guacamole, salsa, aiolis for sandwiches, and more. I have also used it to chop veggies when I am simply not in the mood. The immersion blender brought homemade soups into my life, which was a lifesaver this past winter. I was finally able to make the warm potato and tomato soups I craved. If you don’t have a blender of any kind at home, I highly recommend this kind.
Have you made any gear upgrades lately? Tell us about them in the comments below!