One of my favorite little kitchen rituals revolves around a small tray that sits next to the stove. Once a week it gets wiped down and all of its contents — salts, oil, and a small bottle of vinegar — get refilled. These are the ingredients I reach for regularly, but there are a few other things that I keep next to the stove to ensure weeknight dinners come together quickly and easily without a fuss.
These are the six things every home cook should keep near their stove for better cooking.
Let's get this obvious one out of the way first. You should keep at least two types of salt at the ready next to your stove. One salt that you like for cooking — like kosher or sea salt — and another finer salt for seasoning finished dishes or raw salads — this can be a fine sea salt or a flavored salt.
2. Cooking oil
This is a bit more of a personal choice. Whether you prefer to cook with vegetable oil, coconut oil, or olive oil, you should keep at least one of your favorite oils nearby. Since repeated exposure to heat can damage some oils, move your oil to a small squirt bottle or cruet and keep just what you'll use each week at the ready. Store the rest in the pantry.
3. Baking soda
Since you shouldn't really keep your kitchen fire extinguisher close to the stove — keep it near a kitchen entrance instead — keeping a box or can of baking soda handy can be literally lifesaving if you have a small grease fire start. Dump the whole container onto the fire to snuff it out.
Read more: 10 Stove Safety Tips Every Cook Should Know
4. Pot holders
Whether you call them pot holders or hot pads, or you tend to reach for dry dish towels instead, having something nearby that you can grab to safely maneuver hot pans is almost as important as having salt at the ready.
Read more: What's Your Potholder (aka Hot Pad) Style?
And where are you planning to set the hot pan once you get it off the stovetop? A trivet, that's where! Since most trivets are low profile, there is no reason you can't stash one in the drawer next to the stove or do what my mom always did and hang one just to the side of the stove to do double duty as wall decor while it waits to hold hot pans.
How many times has the chicken looked and smelled done while you scramble for the probe thermometer in a drawer on the other side of the kitchen? Too many times. Yes, you should keep other cooking utensils handy, from tongs to wooden spoons, but keeping a thermometer nearby means you can reach for it without the hassle of the hunt.
What essentials do you keep near the stove for easier cooking?