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Today we’re bringing to you the second installment of the well-stocked kitchen series: cooking essentials. We’ve curated below a list of our top recommendations for cooking workhorses…essential kitchen items like knives, cutting boards, and other items that will help meal prep go smoothly.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the well-stocked kitchen part 1: stovetop essentials.
the well-stocked kitchen
part 2: cooking essentials
good quality knives: most chefs agree that a knife is a very personal thing. You should pick it out in person: feel the weight of it in your hand, slice it through the air, make a connection. But, you know, not all of us have the time or care enough to go on dates with knives. In which case, just opt for a well-reviewed well-crafted set of knives. You may not be picking it out personally, but you still want your knives to stand by you, to come through for you. At Beneath the Crust, we are all big fans of Wusthof. The Gourmet is their more budget-friendly line—but just be aware that this line of knives is stamped, not forged, and only the larger knives in the line have full tangs. The Wusthof Ikon and Classic lines are significant steps up in quality…but they have a price tag to go with it! You may consider opting for a smaller set of the Gourmet (focusing on pairing knifes and steak knives), and then investing in one or two essential knives, like a Chef’s knife and a longer bread knife, from a higher-quality line.
substantial wooden cutting board: the Boos Block is one of the more popular and well-known options, but there are lots of others to choose from. You are looking for a large, thick, substantial, heavy cutting board that isn’t going to slip around on the counter when you’re working with a sharp knife. Consider selecting one with a juice rim, so the board also serves you well when you are slicing up a juicy roast. More often than not, the reverse side is still smooth, so it will work well as a serving board. Don’t forget to maintain your board every month or so with some board cream! (If you don’t maintain wooden boards, you risk them drying out and splitting.)
quick-use cutting board: for quick cutting and prep work, you don’t always want to pull out the big guns (see above). That’s where a versatile lightweight cutting board comes in handy. Epicurean is one of my favorites.
oven mitts: don’t forget these important safety items! Using dish towels, or even hot pads, is really not worth the risk of a bad burn. I like ones with silicone protection, like these. And if you often deal with piping hot cast iron, these heavy duty ones save you from many a bad burn!
digital kitchen scale: a digital kitchen scale is so important! When recipes list weight measurements, not only are they typically more accurate, but they also facilitate easier clean-up—no need to dirty measuring cups and spoons. A digital kitchen scale also helps you portion out foods like meat, whether you’ve purchased a larger cut and want to freeze it in smaller pieces, or you want evenly-sized meatballs and hamburgers. The Ozeri is a highly-reviewed basic model; I prefer ones with raised glass tops, like this Farberware; and options with pull-out displays are helpful when measuring larger items that might cover up the reading.
strainers (colanders): 3-piece stainless steel sets usually store nested inside each other, so there’s no extra space needed and they offer greater flexibility for various-sized projects. They work equally well for rinsing, straining, sifting and steaming. Look for ones with raised bottoms, so you can strain things in the sink without worrying about contamination. Handles can also be handy if straining hot foods, like potatoes or pasta. Something like this. Although they probably can’t be used to steam foods, this option is another great one for offering easy storage and multi-purpose usage.
oven thermometer: many ovens run a little hot or a little cold; that is, their temperature isn’t accurate. Eventually, with a lot of use, most home cooks learn the quirks of their oven and adjust. You can save yourself some time and make the small investment of an oven thermometer, which you can hang from a rack in the oven and it will tell you the exact temperature inside.
instant-read thermometer: the best way to ensure a properly cooked meat or baked loaf of bread is to stick a thermometer inside and take a heat reading. Instant-read thermometers are faster and more accurate. They also work well for making candy.
stay tuned for more posts in the well-stocked kitchen series!