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Published on September 9th, 2008 | by Kelli Best-Oliver

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Five Essential Kitchen Tools (And Four Extremely Handy Others)

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Buying what you need for a kitchen can be daunting.  Visit any kitchen or discount store and you’ll see gizmos and gadgets galore, many of which look like medieval torture devices.  Some of them are lifesavers–others, things that will probably just take up space in a drawer somewhere.  The good news is, you don’t need a ton of expensive tools to get the job done.  I’ve got five essential kitchen tools that will get you on track to cook a plethora of dishes, without cluttering your kitchen, and, if you’ve got the bucks, four others that are immensely useful.  Check them out, after the jump…

  1. High-quality chef’s knife. You must, must, must have a good knife that you can use on virtually anything.  It should have a trusty blade with a sharp edge, and the knife should feel good in your hand-heavy with a grip that fits your hand.  You can spend top dollar on a Shun or a Wustoff, but Cook’s Illustrated ranked the around $25 Victorinox Fibrox 8″ chef’s knife the best blade for your buck.
  2. Wire whisk.  Whisks are great for so many homemade classics: gravy, sauces, soups, and dressings, as well as cake batters, scrambled eggs, and omelets.  I use a 12″ egg whisk like this.
  3. Microplane.  The microplane is one of my favorite tools because it’s so darn easy and fun.  I use it mostly for grating hard cheeses over soups and pastas, but it’s also handy for grating fresh spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, and is a dream come true when zesting citrus fruits.  I bought a this one after a cheaper one broke on me.
  4. Cast Iron Skillet.  I’ll admit, this one terrified me, and it took me a while to buck up and commit.  So heavy.  So hard-to-clean.  Actually, so awesome.  Cast iron conducts heat like nobody’s business, creates awesome fond (the basis of great sauces and flavors), and is actually really easy to take care of once you season it (which is quite easy).  Watch the sales–I picked up a great one at Kohl’s for less than $20.
  5. Tongs.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get tongs that don’t use spring tension.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  For some reason, I picked up a set of tons without a spring.  They’re totally worthless to me, and I never use them.  Spring-loaded?  I used them all the time for flipping things, picking things out of pans, basically transferring anything hot from one place to another.  Bonus: you can pinch people with them.  Hard.

And those second four if you’ve got the cash?

  1. Spend $10 on a razor-sharp paring knife.  I love the Kuhn Rikon paring knife because it’s insanely sharp and in super-cute colors.  Of course I have a green one, and I use it for everything.
  2. Silicone spoonula.  These are great for getting the last bit of food out of jars and stirring just about anything you’re whipping up on a stove.
  3. Mini food-processor.  Big ones can be pricy, but I’ve gotten along with a four-cup Cusinart Mini-Prep ($50)that does dirty work for such a little machine.  I use it for grinding up nuts, pesto, salsa–anything that needs a quick, thorough chop or mince.  Huge time-saver when you’ve got a lot of chopping to do.
  4. Angled measuring cupA standard measuring cup, but with an angled edge on the inside that allows you to see what you’re measuring by looking down at the cup, instead of having to stoop down to check the side.  They’re inexpensive, too–less than $10.

The great thing about almost all of these products?  Take care of them, and they’ll last a lifetime.

Readers: what are you must-have kitchen tools for eating and drinking better?



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About the Author

A former high school teacher, I'm currently a part-time writer/full-time doctoral student at the University of St. Thomas in the Twin Cities, studying leadership in education from a critical pedagogy perspective along with public policy. On the green side, I'm interested in local food and agriculture (Iowa girl, born and raised), sustainability education, DIY projects, and grassroots activism. I'm slowly turning my South City, St Louis home into an urban farmstead. On the hoping-to-be-greener side, I love reading, yoga, soccer, music, backpacking, knitting, pop culture and trivia, my Tuesday Night Dinner Club, traveling, Guitar Hero, dive bars, and sitting on front porches with my husband and a cold beer. I came to Green Options via a post on Sustainablog,working the St Louis angle to get Jeff to let me in. I have a personal blog chronicling (what else?) life in South St. Louis. Follow me on Twitter!



  • http://blog.wexfordjewelers.com Sarah

    I have nearly every item on your list and love them all! I think I’d have to add adjustable measuring spoons as a must-have, at least for me. Since my kids play with my other ones, and i always seem to only have 1/8 tsp and 1/2 tbsp lying around, being able to click from 1/2tsp on up to 1 tbsp, and everything in between, in a single recipe is awesome.
    Next on my list to buy is a SilPat.

  • http://southcityconfidential.com Kelli Best-Oliver

    Silpats are awesome, too. I’d put that up there next. Great for baking, obviously, but also for freezing things for storage–I froze peach chunks on a silpat-lined baking sheet and they popped right off when they were done.

  • http://trueepicure.com Eva

    Ditto on the sharp knife. And I would add that you should purchase the best possible knife that you can. It really makes a different.

  • http://trueepicure.com Eva

    Uh, that would be “difference”. :*

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  • Cj

    I love my ball whisk, i have just found that regular whisks are such a pain to clean (and use on some things) that i end up just using a fork. This (http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=142967) changed all that, its wonderful!

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