Kitchen tools list, updated

My sister-in-law is getting married later this year. Knowing I’m the primary cook in the family and knowing I’m a little too obsessed with finding the right tool, whether in technology or in the kitchen, she asked me to give her a list of essential kitchen tools for her wedding registry.

I was too happy to oblige, and I thought others might find this list useful as well.

I am no chef, and my skills are rudimentary at best, but I do care a lot about using quality tools that get the job done and are a delight to use.

The list below is made up mostly of tools I own and use, though some just represent categories, and the particular maker is less important. If you’re setting up a kitchen or want to expand your collection of tools, you might find something useful here:

  • Chef’s knife – You don’t need a lot of knives. Most cooks really only use two or three on a daily basis. But the Chef’s knife is the #1 kitchen tool. This Misen knife won’t be available till later this summer, but I’ve preordered one for myself already. It gets rave reviews as having the quality of a $150 knife for less than half that price. A workhorse chef’s knife that I use almost every day is the Victorinox Fibrox. It’s $45 and is very popular in restaurant kitchens. If you want to splurge a bit (and why shouldn’t you on the most important tool in the kitchen?), you can’t go wrong with a Wusthof ($117 German blade) or a Shun ($140 Japanese blade).
  • Paring knife
  • Steak knives – I like that the edge on this one is straight, not serrated. These won’t mangle that gorgeous steak you’ve grilled.
  • Cutting board – Our main cutting board is a work of art (it was a gift) and is so impressively heavy and rugged. It’s as beautiful as it is functional. Oil your wooden cutting boards periodically to keep the wood in great condition. We also have an Oxo cutting board. It’s good to have two or three. I cut meats on the polypropylene boards and everything else on the wooden board. Bamboo boards are a good choice, too.
  • Sharpening steel for knives – Steels don’t actually sharpen knives. They do straighten the edge back into place, though, and keep knives sharp. It’s good to edge your knife before or after every use. You will need to periodically have your knives professionally sharpened.
  • Magnetic strip for knife storage – The best way to store knives is on a magnetic strip mounted to the kitchen wall. It’s best not to keep knives in a drawer. And a block takes up counter space.
  • Cast iron skillet – Lodge is the most common brand you’ll find. But I’m excited about this Kickstarter project, the Field Skillet, which promises a lighter, smoother cast iron skillet. Pre-ordered.
  • Enameled cast iron skillet – Comes in a lot of colors and is my go-to for so many tasks—sautéing, chicken parmesan, frittatas, pancakes…
  • Oxo tongs – I use these often, and in all three sizes.
  • Microplane graters – The fine and coarse graters get used almost every day in our house. (Pre-grated cheese is wrong in many ways. More expensive, coated in starch to keep it from sticking, less fresh, and less delicious. We keep a block of parmigiano-reggiano and use it regularly. My 11-year-old loves it and is sadly disappointed whenever she encounters what passes for parmesan in other kitchens.)
  • Salad spinner
  • Turner and spatula
  • Grill spatula
  • Weber grill – We have a gas grill, too, but I use this classic Weber charcoal grill more often.
  • Weber chimney starter – Lighter fluid is not necessary, nor is pre-soaked charcoal.
  • Coffee grinder – Coffee people only use whole beans, freshly ground, of course. This is the grinder we have, but the Baratza has a bit more acclaim.
  • Garlic press – Unitaskers are not ideal, but this garlic press is a beast and one of my favorite tools.
  • Whisks – You’ll want a small and a large whisk.
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Oxo measuring cup set – Love these. I remember my mom first seeing one of these in my house years ago and being so delighted by the clever design. I gave her mine on the spot.
  • Half sheet pans – We have at least four of these. So useful, for food prep as well as baking and roasting.
  • Thermometer – This is THE thermometer to get if you’re willing to splurge. One of my most relied on gadgets, especially for grilling. $100
  • Dish towels – We use these lint-free surgical towels in the kitchen. Lots of color options.
  • Pepper mill – Never use pre-ground pepper when you can get 100 times more flavor by grinding it fresh.
  • Pizza stone – We use this for homemade pizza, and my wife also uses it for some of her cookies.
  • Simple Human open kitchen trash can – One of my favorite purchases in the past year. Who knew a trash can could be so delightful? It looks terrific, and the fact that it doesn’t have a lid turns out to be crucially awesome. Lids add a layer of friction to throwing something away, and lids get dirty.

 

Meathead’s new BBQ book

I have been a big fan of Meathead Goldwyn’s web site, AmazingRibs.com. It is my go-to source for grilling technique and recipes. 

Meathead is actually something of a science egghead. He meticulously probes cooking methods and recipes to debunk myths and come up with the best possible results.

Now, he’s published a book filled with what he’s learned about grilling and smoking. I ordered it this week to give as a birthday gift, and I’ve spent the morning looking through it.

It’s a beautiful book with a hard cover and strong design elements throughout. A web site can be infinitely resourceful, but some information benefits from being in the form of an actual book. This is one worth putting your hands on. 

The book is filled with Meathead’s BBQ fundamentals, techniques, and equipment recommendations along with a solid assortment of recipes. He begins at the basics and takes you through the key information in a thoughtful, logical way. 

If you’re a novice, this book is the best starting point possible. If you’re an experienced grill master, you still will learn and be inspired.

Highly recommend. 

My favorite chocolate: Green & Black’s 85

 
A couple of squares of this rich dark chocolate make for a reasonable, but moderately indulgent post-dinner treat. 

A little taste of this satisfies my sweet tooth and makes me less inclined to indulge in high-sugar treats after dinner. 

This chocolate is so dark that the sugar content is minimal. (And, of course, sugar is poison. Tasty, tasty poison.)

Chocolate this dark is a bit of an acquired taste. It demands mindfulness as you taste it. 

You don’t chew this chocolate. You let it melt in your mouth. 

Respect the chocolate.

Enjoy better chocolate. 

Choose high quality over high quantity.  

Michael Pollan and Netflix aim to inspire you to cook more often

Netflix recently released their newest documentary, Cooked. It’s a gorgeously filmed exploration of the impact cooking had on making us human and the perils of abandoning cooking and relying mostly on the packaged food-like substance industry.

The documentary is based on Pollan’s book of the same name.

The film is a delight to the eyes. Gorgeous scenery from around the world provides the backdrop for a clear and compelling case to get back to our primal connection with the food we eat.

As the primary cook for my family I’m in the kitchen almost every day. And it’s a pleasure. It’s one of the few tasks I do every day that is tangible and satisfying in the most visceral way. I make something real that I can smell and taste. And this daily act fuels, and hopefully delights, the people I love most.

I recommend that as often as you can, you should cook your own food.

Watching this new film will inspire you to appreciate your relationship with food and how you prepare it.

“Cooking is probably the most important thing you can do to improve your diet. What matters most is not any particular nutrient, or even any particular food: it’s the act of cooking itself. People who cook eat a healthier diet without giving it a thought. It’s the collapse of home cooking that led directly to the obesity epidemic.” –Michael Pollan

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Thermapen deal, 48 hours only

The newest version of one of my favorite kitchen tools, the Thermapen digital thermometer, is on sale until 11:59 on December 9. (Thanks, Alton Brown!)

It’s still expensive, but it’s so worth it if you cook regularly. To heck with guessing whether the meat is done. I don’t have much confidence in people who gauge doneness by the way the meat feels when poked or pressed. With this thermometer, you can know if it’s done. 

For the cook or grill master in your life, this would make a great gift. 

  

Whole milk makes a comeback

I don’t drink milk very often. I don’t eat cereal. Occasionally I’ll have a glass with a warm cookie fresh out of the oven–a nostalgic pleasure from childhood.

But my daughters drink milk, and we’ve always given them whole milk. It just seems right. The less processed, the better, right? And we spring not just for organic milk, we buy a brand produced by pastured cows, cows that eat grass, not grains.

I don’t recall seeing whole milk in other people’s refrigerators when we visit family or friends. It’s almost as if whole milk is considered dangerous.

So, I was heartened recently to see this article: The case for drinking whole milk.

From the article:

In 2013, the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care published findings from a study that tracked the impact of dairy fat intake on 1,782 men. Twelve years after researchers took the initial measurements, they found that consumption of butter, high-fat milk, and cream several times a week were related to lower levels of central obesity, while “a low intake of dairy fat… was associated with a higher risk of developing central obesity.” (Central obesity means a waist-to-hip ratio equal to or greater than one—i.e. big in the middle.)

Still skeptical? Shortly after that study came out, the European Journal of Nutrition published a meta-analysis of 16 studies on the relationship between dairy fat, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease. (A meta-analysis combines findings from multiple, independent studies, and when done correctly, provides better coverage of a question than any single study usually can.) Its findings will be revelatory for anyone who drinks skim for weight control:

The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk.

This continues the recent surge of research showing that we’ve been wrong all along about fat, especially saturated fat. Our culture saw a sharp rise in obesity rates after fat was demonized and after we were told to fill the base of our food pyramid with grains.

The low fat push ended up making us fat.

I’m not saying “milk does a body good”. (Humans consuming the milk of cows sparks a whole other set of questions.) But fat, even saturated fat, may not be the culprit we’ve been led to believe.

Sugar, however, is poison. Tasty, tasty poison…

Reverse sear

  
The reverse sear is my preferred steak grilling method. 

Ideally, salt the steaks and let them chill in the refrigerator for a day or more. I then put them in the freezer for fifteen minutes before grilling to keep the inside of the meat from cooking too quickly.  

Build a two-zone charcoal fire and put the cold steaks on the cooler side of the grill away from the coals. Open all the grill vents and leave the lid slightly ajar. 

Flip the steaks after a few minutes and check the temperature with a meat thermometer

When the internal temperature reaches about 100 degrees move the steaks to the hot side and sear them for a few minutes on each side, flipping often to get a uniform sear. 

I cook mine to 125-130 and add a dollop of grass-fed butter before serving. 

My favorite online resource for grilling is AmazingRibs.com