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.

 

The omnivore omelet: Vegetarian chickens and bad eggs

In the egg section of the grocery store you’ll see egg cartons prominently touting that the chickens laying those eggs had “100 percent vegetarian feed”. That should actually be nothing to crow about. (I had to.)

From The Washington Post:

Chickens on an unsupplemented vegetarian diet typically fall short of an essential protein-based amino acid known as methionine, and without it, they fall ill. Worse, the birds will also turn on each other, pecking at each other in search of nutrients, and these incidents can escalate into a henhouse bloodbath, farmers say.

“They’re really like little raptors – they want meat,” said Blake Alexandre, the owner of a 30,000 chicken operation in far northern California that keeps its birds on pasture. “The idea that they ought to be vegetarians is ridiculous.”

Nature should be our default. It’s in the nature of a chicken, thanks to millions of years of evolution, to roam and forage for food and to be an omnivore, to eat bugs and other small critters. When we take a chicken out of nature and force our notion of a healthy chicken diet on it, it seems obvious that things can go awry, for the chicken and for those eating its eggs.

I eat eggs almost every morning —scrambled, usually, occasionally fried or in omelets and sometimes, when I’m feeling fancy, in a fritata. And then there are deviled eggs which, in my opinion, rue their name and are one of the more heavenly food treats. (Use this delicious and nutritious avacado oil mayo, though, instead of the lousy industrial-oil-laden conventional mayo.)

Eggs are tasty and filling and are potentially a potent source of wholesome nutrition.

It turns out, though, that eggs from chickens that are pastured are a lot better for you as well as offering a better life for the chickens.

Pastured eggs certainly cost more than the factory farmed conventional standard. But I don’t mind paying $6 for a dozen instead of a dollar. At 50 cents per egg, that doesn’t seem unreasonable for a healthier meal for me and a better life for the chicken.

Epicurious.com’s 57 cooking tips

I cook breakfast and dinner for my family almost every day. Nothing fancy or too sophisticated, but it’s real food. And I enjoy doing it. After a day of work with not always a lot of tangible outcomes, it’s satisfying to come home and actually make something real.

Here’s a list of cooking tips that’s actually helpful I found linked from ToolsAndToys.net: 57 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Cook Right Now 

I learned a few new cooking tricks from that list, and it also confirmed that a lot of things I already do make sense for a reason.  

Cooking is such a fundamental, primal skill. There are so many resources available to help you learn some basics, and you don’t need a lot of tools to get started. A good chef’s knife, a cutting board, a skillet (cast iron is great)… 

Buy real food from the outer aisles of the grocery store and start making your own meals. 

I wish I had started taking cooking more seriously when I was 20-something. Host a dinner party. Invite friends over. Force yourself to start mastering your kitchen. 

(And it turns out that cooking might have been the X factor that made humans the Earth’s dominant species.)