Kitchen Essentials

Kitchen Essentials

If you’re just starting out, what are some essential tools and tips to keep in mind while you’re working away at your best Gordon Ramsey duplicate? 

Well, for starters, you need to make sure that your kitchen has the necessary base in which to build from. 

TL;DR- Chef’s knife, rubber spatula, whisk, pans (all types are neatly listed below the picture with the whisk and rubber spatulas), glass mixing bowls, kevlar or other cut-resistant gloves, metal spatula, cutting boards, electric thermometer, colander, box grater, and a timer (if you don’t have a microwave or oven that has one). 

First thing’s first: 

A Chef’s knife. I purchased mine from Ergo Chef (not an affiliate, I’m just a huge fan). From the moment my hand touched this knife, I cried literal happy tears from the depths of my soul. If you have arthritis issues, or issues that cause your hands to swell or lock up from consistent use, an ergonomically designed knife is incredibly important. For those of you just starting, my first knife set was a Farberware set with a wooden block from Walmart. It was a 20 piece knife set with steak knives and it was less than 90 dollars. But take the time to invest in your knives, you’ll be grateful that you did. 

I’ll post in a separate article how to sharpen your knife, but do keep in mind to NEVER, hold on, let me bold this, NEVER: run your knives or single knife through the dishwasher, and/or leave them in the sink. After you finish using your knife, it is best if you wash and dry it immediately to keep it from rusting. Your knives will thank you, and so will your wallet. 

A rubber spatula.

So, this little guy is the absolute best. He will help you toast rice for your risotto, spoon out that perfect pan sauce that took you way too many tries to get it exactly the way you wanted, AND he’ll make sure that all your batter makes it into the pan, or your mouth, whichever you prefer.

A whisk. So yes, a whisk is incredibly versatile. You can use it to scramble eggs, make meringue, mayo, vinaigrette, and bake that cake you’re gonna regret in a week.

PANsexuality is important. But it has nothing to do with this next list of pans.

Non-stick pan

10 in. stainless steal or ceramic pan 

Cast iron pan (or 3)

Sauce pot (if you’re like me, you have 6)

Griddle pan (not pictured… yet)

Sheet pan

Casserole

Each and every one of these serves a unique purpose.

A non-stick is great for eggs, bacon, frittatas (which are fancy eggs), and so many other items that I promise aren’t just breakfast food. 

A ceramic pan is wonderful, but in my personal opinion, a stainless steel is better if you’re a novice. A ceramic pan requires a lot of spoons (energy) and maintenance. They scratch easily if you look at them the wrong way. But they are great for more even cooking than a stainless, and make the best pork chops. Stainless steel isn’t as hard to work with, isn’t as high maintenance (though, like knives, NEVER put them in your dishwasher), is ideal for crusting your steak, and making a pan sauce with the remaining bits. 

A cast iron pan evenly distributes heat and you can put it in the oven at 500 degrees without worrying about warping or damage to your pan. Cast iron is also fantastic if you don’t want to use as much fat in your pan to keep your items from sticking. Also, you can’t get a crust on a steak in any other pan, the way you do in a cast iron. Also, don’t put this in the dishwasher.

A sauce pot sounds like an unnecessary necessity. I’ll explain, when most people hear “sauce” pot, they get very confused because there are like, 30 types. This is an exaggeration, but there are a lot of types. A large saucepot can hold from 1 qt. to 5 qts. I always recommend getting a 5 qt. pot because you can use it for small amounts and large amounts. But the best advice I can give would be to get one that can hold at least 2 c of liquid, and also one that can hold 5 qts so you’re not making oatmeal for yourself in a pot that’s too big. 

A Griddle pan is more of a luxury item, but I always recommend having one in your kitchen. You can make your best pancakes, arepas, bacon, grilled cheese, tuna melt, etc. It’s honestly a great tool to have on hand if you want to whip something up quickly. 

A sheet pan is important for so many reasons. You can make cookies, cake, bacon (I know I’ve said about 2 of the others already), roasted veggies, etc. I definitely recommend having at least one on hand. You’ll find that you’ve allowed yourself to enjoy brussel sprouts  smothered in parmesan cheese, and roasted cauliflower with garam masala and ginger for the first time ever. Just trust me, your oven is made for a varying amount of possibilities, and the right tools can get you started.

A baking dish/pan/casserole, whatever you want to call it, it’s a huge piece of either: cast iron, ceramic, glass, or clay that can be covered and it will, much like your sheet pan, allow for new ideas in the kitchen. Casserole is a very common word used by mostly older women from the south, but they aren’t just a dish your grandma cooked in the 50′s. French toast casserole is so impossibly custardy and delicious, you will thank the Gods that there has ever been something so wonderful in existence. You have stews, roasts, lasagna (uncovered, don’t be rude to your lasagna), and so many others. Just please, okay? Okay.  

Glass mixing bowls are a MUST. Okay, so some really important things about these bad boys: DON’T leave them on a hot stove because the heat will make them shatter and explode all over your kitchen. If you have pets or kids, I don’t have to tell you why this would be bad for potentially weeks on end. You can, however, makeshift a glass bowl and a boiling pot of water into a double boiler to melt your favorite chocolate chips to make fudge. Glass bowls are also non-absorbent, so they won’t retain bad odors or flavors when you use them in the kitchen. They’re also incredibly sanitary for the same reason. 

A pair of Kevlar or other gloves meant for slicing and dicing in the kitchen. I recommend this no matter what level of experience you have. Professional chefs cut and burn themselves all the time, it is best you do what you can to protect your fingertips and nails. 

A metal spatula will help you scrape any bits and pieces that have stuck onto your stainless or ceramic pan. Please be sure to use carefully, the metal spatula itself is very temperamental and can ruin your pans forever. 

Cutting boards. There are, a whole litany of reasons you need a cutting board or 10 in your kitchen. I myself have 4 and I use all of them. Cutting boards are made of several different kinds of material. Ultimately, for me, I use a wooden one and an eco-friendly material cutting board set I got from Bed Bath and Beyond. Cutting board maintenance is, arguably, the most important thing when it comes to  purchasing one. Best way to clean a cutting board is to make sure you’re passing your sponge over the slits in the board left behind by your knife, in the same direction. In other words, don’t scrub your board in a circle, but trace over the cuts in the board to ensure proper sanitation of it. 

An electric thermometer. Okay, so show of hands, how many people have deep fried chicken, burned the outside and undercooked the inside? I don’t know of any single person who is just beginning, who hasn’t done it. An electric thermometer is your best friend. You can get a regular thermometer, that will require constant calibration, or you can get an electric thermometer and not have to worry about calibrating it as often. Perfectly juicy, succulent, and properly cooked chicken will measure at 165 degrees Farenheit. Anything beyond 180, expect it to be dry, but at least it was cooked properly! To calibrate a thermometer: bring water to a boil, and then place your thermometer in the water, allow it to come to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, then place your thermometer into an ice bath until it gets to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius would be 100 degrees boiling, and 0 degrees in ice. 

A colander is meant to strain out pasta water, and you’ve probably not seen it used for much else. But a fine mesh colander can be used to filter out your frying oil so you can reuse it instead of wasting it. This little thing is good for anything that requires draining: meat, starch from rice and potatoes before cooking them, washing all of your vegetables at once before getting started, and also, it can help with steaming your broccoli or shrimp when you don’t have a basket steamer.

A box grater in general, is a fantastic tool. They have different sides that allow you to do different things. From shredding cheese, potatoes, carrots, or zuccini. But the question a lot of people ask: what is that side with all the really tiny spaces in it? It’s a zester, and it goes so unnoticed for so long because most folx don’t know the best way to use it. The zester is great for adding a little elegance or pop of flavor into a dish. For example, if you use lemon pepper often, adding a zested lemon rind to your dish would bring out all that delicious acidity that you won’t get from just using the regular seasoning from a bottle. A little fresh lemon zest here, some grated nutmeg there, a little orange zest in your tea, these all pack a mean right hook. Try them out. 

Last, but not least: a timer, gentlefolx. I can not stress the utter importance of learning how long it actually takes you, the reader to complete a task from start to finish. Not everyone works at the same pace, so a recipe that says “prep time: 5 minutes”, might actually take you an hour, and that’s okay. Keeping a timer on hand so you can keep track of how long each task is taking to complete, or making sure you’re pacing yourself as things are bubbling away in the kitchen, is a great way to figure yourself out in the kitchen. I recommend listening to music, writing your ingredients on a white board that sits at eye level in your kitchen so you can refer to your recipe as you’re going without having to constantly look at your phone. 

I hope this helps every single one of you learn a bit more about what it means to begin your journey with food. 

For more exciting posts like this, and more updates from us, check us out here: Gourmade4u

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