I love to be in the kitchen!
I also love reading cookbooks and exploring the grocery store for new items.
One of the reasons I became a dietitian was to be around food, which I have had the pleasure to enjoy since my very first job. I don’t believe that I have had a real job that wasn’t involved in some way with food since college.
As a dietitian, no matter what setting in which I have interacted with clients, I have always discussed meals and food. Ways to cook, recipes to try, seasoning options and where to find the freshest foods in town is always in the conversation.
Essential Kitchen Tools
I always try to practice what I preach and so have outfitted my kitchen with essential tools that help me prepare meals and create new recipes for me and my family. I want to share with you some tools that I think every kitchen should have.
Leave it to a dietitian to start off with something that promotes health and food safety. Hand washing is a vital first line of defense in any well prepared home kitchen. Keep the hand soap at the ready for you and anyone who is in your kitchen.
Frequent hand washing is important to prevent the spread of bacteria between you and others but also between the foods you are handling and preparing.
2. Two Cutting Boards
Two cutting boards (at a minimum) are part of good kitchen essentials that help you keep your meal preparations free from food safety trouble.
- One cutting board should be for raw protein foods and thoroughly sanitized between uses.
- Use another cutting board for fruits, vegetables and other ready to eat foods.
- I like a special cutting board for cheese, too, especially one that is attractive to be used for serving party guests.
Don’t be afraid to replace your cutting boards frequently. When they get deep grooves in them, it is definitely time to change them, since you may not be able to fully clean the grooves and bacteria could lurk there. There are some neat boards that allow you to transfer your chopped fruits and veggies right into the pan or bowl now, they are thin and pliable! I enjoy those too!
3. Sharp Knives
Always have on hand knives sharp enough that they allow you to do the job without struggling. I find that when my knives are dull, I tend to cut myself or damage my food since I have to work harder to cut. If you have a way to sharpen your own knives regularly, it may help to avoid potential mishaps.
Have knives specific to the tasks you do often.
- I love my chef knife, which is handy for cutting meats and large pieces of fruits like melons.
- I have a nice paring knife, which I use for onions and peppers, that allows me to have good control for smaller dices.
- I must have a dedicated tomato knife that works like a charm to slice tomatoes without smashing them.
- I also have a great citrus knife that I love for sectioning grapefruit and oranges.
- Another important knife is a serrated knife for cutting fresh bread.
- Good steak knives come in handy at the table for any cut of meat.
- If you enjoy using an electric knife to cut turkey and ham on the holidays, that is great. I have one but use it so infrequently that I usually don’t bother with it.
A good kitchen knife is a valuable investment.
4. Meat Thermometer
Having a thermometer to measure the “doneness” of meats that you cook, both inside and outside on the grill, will help you keep the meals you serve safe from food borne illness. The color of the meat is no indication of the doneness.
The right container for the right food can help you in the kitchen in a variety of ways. It can help you preserve your leftovers. Shallow containers are helpful to cool down leftovers more quickly so that they will stay out of the temperature danger zone, reducing food borne illness.
Glass containers are good for casseroles, since they can be cooked at 25 degrees lower in the oven. I prefer glass because plastic bowls tend to hold stains and odors compared to glass.
A good metal bowl can be used as a double boiler for sauces.
Nonstick pots and pans help you reduce the added fat in your meals, you won’t need any! Invest in a good set of pots and pans with lids that double as strainers, it’s worth it!
Use it to drain cooked pasta, vegetables and for washing up fresh produce.
There are many utensils I have found to be essential in my kitchen.
I use a whisk often for keeping my sauces or gravies smooth, incorporating air into batters and mixes, whipping eggs, and mixing home-made salad dressings.
I love a small vegetable brush that I can use to scrub the outside of produce so I can eat the skin such as potatoes, zucchini, and carrots. It lets me lose the dirt but not the nutrition.
Other essential utensils in my kitchen drawer include
- pizza cutter (not just for pizza but dough, bread, pie, brownies, etc.)
- left-handed soup ladle (yep for me!)
- bamboo stir fry spoon (love for non-stick pan)
- small strainer to separate seeds and lumps from my recipes
- long, long tongs that I can use for anything from grilling, cooking or getting objects off the top shelf (yep, I am height challenged in addition to being a southpaw!).
A rolling pin is key, too, for making cookies, pizza, pie crust or other fun things that need to get flattened and even to tenderize meats.
Cookie cutters in various shapes and sizes are fun especially when you invite kids into the kitchen. They are useful for cookies, gelatin, pie decorations, toast, pancakes and playdough.
Love this for slicing all my fresh veggies! It is great when my garden is harvested and I have lots of foods to slice or when making onion soup, cucumber salad or potato salad. Quickly slices a large amount of produce!
9. Measuring Cups
I love the one I have that strains the grease from my drippings so that I can make gravy with flavor and not fat!
Of course, a set of measuring spoons and cups are truly essential to the kitchen!
I love a variety of cookbooks. I have several go-to books and others that fill the void when I am planning a large gathering, party or am in the mood for a change.
I also have my personal recipe scrapbook that I have been compiling since high school with clippings of my favorite recipe ideas. Nothing makes it there without a picture for inspiration.
I also have a recipe box for all the lovingly prepared and gifted recipe cards from family and friends!
What is Essential to Your Kitchen?
These are some of the kitchen essentials I think that every successful kitchen should have. They have and continue to serve me well in just about every type of recipe I concoct. There are of course many other tools and gadgets that can come in handy in the kitchen that are not on this list but these are the ones I use most often.
While I see these items as needs common to kitchens, there are other items that individual cooks may find essential due to the types of cooking done or simply because of how they were taught to cook. So many kitchen habits are passed down through families.
If you are giving a gift to a new bride, housewarming party or holiday gift or simply bringing a hostess a treat for a dinner party, why not try one of these items that your friend may not have or one in a new color to jazz up the kitchen.
There are many other kitchen items that are necessary, especially those that have motors or powered by technology, which I will talk about in a future article.
Do you have a special kitchen tool that you want to share with us? We would love for you to send us a picture!