As a Food Network addict, I’ve seen my share of gadgets and tools. Back when 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray was on air, I wanted a garbage bowl. (I was 10 or so, guys. And using any old bowl of your Mama’s doesn’t sound as cool when you’re 10.) I also begged for a chef’s knife which my wonderful parents gifted me for Christmas one year.
To this day, I don’t have a garbage bowl.
But I do still have that chef’s knife.
There are some kitchen staples that outlast the fads and truly make your cooking better. Yet, in my world, budget always matters. So I’ve come up with a list of the tools I use the most in my kitchen.
1) A cast iron skillet : You knew this one was coming, right? It’s huge, oven safe, and gets you a sear and a crust that can transform any recipe into something blog-worthy. Not to mention it would’ve lasted throughout Methusaleh’s lifetime. If you take care of it, you’ll have a pan that can double as a family heirloom. I would love more of these, but for now I have one 12-inch.
2) A chef’s knife : Essential. Mine is from Walmart, and it’s sharp and sturdy, so I’m satisfied. You don’t need a crazy expensive one. Buy what you can afford and take care of it. As easy as it is to stick your germy, chicken-cutting knife in the dishwasher, don’t do it. Handwash and tuck safely back into the drawer, please.
3) Plastic cutting boards (2 minimum) : You’ll use these every day. One for raw meats and one for everything else.
4) A wooden cutting board : Preferably, a giant one. My husband made mine. (He’s crafty; I’m not.) This you’ll keep on your counter by the stove and use for just about everything except raw meat.
5) A stand mixer (or a hand mixer as a less expensive option) : This one, unfortunately, is not cheap. Mine is a smaller Kitchen Aid version that came to me as a Christmas present. (Christmas is a good time for my kitchen apparently.) I use mine weekly because right now I’m obsessed with Joanna Gaines’ chocolate chip cookies, but stand mixers are good for more than sweets. Mashing potatoes can be a pain…but not when you use a mixer. Brownies, cakes, cookies, mashed potatoes, pizza dough–surely that’s enough to convince you.
6) A slow cooker : I know this formerly innocent appliance killed Jack, but it has saved soooo many of my suppers. Our lives are busy, and takeout is expensive. We need homemade meals waiting for us when suppertime rolls around, and slow cookers provide that. I can’t imagine any home cook not having one, but if you don’t, rectify that and buy one. Get one with a timer so you can truly set it and forget it. Just buy it brand sparkling new because, again, Jack.
7) A half sheet pan : Throw some veggies and chicken thighs on one of these, and you’ve got a sheet pan supper. Easy. I recommend buying more than one so you can bake cookies afterward.
8) Non-stick pans : If you don’t have a set of these pans already, there are two I suggest. One saute pan for fried rice, stir fry, eggs, etc. and one large pot for boiling pasta.
9) Glass/plastic containers for leftovers : If you want to save money, you can’t throw out food. Store leftovers in an air-tight container and use it within a few days (it’ll taste best that way.) Leftover rice becomes fried rice. Leftover chicken becomes a casserole or stew or burritos. Leftover chili becomes chili macaroni. Waste not; save money.
10) A 9×13 and 8×8 glass baking dish : With lids, preferably. I use mine constantly for brownies, cakes, casseroles, and cornbread.
That’ll get you going in the kitchen. If you’ve got these, you’re set for some good meals and desserts. Invest a little in your kitchen, and your stomach (and wallet) will thank you.