I’ve read a lot of top 10 or most-essential lists about what tools every cook should have, but I don’t always agree with the picks. Everyone seems to go ga-ga over a Microplane, which I do think is a handy tool, but I probably only use it once every few weeks. I guess I just don’t seem to require citrus zest and nutmeg as much as other cooks. So here is my list. If it helps you with your Christmas or birthday list, good!
*A good knife. If nothing else, spend the money on a high-quality knife that feels good in your hand. We have a Wusthof 7-inch santoku knife that we’ve had since about 2005, and I think if our house was burning down I’d run back for that knife. It is awesome. We recently added a couple of smaller knives to our collection with a 40 percent off coupon from Williams-Sonoma.
*A set of 5 or 6 non-stick pots and pans. When I got my first apartment I bought a mid-range Calphalon set from Target for about $200, I think. I added a large omelet pan (basically a deep skillet) a while later. You can skimp on crappy pots, but as much as I use these, I can’t imagine being constantly frustrated by uneven heat, a handle that gets too hot, a sticky surface, etc. Some people, like Mike, are partial to cast iron. Me, I like my Calphalon.
*A food processor. We have a good blender and a Kitchen Aid mixer, but I think if I had to pick the best grinder of things, I’d go with the food processor. It makes hummus, it blends soups, it mixes doughs. It’s a fabulous pesto maker in the summertime.
*A good set of mixing bowls. I don’t care if it’s glass, metal, plastic, ceramic. Just get a good quality set that nests, so they don’t take up too much room in your cabinets. I always liked the Kitchen Aid set that has a pour spout. Smart!
*A Silpat. It doesn’t matter what kind of baking sheets you have (and we have all kinds). Slap on a silicone baking mat and you can bake anything without worrying about it sticking. This has been indispensible to me, and I probably only spent $20 on it.
*Kosher salt. Fancy salts got really popular in the last couple of years, and I definitely upgraded from regular table salt. But you don’t need anything more than a $2 box of Morton kosher salt poured into a dish on top of your stove. It’s a little stronger than regular salt, and blends perfectly, I think.
*A spoonula. I think we have a Le Creuset version, which looks like it’s been put through a meat grinder, it’s gotten so much use. Not only do you not have to worry about it melting because it’s silicone, you can scrape the sides of a pan and reach into casserole dish corners with this spatula/spoon.
*Peeler. I love my little green Kuhn Rikon peeler. I thought I’d lost it once and could not find a replacement, so I bought another one. Then I found the original, so I have two great bright colored peelers that fit into the palm of your hand. These are less than $10 at most kitchen stores.
*Compost bin. In our kitchen, we make a ridiculous amount of compost, from coffee grounds to egg shells to potato peels and on an on. We also have a garden, so instead of tossing it in the trash, we fill up a little ceramic container and take it out to the backyard once a week or so.
So that’s my list. I’m sure everyone else’s list would be different, depending on what you make often. I am still pining over a mandoline slicer and a grill pan. And of course someday I’d love to have Le Creuset baking dishes and All-Clad pots and pans. A girl can dream.