Top 10 essentials in your kitchen
A lot of people and young cooks ask me what they should have in their kitchen arsenal or knife bag. I don’t think there is a correct answer to that question but I do know a lot of people overdue it with to many knives and pans that they don’t need or will never use. Most people want all the accessories and trinkets that are not necessary for cooking a good meal. I don’t believe you need a deep fryer in your house and I don’t believe you need more then 3-4 knives in your knife bag. In this blog I’ll layout the 10 items I think you need to have in your home kitchen and can also be used in an industrial kitchen.
In every kitchen you should have a great knife or knives. I believe a Chef knife, pairing knife and boning/utility knife are the three you really only need. There can be an exception for a serrated knife for bread and some tomato slicing, but that is it. You don’t need three different style of chef knives and three different sized pairing knives. Find out the size and style that feels comfortable to you and stick with it. I use and 8.5 inch Nora Chef knife, 4 inch Shun pairing knife and a 6 inch Zhen boning knife. I don’t need anything else to complete my daily job as a Chef. I use the same style knives at home and cook dinner just fine. I have a cheaper serrated knife hanging around and rarely use it. Having these three knives in your arsenal should do you just fine.
If you have great knives you need a honing rod and stone. These items are a must need to keep an edge on your blade. Always hone your knife before and after using it. If you dice some vegetables for a soup hone your knife first and hone it after for the next use. This is a routine that all cooks or chefs should practice. You’d be amazed at how many cooks don’t hone their knives. To keep your blades sharp you should have some sort of stone to put a new edge on every couple weeks. You can have any thing from a double sided oil stone to a triple sided wet stone. Either works well to keep a clean edge on your knife after weeks of use. Your knife is your life line in the kitchen so keep it clean and sharp.
You should have a few good strainers in your kitchen. A nice sturdy strainer with holes big enough to strain vegetables and pasta. You should also have a fine mesh strainer like a chinois. You’ll nee this type of strainer to strain sauces for a nice smooth texture and look. I have a couple different sizes in my kitchen. Also a dying breed is a tamese, these are used to make purees and custards super smooth. If you don’t have one, get one.
A cast iron pan is an essential item to have in your kitchen. One pan will last you a lifetime if kept clean and seasoned. Cast iron pans hold their heat well and spread it evenly. Every cook should own one good cast iron pan. I have a 10 inch cast iron pan and use it for every thing from searing steaks to sautéing vegetables. Cast Iron pans are great for one pot meals because you can use them on the stove top and in the oven.
Dutch Ovens are a must have in the kitchen. This is great for braising meats to baking bread, especially sourdough bread. Like cast iron pans dutch ovens will last forever and can take a beating. They come in enamel coating or cast iron. I have both kinds and use the enamel coated oven one for braising and the cast iron strictly for sourdough boules.
You should have 3 different sized stock pots for blanching, boiling water and making sauces. Three is about all you need especially if you have a cast iron pan.
A high quality wood cutting board is a great item to have in your kitchen. Spend a little extra on some good treated wood and it should last forever. Remember to not put it in the dishwasher or it will crack. You can also have a sturdy plastic cutting board if you don’t want to spend to much on a wood cutting board.
Whisk/Peeler/Wooden spoon are a must and you really only need one of each. You should have a medium sized whisk for dressing, a peeler for vegetables and a wooden spoon to stir sauces. You can find most of these bundled or in the same area when purchasing, so they are categorized together..
Stand mixers are one of those items that can be off this list, but I feel you should have one in your kitchen. Most stand mixers have attachments for pasta, sausage stuffing and meat grinding. Which makes them a multiple trick pony. So in all reality you can make cake batter, stretch some pasta and make the sausage stuffing all with one accessory. Stand mixers can be expensive but are worth the money. Definitely put this on your Christmas list if you don’t have one.
The last item I believe you should have in your kitchen is a Sous Vide Machine/Thermometer. These machines circulate water at a consistent temperature that cooks your protein or vegetables perfectly all the way through. Now there is a science to these machines that can be explained at a different time, but to make dinner at home or execute quick pick ups at work the sous vide is the way to go. Every cook should understand how to use these machines and benefit from the consistency it brings to making great dishes. I”m classifying a thermometer in this section because a Sous Vide machine is part thermometer and they can go hand on hand. You should have a good thermometer for poultry and big cuts of meat to check internal temp.
You are probably thinking there is a ton more items that you need from measuring cups to rice cookers. These are just the top 10 items I think you should shoot to have in your kitchen to cook a great dish. I benefit from these items everyday at work and anytime I cook dinner at home. All of them are great investments and you wont regret having them. These items wont make you a great chef, but will help you achieve a good dish.
Note* I’m assuming all kitchen are stocked with salt and pepper.