November 9, 2023 4:35 pm
Joe Rosenthal is a freelance writer in the Chicagoland area. His work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Salon, among others.
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Assembling the right mix of kitchen essentials is a rite of passage. It’s a process that often accelerates as we couple up or build families, and evolves as different technological innovations emerge. Whether we’re focused on fast-and-cheap eats or a burgeoning gourmet lifestyle, it’s well worth the effort to set your kitchen up for success.
The Kitchen Essentials Checklist
We talked to longtime home chefs, cooking enthusiasts, and restaurant professionals to identify 12 essentials that they believe belong in any kitchen worth its salt. Some are big-ticket items, and some are small gadgets. But all make life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable…and all are available on Amazon. After all, a happy kitchen makes a happy life.
Wüsthof Classic Hollow Edge 2-Piece Chef’s Knife Set
Recommending a knife is tricky territory. There are hardcore fans of German, Swiss, French, and Japanese brands, among others. Passions can run deep and personal preferences for weight, grip, and balance come into play. However, these particular knives were recommended by amateur and professional alike when we asked for opinions on what should make the essential kitchen shortlist. These two versatile knives (classic chef’s knife and paring blade) are lauded for being sharp, durable, and well-balanced. (The blade hollows, in case you were wondering, reduce food sticking when cutting.) Another hospitality professional in our survey group swears by the streigheter-edged, thinner Santoku blade.
Extra-Large Bamboo Cutting Board
Bamboo Extra Large Cutting Board
As with knives, there are many options when it comes to cutting boards. And there’s much to love about beautiful butcher block wood, glass, and even sturdy plastics. But bamboo boards check all the boxes these types do – and more. They are sustainable, offer excellent durability (I’ve personally had one for 10+ years with zero warping and minimal defects), are lightweight, feature a hard chopping surface, and are typically reasonably priced. This one is extra large, so you can carve a turkey with ease.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Once you live with a Dutch oven for a while, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Sturdy and even-heating, this multi-purpose pot is ideal for stews, soups, pasta, braising, and deep-frying. And they’re pretty enough to serve as the hero of your buffet or dining room table. There are more expensive Dutch ovens out there, but the American-made Lodge is a time-tested performer at a great price point.
10-Cup Rice Cooker
Zojirushi 10-Cup Micom Rice Cooker
When you spend years cooking rice in a saucepan or pot, where you’re constantly monitoring the temperature and trying to prevent impossible-to-remove residue from caking to the bottom of the vessel, a rice cooker is a revelation. Pour in the rice and water, tap a key or two, and perfectly fluffy rice is ready for you when the beeper sounds. The Zujirushi is a well-known Japanese brand, and in my experience it delivers perfect rice time after time, for years on end.
Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat
Silpat Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat
Much like what you’ll experience upon using a rice cooker, you won’t know how you survived before silicone baking mats, which turn any pan into a non-stick surface and eliminate the need for butter, grease, or oil. These mats are good from -40 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and work exceptionally well with dough – cookies, cinnamon rolls, and breads. Cleanup is a breeze with just soap and water, so you can say goodbye to long bouts of scrubbing crusty baking pans. And, likewise, say goodbye to wasting tin foil or parchment paper.
Garlic Peeler Tube
Fantes Silicone Garlic Peeler Tube
For years you’ve used the side of a large knife, wooden spoon, fingertips, or even your palm for the common (not fun) task of peeling garlic cloves. This BPA-free silicone tube is easy-to-use, magically fast, and dishwasher safe.
Cast Iron Heat Diffuser for Gas Stove
Cast Iron Heat Diffuser for Gas Stove
If you have a gas stove, you’ll love the control that a heat diffuser provides. Say goodbye to sauces burning, soups boiling over, and melted chocolate scorching. Just place the diffuser on top of the burner and set the temperature to your desired level. With winter upon us, it’s worth noting that the diffuser is an absolute standout for making hot chocolate or cheese fondues.
Expanding Steaming Basket
Consevisen Stainless Steel Steamer Basket
This nifty, inexpensive accoutrement expands and contracts to fit into any saucepan or pot to make steaming vegetables, seafood, or dumplings a no-brainer. Just layer in some water, put the basket in, cover the pot, and lift the basket out by its handle when the steaming is done.
Bodum Bistro Electric Milk Frother
If you’re a fan of cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos, this electric frother from Bodum will make quick and easy work for at-home baristas. Just pour in the milk, press a button, and you’ll have up to a cup of perfectly heated, frothy milk in seconds.
All-Clad Electrics Stainless Steel Immersion Blender
The genius of this device is that you can do your blending without needing to transfer containers. Puree a soup in a stockpot, make a smoothie in a glass, whip cream in a serving bowl.
Block and Sphere Ice Molds
Glacio Ice Cube Mold Combo
Pity those among us who grew up with boring rectangular ice cubes. These silicone molds make it easy to create big cubes and spheres of ice that melt slowly and don’t dilute your drink.
Ice Cream Scoop With Conductive Handle
Zeroll Original Ice Cream Heat Conductive Handle Scoop
This one falls into the same category as the silicone baking mat, steamer basket, and garlic peeler – you simply won’t know how you dealt with any other way of scooping ice cream once you’ve tried this. (I’ve actually broken or bent other types of scoops and spoons when digging into a well frozen tub.) This unique product is filled with a liquid that heats up instantly under hot water, making the scoop slice through ice cream like a hot knife through butter. You’ve probably seen these in use in ice cream parlors before – and with good reason.
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