One of the most important aspects of doing any job well is to have the right tool for the job. The tool doesn’t always have to be of the utmost highest quality, but poor quality tools will hinder you for sure in several ways: speed, safety and results.
This is especially true for good home cooking.
I’ve learned this by cooking in foreign kitchens, despite frequently bringing my own chef’s knife and a specialty tool or so. Vacation homes, my mother-in-law’s kitchen, even my own mom’s kitchen (sorry Mom, you know I still love you) are all harder to cook in due to the differences in a few key kitchen tools.
For example, my dear mother-in-law Eleanor had an inset glass cutting board in her 1970’s-built countertop. The glass surface was very difficult to cut on because a knife can’t “grip” into the cutting surface below the product. Picture the little slices that end up in a plastic or wood cutting board. Not only that, a knife could easily slip sideways. So all three areas I mentioned above held true: speed, safety and results were compromised.
Some people confuse the phrase “right tool for the job” with having “every tool you could ever use for the job”. I’ll admit that over the years I’ve collected a few extra tools that now reside in shoe boxes in the pantry. Yet those these tools all have one of the following in common:
- Poor quality – large Williams Sonoma roasting pan, now warped ($100 vs. $200+ for All-Clad or similar)
- Bought on a whim - hand carved salad tongs from the Broadmoor Resort
- Single purpose tool – a cherry pitter that I used once, and for the past decade have been unable to find the one time a year I need it.
Many cook books contain lists of what you must or should have in your kitchen. I’m resisting that temptation. Instead, here are my 10 Most Important Cooking Tools. You should have each of these tools on hand, and each should be of pretty darn good quality. If you can’t have them all at first (for example, as with my nephew Peter who is restocking a kitchen after being in the Marines), then this should be an important checklist for you.
I’ll simply list the top ten items here, then separately post a few comments about each. Also, I’ve selected my favorite model of each, which you can find on my a-store at amazon.com:
- Chef’s Knife – 8” (for very small hands, some manufacturers make 7” models
- Cutting Board – plastic or wood, avoid glass and marble
- Peeler....the Kyocera Perfect Peeler – a true innovation
- Non-stick Saute Pans - 10” and 12”
- 8 Quart Stock Pot
- Largish Sauce Pan – 3.5 or 4.5 quarts
- Paring Knife
- Strainer / Colander
- Martini or Wine Glasses
- Microplane Grater
- Dutch Oven – hey, the glasses don’t REALLY count as a pick, do they?
I’m sure serious and non-serious cooks could debate this list extensively over martinis or Chardonnay. The logic behind this list is that when these items are poor quality, like the ones in the beach house in South Carolina we’ll be visiting again this summer, the cooking gets quite a bit slower and harder. You can count on me bringing more kitchen equipment than last year, much of it on “the list”.
Also, this is a good starting point for a beginner, especially to focus on high quality versions of each of these tools.
“I’m too poor to buy cheap”
- My Aunt Mary from Long Island