Got Enough Gadgets?
A well-stocked kitchen doesn’t require a massive amount of gear. You don’t need an egg scrambler, a fondue pot or even an omelet pan. Here are the 10 simple essentials that will empower you to get most any meal on the table with a minimum of fuss.
• Knives. You can get by with just three good, steel-bladed knives: a solid chef’s knife, a smallish paring knife and a serrated bread knife (which will do double duty as a tomato slicer). A sharpening steel is also good to have for regular maintenance, but professional sharpenings (annually, at minimum) will restore your knives to greatness.
• Cutting boards. Wood boards are pretty and can double as serving trays (try bamboo or teak from a reliable resource); plastic ones can go in the dishwasher.
• Spatulas. A flexible spatula with a thin metal blade (or a thin nonstick blade, if you use nonstick pans) is invaluable for turning fish, eggs and so forth.
• Cast-iron pans. A well-seasoned (that is, well-used and oiled) 15-inch cast-iron skillet is the workhorse of the kitchen. You can use it for everything from frying a single egg or searing a steak to baking cornbread or braising a whole chicken. Get a lid for it to quadruple its uses.
• Pots. A small saucepan is great for cooking things like sauces, but a 3- or 4-quart saucepan will be the pot you use for simmering, steaming, reheating and more. Heavy-bottom, straight-sided pans are the most versatile.
• French oven. Sometimes called a Dutch oven or soup pot, a good 6-, 9- or 12-quart cast-iron pot is a kitchen necessity that can move from stovetop to oven. Use it to make chili, stew, soup and even bread. The best are the enamel-coated ones from Le Creuset — if you can afford one, their heat control is unparalleled, and they’ll last a lifetime.
• Spoons. Chefs use big spoons for sauces, for plating, for everything. If you want only one, get one with a flat-edge that will allow you to clear the bottom of a pot effectively.
• Rasps. Rasps have moved out of the woodshop and into the kitchen. Choose a tiny-holed rasp for grating fresh nutmeg, get a medium-holed version for zesting citrus, and an even larger-holed one for grating hard cheeses.
• Strainers. Some people like colanders, and some prefer strainers — which are you? A colander can also double as a decorative serving basket for fruit. You can use your strainer when cleaning veggies, but if you buy your greens unpackaged, then a salad spinner will come in handy, too.
• Vegetable Peelers. The classic U-shaped ones are preferred by chefs, though the most important thing in a vegetable peeler (as with most kitchen gear) is that you’re comfortable using it. Because, after all, the whole point of a well-appointed kitchen is to help you cook contentedly.