Necessary kitchen tools

Hi again! Thanks for all of your interest in my shitty blog – it was a very exciting first post, with over 200 views from 11 countries! Folks from the US, Australia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brazil, Grenada, Spain, the Netherlands, Guatemala, Sweden and Morocco all tuned in. Shout out to Laura, Liz, Lua, Jill, Marthe, Hilary, and Sienna for being who I suspect gave a shit from so far, far away, and being boss ladies of the world.

Yesterday was my big brother Will’s 28th birthday. As you can imagine, that got me thinking about necessary tools.  Guess what? I’m 24 and I still have trouble spelling necessary. I got it that time, at least.

And what a necessary tool he is. He's on the left in yellow, next to the really stylish and attractive young baby in the pink pajamas. There's another tool lurking in a second frame on the right, but that's another tool for another time.

And what a necessary tool he is. He’s on the left in yellow, next to the really stylish and attractive young toddler in the pink pajamas. There’s another tool lurking in the suit and tie on the right, but that’s another tool for another time.

Time flies when you’re a stylish, worldly child like myself (to be fair, we were dressed up for a parade. That’s right, folks, my dad dressed me in pajamas for a parade. Thanks dad).

Anyway, there are many necessary tools for the kitchen, as well (ah! Do you see how I used the phrase “necessary tools” in two ways? WORDPLAY). Every person who enjoys cooking will tell you differently in terms of what tools are the most useful in the kitchen, so here’s my rendition, in vibrant color. These are just small hand tools – pots and pans will be another post.

IMG_3213Ok, so, above are my key hand tools. I don’t fucking have photoshop so I’m going to go from left to right and you’re just going to to have to trust me. If you can’t figure out what I’m talking about in the picture, then… well, there’s some sort of problem, because these are all very common tools. Maybe backtrack a little. Have you ever been into a kitchen before? Do you know what a kitchen is?

  • Wooden utensil, flattened: Wood is really key, especially on the stove. Plastic utensils are utter, bendy, melty crap, please NEVER BUY THEM. Wood and metal are seriously all you will ever need. Wood utensils are nice and strong, and one with a flat edge, like this one, is great for scraping and getting into corners of pots and pans. If you have any sort of nonstick cookware, whether it cost $10 or $1000 (what kind of pans are you buying?!), you need wooden utensils. Plastic ones can’t do shit, and metal ones will scratch and damage the nonstick coating. Also, wooden utensils are seriously durable. My mom has had the same spoons my whole life, and my neighbor Rose just inherited her grandmother’s spoons. For real. Talk about being worth the investment of all, oh, $10-15 dollars that they cost. Just don’t put these lil bitches in the dishwasher.
  • Metal fish spatula: This is really the only non-rubber spatula you need. Metal spatulas are kings of the flippity dippity (yes indeed), and fish spatulas have the added bonus of being super long, thin and pliable, so they rarely damage whatever your spatula-ing. Now that I’m writing, I realize that if you have a nonstick pan, the one POSSIBLE reason to have anything made of plastic would be to have a plastic spatula so that you don’t damage the coating of the pan. However, I would add to that by mentioning that a) if used lightly and gently, a metal spatula would be fine, because b) nonstick plans are supposed to be nonstick for a reason, so you shouldn’t need to be using that spatula for heavy duty scraping, and c) consider ditching the nonstick pans for cast iron, or enameled cast iron (Le Creuset and similar products). Properly cared for, cast iron is the tittttieeeeesssssss. If that’s unclear, “the titties” is good.
  • Decent vegetable peeler, unserrated: I add “unserrated” here because the last peeler I owned was serrated. What the fuck? That is the worst possible fucking addition to a peeler, ever. What purpose does it serve? It’s a mystery, because all it ever did was cut the shit out of my fingertips and knuckles and make stupid serration-grooves in my carrots. Anyway. Get a peeler like the one pictured, with a guard. None of this 1950’s-old-school-peeler bullshit. If your grandma handed you down a fantastic classic peeler, then fine, but don’t keep around a dull shitty peeler that gouges out more edible shit than it actually peels. Peeling a carrot or an apple should take about 10 seconds, not 2-3 minutes. Bonus if you get two – if you’re cooking something, you can put someone to work and cut the peeling time in half!
  • Microplane grater: This may be one of the only unfamiliar things on this list for some people. A microplane is just a really, really fine cheese grater-esque tool with many awesome uses. It can zest citrus, grate ginger, nuts, or hard cheeses (think parmesan), and produce superfine grated garlic. I use this thing almost every time I cook. Don’t confuse this with a hand-held cheese grater or paddle grater. My mom has one of those and it sucks 1000 balls. Get one exactly like what I’ve pictured above. Get this one! This one right here! It’s $10! I’ve never used a different kind that works as well. A word of caution: take care when using it, especially on small things. You only microplane your finger once. Think of it as a combination of a rugburn and 1000 paper cuts. If you think that doesn’t sound too bad, I’ll see you in hell.
  • Tomato knife: Have you ever been trying to cut a tomato with a regular paring knife, and wondered why your knife is so shitty as it slowly crushes your tomato before your eyes? Get a fucking tomato knife. I’m not sure what these are actually called by professionals, but they’re basically small, serrated paring knives that are sharp as all fuck, and they will cut through anything that’s soft via serration rather than pressure. Think about a loaf of bread: you wouldn’t use an unserrated knife on that, would you? The answer is fuck no. You’d crush the bread and get crumbs fucking everywhere. CRUMBS. THAT IS LIKE, TINY BREAD THAT YOU COULD HAVE EATEN.
  • Paring knife: Straightforward, most people have one or several of these already. A small knife useful for cutting small things, like apples and cheese and whatnot. Useful to have around.
  • Chef’s knife: Also something that most people have, or have at least seen. You really need a nice big one for it to be a multi-purpose tool – it should be able to dice veggies, and cut through a big piece of meat. Mine is about a foot long including the handle, and it’s about perfect for everything I need it for. You can get a chef’s knife just about anywhere they sell kitchen equipment, but I’d suggest going for a mid-range price at the very least. I have three chef’s knives: a $10 Chicago cutlery knife, a $50 Calphalon knife, and a Wusthof knife that I got for a steal (about $75) at a warehouse. My personal feeling is that anything $50 and above is decent for a casual cooking person- the Chicago knife is about useless for anything other than street fighting. Fifty dollars may seem expensive, but if it’s quality, a knife will last. Chefs with nice equipment treasure their knives, and pay hundreds of dollars for them. You want something that can hold an edge and do your food justice, and many other kitchen items can be super inexpensive, so a nice knife is worth it. You will need to periodically sharpen it, or pay someone a small amount to sharpen it for you. You will need to take care of it, dry it, keep it in a knife block, etc.
  • Bread knife: See rundown for tomato knife, except bigger. I got mine at target. It cuts bread like a champ.
  • Measuring spoons, metal: Allow me to continue my tirade against plastic: BAD AND STUPID AND ALSO BAD. The labels rub off. They crack. They hold oily residues. Bleck. Get metal ones, with the measurement etched into the handle. I think these are from target or something.
  • Measuring cups, metal: See above about the measuring spoons.
  • Slotted metal or wooden spoon: Key for soups and stews, fishing out pasta, skimming something off the top of a pot, anything thats floating around in liquid. Wood works too. I like having a metal one in case I need a big metal spoon for something.
  • Wooden spoon, rounded: Same useful qualities as the wooden spoon at the top of this list, except it’s completely round, rather than flat on one side. You know, for spoon stuff.
  • Rubber spatula (very bottom): Obviously different from the metal fish spatula, but a spatula nonetheless. Nothing compares to rubber spatulas for scraping out a bowl of cookie dough or icing. Need I say more?
  • IMG_3217Glass storage containers of various sizes, with lids: Because fuck plastic, as always. Plastic tupperware can be useful too, but if you’re going to be storing grains, beans, or other dry goods, or anything fairly acidic (think tomato sauce, and how it always stains tupperware red), glass is the bomb. I got mason jars initially because I was making pickles and jam, but now I use them mainly for storage. I like how they’re all of uniform size, and how there are only 2 or 3 lid sizes, so finding the right one is never difficult. They’re super awesome for bringing leftovers to my office – they never leak, and if you take the metal lid off, the jars can go straight in the microwave. The other glasses in this picture, on the right, I got from target for about $1 each (small ones), and from a second hand store for about $4 each (tall ones). The glass style is a classic one, and while I generally use them for drinking cups, the little white lids you see here are made especially for these glasses, and snap right on top if you have a small portion of something to put in the fridge. Super useful.

IMG_3223

There isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to how the following two photos are grouped. Mostly just random shit.

  • Glass measuring cups for liquids and large volumes: I feel like most people’s parents had one of these lying around when they were growing up, no? Anyway, great for measuring liquids or large amounts of things, like flour. I got both of these pyrex cups at the grocery store, and they have never steered me wrong.
  • Fine mesh sieve/strainer: I didn’t have this for a long time, and I suffered piteously. It’s so fucking useful. Washing grains, fruits, or vegetables before you use them, sifting flour or sugar, straining something out of water, the list goes on. I wouldn’t suggest putting anything goopy though it, as the holes are so small that they would clog, but a bit of soap and hot water and you’d be good to go again.
  • Small cutting board: Great for a little cheese, fruit, small amount of basically anything. I generally go for wood cutting boards, but this little plastic one works pretty well for fucking shitty plastic devil-material. A plus is that if I cut meat on it, it can go right into the dish washer.
  • Food processor, any size: I would say that this object is very under-purchased by younger people. It seems like a very mom-esque tool to me – my mom has a giant fancy one that she got as a wedding present in the 80’s. Mine is tiny (holds about 3 cups), and I got it for $15 on amazon. It’s an amazing little workhorse. Sure, a big, nice one would work better, and last longer (my mom’s is going on 30 years old?! That’s kind of nuts), but they’re big and heavy and I live in a graduate-student sized apartment, so that’s not happening. These are so good for making soups, sauces, dressings, chopping nuts, and even makes a decent guac if you don’t overdo the choppy-chop. The only drawback is that if I’m doing a lot of something, like a pot of soup, I have to use the food processor in batches because it’s so small, but that’s not exactly keeping me up at night. 
IMG_3225

Random stuff pile!

  • Parchment paper: If you’ve at any point been a recipient of my recipe collection and actually bothered to read my mindless drivel, you will note that I rabidly insist that parchment paper and wax paper are not the same thing. That is accurate. I’m not actually sure of one fucking thing that wax paper is more useful for than parchment paper, and I sort of can’t believe I didn’t figure out the difference until I was 23. What the fuck? Wax paper is just parchment paper coated in wax, and the wax will melt if it gets hot, and will stick to fucking everything. Parchment paper: made by baby angels. Wax paper: straight from the devil’s butthole. Parchment paper: cookies, chocolate, praline, caramels, bread. Wax paper: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. YOUR MOVE, WAX PAPER.
  • Tin foil: Makin’ lil meat tents, roasting asparagus, anti-mind-reading hats, subjects of fantastic songs by genius musicians, the list goes on. You know the deal. I just like to keep all my flavors sealed in tight.
  • Meat thermometer: I don’t use this often, but when I need it, it’s good to have. If you use this pup, you won’t need to savagely cut open meat to figure out if it’s done. There’s a temp for everything – poultry, pork, beef of any level doneness, etc. Just stick it in the center of the broadest part of the meat!
  • Salt shaker: I don’t know I’d just be fucking sad without it, okay?!
  • Pepper grinder: Fresh cracked pepper beats pre-ground by a mile. Its like… freshly ground coffee beans versus Folgers. Do you like Folgers, you monster?! GO BACK TO HELL.

One last thing – did you notice which kitchen item was in all of these pictures? A big-ass wooden cutting board. Get one. It cleans easily, can fit a ton of different chopped stuff, and is generally just the best. I use this and my big knife every time I cook. One note – my cutting board has a trough around the edges, mostly to catch juices when cutting meat. This is a big pain in my ass, because if I try to push any food off of the board into a pot, it has to go over the little moat first. Get a flat board. Don’t be me. I’m a square.

On that note, check you all on the flip.

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3 thoughts on “Necessary kitchen tools

  1. Pingback: Oh Damn! Pots and Pans | emma talks about food

  2. Pingback: Thai Chicken Soup, Soup-a Doop | emma talks about food

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