It can be difficult to wade through the myriad kitchen supply stores in an attempt to build an arsenal of tools for your kitchen, especially when so much of the equipment out there is so specialized. Do you really need a quesadilla maker, a strawberry huller, or a garlic press? In my 15 years of cooking professionally, I’ve certainly never used any of these things; I’d only consider reaching for a strawberry huller if I was making gallons of strawberry jelly, and even then, my paring knife would do the trick just fine.
All the gadgets out there want to suck the money out of your wallet, and I would urge you to consider wisely before falling for the shtick. If a tool isn’t multifunctional, or you wouldn’t use it several times a week, skip it.
My Top Ten Tools For A Healthy Kitchen
A very sharp knife. An eight inch chef’s knife can do pretty much anything. Round out a knife collection with a paring knife and a serrated knife; unless you’re doing meat or fish fabrication (rarely required of the modern home cook), that’s all you need. And PLEASE bring that chef’s knife to a local sharpener when it gets dull. Kitchen supply stores can make a recommendation if you have a hard time locating a sharpener; the service is very reasonably priced and makes slicing and dicing so much more fun (and safe). Sharpening it yourself if you don’t know how can hurt the blade, even (or should I say especially?) with those motorized two wheel contraptions. Take it to a pro instead.
A cast iron skillet. I adore cast iron because I hate to wash dishes and I love a good searing. Cast iron easily replaces non-stick cookware, which is downright frightening to me in regards to health implications. Check out my past blog on cast iron cooking for tips on how to delve into this art form.
A grill. Again, I hate cleaning up, and I love a good excuse to spend time outside. Furthermore, when you grill, a lot of the fat in what you are grilling falls into the grill instead of into your food. If you don’t have room for an outdoor grill, a little panini-press style grill does the trick indoors.
Appropriately sized serving dishes and glasses.Avoid having a big bowl of ice cream by using a half cup bowl for desserts. Dinner plates need not be 12 inches round; juice glasses need not hold 20 ounces. Downsize your glassware and plates to keep your portions reasonable. But use a big bottle for water!
A salad spinner. No matter the source, organic or conventional, you should always wash your greens, and salad spinners definitely help in this matter. Don’t trust the “pre-washed” greens you can buy at the market. The water they’ve been washed in is often questionable in regards to potability.
Glass storage containers. The research on what chemicals are leached out of plastic is so confusing that it’s just safer to stick to good old glass. Often these containers are dishwasher, oven, microwave, and freezer safe, as well as easier to clean than their plastic counterparts.
A food processor. There’s a culinary motto that can apply to any aspect of life, really: Work Smarter, Not Harder. Food processors can cut out a lot of knife time for certain jobs. It’s tricky to make a decent pesto without a food processor; it also comes in handy for pureeing vegetables to thicken soups or flavor grains. Find one with a shredding blade attachment so you can throw away that dangerously knuckle-hungry box grater.
Parchment paper. Using parchment on a pan when baking something can prevent the need for washing the pan-another win for not having to do dishes! It also negates the need to add extra fat to a cookie sheet to prevent things from sticking.
A toaster oven. Preheating an oven just to heat up a turkey wrap for lunch is a time-consuming drag. Make it easier to make yourself a delicious and healthy lunch by adding a small toaster oven to your counter. I find that I use my toaster oven five times more than the big oven in my kitchen. And after buying a toaster oven, I gave my microwave away.
A fruit bowl. Out of sight, out of mind. Keep healthy, seasonally sweet snacks in plain view to encourage your household to choose wisely.
What is your favorite healthy cooking tool?