My daughter, Tricia, recently asked me to name my five favorite kitchen tools, the tools I cannot live without. It only took a nano second to name #1 on my list. My knives; sharp, sharp, sharp.
Please note: I am not promoting the brands of the products shown here. I enjoy using these products and am simply showing you what I have at my house.
Number 1: Good Quality Kitchen Knives
Long ago, back in my college days, I took a class about household equipment (don’t laugh). It is probably the best class I have EVER taken because it addressed every day living necessities and practicalities. If it comes with a house, we learned about it. We even learned about the engineering of refrigerators and freezers, driers, washing machines, dish washers, vacuum cleaners–all of it. We spent quite a bit of time on kitchen equipment and it was in that class that I learned about knives. Beautiful, gloriously constructed, sharp knives.
Right after the knife class, I went out and bought my first real knife. It was amazing. Cutting a tomato was like slicing through warm butter. The knife glided effortlessly through that tomato. Magnificent.
Last year for Mother’s Day my family bought me a new set of knives. Woohooo! They have been an absolute joy to use and I protect them as if they were newborns.
As per Tricia’s instructions, I just got my knives professionally sharpened. Yes, they are only a year old, but knives need to be sharpened professionally yearly. We are lucky enough to have a local company that makes house calls. Katie got in on the sharpening deal, too, and neither of us had to be without our knives for more than an hour. Sa weeet!
I’ll do a knife tutorial on another post in the future, but I will share with you one tidbit of information. The “sharpening steel“, otherwise known as the rod against which chefs appear to be sharpening their knife blades is not really for sharpening knives. It is for honing knives. Honing serves to straighten the sharp cutting edge of the blade, which develops microscopic dents or nicks and tends to curl under. The blade may still feel sharp, but will cut as if it is dull. Honing makes a sharp blade better, refines the edge and straightens it, so to speak.
Number 2: Cutting Boards
I bet you didn’t see that one coming (snicker). If you’re gonna have a great knife, then having a good, knife-friendly cutting board seems to be a logical extension. For about ten years I used a wooden cutting board. Wood is a great option because it is very knife friendly. However, I switched many years ago to a durable style of cutting board that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. I really like the idea of keeping my cutting surfaces sanitary and I enjoy being able to put bleach on my boards whenever I want that extra measure of sanitation, especially after prepping poultry. No, I am not a germaphobe. Let’s just say that I am very aware of “what’s out there” in the germ world and I choose to take appropriate precautions, especially with my food.
I have several sizes of cutting boards in my kitchen. Different needs, different sizes. My most often used board is large enough to accommodate stacks of several vegetables at once. I simply cut each vegetable and then push it to one side of the board while I work on the next vegetable. It is also great to have a board that is big enough to accommodate carving a turkey without the turkey pars falling onto the counter top. In essence, big job = big board; small job = smaller board.
A word of caution: please do not use glass cutting boards. They are definite knife killers, plus it is difficult to cut food well on them.
Here’s a pic of my newest cutting board loaded with beautiful fresh-cut vegetables (except for tht cute little baby corn). Click on the link be taken to a fun Southwestern Stir-Fry.
My favorite green cutting board has been with me for many, many years. This pic is from one of the earlier posts on my blog. The pic of the Sourdough-Parmesan-Artichoke Stuffing was updated last year. This is my family’s all-time favorite stuffing/dressing.
Number 3: Non-slip pads
Again, back to the sharp knives and the cutting boards. To help keep my cutting boards from slipping while I work, I put a piece of gripper material under the board. They are made of a spongy, non-slip material often used as shelf and drawer liners. They can be found in rolls at home improvement centers, grocery stores, and places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I picked mine up at the grocery store, pre-cut and in pretty pink and yellow; they were hanging in one of the isles. They are great. How did I ever live without them?
Oh, I remember how I used to live without them. I used a damp paper towel or a damp dish cloth under my cutting board. The gripper fabric is great because not only does it keep the board from moving, it can also be rinsed off if it becomes soiled.
Number 4: Vegetable Peeler
Clearly, I am all about things that cut. Dull prep instruments are a huge frustration for me. Can’t stand them. For me, using a dull knife or vegetable peeler is like trying to run a marathon wearing chainmail. You can get the job done, but dang, what a nightmare. So, number 4 is a good vegetable peeler. I like this one because it fits well in my hand and is sharp. I have had my current peeler for about five years (I think ;)) and am just now noticing that I need a new one.
Here’s the OXO peeler in use for shaving the fibrous outside of the broccoli stem. The accompanying photo is of Steamed Broccoli with Cheese Sauce and Pancetta–soooooo good.
Number 5: Pots and pans
Gotta have a good set of pots and pans. After all of the food prep (see #1-4 above), a good set of pots and pans is a must. Again, referring back to that household equipment class from long ago, I learned so much about what makes a good cooking pot.
For many years (30!) I used the same set of pots and truly enjoyed them. They were durable and cooked many a good meal. Last year I bought a new set of pots. I probably could have gotten lots more mileage out of my old pots, but I really wanted some new pots.
I love stainless steel pots with an aluminum clad bottom. Copper clad is also great. My pots have all of these elements. And I bought them at Costco. Yep Costco pots. They are doing a spectacular job, although I have had to learn to use them. They heat very well, and I find that I have to use lower heat with them. Additionally, the lids are designed to channel the water from the steam back into the food product. Anyway…these are very nice pots for an extremely reasonable price.
And in this pot, we have a crazy-good pudding that became a part of a Southern-style Banana Pudding. I could eat a pot of this pudding all day!
So, there you have them, my top five favorite kitchen tools. They are a joy to use and are the basis for many happy meals at my house.