A couple weeks ago during the Chris Cooks Instagram Live, we received questions numbering not a few about which kitchen items I would say are “essential.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, because “essential” really forces some editing.
I have drawers full of utensils. Cupboards full of cookware. A wall of cutlery. Everything has a task, and I use all of it when occasion arises. But if push came to shove I could cut a loaf of bread with my Chef’s knife instead of a bread knife, or mince garlic with my Chef’s knife instead of using a garlic press. I could also make stock in my dutch oven instead of a stock pot, or I could bake a casserole in it instead of a casserole dish.
So this is my list of essentials. Things that pull double, triple, quadruple – and whatever five or beyond would be – duty. Things a cook should use every time they step in the kitchen. The items and ingredients that make food great and cooking fun.
1. Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Round Dutch Oven (7 1/4-Qt. Matte White): $320
Cast iron is so amazing to cook with, but cleanup and upkeep can be a bear. I always opt for enamel-coated, so I can wash it with soap. Plus you can cook acidic things in it, like tomato sauce.
2. OXO Good Grips 7 Piece Glass Bowl Set: $52
I have glass bowls out every time I cook. Prepping ingredients, discarding vegetable or meat trimmings, making sauces. Whatever I need, they’re great for. Bonus, they look great on the table so we serve in them all the time, too!
3. Daterra Ceramic Pan with Natural Nonstick Coating: $89
I’m not a fan of Teflon nonstick, and have been using this ceramic pan for a couple years now. I use it for eggs and it does great, but I also use it to sear meat. Does it all really well.
4. Microplane Zester Grater: $14
Grating ginger, grating garlic, grating nutmeg, grating citrus zest, grating hard cheeses. A Microplane grates things super finely, so pungent and vibrant flavors are easier to control.
5. Manual Juicer Citrus Squeezer: $9
I add fresh citrus juice to just about everything I cook. Either during the process, or just a hit right at the end. Wakes every dish up, as well as the tastebuds.
6. Multipurpose Flat Wooden Spatula: $15
This little tool has replaced just about all of my wooden spoons. Great for stirring, but also flipping meats or fish. I have 5 of these in a crock on my counter and I use multiple every time I cook.
7. OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Tongs: $12
OXO perfected the locking tongs. They aren’t expensive, they last for years, and I use them every day. You can get metal tipped, or nylon.
8. OXO Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board: $27
A large cutting board can be used for everything. Small cutting boards cannot. If you have to choose, get large, and as large as you can find. I have several of these and can’t recommend them enough.
9. Wüsthof Classic 8″ Chef’s Knife: $179
I get it. You can buy one knife for $180, or an entire set for $200!!! A $200 set of knives will not hold up, and I’d wager you won’t use half of the knives in a set anyway. Spend the money to get one great Chef’s knife, take good care of it, and it will be your best friend in the kitchen.
10. Peugeot 9-Inch Pepper Mill: $44
I love the grind on these pepper mills. Coarse to super fine, easy to adjust – and they last for half a decade or longer. And yes, Jim Gaffigan, people can tell the difference between fresh and stale pepper.
11. Redmond Real Sea Salt: $5
Not all salt tastes the same. My personal favorite is Redmond kosher salt, for the texture and trace minerals. But I’m also a fan of Himalayan pink.
12. Paesanol Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $22
I’m finding I enjoy my food more when I do as little as possible to it. And I appreciate ingredients that are the same. I love this olive oil, for everything. It’s a bit hazy because it’s unfiltered, and tastes like actual olives for the same reason.
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