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My Favorite Cooking Tools

November 19, 2015  —  Written by Chris 

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You can cook. This has been my whole thing, with every post I’ve written. Food is not some exclusive club you have to be on some list to get into, and we should never feel intimidated to try something new. It’s all a matter of having the right tools, and understanding the basics. A few people have asked me to write about my favorite, basic cooking tools and this is that post.

We have partnered with our friends at Blue Apron to give you the run down on my list of kitchen items I use nearly every time I cook and to spread the word about their Thanksgiving Dinner Drive. You can visit before noon on Friday 11/20 to donate a Blue Apron Thanksgiving Dinner to a family in need.  It’s an amazing feast with enough food for a family of six. Last year 35,000 meals were donated and this year the goal is 75,000. I know we can do it!

You don’t have to be a Blue Apron member to donate a meal, but I honestly can’t say enough how much I love their service, and the food is always spot on. They deliver recipes and farm fresh ingredients to your door every week in refrigerated boxes, perfectly portioned so there’s no waste. Every dish can be made in less than 40 minutes and there’s always some cool new ingredient I’ve never tried before, or at least some I can’t get anywhere in our small town.  On our busy weeks, where I still want my family to eat fresh and healthy, but sometimes I don’t want to plan a menu, make a list, go shopping, and portion out my ingredients–Blue Apron is the perfect solution for us. Time is a commodity, and where I work full-time during the days, those hours between 5pm and 7pm (when Greta and Faye go to bed) are precious.

On to my favorite cooking tools! (This particular evening we made their Stir-Fried Beef & Udon Noodles.<—that’ll take you right to the recipe, it’s ridiculously good.)

1. Large Cutting Board

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

I talk about this all the time, but having a large cutting board will make your cooking experience dramatically better. Too many times I’ve cut things on a small cutting board only to have them roll onto the floor. I have this exact cutting board that I bought from Amazon years ago, and I’ll forever use them. They’re cheap, durable, and won’t damage the knives you use on them.

2. Melamine Mixing Bowls

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

A decent set of quality, melamine mixing bowls will be one of your greatest investments. And it’s important to note that “quality” doesn’t mean “expensive” in this case. The pictured bowls we bought at Target, but you can also find similar sets on Amazon. I use them every time I cook. Every. Time.

3. Good-Quality Knife

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

Our long-time readers know that I’m a Wüsthof guy. I’ve used Shun, Zwilling and a range of Japanese blades with names I can’t remember but price tags that made me gasp. I have never come across a blade that out-performs Wüsthof. Having a good quality knife is essential to everything you do, and even though you may be looking at a higher price point, simply by taking care of it (hand wash only, dry immediately, store properly etc), these knives will last you for decades.

4. Microplane

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

A lot of people would consider this an optional thing, but I’m telling you it’s not. The first step in healthy cooking is having the tools that allow you to get the most flavor from your ingredients. A microplane does exactly that and is perfect for pulling as much flavor as possible from ginger and garlic, as well as adding a bright freshness to salads and stir fries from the zest of a lime. I’ve found there are very few dishes that aren’t improved with a little fresh lime zest added.

5. High Quality Pan

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

I’ve used my share of cheap pots and pans, and sometimes that’s all you have. But I encourage everyone to invest in at least one high-quality, versatile sauté pan. Something with a thick, copper base for optimum heat transfer and retention. This pan from Anolon is the single greatest cooking vessel I’ve ever used – it works as a wok, sauté, or frying pan.

6. Powder-Free Vinyl Gloves

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

Another one of those “this isn’t necessary” things, but I tell you what, explosive diarrhea is a bear and cross contamination is how you cause it. Not to mention bloody stool, vomiting etc etc.. Raw meats should always be handled with care, and using disposable gloves has become the norm for me, out of respect for my friends and family.

7. Tongs

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

I own several pairs of OXO Good Grips tongs, and they’re the best. I love it when the best things aren’t the most expensive, don’t you? The spring, the lock, the handle – all of it is designed for comfort and they just work flawlessly. These come in metal and nylon tips, and I suggest at least one of each – nylon for use in non-stick pans, metal in stainless.

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

With these few basic tools and great ingredients, you can make awesome food. Healthy, delicious, awesome food. You can actually find a lot of the high quality kitchen utensils I talked about over in Blue Apron’s marketplace. 

And what’s better, Blue Apron is giving 2 free meals to the first 50 of our readers who order from them today. Click here to get set up – I’m serious when I say you’ll love it, because I genuinely love it myself. I can’t wait to demolish a heap of their Crispy Pear and Goat Cheese Salad, and I’m sure you’ll dig your meals as well.

Blue Apron - Cooking Equipment I Use Every Day

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What do you think?

  1. Mel says:

    What a great list! I have all of these things in my kitchen (not the exact brands, for some) because they came as part of the moving-out present from my chef dad when I graduated. I admit that I’d rather have the whole apartment stink of bleach from washing counters, taps, cupboard knobs, etc obsessively (my usual MO when dealing with raw meat) than use the gloves, though. Even the size small is too big!

  2. Haley says:

    Thank you! I agree a large cutting board is a must. I love having the space to have a dirty side (taking off the garlic/onion skins) and a clean side so I don’t get the micro pieces in my food or ruin presentation.

    I also love having a stack of the tiny glass bowls (condiment bowls I think) for transferring garlic, peppers, ect from the cutting board to the pan.

    Thank you for the tips on the pans and knifes!

  3. Mariah says:

    Hey thanks for showing us your most essential basics. We are 2 years into marriage so all our kitchen tools we started out with are either broken at this point, or forging onward like champs. We’ve been wondering where to start investing now that we are able to. We’ll be making a few purchases off your list. And I love knowing what knife sharpener you use. Next we’d like to see how to oil the handles : )

  4. Annie says:

    Oh, and don’t forget that that normal skin flora bug that causes food poisoning (Staph) is salt tolerant and the toxin can’t be destroyed by heat.

  5. Annie says:

    I am a microbiologist in a hospital lab, so I know my stuff when it comes to spreading explosive diahorrea and wearing gloves is more likely to spread it not wearing them.

    In the clinical lab we wear gloves to keep nasties off our skin and out of any cuts or breaks there might be there. This is more for viruses than bacteria. We are protecting ourselves with the gloves. They also act as a little reminder that you’re contaminated so you don’t scratch your nose or put your hand in your pocket and take home some Salmonella.

    The way to protect others is to wash your hands, thoroughly. That’s why hospitals are full of signs reminding people to wash hands, and why you’ll notice that after anyone takes off their gloves, they wash their hands.

    Now, there’s an interesting psychological quirk in food handlers wearing gloves (one of my professors at college was a food contamination person, so we heard it all). They tend to make people feel ‘safe’ so they handle anything and everything with the gloves and then fail to wash their hands.

    There is also the fact that normal skin flora can cause explosive diahhorrea, so you’d want to be washing your hands before you touch the gloves to put them on anyway.

    Unless you’re suspecting the ground beef has TB or Hep C, everyone will be safer if you take the gloves off and simply change out chopping board and knife and wash your hands after the meat.

    • Chris says:

      I think it goes without saying that wearing gloves doesn’t get rid of the need for washing hands. But it’s always a good to have reminders, so I appreciate your thoughts!

  6. Evelina says:

    this might make you cringe but my only requirement for a kitchen tool is that it has to be dishwasher safe. No time for handwashing!

  7. Emelia says:

    I laughed out loud at your explosive diarrhea comment! I loved a little unexpected humor hidden within the post.

  8. Nadine says:

    Feel like I have a great starting off point after reading your post…it was very encouraging and informative. Thank you!

  9. Libby says:

    I love your cooking tips! I’m looking into new pots and pans because we just switched to an induction stove. I thought the material on non-stick pans released toxins and we’re no longer considered safe… What are your thoughts? Do you still use any?

    • Chris says:

      There’s a growing group of people who are becoming anti-nonstick. Honestly, I’ve never read any compelling evidence that wasn’t laced with agendas so I take it with a grain of salt, but I rarely use nonstick anyway. Not out of ideology, but I find a broader range of applications for stainless. I use nonstick pans for omelettes, and I have a two-burner nonstick griddle from Anolon that I use every morning for breakfast (it’s awesome for eggs, pancakes, bacon, hash browns etc).

    • Staci says:

      Just to butt in… the best way to be “safe” when cooking with nonstick is to keep the pan at medium heat or below. The high heat is what causes the “nonstick stuff” to a) come off the pan and b) release tozUse a stainless steel pan if you really need to blast something on high! :D

  10. Amanda says:

    All great recommendations! We desperately need some new mixing bowls – ours are looking pretty pathetic and having nice mixing bowls is one of those little luxuries that makes cooking way better!

  11. Darcy says:

    Thank you for this list — I think I have a few more ideas for my hubs that likes to cook! That analon pan and the microplane! We need new cookware, so this might be a good starting point!

    We have had Wusthof knives since we got married in 2001, and I am embarrassed to say, we have not treated them well. They have never been sharpened! (GASP—HORROR– I KNOW!!!!) What do you recommend – should we get them professionally sharpened at this point?

    • Chris says:

      The great thing about Wusthof steel is it should come back to life with the right treatment. I would get them professionally sharpened this time, and invest in a whetstone and blade-friendly storage options. Keep them out of the dishwasher going forward and you’ll feel like you have brand new knives. :)

      • Darcy says:

        Thanks for the reply! Luckily, I have never put them in the dishwasher – always handwash and dry and put them in a block. So, maybe its not as bad as I though! I have never heard of oiling the handles — tell me more about that, please! :-)

  12. Jess says:

    Do you sharpen your knives? We have a nice cutco set, but we send them to be sharpened once a year.

    • Chris says:

      I do. I have a Shun Whetstone and a Wusthof Tri-Stone and they both work great. I never wash my knives in the dishwasher, I oil the handles once every few weeks, and I sharpen them maybe every 6 months. They perform like they’re brand new.

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