Wednesday, February 8, 2012

What are your favorite kitchen tools? What couldn't you live without?

The Saveur 100 for this year (January 2012) lists the "antique juice press" (p.18) as their 12th favorite thing.  We were sort of thrilled because, although we have a large collection of retro kitchen tools (veg - o - matic, ice crushers, etc.) our Juice King IS our go to juicer.  People assume that being the crazed cooks that we are - and we are, we are aware of that - that we had some sort of big juicer. 

Frankly, over the years - and it did take some time - we learned that, indeed, less is more.  We have slowly been getting rid of all sorts of nifty gadgets and machines which have ended up stored in our basement.  Let's face it, a pannini maker takes up a lot of space (which in city kitchens most of us don't have) and a cast iron pan with a stone mortar sitting in it will flatten any sandwich on earth! Frying? Certainly a Dutch Oven, a thermometer, a "spider" to lift things out of oil and you're set as far as frying goes.  Life without a good, industrial grade Kitchen Aid Mixer would be tragic and I am blessed to have one - and the ice cream maker attachment and the sausage maker attachment, and a pasta maker attachment - you get the picture. These attachments are all small and easily stored (the ice cream maker lives in the freezer).  And they make great gift ideas for folks who buy you gifts!

And, of course, as we all should know, if you are going to spend some money on something - let it be knives.  Please, let it be knives!  Having cooked in other people's kitchens a lot over the years, I am now convinced that this is the big missing piece for many home cooks.  There's only one kitchen in which we find sharpened knives - along with lots of other good stuff  and really enjoy cooking away from home (you know who you are, Larken Springs Farm!).  Also, one 12 inch non - stick pan is probably enough.  Cast iron is a necessity.  A good chef's pan is very utilitarian.  A roaster is necessary if you do Thanksgiving or roasts at any time of year. A pasta pot is great to have.  A well aged wok is a thing of beauty.  We're partial to All -Clad - it's great, durable and made in Pennsylvania.  All of these contribute to the texture and flavor of what is cooked in them and are irreplaceable for some foods/dishes. You know what you use, what kinds of food you prepare and how much room you actually have, so start from there.

What I am saying is, if you are frustrated with your overflowing kitchen cabinets  - and again, most of us whose kitchens are in the city are constantly fighting that battle - give some thought to what you really need, what kinds of food you cook,  what can serve "double duty", and what you really use - and be honest, what is totally unnecessary and spends its life in a storage closet.

What kitchen tools could you NOT live without?  What are you contemplating for the Spring tag sale?  What tools have you learned multiple uses for?  Example here:  we have a wonderful cast iron mussel pot - we love mussles and make them a lot and the pot is fun and so great to bring right to the table loaded with steamed mussles and their liquer in which to dip crusty bread.  That said, I have also learned that the same pot - with no impact on its mussel steaming capacity - makes a great loaf of "no knead" bread.  Yipee two uses!

I'd love to hear from you.  We can definitely learn from each other.

Here she is - she's a work horse, she's ancient  - and she's very, very efficient!


  1. I should have read the article when I responded above, although I do love my garlic press most! One item I have that was my Mom's is an old iron meat grinder that attaches via key screw to a table or counter top, all cutters, handle, etc. are screwed together. It makes the absolutely best chicken salads and croquette fillers, you just dump the meat, celery, herbs, onions into the grinder and get an aerobic work-out turning the handle. I used to get Zach to do this when he was little--he loved the mechanics of the thing. At any rate, I don't know what makes it so extraordinary, but there isn't a better way to make a tasty chicken salad than this old grinder and I will continue to use it unless it happens to fall on my foot, in which case I'll be disabled for life...

  2. Glad to see the mussel pot made the cut!
    In addition to everything you mention (knives #1) I'd add that rimmed cookie sheets, or bun pans as they're known in the restaurant world, are indispensable in my kitchen. In addition to cookies, they are great for roasting vegetables or meats, pizza and making perfect bacon in the oven.

  3. You we have two grinders from two grandmoms - need to use them more. Definitely agree on the pans!