Kitchen Essentials to Cook Like a Pro

By: Mayumi Tavalero, Forks&Knife Creations, Published on 08/10/2020

A well-stocked kitchen has many benefits for both you and your personal cook. Having the right equipment on hand makes for easy and efficient meal preparation, saving you precious time and money. And the end result is a frustration-free, delicious meal for everyone to enjoy. You don’t have to have a large kitchen nor do you need to spend a fortune, just as long as you choose wisely. Here are some of my recommendations to get you started.

Cutting Boards

Ideally you should have at least two cutting boards. I have a large wooden board 18”x12” that I use for fruits and vegetables and another large poly propylene board that I use for raw and cooked meat. The later should fit into your dishwasher so it can be sanitized between uses. Make sure it has a “well” to catch the juices, which saves time on clean-up. If you want to add a third cutting board, I would recommend a small wood or plastic one, to use for small jobs, like slicing a lemon or lime, or chopping a couple cloves of garlic.

TIP: Place a moist towel under your board to keep it from slipping around.

Knives

People ask me all the time what kind of knife do you use and I usually reply “a sharp one!” Most home cooks don’t sharpen their knives on a regular basis. Sharpening, or more accurately honing or “straightening” your knife makes cutting quick and easy, plus a lot safer to use. I recommend you purchase only 2-3 essential knives. This should include a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and maybe a serrated knife for bread or fruits and vegetables with tougher skins. As far as brands, purchase what you can afford. Sure, it’s nice to have an expensive knife, but my recommendation is to start with an inexpensive 8 or 10-inch chef’s knife for its versatility, like this one.

Top Kitchen Tools

Bamboo Spatulas

These hold the number one spot (3-way tie with slotted turner and tongs!) on my list of top kitchen tools. They are inexpensive and will last for years, plus they won’t scratch your nonstick pans. Use them for making soups, stews, risotto, browning ground beef, just about anything! I am always in search of these to purchase individually, as most of the time they come in sets with spoons. Purchase several of these, as they are both functional and beautiful.

Tongs

Use these to turn meat, stir vegetables in a pan, toss salads, or to remove fried foods from hot oil, and so much more. I don’t recommend the tongs with the rubber tips. From my experience they tend to lose their grip. Also, locking tongs will be much easier to store. If you purchase these stainless steel tongs, just be careful when using with non-stick cookware. These are a steal (no pun intended!).

Silicone spatula

Not just for baking these can be used for sautéing as well, since they can withstand high heat. These are my favorite because they have a rest so they stay off the counter-top, plus I can throw them in the dishwasher.

TIP: Store your most used tools, such as spatulas, turners, and tongs in a drawer near your cooktop, or even better, in a container on the counter for easy access.

Salad Spinner

If you enjoy salads and other greens, then a salad spinner is a must in your kitchen. You can wash in the bowl, strain, then spin out all the excess water that dilutes your dressing. Plus any greens left in the bowl stay crisp and fresh. Once again the OXO brand turns out a winner. I like this one for it’s large size but low profile, so it fits on the shelf of my fridge.

Peel and mince all at once! The smaller the garlic pieces the stronger the garlic taste in your dish. And did you know pressed garlic releases more healthy compounds than chopped? I like this brand, plus it has a built in cleaner and I can put it in my dishwasher.

Slotted turner

I have used mine for over 10 years! These are affordable and will do the work great. You’ll want to grab a few of these.

Box grater

If you have large amounts of vegetables or cheese to grate, this is a time saver. Yes, this one is expensive. But don’t be put down off by the price. I have had it for 10 years and it’s still sharper than the new one I bought last week!

Peeler

A sharp peeler is like a sharp knife. It makes all the difference in food prep. Tip: don’t peel in just one direction. Go back and forth so you use both sides of the blade, plus you cut your peeling time in half! This is my favorite brand.

Cookware

Buying a large 20 piece cookware set may seem like a good idea at first because of the value, but that soon diminishes when you get it home, and are trying to figure out where to store it all. The following pots and pans should suit most of your needs:

Large pot with lid-use this for boiling pasta, making large batches of soups or stews, etc. This one will last a lifetime.

Medium saucepan with lid use this for everything else you need a pot for.

14-inch nonstick pan – if you can only afford one piece of cooking equipment, this is it! Large, but works for everything.Frying chicken, searing fish, sautéing vegetables, making marinara sauce, stir frying, whatever! The non-stick surface works great for delicate foods and a bonus is that it’s chemical free.

One additional pan, just slightly smaller, would be great addition to your collection.

Bakeware

Sheet pans can be used for a variety of foods, such as roasting vegetables or meats, or baking treats such as cookies. And they are great for large-batch cooking. I have gone through many sheet pans through the years, mostly because I kept insisting on the non-stick versions. I have finally come to the conclusion that eventually these finishes will wear off and the extra money I spent on them was a waste. My solution is to purchase 2 standard heavy-weight half-sheet pans with a rolled rim. Line with parchment paper whenever you use it, so foods won’t stick and they will be easy to clean. These pans should last a lifetime. These are a great value.

Stainless steel mixing bowls – use these for both savory and sweet dishes and just about anything you need a bowl for, such as washing herbs, marinating meat, tossing salads, making cookies, etc. Be sure to purchase a set so they nest, which saves on space. These bowls will give you a variety of sizes that should meet all your needs.

Appliances

I have a small kitchen, so I’m not a fan of multiple appliances. I don’t bake much, so no need for a stand mixer. I do have a blender, but it’s old and I only use it for smoothies and protein shakes. If I had a smaller family then I would think about investing in a countertop oven, but for now I use my full size oven. These are the appliances I currently have and most of them are at least 20 years old!

Hand blender My Cuisinart is still going strong. I use it to make homemade mayo and to blend my soups right in the pot. If you don’t already have one, I suggest this one.

Hand mixer – I use this mostly for when I bake, such as creaming butter and sugar for cookies, or making whipped cream or meringue. If my Kitchen aid mixer were to ever break down, this is what I would replace it with (I’m in love with the color!).

Electric pressure cooker – okay, this is BIG appliance, but I am okay with it because it’s such a time saver. I know a lot of you have this one. Maybe you got it as a gift, and maybe it’s still in the box, but now’s the time to start experimenting!

This machine takes tough cuts of meat and turns them into a tender and delicious meal. You can cook everything from savory to sweet and in a quarter of the time. These are available everywhere so shop around for the best price.

If you need help with cooking, personal chefs and home cooks are available on Foodom to help you at any time!

Collecting kitchen equipment should be fun and rewarding. Hopefully I have provided you with some good basics to start with and as you gain experience in the kitchen, feel free to add items that fit your needs and budget. To this day I still have my Mom’s set of Pyrex mixing bowls which she bought when I was a baby. She has long since passed, but the memories of all the good food she created in them lives on!

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