We’re back to it’s-almost-Friday-day and I couldn’t be more excited! I have a work trip that has me flying in and out of Dallas in one day tomorrow for a meeting but I’ve got nothing but a couple of errands, some chores and a boat load of reading lined up for my first *full* weekend back home. It’s been really tough not having a routine so both my husband and I are really excited to get back into it. SO, for my “Thoughtful Thursday” posts I’ve been bringing you mostly book prompts but that’s only a portion (albeit the larger portion) of my blog! I thought today I’d give you guys a list of things that I find absolutely essential in my kitchen. I cook pretty much every night of the week (with Whole30 I cook every meal, every day now) and I can honestly say I love it.
While I personally love to cook, I know it isn’t always accessible for others who may be intimidated by it or if they don’t have a lot of practice and it can legit be a lot of work. In high-school I thought I wanted to be a chef (LOL again @ myself) so I started really putting effort into cooking when I was about 14. Since then, I think I’ve grown a lot (really shocked when I think back on what my version of fancy meals were…) and a lot of that is due to the tools in my kitchen. While reading the recipes, understanding your own pallet and tastes and fresh, quality ingredients are important – the ease of which you cook is greatly affected by the tools you use.
ONCE MORE FOR EVERYONE IN THE BACK: CAST IRON REIGNS SUPREME.
Ok look, I am well aware I’ve beaten this point into the ground multiple times. However, I can’t let this list start with literally, anything else. Cast iron is the QUEEN BEE of cooking and I’ll give you just a few reasons why. It’s sturdy AF – if you drop it, this baby isn’t gonna be damaged. Most non-stick pots and pans come with heat warnings – the cast iron can handle pretty much anything you throw at it AND, AND *wait for it* IT IS ALSO NON-STICK! It functions as not only a pan, but a grill and it’s oven safe (you can literally use it on any surface – i.e. stove, oven, an actual fire).
Please, for the love of god – do not put soap on your skillet! Doing this removes all of the “seasoning” done and you’d have to start over, but it also means clean up is easier and you save $$$ on soap! They’re also incredibly versatile and make one pan/pot cooking a breeze. You can even get enameled cast iron which is AMAZING for soups!
This right here, is a great option for an unseasoned cast iron skillet. I personally believe you should *connect* with your skillet and season it yourself – plus you learn something new! However, they’re harder to come by and if you want the quicker option you can buy a great pre-seasoned skillet here! Keep in mind you really shouldn’t be spending more than $40 on a cast-iron skillet [read: they’re also economical].
PROPERLY PURCHASED, PROPERLY MAINTAINED, PROPERLY SHARPENED KNIVES.
So, while I listed the cast iron skillet first in this post – you’re number one most important cooking tool, literally EVER is a proper, quality, and then MAINTAINED chef’s knife. A chef’s knife is used in the preparation of nearly every dish you’re ever going to make. Having a quality chef’s knife will nearly eliminate the dreaded “slippage” of a knife that leads to cut fingers. A proper chef’s knife will also help create consistency in your slicing and dicing, creating a more well rounded, evenly cooked dish – no matter what you’re making. *Also, the reason you’re probably crying when you cut onions is because your knife isn’t sharp enough.*
When choosing a knife, you want to think about your personal preference, but also the science behind the steel. In general, harder steels will hold a sharp edge longer (meaning less sharpening for you) however, these tend to rust easier than traditional stainless steel. It’s more expensive but thanks to *modern science* there’s steel that is harder AND doesn’t rust! Japanese AUS8 is a really great option and you can find a wonderful chef’s knife of this variety here. If you’re going to splurge on anything – splurge on your chef’s knife.
Keep in mind, that no matter the knife you buy you must maintain and care for it. If I see another person putting their knife in the sand blaster that is the dishwasher I am going to blow my lid! DO NOT PUT YOUR KNIFE IN THE DISHWASHER. Also, while you can sharpen your knives by hand using that handy dandy sharpener that comes in many knife sets, I personally suggest spending the money and buying yourself a sharpener to save yourself on time and frustration! Here is an inexpensive one!
So, while a proper chef’s knife is more than arguably the most important tool in the shed a proper serrated knife is hard to substitute. While a chef’s knife is more versatile and will be used more often, it really can’t do a proper job of many of the things a serrated knife can. Things like, slicing into bread, or slicing the delicate, slippery skin of a tomato are hard to do with the smooth edge of a chef’s knife.
What’s great about the serrated knife, is that you really can’t sharpen it. The saw teeth of the blade will make it hard, if not impossible for you to sharpen the blade so you really don’t have to go spend an arm and a leg on the nicest blade out there. The fact of the matter is – no matter what you spend, or how nice your knife is – that baby is going to dull. With the serrated blade, you don’t really have to worry about that – just replace it! Here’s a great option.
If you live in a city where you can take cooking classes, I highly suggest taking a knife skills class. My husband and I took one at our Central Market (HEB FOREVER) and it really changed my game.
A PROPER CUTTING BOARD.
So last but certainly not least on this list of kitchen essentials is going to be a proper cutting board. There are lots and lots of options here for you to choose from and I probably have every single version of a cutting board. However, there are a few things to note! NUMERO UNO: Toss that dinky lil’ baby cutting board that’s less than a foot wide. Having proper space to do your prep work is KEY – opt for a larger cutting board and make space to store it, it will save you frustration in the long run! NUMERO DOS: Wood holds less bacteria than any other surface and is also gentler on your knives – however, a good quality plastic is a-ok and isn’t going to send your knives to the grave.
Now, I’ll link you a great 15 x 21 plastic cutting board along with a large wooden one in just a second. BUT, I’ll let ya’ll in on a little secret – if you live anywhere near a Ross Dress for Less hit that bitch up for some cutting boards. I have multiple, beautiful, wooden, large cutting boards I got for less than $20 there. They also have pretty much every material you can think of – it’s a great place to get them on the CHEAP.
*HONORABLE MENTION GOES TO THE MICROPLANE AND KITCHEN SHEARS!*
Both of these are underutilized *in my humble opinion*. You might be saying, obviously kitchen shears but WTF – a microplane? Do I really need to spend money on that? In short, no you don’t NEED to but you should WANT to. While yes, the microplane is the least versatile tool here and only serves [essentially] one function – it does that one function HELLA WELL. Microplane comes in many sizes, but if you’re starting out I suggest choosing the finest grate. It turns hard cheeses into incredible wisps and zests like you’ve never seen before. While a traditional box grater will *technically* get you there – the movie version of a book *technically* tells the same story doesn’t it?
Tell me about your kitchen and cooking essentials! What do you think are the most important aspects of creating a meal? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!