Sorry for the month-long hiatus. Life has been busy, and things always get crazier around the holidays!
Anywho, as an obsessive cook, I have a loving relationship with almost everything in my kitchen. Nico and I have been fortunate enough to accumulate and inherit a lot of cookware and tools throughout our college years and from my family. Plus, like a totally square couple, we received additional kitchen goodies when we got hitched. There are a few things I use with great frequency, things I cannot live without. Here’s the list:
For whatever reason, my father had two dutch ovens in storage, so he gave one of them to me. Honestly, I’m not sure I would spend a zillion dollars on this particular piece of cookware if we had to buy it ourselves, but I know that I use it at least once a week and would cry if it were taken away from me. As a lover of soups and stews, the dutch oven is an extremely versatile and reliable item in my kitchen. Whether I’m making a meat stew and browning the crap out of some tender beef, chicken, or lamb, or I’m cooking a swiss chard, potato, and chickpea stew, the dutch oven is magic. It’s designed specifically to enhance slow-cooking by heating evenly and locking in moisture for more tender results, and the material can withstand temperatures up to 500°F.
Good Chef’s Knife
Obviously, if you cook a lot, having a quality knife for chopping meats, fish, and vegetables is a real help. This is probably the only expensive (over $50) kitchen tool I’ve ever purchased, and even then, I used a William Sonoma credit card “reward” in order to supplement the purchase. With a Shun classic hollow-ground santoku knife, I’m able to quickly chop, dice, and slice any number of ingredients.
A Good Spatula
I do a lot of pan-frying and baking, and find that a good spatula makes these processes a lot easier and neater. There are specialized spatulas (for fish, for example), but I like using a hearty metal one for everything.
I eat a lot of rice, partially because I’m really fond of it, and partially because it’s so easy to make, especially with a rice cooker. A staple in many Korean households, this appliance makes kitchen life super easy. Just plop in some measured rice and water, click a button, and voila! You have perfectly cooked rice. Rice cookers come in a variety of sizes and levels of sophistication – some are really simple and purely for rice which run around $50, and others utilize this mysterious thing called “fuzzy logic” with multiple cooking settings for rice (white, umami, mixed, sushi, porridge, sweet, brown, GABA brown, rinse free, quick cooking, and slow cooking) that can be $300+.
Nonstick Baking Trays
I’ve been a pretty bad girl, and haven’t taken good care of my baking trays. But I use them all the time for cookies, roasted vegetables, baked tofu, etc
I use our wok for almost all pasta and sauteed vegetable dishes. It’s actually probably not the ideal piece of cookware for these (sautee pans with a larger bottom diameter are likely more appropriate). But I usually cook (and eat) in bulk, and the shape of the wok makes it easier for me to not make a huge mess while stirring/mixing food.
8 quart stock pot
A big pot is a necessary tool in a kitchen. Whether you’re boiling pasta (which should always be cooked in a lot of water – one never wants to stuff pasta and water in a small pot), blanching vegetables, making mashed taters, or simmering stock.
Cast Iron Skillet
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I love cast iron skillets for so many reasons. First of all, because they’re so thick, heavy, and durable, food tends to cook evenly and beautifully. Secondly, if you want to brown your food for some intensified flavors, cast iron cookware will get you that amazing depth of flavor and color. Also, I really enjoy taking care of it. It requires a little bit of love and intentionality, which somehow makes me care about it even more. They’re also super versatile since they can be put in the oven. One could make eggs & bacon at the same time, bake some corn bread or a frittata, sear/brown a large roast before sticking it in the oven, and much more. And, they’re not very expensive! I think Nico and I bought ours at Target for $25.00, and after a few months of good loving, it was already seasoned beautifully, and it will probably last for decades to come.
Wooden spoons are great for cooking. I don’t like the idea of using plastic on hot foods, so I use wooden products to sautee and mix foods in pots and pans. They’re also good for mixing batters while baking.
…And finally, a poll:
Because I’ve been rather indecisive these past few weeks, I’m going to ask you all to help me decide what entry comes next. Help?