Chef Feker’s “must have” kitchen tools
Every handyman knows that if you don’t have the right tools to do the job, and if you don’t know how to use them correctly, your project is going to be much, much harder and it might turn into one big mess. It is exactly the same in the kitchen. Your family meal preparation should be an expression of creativity and love, not a frustrating misadventure. Outfit your kitchen with the right tools, learn the proper techniques, and your entire cooking experience will be so much easier with delicious results.
Let’s start with the tools – here’s my list of what every kitchen has to have, why you need it and what you can do with it:
Pots and Pans – start with the basics – you don’t need to buy a whole matching set right off the bat. Begin with these key pieces and expand your collection when and if needed. Be sure to buy good quality pots and pans made of medium to heavy-gauge materials. Heavier pots and pans spread and hold heat more evenly than thin, lightweight pans, and that is an essential key to well cooked food. Materials to consider include aluminum, anodized aluminum, clad metal stainless steel, copper.
8” non-stick skillet – use for omelets & eggs, single servings of protein
10” skillet with lid – use for chicken breasts, searing, grilled sandwiches
12” deep sided skillet with lid – use for stir frying, sloppy joes, searing, browning, simmering dishes with lots of ingredients
2-quart saucepan with lid – use for sauces, heating soup, small batches of veggies
3-quart saucepan with lid – use for sauces, oatmeal, rice
4-quart to 6-quart Dutch Oven – use to braise meats, roast whole chickens or simmer stews; can be used either on the stovetop or in the oven
8-quart stockpot – use for cooking pasta, sauces, stocks, blanching veggies
Cast Iron Skillet – perfection for cooking over a flame, from eggs to burgers to steaks, in your home or over a campfire; cast iron cooks food more evenly and can last almost forever. If treated correctly cast iron can have the same properties of non-stick cookware (keep reading for more info on the care and seasoning of your cast iron cookware)
2 Cookie sheets – use for baking biscuits and cookies, roasting veggies, toasting garlic bread and catching drips
13” x 9” Glass baking dish – use for lasagna, roasting veggies and meats,
Knives – Just like with pots & pans, don’t run out and buy every knife in the store. Buy fewer knives, but buy better quality knifes. Make sure the knife feels comfortable in your hand, and that the blade is solid, not lightweight and flimsy. If the blade bends easily, keep shopping. You can do almost any kitchen job with these three key knives:
Chef’s Knife – slices, dices, minces, chops, cuts, carves and more – this is the real workhorse in your kitchen, so don’t scrimp on this one. If you can only afford to buy one knife, this is the one to get.
Paring Knife – use for peeling veggies & fruits, slicing garlic, sectioning and coring
Serrated Bread Knife – perfect for cutting breads, cakes, large fruits, tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce; can also carve cooked meat.
Cutting Boards - These are essential for keeping your counter tops and knife blades intact – and you absolutely need to have more than one of them. Life in your kitchen will be so much simpler if you invest in several cutting boards. Whichever kind of cutting board you choose, remember to clean them after each use with hot soapy water. You should also regularly sanitize your boards with white vinegar – just wipe it on and wipe it off. If your cutting boards do not have non-skid feet on the bottom, put a damp towel under the cutting board to keep it from slipping.
Flexible Plastic Cutting Boards – these are wonderful and can be used for veggies, fruits, meats, herbs, you name it. When you’re done chopping you can easily lift up the board and neatly transfer the ingredient to your pot, pan or bowl. Plus they’re dishwasher safe so clean up is a breeze. They come in a variety of colors, and some cooks even color code their cutting duties to avoid any cross-contamination possibilities – green for veggies, white for onions/garlic, red for meats, etc.
Small Plastic Cutting Boards – perfect for smaller tasks like chopping garlic or an onion. Why dirty a large board when a little one will do the trick? The flip side of that…don’t try to use a small cutting board for a large job, like carving a roast. Match the board to the task at hand.
Wooden Cutting Board – these are great for resting and carving your roasts, poultry and meat. Get one with a lip around the edge to catch all the yummy juices. Wooden cutting boards should not be put in the dishwasher, as they may warp and crack.
Spoons, Spatulas, Severing and Serving devices
Rubber scraper – get a few different shapes and sizes – you will find all kinds of uses for these essential tools!
Turner or flipper for pancakes, burgers, omelets, cookies
Kitchen shears – these can perform a multitude of tasks, from cutting and/or deboning poultry to cutting herbs and pizza
Bowls - Go for stainless steel or glass in 3 different sizes – small, medium, large. It’s also a good idea to have a couple that are microwave and oven safe, and nice enough to use on the table too.
Whisks - Grab a couple different shapes and sizes. Try to find whisks that are sealed where the wire meets the handle (they’re more sanitary and easier to clean). Use big whisks for foods in large pots, medium whisks for soups and sauces, small whisks for beating eggs and salad dressings
Measuring Must Haves
Measuring spoons – available in plastic or metal. If you can, buy 2 sets so you don’t have to wash and rewash them in the middle of your culinary creation
Dry measuring cups – available in plastic or metal. Consider getting yourself 2 sets of measuring cups too – it can really save on the prep and clean up time
Liquid measuring cups – available in clear plastic or glass. Do not use your liquid measuring cup for dry goods as your measurements will not be accurate.
Gizmos & gadgets
Colander – make sure it has lots of holes that are evenly distributed, and try to buy one with feet that will lift it off the sink or counter. You might want to consider keeping 2 or 3 of these in your cabinets
Thermometer – take the guess work out of cooking. Use an instant read thermometer and you’ll know for sure if your roast is medium rare and your chicken’s a safe 180F degrees.
Tongs – get yourself short tongs for indoor use, and long tongs for outdoor grilling duty. Test out several tongs before making your purchase to make sure they’re comfortable to use
Wire rack – use to cool food after it comes out of the oven; make sure it’s sturdy enough that it won’t sag when heavier food is placed on it
Counter Top Electronics
Electric mixer (hand held is fine – standing mixer if you’re gonna get serious about baking)
Coffee Grinder (for grinding whole spies, nuts, seeds, grains, and yes, even coffee beans)