Cutting boards, cookware, storage and more…I’ll share the tools I simply can’t live without and offer some lessons learned for anyone just starting to build their cooking kit or looking to expand one.
Cutting Boards, Cookware + Storage Essentials for the Home Cook
Do you love browsing the kitchen aisles at HomeGoods or go gaga for all the gadgets at Williams-Sonoma? I do to! I’ve purchased some duds, balked at price tags, and have gone through my fair share of non-stick pans. What I’ve come to learn is that I truly appreciate multi-tasker tools and sometimes you just have to invest in a good piece of equipment.
In part two of the Kitchen Essentials series, I’m covering the cutting boards, cookware, storage and other kitchen gadgets that help my kitchen run.
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Where is a good knife without a proper cutting surface? Likely, it’s being damaged, and we don’t want that! Wood and plastic boards are the most forgiving and the only types I use.
What should you look for in a cutting board? It comes down to personal preference, but here are some things to consider:
- Wood or plastic (or other material…please, no glass)
- Sustainable or made from recycled materials
- Surface area
- Double-sided use, or one side with non-slip materials
- A channel to catch fluids
- Color of wood or material
- Ease of cleaning and maintenance
At the very least, I recommend having two boards: one wood and one plastic.
I primarily use a large double-sided wooden board. One side has a channel which is great for carving meats and catching juices. I clean it with soapy hot water or a paste made from baking soda and lemon juice or vinegar.
A plastic board is handy for messy and smelly things: raw meat + seafood, onions and garlic. My favorite plastic board is made from recycled materials and is dishwasher safe — a must for really ridding the surface of bacteria.
This is an area of kitchen gadgetry that can easily blow your budget. Do you need to spend a lot on cookware to become a good cook (or even just a decent cook)? Nope. Many stores have huge sales once or twice a year which is a great time to invest in long-lasting pieces. Alternatively, my fave spot for picking up a non-stick pan is HomeGoods (a piece I replace every year or two as the finish wears).
Things to consider when purchasing cookware:
- What’s your budget?
- What’s your cooking style or what dishes do you primarily cook?
- What material is best for you or your cooktop?
- Do you need oven safe cookware?
Answering those questions will help you define your essential list. I’ve acquired a lot of pieces over the years, but if I had to narrow it down to those essential to my kitchen, they are:
- Dutch oven / stock pot — It can go from cooktop to oven and is great for stocks, soups, roasting, braising and any other big one-pot recipe.
- Saucepan — Great for small batch soups, boiling eggs, steaming veggies, making rice…the list goes on.
- Large skillet / sauté pan — Ideal when you need a large surface area to sear big things! Use it for stir-frying, braising, pan roasting and other one-dish meals.
- Non-stick or cast iron skillet — One word…eggs! Scrambled or fried, nothing makes cooking eggs easier than a non-stick skillet. If you’re not comfortable with non-stick surfaces (from an environmental perspective), a cast iron skillet is the way to go. I love my cast iron and use it more often than my stainless sauté pan.
Tools for food prep help me be a more efficient and organized cook.
I have a little set up right next to my cooktop and cutting board that holds a bottle of olive oil, a salt cellar and a pepper mill. These are always within arm’s reach to easily season while prepping or cooking.
Just a step away is my trusty stack of nested prep bowls. Used for mise en place, mixing, marinating, serving — I don’t know what I’d do without them!
Even if you aren’t a baker, there are a couple of bakeware items I find essential in my kitchen.
At minimum, a half sheet pan and 9×13 pan or casserole will serve you well. Use them for sweet treats, roasting proteins and vegetables, baked pasta dishes, corralling ingredients, moving food from kitchen to outdoor grill, and so much more.
I love leftovers and need all the food storage! My favorites are glass containers with airtight lids or mason jars that go from fridge or freezer to microwave. Glass containers are also terrific for marinating meats (as they can get a good cleaning in the dishwasher).
Mason jars are terrific for freezing soups and sauces (just leave a little room for expansion at the top) and for organizing dry goods in your pantry.
I hope you found a takeaway from part two of Kitchen Essentials to help you select the right tools for your kitchen. Don’t forget to check out part one of this two-part series to discover your essential cutting, slicing and grating tools.