My tiny New York City kitchen can only accommodate the most useful and versatile cooking gear. So while I love browsing kitchen stores and investing in gadgets, I’ve had to dial back acquiring nifty, single-use culinary devices in favor of the essentials.
These kitchen tools have been critical in my make-ahead meals, and the ones I use again and again. They’re not always the techie-est or the fanciest, and none are required. But they’re my go-to items for both make-ahead and “a la minute” items. In some cases I started out with lower quality versions and eventually acquired these.
For many years I had a traditional blender that I used for smoothies and the occasional soup. I still use it, but my world was transformed when I got a Vitamix. I like it for morning green smoothies, pureed soups and making nut milks in seconds. But every week, I blend a couple of delicious quick sauces and dressings in seconds. Easily one of the best purchases I’ve made in the past five years.
This was a bit of an impulse buy for me a few years ago, but thanks to its massive utility and power, I never looked back. I love the attachment for making perfectly even fruit and vegetable slices. But in all honestly, I mostly use it for blending hummus. (Since I eat a lot of hummus, that’s money well spent). This food processor has lots of other attachments and capabilities (kneading bread dough for example) I haven’t even tapped into yet.
I’ve always loved the way food cooks in Le Creuset stoneware dishes. I have several pieces but this square version is great for casseroles, roasting, as well as baked sweet desserts. It’s not so gigantic and heavy that you need backup getting it out of the oven. Cleans up beautifully, too.
I have a giant Le Creuset sauté pan that I love, but I hated getting it out and cleaning it because it’s so ridiculously heavy. If you like to cook huge batches of veggies like I do, a large diameter sauté pan is essential. This one is so much easier to handle and foods cook evenly and beautifully.
This is one of my mainstays for soups, stews and chilis. It has a decent capacity and broad opening but isn’t so deep that you can’t see down to the bottom. I have larger 8-quart capacity stockpots but I don’t use them as much as this one.
I couldn’t find the exact model I had, but this is close. A 3-quart size is substantial enough to make a sauce, reheat foods or steam vegetables with a steamer basket. I also use it for making quinoa and oatmeal. The glass lid is perfect for keeping an eye on things.
7. Matfer Spoon
While I love my traditional wooden spoons, this French composite spoon is my go-to. I first learned about Matfer products in cooking school and I’ve used this same spoon ever since. It can be used in very high heat situations and won’t damage or scratch non-stick surfaces. Dishwasher safe, it also naturally repels bacteria. The exoglass material doesn’t stain no matter what tomato or spice-tinged dish you’re stirring. Never been so excited about a spoon.
I’ve had a number of chef’s knifes throughout the years, most of which are made by Wusthof. I prefer shorter, lighter knives, as opposed to the massive 10-inch version I started my career with. This 8-inch has served me well for years, and having it sharpened professionally helps keep it nice.
One of the first things you learn in cooking school is to only use your fancy kitchen knives for cutting food. I used to be the queen of using the wrong tool for any job and used my nice knives for all manner of tasks. That is, until I got a pair of proper kitchen shears. From opening packaging to trimming stems, these are indestructible and I reach for them almost daily. They come apart for easy cleaning and seem pretty indestructible.
Big stainless steel bowls are the best. I like deeper ones for mixing and wider ones for preparing and tossing salads. You can prep, serve and store food in them, too. They resist smells, stains or harsh surfaces that comes their way, clean up in seconds and always look like new. I have them in multiple sizes. For the space-constrained like myself, it helps if they stack up inside one another.
I don’t do much baking, but these versatile pans are perfect for roasting batches of vegetables or baking marinated foods. But I mostly use them to reheat my make-ahead foods. These pans are easy to store, but I use them so often, they’re hardly ever put away. They clean up easily, but if you’re heating something particularly messy, line the bottom with parchment paper. (See below).
Bulk cooking fan that I am, these glass storage containers are indispensable. The better your storage container, the longer your foods last, so investing in high quality is worth it. The plastic lids are BPA free and the glass containers are pre-heated oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher safe. They’re known to last for generations so likely a worthwhile investment.
I love these things. They stack inside eachother so they require little space to store. I have them in a variety of sizes and tend to use the rectangular ones more since they pack into the freezer more efficiently. I’ve carried many a soup, stew and chili with me on the subway and these containers have never leaked. Since they’re a lighter plastic material, they’re not as heavy to carry around as the tempered glass options. They can be used in the refrigerator, freezer and microwave, and are dishwasher-friendly as well as BPA free.
These tempered glass storage containers go from refrigerator to freezer, oven to microwave. They’re BPA free, have airtight lids that don’t leak, and this particular assortment I have comes in many shapes and sizes. I’ll layer casserole ingredients in one of the larger ones. When it’s time to cook, simply defrost, remove the lid and pop it in the oven. Ridiculously easy. I also tend to break up a recipe into small, multiple containers in case I only want to reheat 1-2 servings at a time. Glasslock also cleans up well.
I have a tendency to really mess up my pans, so if I’m transferring food to a baking dish, I usually line it with parchment paper so foods don’t stick when reheating.
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