The following kitchen tools have become essential to an efficient workflow in my kitchen. In addition to the standard arsenal of pots and pans, can openers, veggie peelers and other obvious necessities, here are a few specific items that I strongly recommend.
Chef’s Knife – A nice big one, and a smaller, more manageable one, both with a flat edge.
Knife sharpener – A small handheld one is cheap and effective. You’ll need one after you use your knife to open a coconut. Trust me.
Large serrated knife – Bell peppers and tomatoes are good examples of veggies that are much easier to cut with a serrated edge. I use the one that came with my block set that I’ve had for years. Knife sets run the gamut in terms of quality and price; you’ll need to find the one that’s right for your budget.
Silicone spatulas – Rubber spatulas are an absolute necessity for scraping batter from your bowls and spoons, but if they’re made of silicone, they’re extra nice because they are heat resistant, so you can put them right into a pot or pan for stir frying or reheating leftovers.
Cutting boards – Separate ones for fruit and veggies (unless you like your strawberries to taste like garlic) – color coding helps. I love my Epicurean boards, made of recycled wood composite. I use a brown one for veggies and a black one for fruit.
Stainless steel mesh strainers – I use these for everything from washing herbs, lentils and small amounts of greens to sprouting chickpeas and sifting dry ingredients for baking. Having multiple sizes is a huge help. It’s also nice to have a non-mesh strainer, particularly for starchy foods, because it’s easier to clean. Make sure the holes are small enough that tiny lentils won’t pass through.
Salad spinner – This might sound like an extravagance, but it makes a big difference. Your oil-based salad dressing just won’t adhere to your greens as well if they’re wet. You can wash the leaves and dry them directly in the spinner, an added plus. It’s also handy for removing water from herbs and greens before adding them to other recipes. I currently own the clear plastic OXO brand spinner, but it’s starting to break, so my next upgrade will be to the stainless steel version.
Nut milk bag – Sure, you can buy almond milk in a box at the food store, but if you haven’t tried the homemade variety, you have no idea what you’re missing. Fresh almond (or brazil nut, cashew or other nut) milk is divine. If you don’t have a bag, you can use cheesecloth, but the bag is nice because it’s reusable.
Sprouter – There are many varieties of sprouters, but this terra cotta one is my favorite because it’s pretty on the kitchen counter and the earthenware retains water to keep the seeds moist, which is especially helpful in the desert where I live. Homegrown sprouts last in the fridge way longer than store-bought and they are so easy to make, not to mention cheaper. Plus there are endless varieties of sprouts to make that you generally can’t find at the supermarket.
Microplane grater – Zest citrus fruits or grate fresh ginger. Major time saver over mincing it by hand with a knife.
Citrus reamer – Get your fresh lemon juice here!
Melon baller – Like a mini ice cream scoop, perfect for measuring cookie batter and protein balls. The more uniform your cookies are in size, the more evenly they will bake.
Not essential but really nice to have
Mandoline slicer – Makes light work of slicing potatoes, squash and other veggies, and it’s especially nice for obtaining uniform thickness
Garlic peeler – Gone are the days of tedious peeling, garlic under your fingernails and smelly hands.
Extra measuring cups and spoons – Because it’s frustrating to have to wash your only ½-teaspoon between ingredients
This list is a work in progress. I will add more items as I think of them. Can you think of something I missed? Leave a comment below and let me know!