These are my nine top tools to keep you lean while also eating delicious food.
1. Large Wooden Cutting Board
Wooden cutting boards have a reputation for being unsanitary. However, if you’re fully plant-based, bacteria from raw meats and cheeses won’t be a problem as they won’t even enter your kitchen.
If you do decide to consume animal products, isolated cutting boards are a must. This cutting board can be plastic to help you distinguish between your produce- and animal-cutting boards. Plastic is easier to sanitize than wood, too.
Wooden cutting boards have many advantages. One advantage over glass is that they don’t dull knives as quickly. Dull knives are the bane of a chef.
Another advantage is they become less slippery with wet foods, preventing more accidents. This attribute is also beneficial when chopping foods that contain a lot of moisture in them, such as tomatoes.
One reason that I personally enjoy wooden cutting boards is they’re great for preparing spring rolls. The wood absorbs water, creating a less slippery rice paper sheet for rolling.
Wooden cutting boards don’t create the nasty noise that glass ones do. Ugh, it sounds almost like scratching nails on a chalkboard.
Wooden cutting boards are for more than just preparing foods. They can double as hot pads.
Unfortunately, boards made of wood may bend slightly. However they do hold shape better than plastic — which can get seriously warped in the dishwasher.
2. Chef’s Knife
A chef’s knife is important to have in the kitchen as it can be used to cut most foods.
Chef’s knives are handy for chopping large things that would otherwise need more than one slice to complete the separation. The wide blade allows for more control, leverage and speed while cutting firm foods like carrots and beets.
The wide blade is useful for transporting prepared veggies either via either scooping them onto the blade like a small plate or scraping the produce off your cutting board using the back of your knife.
Overall, a chef’s knife is better for slicing, dicing and mincing. A smaller blade makes it compulsory to saw through some foods, thus making your lined-up food disorganized. The way chef’s knife’s blades are designed allows for overall quicker and more efficient preparation.
Two knives I use and recommend are Shun Classic 8-inch chef’s knife and Victorinox 10-Inch Knife. Depending on your budget you may choose a cheaper one or a more expensive one, but keep in mind you generally get what you pay for.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a knife, which is why I picked up a cheaper Kuhn Rikon in the beginning.
Provided you take proper care of it, a quality sharp knife will make life in the kitchen exceedingly pleasant and is well worth the investment as they last for years and years.
3. Paring Knife
While I prefer to use a chef’s knife for most of my prep work, a paring knife is necessary for some tasks.
For example, you’d have an extremely difficult time peeling a potato with a large chef’s knife. They’re too bulky and don’t have the maneuverability of smaller-bladed paring knives.
Coring is another task that’s difficult for chef’s knives. Coring is simpler and less wasteful with a paring knife. A paring knife can get into small places that chef’s knives cannot, decreasing the amount of food wasted.
Generally, precision is easier with a smaller paring knife. A benefit of the Kuhn Rikon 6-Inch Knife is that it can act as both a chef’s knife and a paring knife for those who can only afford one.
A good blender is one of my top necessities.
I could live without a paring knife, a non-stick pan, and even a pressure-cooker, but my most basic kitchen tool is my blender.
You can make meals with just a blender (like smoothies and soups). Blenders make breakfasts quick, delicious and travel-friendly. Blenders have the ability to make plant-based ice cream and sorbets. Or make fluffy pancake, cake or muffin batters with your blender.
Blenders have abilities outside of their normal uses. A good blender can eliminate the need for both a food processor and grinder. Flours that aren’t commercially sold can be made. A blender can even be used as a juicer.
Make hummus and chop up vegetables in your blender. Grind oats, nuts, seeds, and legumes with a blender to make flours, meals and powders. Your own chickpea flour and ground flaxseeds will be tastier, more nutritious and less expensive than buying store-bought varieties.
Finding a really good blender is tough though. Some blenders can be outrageously expensive. As of yet I haven’t found a blender I’m completely satisfied with.
The Philips HR2160 that I’ve used hasn’t passed the test of time. We’ve gone through a couple of these because they keep breaking. They’re fantastic for travel and have amazing versatility but are not ideal for long term use.
We use a blender so much that cheaper blenders don’t last long, and I’m not too impressed with some of the more expensive offerings. If you know of a decent affordable blender, please let me know!
A grater is especially important if you’re going to consume vegetables raw.
A grater makes culinary vegetables such as carrots, beets and zucchini easier to grab with a fork and eat on top of a salad. Using a grater to prepare small slices of vegetables for salads and other raw dishes is essential if you want to make preparing food quicker and less of a hassle.
If you don’t desire to chop a food item, you can simply choose to grate it instead.
I use my grater every day. If I don’t use it to make a salad, then I’m using it to grate produce for spring rolls.
If kids don’t like vegetables, you can hide veggies within foods by finely grating to conceal in pasta sauce or soups.
While all you really need is a hand grater, an electric grater makes grating food even timelier and less bothersome, which saves me a lot of time preparing delicious foods.
6. Nonstick Stovetop Pan
At least one high-quality non-stick pan is essential to have in a healthy kitchen.
Non-stick pans make cooking and cleaning up meals a breeze. There’s virtually no need to worry about food sticking. A non-stick pan removes problems such as added fat and food sticking in food preparation, making healthy cooking more enjoyable. It’s hard to get perfectly caramelized onions without one.
7. Stoneware dish/pan
I haven’t bought any stoneware myself but my mother has owned multiple pieces for years. The older they are, the better they work. You shouldn’t need to use oil or nonstick spray with stoneware.
There should be no hassle cleaning up if you wash the dishes right away, but foods can become stuck if they sit for a long time. Any food is easily removed with some water and a scrubber.
One downside of stoneware is that it takes longer to warm up in the oven. However after it does, it stays warm for a longer period of time – which is perfect for family meals and gatherings. This attribute encourages foods to cook more evenly than dishes of other compositions.
While on the expensive side, stoneware is worth the cost. They are sturdy and last decades as long as you take care of them.
8. Thin Scarf
A thin scarf can make the tools you have available more diverse.
One use of a thin scarf is to juice. Simply blend fruit and/or vegetables in water and strain through your scarf. No need to spend extra money on a juicer if it’s not necessary.
A scarf can be used to sprout beans and legumes as well. Simply cut off a small square and attach to the top of a jar with a rubber band to help with soaking and sprouting. The cloth makes draining the water easier and keeps undesirable things out of your jar like dirt, dust and pests.
A scarf can be used to make your own vegetable broth. Use the scarf to separate boiled vegetable scraps from the flavorful and nutritious liquid.
If you don’t have any scarves that are suitable, you can use clean stockings for soaking and sprouting. However, they don’t come in handy when you desire to produce juice or strain vegetable broth. A cheesecloth is another good replacement, but they don’t seem to last as long.
9. Pressure Cooker
My final recommendation that you should have in your kitchen is a pressure cooker. Again, this one has an expensive up-front cost, but it’s totally worth it if you’re committed to home-cooked meals.
Firstly, pressure cookers make cooking at home incredibly fast. It cuts the time to cook at least in half, if not more. This means less time in the kitchen and more time for other enjoyable pastimes.
In addition to less overall time, pressure cookers remove some of the need to be in the kitchen while the food is cooking. Foods don’t need to be stirred in the pressure cooker and there’s no danger of a pot boiling over. Oftentimes I can set a timer for however long I’ve decided that my foods needs to cook and come back when my timer rings.
Pressure cookers make home cooking cheaper and healthier. Instead of buying premade stock with high levels of sodium, make your own. Ditto with tomato sauces, BBQ sauces and legumes.
Another great attribute about pressure cookers is that they’re extremely diverse. I’ve made many things in a pressure cooker: stews, potatoes, broth, sauces and even bread!
Not only are the types of foods that can be cooked in a pressure cooker versatile, but also the number of ways in which a food can be cooked using a pressure cooker. Food can be boiled, steamed, stewed and more in a pressure cooker.
Finally, pressure cookers are great for summertime cooking. Boiling items on the stove and warming up the oven makes a hot kitchen hotter in the summer. This can be avoided with a pressure cooker because the heat is contained within the pressure cooker. To maintain coolness in the kitchen after release, simply direct the steam out of a window instead of inside your house.
I have the Futura Stainless Steel 5.5L Pressure Cooker, which works wonders. It cost me around $100, but I use it every day — and most days more. Definitely worth the investment.
There you have it! My top things for a successful kitchen cooking.