Learning how to cook for yourself isn’t an option when you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s a necessity. And given all this talk in the past couple years about the economy and cutting back etc, I thought it would be helpful to create this list of kitchen tools worth investing in. And just to show you that setting up a functional kitchen doesn’t have to cost you your life savings, tune in next week for my Top 10 bargains worth hunting for.
Don’t go cheap here, invest in these good quality items:
- Three types of knives (total approx $50-100): A chef’s knife for general purpose cutting; a Chinese meat cleaver (use this to cut easily through big melons, frozen foods and even bone); and a small paring knife.
- A knife sharpener ($10). See a theme here? Good quality, sharp knives not only make it easier to cut food, but much safer too as they won’t slip as easily and require less force.
- A vegetable peeler ($10-15). When I first moved out, I bought a cheap $2 vegetable peeler. A couple years later, I paid slightly more (I think about $10-15) for another one with an ergonomic handle and better cutting blades. I would never go back – a good peeler is a time saver, and is much easier to use. Avoid peelers with very narrow spaces between the cutting blades – these don’t cut well through thick peels.
- A garlic press ($10-15). Cheap garlic presses will only frustrate you, especially when you try to clean them. Find one that is sturdy and has good leverage. Some also have a side with protruding nodules that you can use to poke out the bits of garlic stuck inside the press when cleaning.
- A good set of stainless steel or glass pots and pans ($200-400). As a wedding gift, I got a set of Lagostina stainless steel pots with ecapsulated aluminum bases which help the pots heat up evenly and quickly. This is something you should only have to purchase once in your lifetime. Other good quality brands include Cuisinart, KitchenAid and Williams Sonoma. Never pay full price – these are always on sale for 40-60% off throughout the year at department stores.
- A rice cooker ($50). I never cook on aluminum or non-stick surfaces. The rice cooker I have is a “Miracle” brand that is stainless steel with a removable steaming basket. This makes all grains a cinch to prepare (rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat) and is great for reheating and steaming. Again, this is a once in a lifetime purchase.
- A food processor ($50). I went years without one – but this is definitely a big time saver. I bought a simple Black & Decker food processor that has slicing attachments perfect for slicing onions, carrots, celery and other hard veggies. And it’s great for making sweet potato chips – they’ll cook nice and evenly since each slice will be identical in thickness.
- A hand blender ($30-40). Again, this is something that I went for a long time without, but if you have the extra money, is well worth the investment. I started with a simple Betty Crocker hand blender that cost around $35, and eventually when I was baking a lot, bought a $400 KitchenAid stand mixer. If you only bake occasionally, stick to the more economical hand blender.
- A water filter ($150 for a unit; $100/yr in filters). Especially if you’re a bottled water junkie, buy one of these. I use an Aquasana filter that only costs about $100 a year in filters that you change every six months. I replaced my sink sprayer with a dedicated water filter tap.
- A fire extinguisher ($30). I think this one speaks for itself. Be sure you check it every month and replace it when needed as it loses pressure over time.