There are so many kitchen gadgets and tools available on the market today. I love browsing through kitchen shops and have a hard time resisting something new! I confess I have two drawers full of small gadgets and can easily be an impulsive shopper when I come across a new one. I might need it! These are the tools and workhorses that help me in the kitchen. My must haves and a few of my wants!
Baker's Rack - an elevated baker rack allows air to circulate ensuring your freshly baked treats cool evenly and stay crisp.
Baking Pans - I recommend commercial quality sheet pans which, although more expensive, are worth the investment in the long run. Choose heavy pans avoiding non-stick and dark coated pans which tend to bake too fast. I use cookie sheets, cup cake tins, and muffin tins on a regular basis.
Cookie Cutters - There is a plethora of cookie cutters from small to large. plastic and metal, the usual and the unusual. Metal cookie cutters should be gently hand washed and then quickly dried to prevent rust. To ensure that all nooks and crannies are dry, place the cookie cutters on a clean baking sheet in a warm, turned-off oven for a few minutes. A toaster oven may be used as well.
Colander or Fine-Mesh Strainer - For rinsing grains, veggies, meats, and, well, straining things!
Crockpot – These are great for making stews and soups because they do all the work for you. Just chop and season, then turn it on and walk away without worrying if it will burn on the bottom.
Cutting Boards – Plastic ones in a multitude of colors are very popular but I much prefer wood. It's kinder to knives and won't dull them as quickly as plastic. Oiling your wooden cutting boards regularly with a food-safe oil to protect them from staining and warping will help them last for years.
Dutch Oven - A Dutch oven is a heavy metal pot with lid usually made of cast iron covered in enamel. These are great for really melding together the flavors. I probably use mine at least once a week.
Food Dehydrator - This is the workhorse in my kitchen! Kirby starts drooling when I get it out knowing there is bound to be some tasty jerky in the near future. It takes hours to dehydrate but the comfort from knowing he won't be chewing on a possibly tainted chew is well worth the wait not to mention it's easier on the budget.
Food Chopper - This is one I use all the time to chop, grind, and mince. It's faster than using a knife and probably saves me from losing many fingers! I have just discovered the Ninja Express Chopper and love the double blades because they chop the veggies as small as I want short of a puree unless that's what I want.
Garlic Press - I do add minced garlic to some of Kirby's meals so I love this tool. Mine has small silicone points that push the garlic through the holes.
Herb Shears - 5 stainless steel blades (10 in all) make chopping and mincing fresh herbs a breeze! I like to cut my herbs into a small bowl, then keep cutting them with the end of the scissors until the herbs are minced to my liking. I use a flat knife to slide out the pieces caught between the blades. So much easier than using a cutting board and knife and easier clean-up than my electric grinder.
Measuring Spoons - For measuring spices and small quantities. Make sure the spoons are clearly marked so you don't confuse a teaspoon with a tablespoon!
Measuring Cups for dry ingredients - Standard cup sizes for dry measurements include 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 cup sizes. Look for measuring cups with long handles and wide, shallow bodies.
Measuring Cups for liquid ingredients - Specially calibrated for measuring liquids which differ from dry ingredients. Make sure there's a spout for pouring, clear measurement markings, and a sturdy handle.
Mixing Bowls: Small, medium, large. There's a size for everyone and everything. I have one that's plastic, but I seem to prefer the ceramic ones. I just think they are cleaner since they are non-porous. Stainless steel would work as well.
Oil Mister - I use this to spray my pans and baking sheets, and some foods with a fine mist of pure olive oil. It's ideal for low-fat cooking giving me control over the amount of oil used and eliminating the unhealthy additives found in products like Pam.
Parchment Paper - This paper creates a disposable non-stick surface which is great for baking treats.
Spatulas - A good spatula scrapes, scoops, stirs, and mixes. They can be narrow for scraping jars, flat and angular, or large and spoon-shaped. Look for silicone or another heat-resistant material.
Siicone Baking Mats - If you do a lot of baking like me then you should really purchase the silicone based non-stick baking sheets that can be washed and used again and again.
Silicone Molds - I love these for baking pup cakes to freezing cold treats! There are so many fun shapes and sizes to choose from and cleanup is a breeze.
Stainless Steel Soap - I keep one by my kitchen sink to remove odors from handling fish, onion, and garlic. I don't know how it works, it just works.
Stand Mixer - If you do a lot of baking a stand mixer will be a life-saver. I was fortunate to inherit my Dad's commercial 5 quart Kitchenaid mixer. One day I hope to have the meat grinder attachment and the ice cream attachment. If, like me, you can't afford one then consider purchasing a used one. It's an investment you'll never regret.
Tongs - Lift, flip, mix, move, tongs are a fantastic all-around cooking tool. To avoid scratches I use silicone-tipped locking tongs designed to withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees.
Vegetable Peeler - Indispensable when it comes to the healthy, fresh veggies.
Wax Paper - A necessity when dehydrating meats to save on clean-up time.