CHEF PHILIP’S 5 ESSENTIAL KITCHEN TOOLS
Whether you’re a seasoned chef or moving into your first apartment, walking into a new kitchen for the first time can be intimidating. There are a few things every kitchen should have to get you started in making delicious healthy meals.
A good chef’s knife. A chef’s knife blade is long, broad, pointed, and curved on the cutting edge, not serrated like a steak or bread knife. This makes chopping and slicing easier. It is very important to keep your knives sharp! Any knife can be kept sharp with an affordable sharpener and will serve you well in the long run. If you’re shopping for kitchen knives, try to get at least a chef’s knife, a paring knife (similar to a chef’s knife, but smaller), and a bread knife. A bread knife has serrated teeth on the cutting edge that are perfect for getting through tough crusts. You do not want to use a chef’s knife to cut something like crusty bread or a bagel; it can be very dangerous, and the blade is likely to slip.
Measuring cups and spoons. This one seems obvious, but it’s essential to the beginner chef. Often, I find myself measuring out ingredients when I’m first trying a recipe and then using my own judgement and taste to adapt it the next time. If you or anyone in your family has special dietary restrictions, this can be very important. Visualizing what our food looks like in proportion helps with portion control. For example, knowing the difference between what a tablespoon and a teaspoon of salt looks like will help you visualize how much sodium you regularly consume.
Spatulas. I keep two types of spatulas around: one for flipping and one for mixing. My flipping spatula is stainless steel and perfect for making fried eggs and getting under small cuts of meat and thick-cut veggies. If you use a pan with a non-stick coating like Teflon, you’re going to want a high-temperature resistant plastic spatula. Scraping non-stick surfaces with metal utensils will not only ruin your pan, but also release extremely harmful chemicals into your food. You’ll also want a high-temperature resistant silicone or nylon spatula for stirring and mixing. This is great for stir-frying, mixing sauces, batters, and much more.
Cast iron. This is more of a personal preference. There is nothing wrong with any of the pots and pans you can buy. Stainless steel, non-stick, copper bottom, ceramic coated are all fine choices and have their pros and cons. I use a cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven at home because it suits my personal cooking style. There is plenty to be read and said about cast iron, but I like the versatility, durability, the ease of cleanup, and honestly the aesthetic of them. Both can even go right inside the oven if I want. Adding cool ingredients to most other types of pans will instantly lower the temperature, but cast iron holds temp very well. They stay hotter much longer than stainless steel and keep food warm while I’m preparing other things. Unlike many tools, cast iron cookware actually improves with use. Well-seasoned pots and pans, even antique ones, will cost much more than brand new ones. They do require some special attention and care which you should read about before deciding to buy, but following a few simple guidelines ensures your pots and pans will survive and cook healthy meals for generations.
Salt and pepper grinder mills. Every kitchen should have salt and pepper, but I personally like to use the kind I can grind up myself. The difference in flavor between ground black pepper you might find on the table in a cafeteria and fresh ground black pepper is astounding. Whole peppercorns are easy to find at most stores, and often you can find other varieties you might like to try like white peppercorns, or tri-colored peppercorns. Each has their own distinct and aromatic flavor. Typically, a grinder mill will have adjustments for coarse or fine grounds too, which is another level of personalizing your meals. Freshly ground salt offers a little less distinction between itself and its cafeteria counterpart, but you should try other kinds of salt or make your own flavored and spiced salts. The ability to change the size of the ground salt crystals is also nice for certain recipes. I don’t cook with a lot of sodium, as much of our food already has plenty, so the extra step of grinding it myself is a way to be mindful.
These are just a few of my most favorite tools in my kitchen. I don’t like single-purpose gadgets and utensils. I keep a minimalist approach and a well-organized workspace. Remember, the focus is always on the food, not the tools that got you there. Always work smarter, not harder.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you! Call or email me, or stop by one of my Fresh Rec Stop food demos at a center near you!