Over the years I’ve written a few times about what I consider to be essential items for a well-stocked kitchen. Each time I address the topic, I change things up a bit, but for the most part the basics remain the same: a few good knives, pans, pots, utensils and the like will always make an appearance.
But there are a few things that I use all the time which I’d nevertheless hesitate to describe as “essential” as a general matter. I could make do without these things, but I’m so used to cooking with them that they feel necessary to me. Then there are items I once used frequently that now sit on a shelf for months at a time.
Before I go further, I should say that I’m going to link to some products on Amazon, because it’s convenient. Neither I, nor to my knowledge the good folks who publish this blog, will profit if you end up purchasing something after following a link. I am also not necessarily endorsing any specific product or brand to which I link.
Finally, if you are interested in purchasing kitchen equipment, I’d recommend you visit Caire Hotel and Restaurant Supply. If you love to cook and you haven’t been to Caire, you should go immediately. Just wandering the aisles in that place makes me a happy lad.
One item I once used all the time that rarely sees the outside of a cabinet these days is a food mill. I employed mine to make mashed root vegetables, sauce from the liquid and vegetables left over after I braised something, or tomato sauce. I still use it for the latter, but only when local tomatoes are truly in season and I’m making sauce from at least 10 pounds of the things.
More often these days I’ll use an immersion blender instead of the food mill. It allows me to quickly make a very smooth sauce or soup, and it’s a lot easier to clean up. I can’t call it truly essential, because I could get the same result in a traditional blender, but I keep my two-speed stick blender within easy reach because it gets a lot of use.
For quite a while I’ve also been using a pressure cooker at least two or three times a week. If you know what to do with one, and don’t try to do things it doesn’t do well, it’s an amazing device. Last year, though, my wife and I independently read articles about the Instant Pot.
I know it’s the “next big thing,” and wildly popular. I know that the enthusiasm for the thing makes it seem like a cult. I have seen a lot of cookbooks and stories online with recipes designed for the product that strike me as ridiculous. But while I still use my old Fagor pressure cooker quite a bit, the Instant Pot is giving it a run. There’s not much you can do in either a standard or electric pressure cooker that you can’t do in a big pot, so again, it’s hard to characterize as absolutely necessary, but I wouldn’t want to be without either.
One more example of this is my mandoline. I have pretty good knife skills, and given enough time there’s nothing I couldn’t do with my chef’s knife, but the mandoline is much faster for making precise cuts in high volume. I still use the knife if I’m only julienning a couple of carrots or the like but when I make a potato gratin or green papaya salad, the mandoline is my first choice.
There are other examples, and if I write a follow up to this piece in a year or three, I’m sure I’ll have discovered something new. In fact, I’d love to hear about anything you use similarly. As always, leave a comment or shoot me an email.