Preparing healthy meals from fresh whole foods is easier with a few basic tools. Some of my kitchen tools are used daily, some much less often. The focus here is on the tools that I use most often, save me the most time and effort, and give the most bang for the meal preparation buck. Buy high quality kitchen tools and they will: reward you with many years(or a lifetime) of use, be more comfortable(especially when used long and often), do a better job because they are designed better and be easier to maintain.
Most Used Kitchen Tools
1. Knives and Cutting Boards
Always use a cutting board under a knife. Your counter tops and knives will both thank you. I like bamboo cutting boards – they are lightweight, easily cleaned, stain resistant, durable and woods are naturally anti-bacterial. Other hardwoods and plastics also make good cutting boards but plastic is not a renewable resource. Wood cutting boards should not be soaked in water for extended periods or they will warp and separate at joints.
The most durable knife design extends the blade through the handle in one piece. Stainless steel is harder, easier to clean and care for and holds a sharp edge longer than carbon steel. I have broken or worn out many cheap knives over the years but have several that I use every day more than thirty years old.
2. A Good Pan
A good pan has a thick enough bottom to distribute the heat of a stove burner evenly. My personal preference is cast iron because of their easy care, non-stick quality and durability but many don’t like the weight. There are a variety of good stainless- and porcelain-finish pans with multilayer bottoms(usually with a copper layer in the center) that weigh less and still work well. A pan can be used for frying, sauteing, searing, braising(with a fitted lid) and baking. Cast iron pans are my most used cooking tool.
3. A Good Pot
Pots are used to cook sauces and soups, boil pasta and vegetables and re-heat leftovers. A heavy bottom is very helpful to avoid scorching but not as essential as for a pan. Pots should have fitted lids to reduce heating times and liquid lost to evaporation. My favorite pots are stainless steel with a multilayer, copper-core bottom.
4. A Colander
Colanders are used to drain whatever needs draining. This is an item that can be economized on, with little real-world difference between the most expensive and the cheapest. A lid held loosely over a pot is a make-do substitute but not a permanent replacement for a colander.
5. A Knife Sharpener
Sharp knives will make preparing healthy whole food meals easier, faster and safer. This electric sharpener delivers a perfect factory edge in seconds, takes up little room and is quiet. Read a full review here.
6. An Aerosol Oil Sprayer
A reusable aerosol oil sprayer is an important part of my kitchen. It requires no harmful propellents and can be refilled with the same high-quality oil(s) used elsewhere. A sprayer allows a very light coating of oil to be applied to vegetables or meats/fish for baking or for dressing salads, much less oil than is possible with other methods. These sprayers are also very reasonably priced. See a complete review of the “Misto” brand sprayer I use here.
7. A Dedicated Steamer
Real steaming is the most delicate and flavorful way of cooking many vegetables, fish and poultry. Nothing else does the job as well as a dedicated 2-level steamer with a fitted lid. Steaming consistently retains the highest levels of nutrients of any cooking method and requires no added fats of any kind. A steamer is a worthwhile investment that will often speed things up in the kitchen while making food taste better.