Story by Lisa A. Listwa
I used to have a lot of kitchen tools and gadgets. If there was a snazzy new thingamabob that claimed to make my culinary life easier in some way, I probably had one. After many years of cooking, I’ve found that less is often more in the kitchen. Most of my gadgets have found their way to other people’s kitchens, but I do have a few things I return to so often I wouldn’t want to cook without them.
It was tough keeping this list to only five items – my solid favorites probably number between eight and ten – but I’m going with these as the five kitchen tools I really couldn’t live without.
1. Salad Spinner
I spent the first 30ish years of my life making salads without a salad spinner. But for the last twenty years this baby has seen almost daily use in my kitchen. I would much rather have clean, dry green on my plate than find a pool of water at the end of my salad. Salad dressing sticks better to dry greens, too. I clean my loose greens as soon as I get them home, spin them dry, and then store in the fridge so they’re always ready-to-go. You can even store right in the spinner if you like, but mine is too busy for that. I also use it for washing and drying fresh herbs, berries, and other fresh vegetables, too – cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower frequently take a spin here. The spinner works great for rinsing and drying canned beans, too. Watching the greens spin is kind of fun and you can go right ahead and count pushing the stopper as an arm workout.
My choice: OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner
2. Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls are a must for any home kitchen. I will admit to having sets of ceramic, glass, and stainless-steel bowls in my kitchen and I use them in different ways. Ceramic and glass bowls are terrific. They are beautiful and versatile, often moving easily between the freezer, fridge, and oven. But let’s face it, ceramic and glass are heavy, and they definitely do break. The lightweight and durability of stainless-steel mixing bowls send those straight to the top of my list. I use them for everything – soaking beans, mixing salads, baking, even peeling a head of garlic! Bonus if you score a set with well-fitting matching lids so you can use for storage or transport to your next pot-luck.
My choice: Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls (Set of 6)
How simple is a whisk? Believe it or not, this is the utensil that gets more use than any other in my kitchen. Besides whipping up scrambled eggs, a good whisk comes in handy for all kinds of wet or dry mixing jobs – even hand-whipping cream or egg whites if you’re up for the task. When I started making homemade condiments and salad dressings, I reached for my whisk more than anything. I love mine so much I have two sizes. The little one is especially handy for quick, small jobs. I definitely recommend a well-sized rubber grip over the skinny metal type, especially if you’re going to use it often.
My choice: OXO Good Grips 9-Inch (and 11-Inch!) Whisk
4. Liquid Measuring Cups
Do you really need a set of liquid measuring cups? I say yes. I remember my mom and my grandmother using those classic glass measuring cups all the time. When I lived on my own, I bought one small measuring cup and that worked fine – until it didn’t. As I started cooking and baking more often and in greater quantities it became clear that a set of different sizes was necessary. I use them for a wide range of tasks – not just baking measurements. I measure and then mix ingredients for salad dressing right in the cup, then pour into a dressing container or a mason jar to keep in the fridge. I use two sizes when I measure out specific quantities of homemade broth or soup to send to the freezer. The one-cup size is a perfect vessel for melting butter to pour over air-popped popcorn. Go wild!
My choice: Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set (3-Piece Set)
5. Kitchen Scale
If you asked me 20 years ago if I thought this item would make my must-have list, I would have laughed. I honestly can’t remember why I bought one in the first place – probably because I was tired of seeing recipes ask for measurements in pounds or ounces and having to guess. I’ve never been sorry, and I no longer have to wonder what eight ounces of baker’s chocolate looks like – I know. If you’ve ever found a recipe you love on an international blog, a quick press of a button will switch you from ounces to grams. I love that I can put a mixing bowl or measuring cup on the scale, use the tare function to zero out the weight, and then add measured ingredients without dragging out (and then washing) all the measuring cups and spoons. Having a scale handy makes it easy to divide those money-saving bulk purchases into more manageable sizes for freezing and storing.
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