By Chef Alli on December 1, 2016
1. Electric Pressure Cooker
I’m in LOVE with my Cuisinart six-quart electric pressure cooker. It has totally changed the way we do dinner and, boy, does my family dig that. No more overcooked hunks of meat from the slow cooker for me. Because I have a gaggle of big, meat-lovers at my house, I find myself using my pressure cooker for these items: meats, grains, beans, soups and pasta. It also works great for cooking squash and potatoes. Did you know you can even hard-boil eggs in a pressure cooker? It takes a whopping six minutes. I didn’t expect to fall in love with pressure cooking, but the speed and efficiency, plus the quality and flavors of the food it produces has been an eye-opening experience and we love having dinner ready in minutes instead of hours. This is a tool every busy family should learn to utilize.
2. Cast Iron Cookware
I have lots of cast iron pots, pans and skillets, but I find myself using these three pieces the most: 12” skillet, Dutch oven and griddle.
- 12” skillet: I love stovetop skillet meals because they are speedy, but it’s also wonderful to use my skillet for oven baking a casserole, such as lasagna or enchiladas. Plus, if you decide you want to cook up a batch of fried chicken after church some Sunday, a three pound fryer will fit very nicely into a 12” skillet. Want to sear off a nice rib eye or a salmon fillet? A cast iron skillet is where the magic happens.
- Dutch Oven: I try my best to keep a pot of soup on hand in the fridge during the colder seasons since it’s something my family can grab, heat and go. And, a Dutch oven is the perfect vessel for making family-size batches of soups, stews and chilis.
- Griddle: This guy gets used a lot of mornings for pancakes or French toast and also in the evening when we want to add a grilled sandwich to a bowl of soup.
And, yes, I know cast iron is heavy to lift, but that quality material is what creates such even heat retention, leading to the browning of foods like no other.
3. Silicone Spoonulas and Spatulas
You’ll need all sizes of these--skinny ones for cleaning out the mayonnaise jar and larger ones for stirring up anything and everything that’s in a pot or a bowl. I recently left my utensil jar full of spoonulas and spatulas at a local kitchen store while I was there to teach a class. That was the longest week of my life. It showed me just how often and how much I rely on using those spoonulas and spatulas for nearly everything I do when I’m cooking. Good quality silicone kitchen tools are heat resistant up to 800-1,000 degrees F. so no worries that the spoonulas or spatulas will melt or change shape if you’re using them in your cookware over high temps.
4. Magnetic Knife Bar
Long ago, my best friend, Karen, gave me a magnetic knife bar for my kitchen. Why in the world I waited until just a few years ago to put it up and use it, I’ll never know. Having my knives securely placed on the magnetic bar not only keeps them organized and easily within reach, it also protects them, since they are no longer banging on each other while laying in a utensil drawer. And, since a good, sharp chef’s knife is absolutely essential in the kitchen, the magnetic knife bar provides the perfect prominent place quality knives deserve.
5. Kitchen Shears
I have two pairs of kitchen shears and find they are both in use nearly all of the time, for a variety of chores: trimming chicken, chopping a bundle of scallions, mincing herbs, sectioning bundles of grapes, cutting whole canned tomatoes, opening packages...the list goes on.
6. Microplane Zester
My kitchen will never be without a microplane zester. Your kitchen should never be without a microplane zester, either. This tool makes zesting citrus so easy. Plus, I love Asian-inspired dishes, and being able to use my zester to do a quick grating of fresh ginger root (without even needing to peel it, mind you) makes my day. Talk about aromatherapy.
7. Baking Sheets
If you love baking, you want heavy-duty baking sheets on hand. How does one know if they are truly good quality? Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and place an empty baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. In about 10 minutes, if the baking sheet has twisted itself a bit, you’ll know it’s not the bakeware you need. Always hand wash your baking sheets and they will last a lifetime, providing you with the browning you desire for cookies, rolls and pastries.
8. Food Processor
Yes, my food processor sits right out on my counter, next to my pressure cooker and my Bosch mixer. I’ve discovered if I must fish any big appliance out of a cupboard or from the pantry, I’m not going to use it. Therefore, my counter remains a bit cluttered, but I’m proud to say my small appliances get used on a very regular basis. I love my food processor for making whipping cream, pie crust dough, salsa, salad dressing and often for grating big bars of cheese when they go on sale. (I bag the grated cheese into quart bags and put them into the freezer.)
9. Knife Straightener
This little handheld device looks very unassuming and is often mistaken for a knife sharpener, which it’s not. Inside is a v-blade, and when your knife is drawn across the v-blade, it acts as a straightener. Why is this important? Well, when a knife seems to be rather on the dull side, it’s often because the edge of the blade has folded over. Straightening the edge of the blade takes a just a few seconds and allows your knife to make a swift, precise cut once again.
10. Bosch Mixer
I refer to my Bosch as my cement mixer – I swear it’s that powerful. It can knead up to 15 lbs. of bread dough at once, though I’ve never actually done it. I’m often asked why I prefer a Bosch mixer over a KitchenAid mixer, and I can answer that in a heartbeat: the Bosch motor and gears are in the unit beneath the mixing bowl, while the KitchenAid motor and gears are above the bowl, and seemingly (to me) right in the way of everything. My favorite thing to mix up in my Bosch mixer? Cinnamon rolls.