When it comes to whole foods and cooking meals from scratch I think one aspect is very important: kitchen equipment.Without the right tools in your kitchen, any cooking experience can turn into a nightmare. In my experience, there are a few essentials which cannot be substituted.
1. Pots and pans
We have a very good set of pots and pans and I can’t stress enough how good that is. We got a full set of pots as a wedding gift. It includes one very large pot, two large pots and three small pots. Without going into too much detail on the set we have (everyone is different and will prefer different styles) the important part should be performance. Our pots are easy to clean and have a thick bottom as well as thick sides. This allows heat to stay in the pot for longer once the lid is on.
Speaking of lids, never underestimate how much energy can be saved by placing a lid on top of heated food. I can, for example, cook rice simply by bringing the water to a boil and then to put the lid on the pot and let it sit on our electric stove top with the element off. The pot with lid has stored enough heat to finish the rice without any external heat.
Pans are just as important as pots. Size doesn’t matter as much as quality does. We have a smaller one for a quick egg in the morning and two large ones for family foods. These two large pans can both be placed in the oven. One is a stainless steel one, one a cast iron one. I love both pans for different reasons.
We try to stay away from speciality pots and pans as much as possible. Also, we try to make sure that lids fit different pots and pans. That makes it easier for storage.
Any good cook will know how important a good set of knives is. I’m not so much talking expensive knives but simple knives with a good blade. Even though our set is old (I got it about 15 years ago…) it’s holding up very well. We have a sharpening stick and use it regularly to keep our knives in shape.
There is also nothing worse in a kitchen than blunt knives. Actually, there is nothing more DANGEROUS that blunt knives. A knife that cuts through anything without effort is much easier to control that a knife that needs sawing and pushing with the risk of slipping and losing touch with the object to be cut.
Again, it’s not essential to spend a lot of money on knives as long as the blade is thick enough to be sharpened regularly.
3. Chopping boards
One of the main tasks in the kitchen is chopping. For that a good chopping board is essential. Depending on the counter space available I personally go for ‘big is beautiful’. I love the space. However, our current counter doesn’t allow a large chopping board to be placed on it permanently so I make do with a couple of smaller boards. If they seem slippery, a damp kitchen towel underneath does the trick (along with a blunt knife, a slipping and sliding chopping board is code for disaster).
Chopping boards, in my opinion, should be wood. It’s good to have a plastic one handy for raw meats but wood is generally nicer to cut on. The only thing to keep in mind with wooden chopping boards is that they need a little love from time to time in the form of some fresh air, sun, and most of all some oil. Olive oil is just fine. It allows the board to stay shinier for longer. Alternatively, beeswax is also a good alternative.
A word on kitchen machines
Kitchen machines have only recently moved into our kitchen. Until about six months ago all we had was a handheld mixer and a stick blender. Now we have a stand mixer and a food processor. Both appliances were an investment and it took us about a year to find the best ones. They are great to have and make things easier but depending on the type of cooking I’m doing they are sometimes too much. I still grate my cheese with a grater rather than with the machine. My bread making, however, has really benefited from the stand mixer.
It’s on the individual cook to decide which ‘power tools’ are useful and needed. Good pots, pans, knives and boards, however, belong in a good kitchen. And quality pays off. It can make any cooking experience so much more enjoyable.