Top 10 Tools to Help Make You a Better Cook
With the pandemic keeping us locked up, and ordering in every single night not an entirely sustainable option, it’s about time we all upped our collective cooking game. By upgrading some of our well-worn kitchen tools, and trying out some altogether new gear, cooking better food is well within our grasp. Expanding your cooking gizmo collection may not land you on Top Chef, but by adding these 10 items to your kitchen you’ll be setting yourself up for painless cooking with delectable results!
Instant Read Cooking Thermometer – $50-150
Demystify meat cooking with one of these easy to use thermometers that instantly tell you the internal temperature of anything you’re cooking. No more dried out chicken breasts or pork chops, no more wondering if your clunky old thermometer is telling you the truth, these instant read thermometers will change the way you cook.
Stainless Steel Pan – $20-150
Non-stick pans are great, but they aren’t meant to be all-purpose. For that you need a well-made stainless steel pan that can handle any abuse you throw at it. These things can take a beating, and can easily withstand searing hot temperatures, being scraped with metal utensils, being thrown into a hot oven, and cooking anything you can think of without absorbing off-flavours.
Thick Wooden Cutting Board – $20-200
Do yourself a favour and throw out that glass cutting board you’ve been holding onto for years; all it does is dull your knives. Buy yourself a nice thick wooden cutting board, as large as you can fit on your counter, you won’t regret. Wooden cutting boards are much friendlier to your knives and will last forever if taken care of. Having a large one will give you lots of room for chopping without creating a claustrophobic mess, and if it’s heavy and thick it won’t move around on you while you’re trying to cut those carrots! Buy yourself a cheaper plastic cutting board while you’re at it for your meats and fish.
A Good Chef’s Knife – $75-2000
Crappy dull knives are the bane of any cook’s existence and are dangerous to boot. Most kitchen accidents are caused by dull knives slipping and cutting the user, so a sharp knife is always best. Go to a good knife store where they let you try out the knives on vegetables (yes, these wondrous places exist!) and try out a few until you feel the one that’s right for you. It doesn’t have to be a massive blade, but it should feel comfortable in your hand. It can be a costly purchase, but let’s face it, you’ll use it daily and it will last forever.
Sharpener – $5-50
Sharp knives good, dull knives bad, right? Well you need something to keep them sharp. While buying your knife, ask the sales people for their advice on the best sharpener for your knife and how to properly sharpen it. Western style knives are sharpened at different angles than Japanese style knives, so this is important! If you’re still unsure, most quality knife stores offer sharpening classes which you can take advantage of to keep your knives razor sharp. The cheap hand sharpeners you can buy at hardware stores are okay for knives under $100, but can cause more harm than good on well crafted knives made of high quality steel.
Microplane – $8-30
Microplanes are the amazing little tools that you never knew you needed. Use them to zest citrus peel, grate whole nutmeg, quickly mince garlic or ginger, or to shower some finely grated aged Parmesan on top of your spaghetti. These come cheap, but need to be replaced every year or two.
Mortar and Pestle – $30-$100
Not just for old apothecaries, a mortar and pestle is an invaluable tool for your kitchen. Buy yourself a large unpolished granite one and use it to grind whole spices for curries and homemade spice blends, make pesto and salsa verde, bash ingredients for cocktails, smash garlic for aioli, make bruised Thai salads, or anything else that needs a good pummelling. The resulting texture will beat out a food processor every single time. These are great for arm workouts and blowing off steam too!
Fish Spatula – $12-35
A good quality fish spatula isn’t just for cooking fish. The flexibility and angle of the metal edge will allow you to shimmy your way under any egg, chicken thigh, fish fillet, burger, or veggie that has adhered itself to your trusty new stainless steel pan without leaving a speck behind. Make sure you buy one that matches your right- or left-handedness.
Spider – $3-8
No, not an eight legged creepy crawly, a Chinese-style braided wire strainer with a bamboo handle. These simple, yet handy tools can be dipped into any hot or cold liquid to simultaneously scoop up and drain whatever small bits you’re cooking. They work great in tandem with a wok as well. Buy these at any Asian grocery or cookware store.
‘Y’ Peeler – $3-$12
These cheap and easy tools make short work out of any big peeling jobs you’re up against. Much more efficient than a paring knife or traditional straight peeler, the ‘Y’ peeler remains ergonomically superior as well and will hardly break the bank. This tool will do the trick whether you are peeling a mountain of potatoes or intricately removing the fine fuzz off a peach.