Streamline your cooking with these essential tools knives and gadgets you’ll want to have (or give as welcomed gifts) for making healthy food at home.
So, what small tools are really essential in a scratch cooking, eat-in kitchen? We know there are gadgets and gizmos to fill entire stores that include 20-foot high walls of tools – but how many are really needed?
It’s a great question, especially for those of us who are wanting to simplify our lives and routines. It’s not easy or fun to cook if you don’t have the tool you need – but it’s equally frustrating if you have so much stuff that it’s hard to find what you need.
I think it’s also a great question for anyone setting up a new kitchen or someone who finally wants to start making more of their own food to have more control over what goes into their bodies. And if it’s someone we know who wants to do that, then this list of essential tools, knives and gadgets makes a great gift guide, too!
We’ve talked about the cookware and appliances that are essential to a healthy kitchen and here you’ll find the utensils and small tools that you’ll need to cook from scratch. We literally cannot cook without tools and I’ve found over the years it usually is worth it to spend just a bit more (not high end, but not the cheapest) for more quality. Not only does it last longer, but you’ll also enjoy using the tools more.
Below you’ll find the 18 tools and knives I find essential, as well as 7 other gadgets that are really nice to have. I’d love to know what tools you love to use to prepare food at home – comment here, chime in on AOC’s Facebook page or find me on Instagram to let me know!
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Essential Tools Knives & Gadgets
1. Set of steak knives. We don’t eat much steak, but I use a basic steak knife pretty much everyday for cutting vegetables, small fruits, cutting sandwiches in half, etc. They are also a must for meat, of course, and we use ours mainly with pork.
2. Paring knife. For peeling vegetables and fruits, removing seeds and veins from peppers and other small tasks I reach for a sharp paring knife over and over.
3. Vegetable peeler. Pretty self-explanatory, but I was given this specific Rada peeeler a couple years ago for Christmas and I thought I wouldn’t use it much since I already had a peeler I liked. Wrong. This thing is the best! (And it’s not just me, either – check out the 5 star reviews on Amazon.)
4. Long serrated bread knife. Invest in a good serrated bread knife and you will slice through all your homemade bread with ease, really (it took me years to learn this…).
5. Chef’s knife. A work-horse in the kitchen, this the one I pull out most often when prepping our garden produce for salads, grilled vegetables and preserving. It’s lightweight, not too big, and cuts great.
7. Grater. I prefer a flat simple grater for both storage and ease of cleaning, since it’s used only for small amounts of cheese or vegetables (a food processor works better for larger amounts). A box grater is good if you don’t have a food processor and do a lot of grating, but it takes up more room. A microplane grater is revolutionary and I LOVE it, but it’s not necessary to cook – though some kind of grater is.
8. Basic sets of stainless steel utensils and bamboo spoons. Get rid of the plastic, please! It’s not that much more money and cooking is so much more pleasant with stainless and wood utensils that don’t bend, melt, or warp – and look good serving, too. Especially with hot things – stirring boiling soups and water – it’s just best not to plastic at these high temperatures. You’ll need bamboo or wooden spoons for stirring (you can leave them in a hot pot of soup and it won’t get hot like the metal will) and serving. Bamboo is better than wood, I think, since it resists stains and doesn’t splinter as much as wood can after lots of use, but either is good.
9. Tongs. If you’re like me, you will find you use tongs all.the.time. Turning browning meats, stirring pasta, and serving everything from sausages to salads. They are much easier than two servers, since they only need one hand. I have 3 sizes, though I use the 9-inch size the most, and prefer the spring tongs that can be locked closed.
10. Glass measuring cups. To melt butter and chocolate, whisk your salad dressings – and of course measure out liquid ingredients. Large 8 cup glass measures can be used for both measuring chicken broth and as a batter bowl for stirring and pouring.
12. Spatulas. Every kitchen needs rubber spatulas for scraping and mixing. It’s nice to have them in a couple sizes to scrape jars of peanut butter clean as well as bowls of brownie batter.
13. Cutting boards in various sizes. Choose wood or bamboo boards for most things, and add a couple flexible plastic boards that can be put in the dishwasher for sanitizing after cutting raw meat (they’re also good for chopping large amounts that you can then add to pots easily by folding up the sides).
14. Salad spinner. This is my favorite that has lasted for years now with every-other-day use. The kind with the lever broke after a few months.
15. Parchment paper (this is available on Amazon’s Subscribe & Save, which makes it so convenient) or my favorite: dark silicone pan liners (the light-colored type doesn’t brown baked goods as well, I’ve found).
16. lemon/lime squeezer. You will use this a LOT for guacamole, salad dressings, marinades, and to add to water or iced tea. I resisted getting one of the hand squeezer types for years because they seemed expensive and I had a glass juicer (the kind that sits on the counter as you push/twist). But this is SO much easier – really.
17. Colander for rinsing vegetables, straining broth, and draining pasta. Again, get metal since it will be used with hot foods and liquids. I also use a smaller nesting set like this with handles a lot for smaller portions and draining nettle tea infusion.
18. A set of Nesting Bowls for mixing granola, salads – and the occasional brownie or cookie. You’re probably not surprised that I like glass bowl sets or stainless sets – and if you can find ceramic sets for a good price, they are wonderful.
2. Mandoline. I cooked for many years without one, but I do love it for salads like this and for cutting julienne vegetables for stir fries and salads. It also allows you to have the paper-thin slices of potatoes for scalloped potatoes that you can’t get with a knife or food processor.
3. Spiralizer. I don’t have one of these yet, but am seriously considering it and this is the one I’d buy. It seems like a great way to get more vegetables in our diet.
4.Kitchen scissors. I use a pair of kitchen scissors multiple times each day, but you can cook without them, so I’m putting these in the nice-to-have column. You can use a regular pair of scissors to open packages and such, but actual kitchen scissors will also allow you to cut meat and whole chickens (they seriously cut through small bones!).
5. Apple cutter. In the past I didn’t think these were worth the space in a kitchen, but I had always used cheap versions. My sister turned me around, though, when she showed me how easy it was to cut apples with a heavy duty OXO Good Grips Apple Divider – slices for snacks in seconds!
6. Oil mister. Never buy oil sprays again and know exactly what’s in them. Love it.
7. Steamer basket. For vegetables and easy-peel hard-cooked eggs (finally!).
What would you add to this list?
Read more of the Healthy Eating Series:
18 Essential Tools, Knives & Gadgets for Healthy Kitchens + 7 Nice-to-Haves (you are here!)
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