I didn't learn how to cook until I was 21, and I learned out of necessity. My husband (then boyfriend) and I had just moved into our first apartment, and we didn't not account for all the mundane expenses that life threw at us. Hand soap, a vacuum, tin foil, Q-tips... who knew?! I realized two things very quickly: 1) My mom is a superhuman and 2) I need to learn how to cook. Our first meals included a lot of PB&Js, $5 rotisserie chickens, and hamburger helper bulked up with russet potatoes as a filler.
7 years later and I'm still by no means a master home cook. But I'd like to think I've come a long way. I've learned new recipes, techniques, and developed my palate by cooking almost every day. Besides my trusty santoku knife and the other obvious essentials, this list comprises of the most helpful tools that I've stocked my kitchen with along the years.
1. Food processor, $44.99
I don't have a stand mixer... Yet. They're so expensive! So in the meantime, my food processor has been my workhorse. It chops veggies. It kneads simple doughs. It grinds meat. It's a real bad BAMF, if you will. I love to use it when I have to shred a bunch of cheese or chop a lot of veggies at once.
My favorite things to use it for: kneading empanada dough, shredding cheddar for mac & cheese, and making a quick tzatziki! Here is the one that I use. I don't expect it to last forever, but it's earning its keep for now.
2. Immersion blender, $39.99
Leave the clunky blender in the cabinet. Immersion blenders are way easier to use and clean. Perfect for soups, bisques, hummus, dressings, and marinades. The immersion blender will be your best friend. You can blend hot soups in directly in the pot. You can whip up batches of salsa and emulsify vinaigrettes. You can cut your hair after 9 months of quarantine. Just kidding, please don't do that last one.
3. Instant read thermometer, $17.00
When I first started cooking, I would overcook all my meat. I was terrified of undercooking poultry, and I figured medium-well steak was better than bleu. So I figured an instant read thermometer was an investment. Here's the one I currently use. Before I got my newest one, I used a $7 meat thermometer from Ikea, and it served me well for a few years. No more dry chicken or tough steak for me, thanks.
What I use it for: Thanksgiving turkey, reverse-searing ribeye, and getting the oil to the right temperature for deep frying.
4. Bench scraper, $2.49
I literally bought this two months ago, and I already don't remember life without it. It seems like a gratuitous tool; it's just a rectangle. But my bench scraper has made prep time so much quicker and neater. It allows me to easily scoop up of larger amounts of food and scraps from the cutting board. I used to use my hands to pick up chopped onions like a peasant. Look at me now; I'm regal, bitch. Thanks to my bench scraper. It's also great for neatly cutting dough!
My favorite things to do with it: clear my prep space of veggie scraps, transfer veggies into their prep bowls, and chase my husband around the kitchen pretending it's a credit card that needs to be swiped down his cute ass. Here's the one I use.
5. Microplane grater, $14.95
This is my microplane. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My mircoplane is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. I probably use it every 9 out of 10 times I cook. It's so versatile! Any time a recipe calls for me to finely mince or grate, I'm pulling this bad boy out. It much easier and quicker than mincing with a knife. Aromatics, hard cheeses, and whole spices--you name it! It's also the perfect tool for zesting citrus.
My favorite things to do with my microplane: grate ginger, bright up dishes with citrus zest, and top pasta with fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano. I have this one.
I hope this list is helpful! There are so many more, but these are the ones that I love and use the most. I may do another similar post later on. Email or message me if you guys have any other can't-live-without tools in your kitchen!
Up next week: Essential pantry items for Asian cooking!