My 10 Favourite Cooking Utensils
I used to have a small catering business called ‘Chef in Your Home’ where I would come over and cook a beautiful dinner for you, your family and guests for up to 12 people. I found that was the perfect number and I used to always prepare food for 14 in case of the extra friend that came along.
The speed and easy of food preparation all came down to having good tools, which is essential and makes food preparation, cooking and clean up a joy. I learned early on, that many people who have beautiful homes, don’t necessarily have good cooking utensils.
So, to make things easy for you, I am going to list out the essentials.
- Have a few good sharp knives, the sharper they are, the safer they are. Get an 8” chef knife or 8” Santoku style, get a 6” prep knife and a paring knife. That’s all you need. My recommendations are German over Japanese, simply because they are easier to keep sharp. Wüsthof and Mercer are the only two brands of German knives I would purchase. The best budget knife is made by Victorinox (think of your old Swiss Army pocket knives). Victorinox make a very good affordable high carbon blade called the Fibrox Pro line. It is a workhorse; they are comfortable to use and hold an edge. Never ever put your knife in the dishwasher, it detempers the blade making the metal soft so it will never be able to hold an edge again. Also, I find a bench scraper and a couple of good pairs of kitchen scissors are invaluable.
- Pots and pans, I highly recommend Saladmaster Cookware as being about the best, after that I recommend Cuisinox as being the best value and highest performance.
- For food storage, mixing and ease of use, I like Pyrex bowls as they stack for easy storage and also have removable lids. I find the other type with snap lids really annoying as the containers don’t stack into one another for easy storage when not in use.
- Always use wood cutting boards where possible. The general rule is if you cannot digest it, you shouldn’t be cutting on it. The boards should always be washed and wiped by hand, never in the dishwasher. You want something that is easy to wash and fits into your sink. Get something preferably out of Teak, Maple and Fir which are the easiest on your knives, never use plastic, stone, marble or glass as they wreck your knives. To keep your board in nice shape, occasionally wipe down with food grade mineral oil. Use a damp cloth or paper towel under the board to prevent it from slipping.
- Kitchen Utensil Set – there are plenty of them on the web to look at. I prefer something made from silicon, and you can get pretty decent sets with tongs, whisk, ladle, spatulas, slotted spoons, flippers and a pastry brush. I like to keep mine in an old ceramic pot next to the stove so they are easy to grab when I need them. I like a few good long-handled wooden spoons as well, especially when making jams, soups and sauces. You will also need a colander to wash your fruits and veggies, and strain your pasta.
- Measuring spoons, cups, scales, temp gauge and a timer an absolute must have, get them out of metal so they will last you for life. Don’t go cheap, you want to be able to read the measurements easily. Much of what you do in the kitchen is about measuring, weighing foods, ensuring things are the correct temperature and cooked for the right amount of time. All of these you will need, always use level measures, not heaping.
- Zesters, Graters, Presses and Vegetable Peelers, these are something I use everyday. I love the Microplane tools, I have had them for years and they are great for zesting lemons, oranges and limes for that extra burst of flavour for your salad and dishes. Graters, I use for cheeses and for carrots, apple, zucchini and other veggies when I’m making slaw. I use garlic presses and citrus presses, I suggest asking your friends for the type they like the best, there are lots on the market, spend the extra money and get a good one. I have two different vegetable peelers; the fat handled swivel Oxo brand is my favorite straight edge and then I have a Zyliss brand Y-peeler which almost every serious chef has. Again, spend the extra money and get a quality brand. If you are left-handed, most tools are available in left-handed versions. And if you are buying for a left-handed person, these is are very thoughtful gifts.
- Bake trays, Silicon Mats and Parchment Paper, these are things I use all the time. A set of good bake trays are useful for everything. Silicon Mats, are perfect for cooking cookies and pastry’s on, and parchment paper is great for roasting veggies on as its easy to pick up and transfer.
- Food processor and Vitamix – I use mine all the time, I have a Cuisinart 13 cup food processor with all the attachments, it’s great for shredding, dicing, making slaws, etc. The Vitamix, I use for smoothies, soups, and so much more. These are my only power tools in the kitchen that I use all the time. I also have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer with a pasta roller attachment, but honestly it doesn’t get much use, I don’t bake, nor eat much pasta, as I try to keep my carbs to a minimum.
- My final gem which I love using is my mortar and pestle, I have a few different types as I like to grind all my own spices whole as it gives so much more flavour to the food. I find them significantly superior to using a coffee grinder as they can grinds, crush, pulverize, bruise and extract oils and juices. I also use them for making fresh garlic aioli. My other trick is I have a big granite one from Thailand, I put whole coconuts into it and gently break it open to capture the juice and scrape out the fresh coconut meat.
There you have it, my favourite 10 list, which is really about 30 items, but they fit into 10 categories. I find much more than these are just gizmo’s and gadgets that you don’t need. I prefer minimalism in the kitchen; however, you wouldn’t believe it. I have so many platters and plates which I have collected over the years. I love cooking, and I am sure you will find this list will help you too, have fun.
You can reach Executive Chef Alastair at, firstname.lastname@example.org Alastair's life-long passion for food was inherited from his mother and grandmother. He's an Honours graduate of the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island at VIU and has been cooking since he was old enough to see over the top of the stove.