If this is Armour bacon I'm going to the Food Network!
July 3, 2014 7:11 AM   Subscribe

We're closing on a house that has a very nice and spacious kitchen. What are we missing to make it Chris Kimball approved?

My wife and I have become big fans of Chris Kimball and "America's Test Kitchen" and would like to setup and stock our new kitchen so we can really start experimenting with their many great recipes and tricks. We don't get the keys to our new home until the end of the month but we'd like to get a jump on getting everything ready for when we can move in. Our new house does have a decent 30" gas range that we will be upgrading to a 36" or 40" Thermador in a year or two.

Thanks to Costco, Marshalls, and HomeGoods we've managed to pick up quite a few great kitchen tools but we'd love to hear what you find are "must haves" for home cooks.

Below are our current tools:

- All-Clad 12" and 10" fry pans (with lids)
- (2) Tramontina 21" non-stick skillets
- Lodge cast iron skillet
- LeCreuset 2 1/4 Qt Saucier
- Vitamix 5200
- KitchenAid Pro 500 Mixer
- ThermaPen
- Weber One-Touch Grill
- Wusthof 8" Cooks and 3" Paring Knives (Classics)
- Bodum knife block

We've managed to find a good selection of All-Clad cooking tools (spatulas, spoons, whisks) to replace our old KitchenAids so on that front I think we're set. We're not huge fans of unitaskers but we have the usual kitchen suspects (lemon/lime press, apple corer) but are probably missing a few. In addition to the two Wusthofs we have a mix of low end knives that we want to replace with Wusthofs but aren't sure of the sizes we'd need. Right now we know that we're missing the following tools from our kitchen arsenal:

- Cutting boards/blocks (Boos Block)
- Knives (Wusthof Classics - 6" Cooks, 6" Utility)
- Dutch oven (LeCreuset)
- Large fry pans (All-Clad)
- Griddle
- Food processor

For those of you that do a lot of home cooking and experimenting - are there other tools that we're missing? For those of you that have LeCreuset - is their Dutch over worth the price? Any downside or issues with the Wusthof Classic line?
posted by playertobenamedlater to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a mandoline? I have a very, very cheap one ($15 hand held oxo) and it is absolutely invaluable to me as a tool for even my very mild kitchen needs.
posted by phunniemee at 7:17 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I find my microplane to be a pretty flexible tool. Useful for zesting, of course, but can also be used to mince garlic, finely shred cheese, etc. An offset serrated knife, something like this, has also been a really useful tool. I would probalby have not purchased either for myself, but having received them as gifts find myself using them all the time. An immersion blender has also been a really helpful tool to have. The one I have has extra attachments that allow it to be used as a chopper and powered wisk. The chopper is pretty handy.
posted by goggie at 7:19 AM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Silicone pastry brush - useful for making caramel, brushing olive oil on things, basting, bbq
glass prep bowls - super handy for measuring out spices, etc when doing mise en place. We also use ramekins for this
a good sieve and some cheesecloth - cheesecloth helps keep the sieve a bit cleaner since they can be irritating to wash.
Immersion blender - SO handy for thickening soups or buzzing up small batches of sauce
posted by brilliantine at 7:22 AM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Negative on the le creuset Dutch oven. We have the lodge enamel Dutch oven http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000N501BK?pc_redir=1404305856&robot_redir=1# and replaced the plastic knob with a metal le creuset knob (search amazon for the link) and it is fantastic. We had a big problem with stuff sticking and staining and chipping in our le creuset stock pot.

Also, for knives, check out restaurant supply stores. Every fancy restaurant on the planet uses plastic handle chef knives from restaurant supply stores. Make sure you keep them sharp.

Also, 2nding the mandoline. We have an oxo that I would not recommend. The blade nicked very easily and now it catches.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:26 AM on July 3, 2014

Kitchen shears! For everything from deboning chickens to snipping herbs to opening packages.
posted by carmicha at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, for a comprehensive list of the ATK recommendations you should check out the complete ATK cookbook at your library (or buy it) there is a section that lists nearly every. Single. Kitchen. Reco they've ever made. Super helpful for reference (plus all the recipes from the show)
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally, I don't think LeCreuset are worth the price. I have a Hackman cast iron Dutch oven that is pretty great, although it's not enameled. Lodge is another well-regarded brand.
posted by neushoorn at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2014

Lodge makes a fantastic enameled dutch oven that is every bit praise-worthy as Le Creuset -- at 1/5 of the price. And it's Chris Kimball approved: Cook's Illustrated's chose Lodge as their dutch oven Best Buy.

I love my Wusthofs but I will never be without my Victorinox Fibrox chef's knife.

I cook at least once a day, and my kitchen would not be complete without these nesting bowls, which do double duty as measuring cups and mise en place storage, and these measuring beakers.
posted by divined by radio at 7:31 AM on July 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you guys already have an America's Test Kitchen subscription? They offer a free 14 day trial, and you can access all of their equipment reviews.
posted by amarynth at 7:37 AM on July 3, 2014

-Microplane zester/grater (I use this almost every day)
-Yes, the dutch oven is worth the price -- I have the 7qt, which works well for soups as well as roasts and deep frying; though I haven't tried the lower priced ones, so maybe they're fine too. I had a non-enameled (i.e. cast iron) one though and I just couldn't deal w/ the upkeep required. I've had my 7qt le creuset for about 6 years and use it weekly. No issues thus far.
-I like my wusthofs (I stick w/ the utility knifes and 10" chef's knives); but I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bread knife.
-Wusthof kitchen scissors
-Mini food processor (great for small batches, dressings, etc)
-Mesh strainers
-Immersion blender is good to have
-Several types/sizes of whisks, small balloon, med balloon, large balloon, flat
-Parchment paper (a must if you plan to bake ever)
-Pastry knife (again, for baking)
-Get multiple kitchenaid mixer bowls; the lids are nice to have too
-Skip the meat grinder attachment on the Kitchenaid, unless you can get an old one used -- they changed the material a few years back and now it apparently (according to many amazon reviews) throws metal chips into the food. I use my food processor to grind meat.
-Kitchen scale (nice to have, but essential if baking)
-Bamboo steamer
-Squeeze bottles (like these) - great for olive oil, balsamic, simple syrups, etc.
-A good set of metal measuring cups/spoons
-Flour sack towels
-More pyrex prep bowls than you think you'll need
-Mesh skimmer (great for pasta and many other things)
-The pasta roller attachment is great, but the cutting/ravioli tools are less great (much easier to just do it by hand)
-Sheet pans with at least a 1/2" rim (like these)
-If you plan to do a lot of asian/indian food, a rice cooker is absolutely worth it
-I enjoy making ice cream/sorbet, so the cuisinart ice cream maker has been a good purchase for me (there is a kitchenaid attachment for ice cream, but I haven't tried it)

I also recommend getting a subscription to the Cooks Illustrated online service. It's about $30ish per year, but they have all of their kitchen equipment reviews online. Most of my items have been curated from those reviews.

I'd also suggest you get a meat & veggie CSA, if available in your area, so you are forced to cook with random/new ingredients.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also have fancy pants-knives and turn to my Victorinox more than anything else. I do get it professionally sharpened, but keep this as well.

Nthing the Lodge recommendations. I actually have the cast iron dutch oven without the enamel and I prefer it.

I use my Silpats forever and a day for baking and cooking.

Mesh strainers of all sizes. Offset spatula. Cheap baking trays.
posted by oflinkey at 7:45 AM on July 3, 2014

I would skip the wooden cutting boards and get a very large, plastic board with a trench around the edge (we have one made by Oxo). They're cheaper, you won't worry about banging them up, and when they eventually start getting cut up you can replace them easily. I would also get a roll of that non-skid matting you use in drawers to keep stuff from sliding around; cut a piece to fit under your cutting board.

We cook a lot, and the things I keep coming back to are:

-Bowls. Lots and lots and lots of bowls. Stainless steel, all sizes. They're relatively cheap, won't break, and they all nest together in the cabinet. I always need more bowls. Prep bowls, bowls for holding scraps to go to the compost, dough rising bowls, bowls for stirring, bowls bowls bowls bowls. Get, like, a million of them.

-One really good knife. 90-95% of all my knife work is done with one 8" chef knife. Get a honing steel and use it religiously. Keep it sharp, either by sending it out or go and buy some waterstones to sharpen it yourself.

-Food storage. We keep glass peanut butter jars for liquids, and we also have the Rubbermaid nesting containers for leftovers. So much nicer than throwing some plastic wrap over your measuring cup. We never have enough jars because I use them mostly for saving fats rendered off of meat (bacon fat, lard, goose fat, duck fat, schmalz...). Plus, you can use the jars to shake up salad dressings and stuff like that.

-A really good garbage setup. I honestly never thought I would want this in a kitchen, but it so nice. We have a cabinet next to the food prep area with a garbage can on a track - open the door, garbage can slides out, and while I prep it's just there waiting to accept my waste. Slide it right off the counter and into the garbage. Very convenient.

-Serving pieces! You're cooking for other people, right? Get some nice, attractive serving plates and bowls. You put a lot of work into this food, make it look good. We also never seem to have enough tongs and other utensils for serving, so get a lot of those. More than you think you need.

The one last thing we use waaaay more than I really ever imagined is our pressure canner. It's basically a 16 qt. pressure cooker, but the pot is large and heavy and it's great for making (and then canning) gallons of stock at a time. I save up chicken carcasses in the freezer and then when I have enough I'll spend a weekend making stock. I also use it for brewing beer. Oh, and we preserve tons of stuff, too, so it does get used for its intended purpose.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:58 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

And get some Barkeeper's Friend for those All-Clad pans.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:59 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Silcone pot holders...great for use on the table or countertops, for pulling things out of hot overs, opening stuck jars and best of all you can just wash them with the rest of your dishes.
posted by mmascolino at 8:04 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am obsessed with kitchenware, and thank you for this thread (my husband does not:)

These are very lifestyle specific, but in the summer I couldn't do without my fish turner and these branch skewers. If you have space, a sodastream or equivalent is lovely to have for the summer.
posted by snickerdoodle at 8:14 AM on July 3, 2014

microplane zester - invaluable. And as someone said above, a thoughtful garbage setup that's within arm's reach of the sink and of the spot where you're going to be standing to do most of your prep. My kitchen was set up with no thought to this and no ability to fix it, so I put in a inside-the-under-sink-cabinet-door receptacle that cost like $3 to augment the regular far-away kitchen trash, and it's the most crucial thing in the kitchen.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2014

I use my 7" Wusthof Classic hollow-ground santoku about 10x more than any other knife. I love it.

Le Creuset is fine. I use ours all the time. But you're paying for pretty. Don't get me wrong... Nothing wrong with pretty. But Lodge works just as well.

The folks who said immersion blender are correct.

A good pepper mill. AKA not my pepper mill.

A bread machine with dough and raisin settings. Ours is a 15 year old Panasonic that still works great. I only use it for dough. Baking your own caramelized onion loaf or Chinese chicken buns makes you feel like a champ.
posted by thinman at 9:03 AM on July 3, 2014

Here's another vote for the Lodge Dutch oven, because not only is it cheaper but you can take it camping (if that's your thing).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2014

Any baking pans or sheets from these guys:

Sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, orderable on the interwebs...

The only downside to them is that they have to be handwashed - dishwashing removes the magic. But, food comes off of them so easily IT'S COMICAL. Seriously - bake a banana bread in it, turn it upside down, and it just falls out like it was never baked in that pan in the first place. I've never seen a non-stick baking pan work this well. And, the heat conduction is exactly what you'd expect from any decent metal baking pan.
posted by Citrus at 9:05 AM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Toast tongs. Absolutely indispensable.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Serrated peeler.

So much better than a regular, flat peeler. They're super sharp so beware of peeling the tips off your fingers.

If you do any sort of jam or sauce making a food mill is also pretty great. It's not something I'd ever thought would be worth it, but it works incredibly well. Seedless and skinless roasted tomato sauce you make yourself is so much better then anything you can buy. I like the Oxo one of these too.
posted by sevenless at 9:24 AM on July 3, 2014

Electric coffee grinder for grinding spices.

Medium size hand grater for cheese. Microplanes are essential, too, but when it comes to pasta I find the result so fluffy it basically dissolves into the dish, and sometimes you want a bit of texture and contrast.

Immersion blender

Baking racks for letting things cool/dry without the bottom getting soggy.

Big metal spider for retrieving things from boiling oil/water

Everything else seems pretty well covered. A few cheese knives are handy, too, a cheese platter is usually an easy nibble or dessert, and a nice knife helps with the presentation.
posted by Diablevert at 10:17 AM on July 3, 2014

Crazy. If you buy everything, you will buy lots of stuff that never gets used. Besides what is anyone going to give anyone for Christmas.

I will say that we had a le Creuset dutch oven that last 40 years before the enamel cracked. We bought a new one, and its a bitch keeping it looking new. We've changed to a different pan for anything requiring browned onions or the like.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:48 AM on July 3, 2014

The Accu-sharp sharpener that Melissasaurus linked to has literally changed my cooking life. I have other sharpeners that are "better" but they were such a pain to use that my knives were never sharp. Now I use a sharp knife every time.
posted by wryly at 12:49 PM on July 3, 2014

One of my simple must haves is a Chinese dumpling (spoon, strainer... wire thingy on a bamboo stick?) I got mine at a Chinese restaurant supply and use it instead of a collander, it works much better and takes just a little space in the spoon jug. It's a neat object.

Here is the commercial version http://www.amazon.com/8-diameter-Bamboo-Skimmer-Strainer/dp/B00012F3UO.

The one I have is hand made. You should be able to find one in Chinatown if you live in a city that is such graced.
posted by sunslice at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2014

I have 4 bamboo cutting boards and one plastic cutting board (like this one). The bamboo are lovely, but they can't go in the dishwasher and they need mineral oil treatments occasionally, so I use the plastic one much, much more often. Like, 90% of the time. Get the plastic cutting board, is what I'm saying.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:53 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Toast tongs. Absolutely indispensable.

As the other member of the conrad/awesome household: yup. Sounds like a ridiculous affectation, and I was deeply sceptical when they arrived in our kitchen.

But it means (a) no more burning your fingertips on hot toast, (b) no more cycling the toaster to try to catch that short slice at the top of its trajectory, (c) no more prying stuck toast out of the toaster with a fork (which our parents all told us not to do, but we all do it anyway).

So yeah: toast tongs.

Also: cheap toasters are terrible and don't last. High-end toasters -- Dualit etc -- are great but ridiculously spendy. The mid-range seems to be the sweet spot.

Other little things: a decent garlic press (can't recommend one, mine is awful); a decent vegetable peeler (I like the Y-shaped ones, mine is a no-name from an Asian supermarket, I suspect more than anything else this one comes down to personal preference); a timer (your stove probably has one, but you can't carry it into another room).

A good pepper mill. AKA not my pepper mill.

Unicorn Magnum. The thing's amazing.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:29 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grid-style cooling racks (like these) sized to fit in the sheet pans melissasaurus mentioned. Not just for cooling cakes and cookies, it's a great for meatloaf (just place the formed loaf right on it (the ATK way) , making bacon in the oven, and lots of other things I'm not caffeinated enough to think of.

Salad spinner. I'm normally a huge fan of OXO but I think this Zyliss is far superior.

A sturdy, mesh Splatter screen. The key here is you need one with holes that are small enough to effectively contain splatter but big enough that it won't trap the liquid and steam your food. You also want it to be weighty enough that it won't slip and slide. I don't know who makes mine, but if you don't get any suggestions here I would scan amazon reviews for any that specifically mention the steam factor.

Offset spoon(s) are great for skimming soups and braised dishes and for basting. Do not spend $20 on these, just make your own from old spoons or something from the dollar or thrift store.

Y-style veggie peeler. Someone here suggested it over the straight kind and it changed my peeling life.

Small plastic pot/bowl scraper

Bench scraper/food scoop/food smasher. I probably use this for something 90% of the time I cook.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2014

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