What was once the haven of green linoleum and brown and orange cabinetry, the look of our kitchens has come yammering into the 21st century with splashes of brushed stainless, rescued wood and polished concrete. Fancy a bit of kitchen bling? You can even purchase a 24K gold encrusted oven to cook your next batch of violet iced cupcakes.
But, a cooks rucksack of goodies doesn’t change with fashion. Its tried and true, well used and honest and my top 10 kitchen essential items have been travelling with me through homes and kitchens for the last 20 years. These are my favourite picks for adventurous cooks and classical guardians alike.
KitchenAid Mixer An American icon since 1919, and on many a cooks most wanted or most used wish list. To me, this is food porn at its best. The sleek design of the kitchenaid mixer, the robust and powerful engine and its solid metal bowl make it a cooks best friend. Try making Meringues without it! Whether it be kneading your artisan bread dough or gently emulsifying a tantalising aioli, the kitchenaid will stand the test of time.
Rice cookerNever under estimate the quality of cooked rice that comes from a rice cooker. My man about the house, the enlightened one, is a recent rice cooker convert, having spent his informative years believing that rice came boiled in a pot. Now, thanks to this super cheap kitchen appliance we just push a button and the rice fairies take care of the rest.
Non stick frying pan Three major things spring to mind when I think of frying pans. Three things of such major importance that all else pales in comparison. Firstly the non stick needs to be of good quality, I’m not brand specific here, but choose a good quality pan with tough wearing non “stickyness”. Point two, inspect your pan by feeling its weight in your hand. It needs to be heavy and solid so that the temperature will be well maintained and distributed throughout the metal. And lastly, the pan needs a metal handle. This now turns your pan into a versatile roasting dish as your able to take it straight from the stove top to the oven. Beautiful.
And what is your non stick frying pan used for? The best scrambled eggs in the universe of course!
Tea towels No longer just for drying crockery, the humble tea towel plays many positions on the kitchen team. As a wrap to keep hot bread moist, whetted down to cover your fillo pastry, and the chefs favorite- folded into quarters and used to take searing hot trays and pans from the bowels of the oven. No self respecting chef would be caught with an oven mitt attached to their hand, next thing you know they would be stopping for morning tea everyday…
Pepper grinder I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours! I once heard that the longer the pepper grinder the higher the rank the chef held in the kitchen. But for me size doesn’t matter, its all in the grinding mechanism. And one of the best grinding mechanisms in the world was designed by Puegeot in1842, over 50 years before they began designing cars! The dual grinding mechanism gently crushes the pepper to achieve maximum flavor and aroma.. and with a lifetime guarantee you might as well buy the salt grinder as well.
Le Creuset There is something very special and rare about the design of Le Creuset . Is it the heavy cast iron that heats so evenly and retains its temperature longer? Could it be the timeless design and super cool colors? Maybe it’s the self basting lid or it’s even heat distribution. Whatever, whoever, whenever. I like it!
Mortar and pestle An absolute must have- if you fancy the thought of pounding, crushing, grinding, mixing, incorporating, emulsifying, pulverising or squashing, I recommend a heavy stone behemoth, large enough to take all your spices and ingredients in one hit and made of stone so that the flavors don’t permeate the vessel and taint consequent mixes.
Benriner Japanese mandolin I’m not one who’s much into gadgets, but this wee gem the Benriner is a little ripper! It slices, it dices, it shreds and it garnishes.. but wait there’s more… it comes complete with 3 interchangeable blades, a finger guard and is light weight and compact for fuss free storage…. but wait there’s more… As seen on TV being used by Rachel Ray and on Bravo’s Top Chef. I HIGHLY recommend you get one of these. I even take mine on holiday with me.
Chefs knives It’s the cocktail hour and what chef, cook or kitchen is complete without a set of hot forged carbon steel knives to slice through that lemon to twist into your Gin and tonic? Knives are a very personal buying experience and my recommendations are thus. Ask the experts and test the knife out, get a feel before you buy as each person is suited to a different knife in terms of size and weight. I own a large selection of knives but tend to favour my cooks knife with 10inch blade, flexible filleting knife, serrated bread knife, and small paring knife.
Of equal importance when choosing your knives is to learn how to sharpen your knife to ensure the most effective slicing and dicing with minimal effort. There’s nothing more frustrating and unsafe as a dull knife.
No nonsense wooden chopping boardDebate continues to rage regarding the use of wooden chopping boards versus plastic. Well hallelujah! In a nutshell, research has found that wood is far more effective in reducing the risk of bacterial contamination compared with plastic.. and anyway, nothing cries out kitchen god and design guru louder than a huge chunky “don’t mess with me” hard wood chopping board.
So there in lies my top 10 kitchen essentials that I couldn’t imagine being without when creating a family dinner at home or cooking daily for hundreds of restaurant guests. All the above equipment I use both domestically and commercially so I can swear by there reliability and necessity in the kitchen environment.
I purposely left out utensils that I love to use, but think that the whisk, Rex peeler, metal tongs and flat ended wooden spoon all deserve a honorable mention. As for anything else, its all gravy baby!