12 Great Kitchen Tools for Preparing Real Food

Cooking real food requires working with real ingredients–no surprise there.  It calls for a bit more than opening a can.  And while my can opener still sees some action, the more I cook, the more I find other kitchen tools that make my life easier and, dare I say it, more fun?

I’m treading on dangerous ground here.  Already outlet space is at a premium.  We have 5 small, electrical appliances taking up valuable counter space.  To reach the phone we literally have to slip our hand between two of them.

But plugged in or not, I have several kitchen tools that I use every day or close to it.  I chose 12 that deserve special mention for their usefulness in preparing healthy food for my family.  From low-brow to high-end (sort of, it all depends on your perspective) here they are:

1.  Oil can.  Love having my olive oil at hand when and where I need it.  It sits “stoveside” for ease of access. Great for filming a saute pan or drizzling over pasta.

2.  Pepper grinder.  There’s nothing to match freshly ground pepper.  Great on pasta, soups, salads, pizza, in sandwiches–wherever!

some tools of the trade.

3.  Finger bowl for salt.  While my salt bowl certainly looks attractive, it serves an actual purpose.  When seasoning food to taste, I enjoy having a small bowl of coarse salt handy  to sprinkle on dishes as needed.

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4.  Digital scale.  Many recipes give weight in addition to cup measurements.  More accurate in baking.  I find I use it so much I just leave it on the counter (whoops, more counter space gone).  Trivia:  about 24 almonds=1 oz.

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5.  Stainless measuring cups/spoons.  Daily use.  Just got a new set for Christmas!  I finally got that 2/3 cup measure I’ve been doing without forever.  I feel so decadent.

6.  Food processor.  I bought this years ago.  Jim was dubious.  But I really use it.  The slicing blade makes for great coleslaw, potatoes just the right thinness for gratin, apples ready for pie.  The dough blade has saved me tons of time making breads, pizza, bagels, etc.  It even makes nut butters!

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7.  Compost Can.  Since we’re eating more fruits and vegetables than ever, we’ve seen an explosion in the amount of trimmings.  Rather than throw them in a plastic bag to haul to the dump, we throw them outside to decompose.

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8.  Silicone baking mats.  I love using these.  Don’t need to oil pans this way for baking projects.  Great for “drying” grains for salads.  Making fruit leather every summer has never been easier.  I hear they’ve come out with round ones.  Looking forward to trying them.

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9.  Citrus press.  This was a present from Sam a few years ago.  I didn’t know I needed it until I had it.  Lots of fresh Meyer lemons at the market right now.  The juice really brightens the flavor of cooked vegetables and makes for some lovely salad dressings.

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10.  Julienne peeler.  I bought one for myself not too long ago.  I love to julienne vegis for sandwiches and salads.  Raw carrots and beets look particularly nice.  Great for sushi fillings too.

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11.  Good quality knives.  Probably the most useful and “high-end” tool we’ve got.  Get a good set.  If you have to choose, make sure you have good paring and serrated bread knives.

12.  Roasting pans.  Ours are nothing fancy.  Three sizes–small, medium and large. Older than the hills.  We roast vegetables and nuts frequently.  Couldn’t live without them.

This list is not exhaustive by any means, but I have to draw the line somewhere. If I had made it a baker’s dozen, I would have included my old, dented aluminum colander–which sees plenty of action.

Cooking is personal.  What works for you?  What tools of the trade do you swear by?

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