One of the most common questions I get from people are about tools and gadgets: from pots to spatulas to mixers to measuring devices, tool are necessary in the kitchen to make the food! I cannot imagine making chocolate cookies with my spatula, frying chicken without sturdy tongs, or sifting dry ingredients without large mixing bowl.
I have a collection of my favorite tools that I use on a regular basis and ones I always recommend to cooks, newbie or veteran.
1) Good od' kitchen knife: Invest in a good, all-purpose chef knife and toss out those cheap and dull ones. The average size of a chef knife are 8 inches or 10 inches long and are made of high carbon stainless steel (thus, it resist rusting and keeps an edge sharp). Feel it in your hand before you make a big purchase. A sharp knife will inspire you to chop more, faster, and quicker. Be sure to get it professionally sharpened on a regular basis (every 1-2 months) to keep it nice and sharp. My personal favorite are Shun knives.
2) Standing Mixer: Kitchen Aid brand mixers are the most common mixers. Especially for bakers, mixers are essential for creaming butter and sugar, whipping meringue, and making basic bread dough. I have had mine for over 10 years and it still works like new. Not a hardcore baker? Most standing attachments like meat grinder, pasta maker, and cheese grater, which helps with any type of savory cooking you will do!
3) Fine Zesters: Think "fancy-schmacy" graters. Coming a wide variety of "zest sizes," I prefer the very small grater on zesters, Microplane zesters are my favorite.. Why? From citrus zest, to dark chocolate, to hard cheeses, it finely shreds the ingredient into the batter, dough, or dish I am preparing.
1) Pastry blenders: They look like a half circle with soft blades. I think they are unnecessary. Why? Your hands do a better and more efficient job at it. The purpose of pastry blenders is to blend dry ingredients with cold butter. Trust me, you get a more efficient size of butter with your hands and not the pastry blender.
2) Flimsy cutting boards: They tear and crack very easy, especially if you are using a strong and sharp knife. You are better off with a good wood cutting board or a thick plastic cutting board (for raw meats). The only time I like using flimsy cutting boards is for decorating large quantities of cookies or other baked goods.
3) Herb choppers: Herb chopper? As long as you have a good old sharp knife, it will do the trick just as fine.
And what is my ultimate favorite tool? My brain! As long as you have a good head on your shoulders, are super organized, and can be self-efficient, you will be cooking and baking like a pro in no time.
Happy cooking and baking,