In today’s blog, you will learn about some of my favourite tools that I feel everyone needs to have in a well-functioning kitchen. First, I want to ask you, do you like being in the kitchen? Why or why not?
I never used to like being in the kitchen. I’m not sure why because I grew up with women like my mom and grandmothers who were amazing cooks. I often helped them in the kitchen when I was a young girl but as I got older, especially as a teen, and when I loved on my own, I would default to grilled cheese sandwiches, noodle soups and other basic dishes. I never really gave cooking at a different level much thought.
Fast forward to my mid twenties and I find myself in front of a councillor who says I need to develop a more positive relationship with food to help ease the eating disorder I had been struggling with for many years. I took her advice to heart. I pulled out a variety of cookbooks and started to look though them. About that same time, I had become a vegetarian so the options were a little slim as the movement wasn’t as popular back then as it is today. But I started to learn and have fun with it.
When I went vegan, which was over a decade ago now, that’s when my passion for cooking really started to kick in. I began to experiment with different ingredients and started to build the tools I needed to make the delicious dishes I was creating. I was having so much fun creating different meals and my friends and family were loving what I was making. That’s when I wrote my first book, The Magic of Living Nutrition, which is a collection of recipes that I had created and was making on a regular basis.
For any of you who have spent any time in the kitchen, I’m sure you will agree that it is much more fun when you have the right tools. In this today’s blog, learn about 15 essential tools for your kitchen that I have found make creating delicious, healthy meals easier and more fun.
As I mentioned, many years ago I became vegan and to heighten my knowledge of how to properly eat in this way. So, I took a raw-vegan chef certification because I was obsessed with learning how to make the most delicious, yet healthy, meals.
For anyone of you who eat a whole food, plant-based diet you know that cutting up veggies is inevitable. Yet it’s not a job that not everyone likes to do. Numerous times I’d be annoyed with my cheap, dull knives, my food processor that burned out on me every second use and my blender that hardly broke food down that it would leave me feeling frustrated rather than inspired in the kitchen.
So, I started researching a variety of knives, blenders, food processors, juicers and other tools that I feel are must-have’s in a well-functioning kitchen. Soon I decided it was time to up my game and invest in some decent kitchen equipment and tools and that’s what I will share with you in this article.
Essential Tools For Your Kitchen
Although you may not need all of the tools I mention, and you could probably get by with the tools you already have, from my own personal experience these tools will make food prep and cooking so much easier. Te best way to get started and begin to build up your collection of great kitchen tools is to take an inventory of what you already have and use the most. Then, determine which ones you want to replace first. Keep your eyes out for a sale, or connect with someone you know who may be able to help lead you to the right source.
1) High Quality Knife Set.
I can’t express to you the difference having a good quality knife makes when it comes to cutting, peeling and chopping. When I got my first really good set of knives all I wanted to do was chop veggies. Suddenly this was a fun task that so many people hate doing. My favourite affordable knife brands are Cutco and Pampered Chef.
These knives are not only stunningly beautiful but they come with excellent guarantees. Although these knives require some initial investment they are worth every penny. You don’t need to start with the full set, just choose one or two knives you think you would use the most and start there.
My favourite knives that I think are a great place to start are:
- Chef’s knife
- Santoku knife
- Paring knife
- Bread knife
If you’re interested in learning more and purchasing some Pampered Chef kitchen equipment, please contact my friend Jill Fleming who will get you set up.
2) High Speed Blender.
If you don’t have a Vitamix you are missing out. I am known by many as the smoothie master. Every time I do a smoothie making party people are in awe of how smooth and tasty my smoothies are.
As much as I want to take all the credit, I can’t. Yes, I know how to add the perfect ratio of ingredients into the blender but place these same ingredients in regular ‘ol blender and it just wouldn’t be the same.
My preferred choice and recommended blender is by far the Vitamix. Yes, a Vitamix is a considerable investment but it is worth every penny!
There are so many things you can do with this blender. You can make smoothies, soups, dressings and so much more! It will come with a recipe book to help get you started. Or, check out the many recipes and notice how much I use the Vitamix.
3) High Quality Food Processor.
You may not think you need a food processor, especially one that costs a few hundred dollars, but when you get it you will wonder what you ever did without it. Sure you can work with a cheap, low quality food processor; however, if you use it a lot you will likely burn out the motor.
Imagine this… you are in the creative process and the perfect dish is coming together nicely. You have all the ingredients in your food processor, you press the button, it starts going and then suddenly it stops! What are you to do? You have company coming over and you want to make the perfect dinner! So, you rush out to the store and end up buying one of the top models in the store to ensure this never happens again.
This may not have happened to you but it has happened to me in exactly the way I told it! When I started using a new, high-quality food processor it was so much better that I vowed to inspire others to invest in a good one so they didn’t have to experience what I went through.
Ok, that may be a bit dramatic but it’s true.
4) Mandolin Slicer.
I have to admit although I do use my mandolin slicer a lot I still like to cut my veggies using my good knives. However, if you are cutting up large amounts of veggies, and you want them cut perfectly or in a special way such as julienne, french fries or a flat cut, the mandolin slicer is the best tool to have ready to go.
Just a word of caution… be sure to use the hand guard because if you don’t, you may slice off a finger, or at least a nail. Trust me… it happens.
I started my plant-based journey by drinking fruit and veggie juice every day. There is nothing like a freshly made green juice. It’s very refreshing, hydrating and nourishing.
Juicers range from about $100 to $3000. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to send thousands of dollars on a juicer when a less expensive one will do just fine but it does depend on what you want to juice.
If you want to juice root veggies and fruits then a centrifugal juicer, like a Breville, will work fine.
For wheat grass I would get a really slower juicer or a wheat grass specific juicer that is specially designed to only juice wheatgrass for best results.
Centrifugal Juicer vs. Slow Juicer: What’s The Difference?
Centrifugal juice extractors are the most common type of home juicer. A fast-spinning blade spins against a mesh filter using centrifugal force to pull the juice from the flesh of the fruit or vegetables.
The problem with this type of juicer is that the speed at which the juice is extracted destroys some of the enzymes and the heat may oxidize the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables. And it’s unable to process nuts or leafy greens.
The only benefit of this juicer is that it is usually more affordable that the cold press, or slow, juicer.
The cold press, or masticating juicer, extracts the juice by crushing and pressing the fruit and vegetables to yield the most juice. Because there is no heat produced the enzymes and nutrients stay intact.
It is excellent for juicing dark leafy greens, making fresh nut milks and is much quieter than the centrifugal juicer.
Although this is the better juicer it is a significant investment as it is much more expensive.
A dehydrator is a tool you can use to keep your food raw. Raw food is cooked at temperatures lower than about 118 degrees F.
Until I became a raw-vegan chef I had no idea what lovely raw foods I could make in the dehydrator. Snacks like kale chips, raw crackers, dried fruit and granola taste much better when they’ve been dehydrated as opposed to cooked in the oven.
My favourite dehydrator is the Excalibur. It costs about $400, depending on the size you get, but it’s well worth the money!
A spiralizer is a fun tool to have in the kitchen. This tool will have you making fancy raw zucchini dishes and topping salads like a professional chef with spiralled carrots and beets.
There are many different types of spiralizers. Some can get pretty pricey but you can get basic ones at an affordable price.
8) Glass Jars.
I am a big fan of mason jars, or glass jars in general. I use them for so many things. The large mason jars, which are about one litre, are perfect for sprouting seeds such as sunflower, buckwheat and pea shoots.
You may also choose to keep flour, sugar, spices and other ingredients that usually come in a bag in some of these jars so your cupboards look tidy and clean.
Often I have hosted fun events like salad in a jar parties where everyone brings five jars, a couple of ingredients and you make salads to last a few days. Glass jars are a fun way to make and take your salads, and other meals, on the go!
9) Cutting Boards.
Since you will have your beautiful new set of knives and be excited to get chopping, a nice cutting board, or two, is essential.
I prefer wood, or plastic, cutting boards as they are easier on your knives. Glass ones, although really easy to clean and look nice, tend to make your knives dull.
10) Pots And Pans.
Any chef will tell you that having a nice set of pots and pans is well worth the investment.
I would suggest finding a high-quality set you really like and purchase one piece at a time until you have the entire set. Unless you decide to just buy the whole thing up front… that’s always a great option too!
Some key pieces to start with include:
- Large pot -perfect for large batches of pasta, soup, rice and lentils.
- Small pot – perfect for cooking oatmeal or heating up leftovers.
- Steamer set – perfect for steaming veggies.
- Large skillet – perfect for frying up large amounts of stir-fry or other food.
- Small skillet – perfect for heating up a small amount of food like leftovers.
Baking is a great way to have fun in the kitchen. There are so many delicious recipes you can make and share with your loved one. If you are vegan, baking is also a fun way to make all your favourite desserts vegan style and impress your non-vegan friends.
This is why you will want to have some nice bakeware pieces in your kitchen.
Some of the basics you will want to have handy include:
- Mixing bowls
- Baking pans (one large and two small)
- Cookie sheet
- Muffin tin
- Spring form pan
12) Measuring Tools.
Having a good set of measuring cups and measuring spoons will be a lifesaver when you are making the perfect dish. When you first start learning how to cook, like I did, you will want to follow recipes. By doing this, you get to learn how much on an ingredient is necessary for the right flavours and what ingredients go with what to make the perfect dish. Once you are comfortable with the different ingredients and flavours then you can branch out and create your own.
With baking, it’s usually based on some pretty solid science. It’s a little harder to just throw a little of this and a little of that when you are baking. It often requires the perfect amounts of certain ingredients to works, especially if you’re baking a vegan or gluten-free treat. They are a little more finicky.
Some essential measuring tools include:
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
13) Spatulas, Wooden Spoons and Flippers.
Spatulas, wooden spoons and flippers are essential must-have tools for your kitchen. Without them you won’t be able to stir, mix or flip your delicious food.
I know for many years I used old spatulas, spoons and flippers that I had been handed down from my mom. However, when I invested in a whole new set it was a brand new cooking experience. There is something special about having all your favourite tools ready and waiting to be used. Then when you pick them up you feel like you belong in the kitchen.
It’s these simple pleasures that will keep you coming back to the kitchen and prepare delicious, healthy, whole-food meals.
14) Storage Containers.
A big part of making fresh meals and eating at home is the left overs! Some dishes taste better the next day after all the spices and flavours have had time to soak in.
This is why you will need a good set of storage containers. Small ones are perfect for storing chopped veggies. Medium containers are perfect for packing lunch for the you and the kids. Large containers are great for storing baked goods or large batches of rice to use over the next few days.
Unless you can find a high-quality plastic that is BPA-free, glass storage containers are the best choice.
I know, love isn’t really a tool; however, I believe it is an essential part of the cooking process.
Many years ago when I was dealing with an eating disorder I was advised to start cooking. The premise was to learn to love the food I was preparing. Learn as much as I could about the ingredients, prepare the food with love and enjoy the process. The purpose of this was so that I would learn to love the food I was putting in my body rather than hate it.
The energy of love brings a light energy to the food that you can actually taste. And when you make food for the people you love, including yourself, you are not only feeding them you are also feeding your soul.
You’re All Set!
Now that you have all the essential tools you need for your kitchen you are ready to get cooking!
These basic tools will give you a great start to creating meals that will impress your family and friends and make being in the kitchen a fun and enjoyable experience.
If you have any questions about my favourite tools that I have recommended here please feel free to send me a message and ask me anything!
Please visit the show notes for podcast episode #44 and listen to the audio version of this article at www.RJOWellness.com/podcast/episode-44.
If you have any personal favourite tools for the kitchen, let me know what they are in the comments below and on social media at @rjowellness.
Until next time,
Keep rockin” your wellness!
Rachel Joy Olsen, BSc., MBA