Happy New Year! I just purchased a few new kitchen goodies at post-Christmas prices, so I thought now would be a good time to write about kitchen items that I LOVE! Part of being a successful cook at home, is having the right tools to work with. So here are my:
"New Year's, Top Ten, Kitchen Must-Haves"! (In no particular order)
1. A good quality roasting pan - I advocate roasting as a wonderful way to make easy meals with enough for leftovers. Leftovers are invaluable as lunch fodder for families with food allergies. A high quality roasting pan will heat food evenly, not allow the bottom to burn, and it will give you wonderful drippings for making gravy. Look for one that has a thick bottom to allow for heating on the stovetop (which is essential for de-glazing and making that gravy!). I picked up this beauty on sale at Wegmans right after Christmas.
A Santoku Knife - This multipurpose chef's knife is absolutely indespensible in my kitchen! It slices, dices, and minces with ease. I use it for chopping vegetables and for trimming raw meats, as well as many other kitchen cutting! You don't have to spend tons of money to get a decent knife. I bought this set of Paula Deen knives for around $30! I recommend getting a set of at least two - one larger, one smaller.
A wooden/bamboo cutting board - I have many cutting boards of different shapes and sizes, but my favorite "everyday" cutting board is a medium sized bamboo one. It is easy to care for, not too hard on my knives, and I've had it for several years! I use it for cutting everything but raw meat. (I have a dedicated, dishwasher-safe, cutting board for that.)
A large, oven-safe skillet - Some of the best "one-skillet-meals" require that the meat be finished off in the oven. Having a large skillet that is oven-safe makes for easier cooking AND fewer pans to clean. Look for a skillet with a heavy bottom, NO non-stick coating, and with an oven-safe handle. You can see from the picture that this one is much-loved and well-used!
A large stock pot - I love to make my own stocks, spaghetti sauces and soups in large batches. I have several stock pots in varying sizes, the one pictured with my mid-sized one. I use it at least twice a week! Again, look for one that has a heavy, thick bottom to prevent sauces and chili from sticking to the bottom and burning.
A Dutch Oven - My Dutch oven may very well be my most loved kitchen item. Dutch ovens are traditionally cast iron, while French ovens are enamel coated cast iron. I include this little tid-bit for any foodies reading this who may take exception to the generalized use of the the term "Dutch oven."! In reality, if you search "dutch oven" online, you'll get search results for both. I have two, both enamel coated; one fancy (super expensive), and one less expensive (but still an investment). I'm going to confess here that they both work equally as well! The less expensive brand that I am using is "Lodge". You may have to shell out a little bit of cash for this, but after-holiday sales make it a great time to buy an investment piece like this! Dutch ovens can be used for soooooo many things! Soups, stews, deep frying, browning, braising, and warming. The enamel coated ovens can go from fridge, to stovetop, to oven, and to table gracefully. They evenly distribute heat for beautiful and easy cooking!
7. At least one pair of long, coated tongs - Tongs are indispensible for flipping, stirring, keeping hands off of raw meat... I like tongs that have a coating on the end so I can use them in non-stick and enamel-coated pans. Get a couple if they're on sale! I have two and I'm always tempted to buy one more!
At least one sturdy wooden spoon - You can't go wrong with a wooden or bamboo spoon. Perfect for deglazing/scraping a pan, stirring a thick sauce, or really any stove-top related activity, wooden spoons are an inexpensive and classic addition to your kitchen. They are safe on bare metal, enamel, and non-stick surfaces and they clean easily.
Gravy Strainer - A gravy strainer takes the difficulty out of straining fat off the top of stocks, soups, and drippings for immediate use. There's no "cooling" time needed to allow the fat to solidify, and there's no need to cautiously spoon off the fat. The good stuff simply pours off the bottom and leaves the fat in the strainer! If you roast meat and make gravy, get a gravy strainer!
Freezer Containers - I have an entire cabinet devoted to freezer containers! I use my full-size freezer as a pantry. I store stocks, soups, casseroles, stews, frozen veggies, spaghetti sauce, mushroom sauce...you name it! I know that everything is homemade, and SAFE for my children with food allergies. Re-useable, disposable, zip-top, whatever you can get a coupon for, buy it and store it!
I hope this list has been helpful to those of you just building your kitchen and just begining to cook from scratch. There are a lot of other items I use on a daily basis, but this top 10 will get you ready to cook amazing meals for your food allergic loved ones!
As always, from The Allergy Safe Kitchen, I wish you "Good Cooking, and Safe Eating!"