Top Ten Small Kitchen Must-Haves
9. A Good Pepper Grinder
A good pepper grinder makes a huge difference. Because I almost always use a couple twists of fresh ground pepper in all of my dishes, having a good quality grinder is key to having evenly ground pepper (huge random chunks of pepper can ruin any dish). My pepper grinder is made by Le Creuset (see #1 on my list) but really any sturdy pepper grinder will do. Look for a warranty on it as the gears can dull after a while. When cooking, try to always use fresh ground pepper because the act of grinding releases a stronger pepper taste so you use less but the flavor is richer.
8. Box Grater
Call me old fashioned, but I use a box grater all the time. Due to limited cooking space, it tough for me to always get out my food processor anytime I want something shredded. I use mine to shred cheese, potatoes for home fries or latkes, carrots for soups and salads, cucumbers for dips and salsas, the list goes on. Mine isn't anything fancy, I picked it up a couple years ago at Crate and Barrel and it has great options for me to choose from when deciding how finely I want something shredded.
7. Pizza Stone
As a pizza-holic, I wouldn't dream of making pizza in a conventional oven on anything but my pizza stone. Because you preheat the stone, it gives the pizza this amazing crunch by cooking the bottom of the pie at a higher heat than can be achieved using an ordinary pizza pan. Found in most cooking stores, they are a small investment (Mine was $15 and came with a bonus pizza cutter, score!) and it stores away nicely, not taking up too much room in my kitchen. You can find other uses for it as well. I use mine to bake focaccia bread and other breads such as rolls. It's a great way to fake that "just out of the brick oven" taste.
6. Kitchen Aide Mixer
I love my Kitchen Aide Mixer. I love how this takes all of the hard work out of baking. You just add the ingredients into the big silver mixing bowl and with a couple of clicks here and there, you're on your way to perfectly mixed ingredients. I especially love the versatility of it. It has a dough hook to kneed my bread and pasta dough for me as well as a whisk to make delicious icings or fresh whip cream. I also have several attachments that instantly turn my mixer into a juicer and a meat grinder, allowing me to channel my inner MacGyver.
I cannot imagine kitchen life without my Microplane. No substitutions please, I need the real deal. This long stick has sharp grooves on it that make grinding fresh nutmeg or zesting a lime a snap. I also like to use my microplane for grating small amounts of cheese because it leaves fluffy clouds of finely shredded cheese behind. Perfect for shredding some Parmesan on top of some piping hot pasta so that it melts quickly.
4. Rubber Spatulas
Whoever invented these should be recognized for his/her contribution to the cooking world. Strong enough to ensure there isn't anything sticking to the side of pots and pans but gentle enough so that it doesn't scratch the surface of Teflon or cast iron pots and pans. I love these so much that I hardly ever use spoons anymore, just these please!
3. A Good Wooden Cutting Board
After all these years of using crappy cutting boards, I finally invested in a good one. What a difference! My knife doesn't slip around and I love the precise little snap my knife makes as it hits the board (which is rather therapeutic in an Iron-chef sort of way). My cutting board also has no slip feet holding it up which is a great safety feature for a klutz like me.
2. Good, Sharp Knives
I love my kitchen knives and ensure that they are kept sharp so that they cut more precisely. The secret to tell whether a knife is sharp: it should be able to slice a tomato without much force. If it requires some muscle, I know its time to pull out my sharpener. I typically use my chef's knife for all purpose chopping, dicing and mincing but also love my paring knife for peeling and my bread knife for, well, cutting up bread.
1. Le Creuset Pots and Pans
This is certainly my guilty pleasure splurge when it comes to my kitchen gear. After a long hard week, some people treat themselves to a new outfit or some new electronic gadget. No, not me. I buy Le Creuset pots, pans and baking dishes when life gets me down. A little pricey but with a very sturdy design coupled by a lifetime warranty, this gives me more bang for my buck. Backed by a lengthy list of benefits, they are proven to be very practical and functional and in such bright colors, they perk up even the smallest of kitchens. (I use the traditional flame color for my baking and my pots and pans are cobalt blue, in case anyone is wondering what gifts to buy me.)
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