At first, all I saw were big, fat dollar signs. When I began my Traditional Cooking journey four years ago, I was surprised that my “fully stocked kitchen” wasn't as fully stocked as I thought. All this new information I was reading told me that my non-stick skillets were dangerous, that my grains had to be ground at home AFTER soaking or sprouting and then dehydrating, and that all the plastic Tupperware I'd been using for my leftovers was leaching BPA into my children's delicate bodies.
Teflon and phytates and BPA, OH, MY!
All the Real/Whole/Traditional foodies, bloggers, and books tell us that it's a process to change the way we shop for, prepare, and eat food. If you try to do it all at once, you're going to overwhelm yourself (and your family!), you're going to run out of that initial motivation and energy quickly, and you're probably going to give up and feel like a failure.
Of course, this has never happened to me.
Living this lifestyle has forced me to really evaluate the tools that I use to prepare all this wonderful food. After all, what good is it to source the best organic, local, whole foods only to come home and cook it in a pan that violates the integrity of the food?
So we replaced pots and pans one by one. I started asking for kitchen tools as Christmas and birthday gifts. I took advantage of sales and coupons, eyeing the gadgets I wanted until I could snag them up for a good deal.
Like changing our way of eating, it's been a process.
It's taken me years to amass the kitchen tools and gadgets that have grown to be my favorites. Some of them cost us a pretty penny and required advance planning and saving before we could buy them. Others were less expensive and were purchased on a regular trip to the store. Still others were gifts given by thoughtful friends and family who know that kitchen equipment is the way to my heart.
These tools help me prepare nourishing foods more easily and efficiently. I think that's something we would all welcome!
As a cook who's trying to make some healthier choices in your kitchen, you might find that the holidays are the perfect time to tell your husband/wife/parents/in-laws/friends that you want some new toys — kitchen toys, that is. And, if you're like me and just can't decide what to ask for, this list might help narrow down your choices a bit.
My Top 10 Tools
In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite kitchen gadgets:
1. Salad Shooter. Remember the infomercials from the 90s? The Salad Shooter was one of the products with its own 30-minute segment of Sunday afternoon television. Yes, those commercials were cheesy, and I'm not sure how many of those products were worth their $19.95 price tag. I don't know if I could live without a Salad Shooter. I have the Original Salad Shooter, but there is also a Professional version with a few more bells and whistles. We buy our cheese in large 5-pound blocks, and my arm would probably fall off if I didn't have this little gadget. I also use the shredder attachment for grating bars of soap to make homemade laundry detergent. I use the slicer attachment for veggies that you might use a mandolin slicer for: squash and zucchini, thinly sliced potatoes or beets, carrots, cucumbers, radishes and more. This device cuts down on slicing and grating time. Price: Less than $30.
2. Le Creuset Cast Iron Dutch Oven. I received my Le Creuset Cast Iron Dutch Oven as a Christmas gift from my mom this past Christmas, and it quickly made its way to the top of my list of favorites. This isn't any old stock pot; this thing is heavy duty. It transitions from the stove to the oven to the table beautifully. You can cook a roast or roast a chicken in the oven, make a delicious soup or stock on the stove top, and then take it right to the table and serve straight out of the pot. It cooks evenly, without hot spots, with gas or electric (I have used it consistently on both). And the enamel-coated cast iron doesn't leach harmful chemicals into food like aluminum or Teflon-coated pots do. Clean-up is easy. I have never had to do anything more than allow mine to soak in some soapy water for about10 minutes, and then scrub with a normal scrub brush–never steel wool or something abrasive. Yes, it is expensive at nearly $300, but I can see myself passing this on to my daughter one day and it still being in good condition. An added bonus is that Le Creuset comes in many different colors to match your kitchen or add a pop of color and personality to your stove! Price: about $275.
3. Bamboo Wooden Spoons. Used for possibly thousands of years, you can't get more practical than a wooden spoon. The trusty wooden spoon is my go-to for almost all cooking (and the occasional swat on the bottom of an unruly child). Wooden utensils won't melt on a hot skillet like plastic or silicon and won't scratch your expensive cookware like metal. There are so many reasons why wooden spoons make a great choice in the kitchen! Price: $7 to $25.
4. Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups. When I got married, I was given three Pyrex measuring cups — two 1-quart and one 1-cup. Nearly 11 years and 10 moves later, I'm still using them. The thick glass holds up just as well in a moving box as it does filled with a hot liquid. Unlike plastic measuring cups, glass ones won't crack or break in the dishwasher, won't stain when filled with tomato sauce, and won't spill easily. Their markings make them simple to use whether your recipe measurements are standard or metric. Price: $6 to $10.
5. BlendTec Total Blender. I used to think that a blender was a blender and that people who spent $400 to $600 for a blender, such as the Vitamix or BlendTec, were CRAZY. Until I used a friend's Vitamix. From that day on, I had two realizations. First, not all blenders are created equal; and second, if I didn't somehow acquire my own high-powered blender I would never be satisfied. I have used my BlendTec almost daily since my husband surprised me with it last summer. This thing isn't just for smoothies, ya'll. Here are just a few of the ways you can use a high-powered blender to make your kitchen tasks quicker and easier: lacto-fermented mayo, salsa, and salad dressing, applesauce or pureed fruit for dehydrated fruit leather, hummus or other dips and spreads, frappucinos, homemade powdered sugar, and more! Price: $400.
6. A Good Knife. This is a no-brainer, right? What kitchen could function WITHOUT knives?? But, seriously, I can't tell you the number of times I've been helping to prepare a meal at a friend or family member's home, and there wasn't much more than a cheap steak knife to cut with. Having just one high quality knife can make the difference in smooth and easy meal prep or I-am-going-to-pull-my-hair-out meal prep. My favorite knife is a seven-inch, stainless steel Santoku knife. I use this large knife for probably 80% of my chopping, slicing, and dicing. I have three other Santoku knives that I reach for when my favorite knife is dirty or being used for something like poultry or meat. If we are traveling and I know I'll be cooking wherever we stay, I even wrap my knife up and take it with me. No kidding! Unfortunately, the set of knives that I have is no longer on the market, but you can use this article to help you choose the right knife (or knives) for you. Price: varies.
7. Immersion Blender. Why would you want an immersion blender if you already have an expensive, high-powered blender? I'll admit that I don't use my immersion blender on a daily basis like I use my BlendTec. In fact, I might use my immersion (stick) blender once a week. Stick blenders are perfect for blending soups and sauces right in the pot. No need to transfer your hot soup in batches to the blender and then watch the lid pop off and soup explode everywhere because it was too hot (don't ask me how I know that!). Blended soups are a meal I make often in the fall and winter or when someone is feeling under the weather. (The potage bonne femme recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell is an excellent blended soup if you've never tried one before.) When making homemade ice cream, you can add all the ingredients right into the ice cream canister and blend, rather than dirtying two or three extra bowls. So although it's not something I need all the time, it's one of those tools that I'm very thankful for when I DO need it. Price: $20 to $200.
8. Cast Iron Skillet. Ah, the humble cast iron skillet. Our great grandmothers knew long ago that a well-seasoned cast iron skillet was the original non-stick cookware. After trying Teflon-coated (back in the I-didn't-know-any-better days), aluminum, and stainless steel cookware, I fall back on my Memaw's cast iron skillet every time. It isn't only the memories of her that cause me to love my skillet so much; I love it for its even heating, non-stick surface, and ability to hold heat. I love it even more because it's not loading our food up with harmful chemicals and toxins, unlike MOST other cookware. Cast iron is affordable and easy to care for. It can transfer from stovetop to oven to campfire to table with ease. No traditional kitchen is complete without at least one cast iron skillet, in my opinion. Here's a podcast from Wardee talking about brands and qualities. Price: $10 to $50.
9. Garlic Press. My Pampered Chef Garlic Press was a just-because gift to myself. I never imagined it would make it to my list of Top 10 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets! I use a lot of garlic in my cooking because I value the many health benefits of this little onion bulb and also because my family really enjoys the flavor garlic adds to many savory dishes. Peeling and chopping garlic (or ginger) can be a tedious task (especially if you don't have a good knife!), but this practical garlic press makes peeling and chopping a thing of the past. You can put the whole clove, peel and all, right into the press and press it right into the skillet or stock pot. I like that it also comes with its own cleaning tool. Price: $16.50.
10. Mason Jars. I couldn't resist. 😉 I'm sure we all have a good collection of Mason jars, but could any of us really say that we could live without them? I didn't grow up with Mason jars, and I am ashamed to say that I didn't own one until just a few years ago. Now I use them for EVERYTHING! They are perfect for fermenting veggies and yogurt, storing salsas, sauces, and stocks in the fridge or freezer and soaking beans, grains, or nuts. You can store any quantity of leftover soup, cooked beans, or rice in them. They make the perfect sweet tea glass. Or, with a few tweaks to the lid, take them with you in the car or outside. We drink smoothies out of them too. Use one as a charming vase or even create custom lighting for your home if you run out of uses for these jars in the kitchen! Not a day goes by in my kitchen that I don't use a Mason jar at least once. Price: varies.
More of My Favorites:
- Omega Juicer
- 1-tablespoon Cookie Dough Scoop
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer (I have apple green!)
- KitchenAid Grain Mill Attachment
- Crock Pot
- Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator
- Pyrex Glass Baking Dishes with Lids (8″x8″ and 9″x13″)
- Coffee Grinder
I'm Drooling Over:
- Cuisinart 14-cup Food Processor (14 cups??? That's a huge capacity!)
- Benriner Veggie Spiralizer
- Le Creuset 1-1/4 Quart Saucepan
Aren't gadgets fun?! Quality equipment will not only increase your efficiency in the kitchen but last (hopefully!) for generations to come. It may be expensive and take time, but consider it a worthy investment. These tools will last many, many years, when you invest in quality and take care of them properly. I'm looking forward to the day when I can pass down my cast iron skillet, stand mixer, wooden spoons, and knives to my children, equipping them and investing into their future Real Food kitchens! Thinking about receiving gadgets as gifts just makes me giddy!
Will you share your favorite gadgets and tools with us? What are the tools that make your life easier or that are just plain FUN? What are the tools that you're drooling over? Do you plan on giving (or receiving!) any of these for Christmas (or birthdays) this year?
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