Okay, I could kitchen without some of these things. I know this because I kitchened before I owned a slow cooker, and I will continue to kitchen after I drop it while moving it from the sink to the cupboard, breaking it into ten thousand pieces. But these are items that make kitchening extra enjoyable, or easier, or faster.
- A good knife
Imperative to cooks everywhere is a big, sharp knife that can be sharpened again when it gets dull, that gleams like the day it was bought, that slices onions like butter, that comes clean with a single swipe of the dish rag. My best knife is actually a housewarming gift from when I was 18. At the time, I did very little cooking — unless you count making Kraft Dinner as cooking — but now I whip that knife out for any cutting that needs to be done. I also have a fantastic paring knife which was a wedding gift, and this past Christmas our Good Knife family grew by one more.
- A nice cutting board
I hate cutting on plastic. I picture tiny flakes of plastic going into my meals, and it’s just more satisfying to cut on wood. That said, I find wooden boards with feet tend to crack down the middle before too long, so we have recently purchased a flat Epicurean cutting board with grippy corners. It’s made of super dense wood, so it doesn’t absorb odours as readily as regular wood boards, which is great, because Eric was getting frustrated that I kept forgetting to use our small plastic board for garlic and onions. All his muffins, cut in half at breakfast, were a little too savoury.
- A slow cooker
I didn’t even know what a slow cooker was until a few years ago, when I started using one at work. I made meals daily for a family of four, and there is no time-saver like a slow cooker. I would chuck in chickpeas, tomato, onion, raisins, potato, and turmeric, and five hours later a lovely tagine would be bubbling away in there. I find slow cooker curries are more flavourful, and a favourite recipe of mine lately is slow cooker French onion soup.
- A food processor
This is huge time saver. There is something supremely enjoyable about chucking two onions, a zucchini, three carrots, ten mushrooms, and a block of cheese into the processor and seeing the tiny-ified pieces ready four seconds later. (Sidebar: We also use our food processor to small-ify our dog’s food, otherwise she gulps down those big kibbles whole and throws them up ten minutes later. So, useful.)
- A enamelled cast iron pot
What a luxury our new Lagostina pot is! I love it. I sleep with it under my pillow. I take it with me to work and social events. On cold days, it wears my scarf and mittens. Seriously, though, this is a fantastic pot to cook with. It heats evenly, is nonstick, and is stovetop- and oven-friendly. Plus, it is a most wonderful orange colour.
- A nice frying pan
We have spent the last year or two scrrrraaaaaping hardened bits of food off our crappy frying pans. All of them are made of very thin metal with nonstick coating that I’m sure we were ingesting more and more every time we cook. My grandma gave us a beautiful thick-bottomed frying pan for Christmas. It heats evenly without burning the food, and the high quality coating means we need hardly any oil when frying.
- A good peeler
A crappy peeler can ruin a night. No, a week. Maybe even a whole month. Our old peeler made me so mad. What kind of peeler can’t manage a carrot? Shouldn’t that be the benchmark for peelers everywhere? The point is, a good peeler is not only satisfying to use, it saves time and energy. Our good peeler cost a whopping $6 and was worth every penny.
- A range of utensils
We own a variety of wooden, plastic, and metal spoons, spatulas, tongs, whisks, brushes, and more. Since we sometimes cook on stainless steel, sometimes on aluminum, sometimes on cast iron, sometimes on teflon, it helps to have a range of items fit for the job. For example, I would hate to try to turn crepes with a thick silicon spatula, but luckily have an ultra-thin metal one I can use instead.
None of these items make me a better cook. Only experience has gotten me to the point I am at and only experience will help me continue to grow. I don’t think any cook should be discouraged by a lack of supplies. Improvisation has pushed me to craft interesting and delicious things! I am lucky to have such a well-stocked kitchen now, but I believe I would create dishes I love and feel proud of regardless of the state of my cookery. That said, somethings do make cooking faster and easier, with fewer pieces of teflon as a garnish.