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Episode 10: Essential Cooking Tools
up your kitchen for the very first time? Or just sick and tired of
your cruddy old culinary tools, like that sad-looking plastic spatula with the melted
front edge? Well, it’s time to level up!
Having the right cooking implements on hand
can mean the difference between having dinner ready in a flash and being
frustrated and defeated in the kitchen. In this episode we tell you all about our favorite culinary essentials. And don’t you worry your pretty little head—we won’t recommend anything crazy-expensive or
any one-trick ponies that’ll clutter your countertop. We won’t even suggest any
items that need to be plugged into an electrical socket. So listen in, and I’ll let you know which kitchen
tools this luddite can’t live without!
Notes & Links for Episode 10:
returning home from our Maui vacation, one of the first things on my to-do list
was to stock up our fridge and pantry. I started by heading over to Belcampo
Meat Company—our local butcher shop—to stock up on meat.
My order included
short ribs, a big pork butt, pastured eggs, and lots of ground beef. Although
well-raised meat can be expensive, I try to stick to stuff that costs less than ten bucks a pound. Cheap cuts and ground beef definitely help to stretch our food
budget. And after splurging on a lot of restaurant meals while on vacation, we definitely
scaled back this week.
Because I was
just getting back into the groove of things, I cooked a lot of garbage stir fries this week with
the ground beef from Belcampo. In fact, for four days in a row, I made garbage
stir fry for our garbage-loving family. Yes, I know that the name of the dish sounds grody and terrible, but the kids can
attest that it’s trash-tastically delicious. Besides, isn’t it always better to under-promise with a yucky name, and then over-deliver with a yummy dinner?
favorite local butcher shop is Belcampo Meat Co.
There are tons of different ways to make a garbage stir fry, and here’s a version my family
loves to eat.
out Podcast Episode 5: Desperation Dinners to see what I keep stocked in my pantry so I can make meals in a flash.
years, I was a kitchen gadget hoarder. If you have our cookbook or read my old
Paleo Eats posts, you probably know that I often use a number of appliances and
tools to get dinner ready, including an Instant Pot, a slow cooker, a food
processor, a super-charged Vitamix blender, a stick blender, and even our
trusty countertop toaster oven. Sometimes, I use all of those things to
prep a single meal.
blog readers know that several years ago, in the middle of the night, a pipe
burst under the kitchen sink and covered the entire house with a couple of inches
of water. While the water damage was being repaired, we were displaced to a cramped
residence inn for several months and I learned that we could get by in life
with much, much less. And this includes kitchen tools. I won’t lie – there are
plenty of “nice-to-have” items that
greatly streamline and enhance my cooking. I’ll admit it: they’re great
time-savers. But when push comes to shove, people only need a few items to cook
up nourishing and tasty meals.
recently, I started reading Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, The Life-Changing
Magic of Tidying Up—and it’s totally reinforced the need to purge stuff I
don’t really need or that don’t spark joy anymore. With this in mind, I consulted
my favorite review sites and came up with a pared down list of indispensible
Chef’s Knife: The best rated inexpensive
one is the Victorinox
Forschner Fibrox, which costs under $40. If you’re considering a
carbon-steel chef’s knife and money is no object, this $300 one by
J.A. Henckels designed by Bob Kramer, an American Master
Bladesmith, is considered one of the best. America’s Test Kitchen also
recommends a $100
Japanese knife by Togiharu that is
considered a best-buy. But if you’re going to spend this kind of money, you
should really try out these knives yourself. If you’re in NYC, go visit Korin in Lower
Manhattan, which is home to one of the most amazing and extensive collection of
Japanese chef’s knives (a.k.a. gyuto) in the world.
Paring Knife: The one I use at home is
Henckels International Classic 4-inch paring knife, but
Cook’s Illustrated recommends
one from Victorinox that only costs about $7.
Knife Sharpener: The best manual
sharpener is a cheap-o Accu-Sharp
Knife & Tool Sharpener. For less
than ten dollars, you can sharpen your own knives in just a few strokes. Recently, I’ve been tempted to buy an electric knife sharpener, and the one
recommended by everybody is The Chef’s
Choice Trizor XV ($160). It sharpens European, American, and
Japanese knives—both serrated and straight!—and it can convert a 20
degree factory edge to a 15 degree edge, which means you’re getting an even
Peelers: I keep three vegetable peelers
in the kitchen: One with a regular blade (an OXO Good
Grips Pro Swivel Peeler), one with a serrated edge for grabbing onto
smooth-skinned ripe fruits and vegetables (a Kuhn Rikon
Piranha Serrated Peeler), and one that makes quick work of julienning
zucchini into “zoodles” (a Kuhn Rikon
Kitchen Shears: To be perfectly honest,
you don’t really need shears if you’ve got a great knife, but a sharp pair of scissors
can help handle a host of tasks in the kitchen, from trimming herbs to spatchcocking
a chicken. I’ve tried a bunch of shears and my new favorite pair is the Kershaw
Taskmaster, which I learned about from America’s Test
Kitchen. I’ve used them to debone my Cracklin’
Chicken for a couple of years now, and they haven’t
dulled on me yet!
Cutting Board: If you want a great
wooden board, a John Boos
Maple Cutting Board is a fantastic option. Plastic is also a much
more cost-friendly option, and some folks like it better because you can toss
plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher. The Oxo Good
Grips Cutting Board is a polypropylene board with rubber strips on
both sides. It’s lightweight, non-slip, and fabulous.
Cast iron skillets: In our kitchen, I have a Lodge Logic pre-seasoned 12-inch cast iron skillet, as well as an 8-inch version (the one I use to fry crispy eggs). I love ‘em, but don’t presume that the company’s “pre-seasoning” is sufficient. You’ll still need to season the skillets, so follow the instructions in this post. To maintain
your cast iron skillets, just make sure you clean them after each use,
wipe them dry and also put them on a hot burner to dry, before rubbing a bit of
melted fat onto all surfaces. I used to think you couldn’t use soap to clean
them, but J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats debunked this myth a few months
ago in an article titled, “The Truth
About Cast Iron: 7 Myths That Need to Go Away.
Heat-Resistant Oven Mitts: Choose a
glove made of Kevlar or Nomex – they’ll allow you to handle items that are hundreds
of degrees in temperature. I used to have Ove Glove branded gloves, but a lot
of reviewers on Amazon say that the new ones don’t work as well. As a result,
I’ve done some digging, and my newest recommendation is to buy gloves from the
brand Grill Heat
Aid. They’ve gotten over A THOUSAND great
reviews on Amazon, and it has a no-hassle 100% money back guarantee.
Tongs: You don’t need anything fancy
here; just get a basic pair of locking tongs with wide-scalloped pincers, and
you’ll be all set. I have a few pairs of OXO Good
Grips locking tongs of differing lengths in the kitchen,
but when we’re doing high-heat grilling in the backyard, we use a set of 16-inch
tongs by Progressive International. And yes, I am aware that many famous chefs (e.g. David Chang and Thomas Keller) hate tongs with a searing passion, but who cares? (Not this home cook.)
Instant-Read, In-Oven Thermometer: These
thermometers aren’t super pricey, so don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish:
Invest in a good one so you don’t screw up your expensive meat. I have a ChefAlarm by ThermoWorks and it works like a charm. I also have a Thermapen which is
super accurate, but more expensive and you have to keep opening the oven to
check the temperature.
Rimmed Baking Sheet: Even though most
people use them as cookie sheets, you don’t have to use them to bake cookies. I
use them instead to roast meats and vegetables or to crisp up batches of kale
chips. A kitchen supply store is a great place to stock up on rimmed
baking sheets, but you can also find them online.
Personally, I recommend getting sheets that are no smaller than 13” by 18” — otherwise
known as half-sheets. You might be tempted to get a full baking sheet, but
they’re too big for most home ovens.
Wire Cooling Racks: I use wire racks to keep my roasted meats from sitting in a
puddle of grease in the oven, to elevate the proteins I’m about to set ablaze
with my kitchen torch, or to keep my crispy sweet potato fries from going limp and
soggy. Trust me –
wire racks will come in handy in a number of kitchen situations. My favorite
racks are made of stainless steel ‘cause
they’re practically indestructible, unlike the chrome-lined ones that can flake
off with use.
(If you’re curious about how I came up with my recommendations, I pored over these trusted resources: The Cook’s Illustrated website, Consumer Search, and The Sweet Home. I also have an older post about my essential cooking tools that you can read here.)
Crush of the Week:
chat about how much I love Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of
Tidying Up, Big-O tells us how toothpicks aren’t just for stabbing food, and
Lil-O fills us in on the awesomness of stainless steel drinking straws.
Question of the week:
asked in an email: I have to ask you if you can talk about cheat days when
you do Paleo. I eat Paleo-, Whole30-approved foods everyday, but sometimes I
schedule a cheat day on the weekend. I would appreciate it if you can have
an episode about cheat days. Is it healthy?
If you want to know my answer, you’ll have to listen to my podcast!
it for this week! If you have questions for future podcasts, please leave them
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Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times_ bestselling cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013)._