As stay at home dads, we have a new range of responsibilities. These responsibilities require an appropriate tool set, both in terms of skills and physical tools. Cooking for the family, if one has not been primarily responsible for that task, is a challenge. If you are cooking from recipes, there are new terms that must be learned and tools that one must become acquainted with, new methods learned and the locations of everything in the kitchen learned.
In this post, I am going to outline what tools are absolutely essential for the kitchen.
Knives — you simply must have a good set of kitchen knives. You should have 1-2 knives that are serrated and the remainder should be straight blades. Avoid anything that claims to never need sharpening. I would strongly recommend a set of Wustof Classics or something similar, but these are not within everyone’s budget. You will want to have a chef’s knife (top), a paring knife (bottom), a serrated knife (second from bottom), and a slicing/carving knife (second from top). The chef’s knife is used for many of the same tasks that you would a food processor for, slicers are for cutting meats, pairing knives are for fruits and vegetables and serrated knives are used for tomatoes and bread.
Blender or food processor — If you have to make a choice between a food processor and a blender, get a good quality blender. While this is an essential tool for margarita-making, it also has a variety of other uses in the kitchen. If you can afford it, a Vita Mix is the way to go. Otherwise, take a look at a higher end Oster, which can be had for about $100 and may include a food processor attachment. A square blender jar is preferable. If you plan to make your own baby food, skip the all-in-one steamer and food processor products and get a Vita Mix instead. These can be used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen, including making — and heating — soups!
Pots and pans — Ideally, get a clad set of pans. Clad refers to the manufacturing method, and involves an aluminum core ‘clad’ with stainless steel. Try to get pans that are magnetic, in case you need to utilize an induction burner at some point in the future. All-Clad are fantastic, but I use Calphalon, which are much cheaper and perform very well. Also, get at least one cast iron pan in a 12-inch or larger size. Lodge is a great brand, they are made in the US, are inexpensive and very versatile.
Cutting board — I like these. They are dishwasher-safe, can withstand high temperatures (they are great for setting down hot pans and cookie sheets), and are a quick cutting surface. They are also inexpensive. Just make sure to get one that is at least 20% longer diagonally than your longest knife.
Wooden spoons — These are essential, especially if you have any non-stick pans.
Microplane — These originated as woodworking tools and have been adapted for the kitchen. They are amazing for grating just about anything, including fingers, so be careful. I would recommend against the ‘home’ line, which has the grater molded into plastic, but is prone to chipping. The classic line is narrow, but not prone to chipping. Alternatively, look for the professional (my preference) or gourmet lines (available on amazon).
Immersion blender — An immersion blender is essentially a food processor or blender on a stick. These are fantastic when making Indian food. Many of these sauces are made using vegetables, and need to be processed until they are smooth. These can also be used in making homemade baby food. These can be done in a blender or a food processor, but immersion blenders are cheap and very convenient!
Steamer basket — if you plan to make your own baby food, you will need a steamer basket. These come in a variety of designs and are inexpensive. Homemade baby food is cheaper than store bought and doesn’t include preservatives. Baby food can be frozen or canned for storage
You will find that there are any number of kitchen tools that you will want to have as your cooking develops. Avoid tools that have only one purpose, like those bars that remove garlic scent (any stainless steel item will do the same thing). If you have questions or need a recommendation, feel free to post and I will get back to you!