The Ultimate Kitchen Essentials Gift Guide

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xoxoBianca

I know a lot about cooking and what is needed to easily and effectively prepare delicious food consistently; which, yes, is entirely possible. And one of things that I have noticed as a private chef going into many people’s homes is this, people STAY having poorly appointed kitchens.

What do I mean by that?

Simply put, people buy the wrong things and then wonder why consistent and EASY meal planning eludes them. Legit, I’ve seen homes with the most INSANE juicer but not a whisk to be found- NO WHISK! And while I am a lover of a fancy new kitchen gadget, one must walk before they run when it comes time to outfit a kitchen for success.

Today I want to share my ultimate kitchen essentials list- what you need, what they’re for and why you should own said items. This list goes in order of importance FOR ME, so vet this list through your life, if you have any questions, pop it in the comments and I will help you out there!


WHAT KITCHEN ESSENTIALS DO YOU NEED?

  • TONGS, WHISKS, WOODEN SPOONS

These items are NON NEGOTIABLES- I mean it. If your kitchen doesn’t have tongs (two pairs ideally), a selection of various sized whisks (at the very least one) and wooden spoons, your kitchen isn’t ready. The versatility of these items will make cooking so much easier.

TONGS are needed for flipping meat, removing items delicately and stabilizing food for cutting; without tongs you probably resort to using a fork, which you know is frustrating. Do yourself a favour and get some tongs.

ultimate kitchen essentials gift guide

WHISK- Funny story, my first business, a catering company, was (and is still) called Whisk Catering so you KNOW my love of a WHISK is real. Whisking is a way to combine dry or wet ingredients while infusing air; whisks also emulsify sauces; and lastly whisks are your friend when you need to get lumps out. I suggest having a few whisk of different sizes, but one to start is essential.

WOODEN SPOONS are great for old timey punishments, but they are essential to cooking. In some cases metal utensils can affect the flavour of your food, using a wooden spoon ensure flavour neutrality.

SLOTTED SPOONS are the MOST UNDERRATED small kitchen utensil. I often, for ease and less dishes, recommend when making pasta to omit the straining and add pasta right from the boiling water to the sauce, this is only possible with a slotted spoon. I also recommend people use the same water when blanching or steaming vegetables, without a slotted spoon, this is challenging to pull off. You need one (or two) slotted spoons- trust me.


  • SPATULA’S

I believe the importance of spatulas means they deserve their own bullet point. Spatulas are KEY, because without a spatula, how do you flip sh*t? How do you get ALL THE BATTER out of the bowl? Don’t sleep on having your spatula situation sorted!

OFFSET SPATULA- this is your flipper. Think pancakes, meatballs, french toast, omlettes etc. Ease in cooking is brought to you in large part to having an offset spatula. I would suggest having a metal offset spatula in addition to a silicone one because non stick coating gets damaged by metal and can become unsafe for cooking; silicone is teflon and non stick coating safe.

FISH SPATULA- now this is a secondary or even tertiary purchase, but bears mentioning. If you cook a lot of fish, especially delicate white fish, a fish spatula will make your life easier. That said, if budget is a concern, a fish spatula can be added to your collection later.


ultimate kitchen essentials gift guide
  • KNIFE

Kinfe skills are VERY important and when I sayb knife skills I mean how to use your knife safely (stay tuned for a series on that). Knife skills aren’t julienning and fine dicing food, it’s not cutting a digit off. The most PARAMOUNT point of knife ownership is having a SHARP KNIFE.

Knife Care 101

  • Wash by hand in water

  • Never place in dishwasher (dulls the blade)

  • Sharpen after each use

  • Use a steel to “true” the knife edge (make it straight), because often your knife is sharp but the blade is off centre.

Victorinox is the knife I’ve used since culinary school- still have the same one- and it never fails. Just take care of it ;)

  • INSTANT READ THERMOMETER

You WILL NOT live it down giving yourself, your family or any guests food poisoning - you just won’t. There are several old school ways to test for doneness of meat, of which I will spare you, and simply suggest you get an Instant Read Thermometer. This eliminates your margin for error, which depending on your culinary acumen can be a big margin.

NOTE when cleaning your thermometer, wash by hand in room temperature water, because if you use water that is freezing or boiling hot, it can mess with the thermometer, leading to inaccurate readings. And NEVER put it in the dishwasher...for the same reason.


  • MICRO PLANE or FINE GRATER

I am a lover of all things sauce, as I believe food is simply a vehicle for sauce; and when I make sauces I often grate garlic, ginger, onion and other seasonings into my dressings, which isn’t very possible without a grater.

Now what’s the difference between a microplane and a grater? Well, the difference is the size of the grate holes. A microplane is meant to zest citrus, minced garlic AND grate things like cheese, and the like. That said, a regular grater might not have fine enough grate holes which could create problems when zesting citrus, in particular, because if you get any of the white pith into the zest, it will become bitter. So this is just information to consider when deciding whether a grater is good enough for your kitchen or if you should spring for the microplane.

PERSONALLY I have both and I use both A LOT, both at work and at home. So my vote is to get both, because you just never know.


What Small Kitchen Appliances Do You Need?

In this section I want to talk about some bigger appliances and which are going to be best for you.

DOUBLE DUTY APPLIANCES

  • RICE COOKER

What I love about a rice cooker is that I’m SH*T at making rice; yes, 10 years into my culinary career and I screw up rice about 40% of the time UNLESS I use a rice cooker. Also, having a rice cooker clears up space on your stovetop for cooking other things. Rice cookers nowadays can handle all kinds of rice (wild, brown, basmati, sticky etc.), legumes AND grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth etc, which is great when you think of how much time it can save to just set it and forget it.

  • PRESSURE COOKER

It’s not until recently that I have become COMPLETELY enamored with pressure cooking. I remember growing up and my grandma had an ARCHAEIC pressure cooker, that if the lid wasn’t on tight it could explode in your face. Now is this a story I was told in order to quell my often dangerous kitchen inquisitiveness? Who knows, but pressure cooking has come a long way. You can cook hard boiled eggs in 5 minutes, cook tougher cuts of meats in less than 30 minutes and SO. MUCH. MORE! It’s become a completely safe and time saving kitchen cooking technique that you will come to love.

  • SLOW COOKER

I once had someone ask whether a slow cooker or pressure cooker was the move when outfitting a kitchen; and here’s the scoop...a slow cooker is clutch if you like to set it and forget it. Meaning you toss all the ingredients in, leave for work and come home to hot meal waiting in the slow cooker. Slow cookers are very versatile in terms of what you can cook, but you do have to be mindful of what you are slow cooking, because flimsy foods like summer herbs, greens, green beans etc. die a quick death in a slow cooker and leave you with sludge for dinner.

  • THE ALL IN ONE

I honestly believe that all the aforementioned small appliances are necessary for a well appointed kitchen, but three BIG, “I take up counter space” appliances create clutter and overwhelm BUT it need not be so.

ENTER THE INSTANT POT. If you’ve not heard of the Instant Pot, I’d love to know how your trip to Timbuktu went, because EVERYONE has been talking about this SUPER versatile small kitchen appliance. It pressure cooks, it slow cooks, it cooks rice, quinoa, grains, beans, eggs and pretty much anything else. BUT it also sautees! Which frees up your stovetop for the day when you bulk prepping like a boss.

I use the Instant Pot at work DAILY and it’s literally my favourite kitchen appliance of 2018- no joke. It does what a stove, a pressure cooker, a rice cooker and a slow cooker does, all in one!


ultimate kitchen essentials gift guide
  • Food Processor or Blender?

Another question I often field is, “what should I buy first, a food processor or a blender?” And this is a fantastic question, because these two small appliances share a lot of the same functions but there are some key differences. So let’s cover those differences, shall we!

BLENDER

  • Sauces and dressing

  • Chop and mince vegetables

  • Hummus and dips

  • Creating crumbs and breading

  • Desserts + Cookies

  • Minces and Pulses

  • Juices + Smoothies

FOOD PROCESSOR

  • Sauces and dressing

  • Chop and mince vegetables

  • Hummus and dips

  • Creating crumbs and breading

  • Desserts + Cookies

  • Minces and Pulses


 

I LOVE a food processor but I’m also a smoothie and juice lover, and because the blender can do most of the functions I require from a food processor, the blender is what I have at home. My blender is a Blendtec and I’ve never looked back; and, though, the Blendtec bears a premium price, it’s worth every penny. That said, Cuisinart food processors are the best in the business; so know thyself and purchase accordingly!


  • POTS AND PANS

So, I’m a minimalist. I believe that we live more with less, but in the case of the kitchen it’s slightly different because there are so many things we can make, but they require equipment. That said, when it comes to pots and pans, get ONE non stick skillet and protect that coating with your life, because if it starts to scrape and peel, it can be hazardous to your health. But I digress, one non stick pan is enough.

I personally believe that ONE large pot, ONE medium pot and ONE small pot will cover all your bases for soups, stocks, sauces and the like.  DO NOT buy these in teflon or non-stick, because it’s a waste; and when making items like soups, stocks and sauces depth of flavour is key and because foods don’t caramelize in non stick as they do in other materials means non-stick is a pass for your pots.

Again, don’t overdo it, know thyself and what you like to eat and buy those pans. A well appointed pot set is a fantastic way to start your collection. T-Fal is a trusted brand that I’ve used for years!


  • CAST IRON

If you’ve been following my Instagram stories or read my recent blog post, you know I am ALL THE WAY here for Cast Iron cooking. You NEED a cast iron pan for your kitchen, here’s why (click).

ultimate kitchen essentials gift guide
  • STORAGE

Outfitting your kitchen for success is not complete without accommodating your delicious prepared foods. Clear food storage containers are a MUST because they help you stay organized and see what you have.

My suggestion is to get plastic storage container for pantry staples like grains, seeds, pastas, spices etc. Because these items aren’t stored at extremes temperatures and therefore aren’t likely to leach plastic into your food. However, for hot food storage, glass is the ONLY way. Why? If you store food in plastic while hot, the BPA particles leach into your food and this gets into your body and causes all kinds of hormonal problems; and from a practicality standpoint, you can take glass storage from the fridge and pop into the microwave or oven to heat your food. Less dishes is ALWAYS the vibe!


As someone who has made her living and her life in the kitchen I know a thing or two about cooking and ENJOYING IT. And a huge part of getting comfortable in the kitchen is being ready to be in the kitchen- sounds simple enough! I hope this list serves you well, because I take arming your with kitchen confidence seriously!


What Kitchen Essentials Are a Must In Your Home?

Comment Below.

ultimate kitchen essentials gift guide