Here is a list of my favourite kitchen tools. I am a plant based cook. So needless to say, I won’t be recommending a boning knife! But, these are my favourite “must haves”.
I realize that some of the kitchen tools I recommend can be expensive. I have built up my kitchen tools over many years. The most important suggestion I have is to be patient and invest in quality. If you buy quality kitchen tools and look after them they should last a very long time -- even a lifetime. My mum is still cooking with kitchen tools she received as wedding gifts.
One way I have obtained some of the kitchen tools on my “dream kitchen wish list” is having my family pitch in together for birthday gifts. Giving a gift voucher is another great idea. Then you can go to the holiday sales and get more “bang for your buck” when items are heavily discounted. I have also picked up a lot of fantastic kitchen tools at outlet stores, and in the homeware section of TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I can’t walk past a Le Creuset Outlet store without walking in for a peak! I also have a “kitchen account”, where I deposit a little bit of money each week in order to save up for those special luxury kitchen items I want.
A well equipped kitchen is an investment that will pay dividends in many aspects of life.
I use all kinds of baking dishes. I have some all-purpose aluminium baking dishes, as well as glass and porcelain baking dishes in various sizes and shapes. But my personal favourites would be the enamelled cast-iron or pottery dishes that can be used on the stove top, in the oven, and then carried directly to the table. My Le Creuset dishes take pride of place in my kitchen. These can be picked up at a huge discount from outlet stores.
Baking Tins And Trays
I prefer to use heavy aluminium baking tins for making baked goods. I purchased a set from Williams-Sonoma that I love. If you use non-stick tins and trays with your baking, just make sure you discard them if they become badly rusted or scratched. I always line my tins and trays with baking/parchment paper. It makes baking (and cleaning up) a breeze, and your goods neatly lift out easily after cooling.
I just could not live without my high speed blender. Blenders are the culinary gift from the gods! They just make life easier, tastier and more decadent. All blenders were definitely not created equal, and I have to say, that in this area, you really do get what you pay for. It is best to make a long-term investment in quality. A good high speed blender will be money that you will get back “in time” within months of use, when you discover what these miraculous machines can do. You can Make soup from raw veggies in minutes, raw nut and seed butters in seconds, etc. You can make most of my recipes with a conventional blender, but you will get a better consistency with a high-speed blender. Particularly with the recipes containing nuts, seeds, dates, and fibrous fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens.
When I tour with shows I always take my travel blender with me and it works just fine. But I would be lying if I said I was not hankering to return to my high speed blender. I am a fan of glass carriages, as they look gorgeous, are easier to clean, and don’t hold smells or scratch like their plastic counterparts. However, glass carriages are really heavy.
All the high speed blenders have plastic or stainless steel carriages. If you wash them immediately after use by using some warm soapy water and “blending and then wiping”, your plastic carriage should last for ages. Extra carriages can be purchased rather inexpensively. It is the base/motor that is the expensive portion of the machine. Never use a scourer or metal implements on the blender carriage, and always use plastic scrapers to dislodge and scrape out food particles from your blender. I have been known to use my fingers! Never put the blender carriage in the dishwasher. Rust and corrosion can be an issue.
See my blender tips in the resources section.
Check out my blender recipes.
Blender and Stick Immersion
A hand blender, stick blender or immersion blender is not an essential kitchen item, but inexpensive and really handy when you are blending very small amounts. Just make sure to purchase a hand blender that has a variable speed control so you have a low and high setting. I like the packages that have the stick blender with a variety of attachments -- whisk, blade and chopper that makes the immersion blender even more versatile as a food processor and a blender/whisker. These hand blender packages are fantastic for those of you living in studio apartments or small kitchens; and they are wonderful for travelling. Just a tip that I learnt the hard way -- use a deep jug or large bowl when using these immersion blenders, and place the stick in the bottom in order to avoid the "splatter all over the kitchen" scenario!
You can never have too many bowls in your kitchen. Large, medium, small and tiny -- glass, porcelain, wood and stainless steel. I am "bowled over" by them all! It is really a matter of personal preference. A variety of sizes for mixing bowls is really important; and a heap of little bowls are great for setting aside pre-prepared chopped or melted ingredients. I love mutli-purpose bowls that are functional for mixing and look fabulous to put on the table.
You can never have too many cutting boards either. I have several gorgeous wooden boards that are fantastic for serving on the table. I also have a variety of hard plastic boards. I put these cutting boards in the dishwasher to clean them thoroughly; and as soon as they have too many deep cuts in them, I replace them. I don’t want those plastic cutting boards gathering bacteria. Have you ever gone over to someone’s house and their cutting boards stink no matter how much you wash it? Well, that is because it is absolutely riddled with bacteria! Do your health a favour and replace any contaminated cutting boards. They are as cheap as chips. I am not a fan of glass or marble cutting boards. They look gorgeous, but they are impractical. You can’t maintain traction when cutting, and the surface blunts your knives.
A good citrus zester is an absolute must have if you use cirtrus zest as much as I do. I have a small larger zester and a microplane grater.
I use lemon or lime juice in so many of my recipes that I would put a citrus juicer or citrus reamer right up there in my top ten “kitchen must haves”. You can get a porcelain juicer, wood hand held juicer, a table squeezer or a citrus press. Whatever gets your juices flowing. I have to say, I absolutely love my citrus press that squeezes every last drop out of lemons and limes. I haven’t found any citrus juicer that is quicker, easier, or more effective. But it is a matter of personal preference. Either way -- always juice lemons or limes at room temperature to get the most juice.
A good food dehydrator is an essential item if you intend to prepare raw recipes. I use my dehydrator to dry my raw nuts and raw seeds after soaking and activating, and to make raw cookies, slices, tortillas, wraps, noodles, fruit leathers, and heat up vegetables. I have an Excalibur 9-Tray with timer model. The included mesh screens are great for drying your raw soaked nuts and seeds. But invest in the extra non stick sheets which are great for drying batters, cookies, wraps and fruit leathers.
Check out my dehydrator recipes.
A flame deflector is not an essential kitchen tool, but something I have found really valuable for evenly distributing the heat on gas stoves when simmering thick mixtures that catch easily.
A great food processor is invaluable for shredding and slicing vegetables, pulsing rustic dips, and making cookies and crusts. I have a Breville Sous Chef that has a powerful motor, sharp blades and slicers, and beautiful design. It is the best food processor I have ever used. It makes almond meal from almonds in three pulses. Just unbelievable. Read more about my food processor tips in the resources section.
Find my food processor tips in the resources section.
Check out my favourite food processor recipes.
Food Processor Mini Or Mini Prep
Yes, it IS an indulgence to have two food processors. But a mini food processor makes life so easy when you are chopping small quantities of things such as herbs, seeds, nuts, chocolate, ginger or spices, that get lost in a bigger machine. It is great if you have a small kitchen or not a lot of cupboard space and are making small dips or cooking for one. The other upside for mini food processors is that it is so much quicker and easier to clean up! A lot of good quality food processors actually came with an extra mini carriage and blades, which made it two for the price of one!
I love porcelain ginger graters. They are so quick and easy to use, and you have minced ginger and juice in less than a minute. There is also no wastage. You can tip a little water over the grater into the dish and every single bit flows into your bowl. Porcelain ginger graters can be purchased from Asian grocers or gourmet cookware shops. You can always use a rasp grater for ginger, but this little grater would be in my top five things to buy for your kitchen. It is only used for ginger and costs about ten dollars. You can also use a microplane or other grater.
Ice Cream Maker
This is not an essential item in a lot of kitchens. However, it's great for making home made ice cream. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on an ice cream maker. I bought one for forty nine dollars from a kitchen outlet store. I also have the ice cream maker that attaches to the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. They are about seventy dollars. One tip -- always use the plastic paddle included to scrape out your ingredients. Metal spoons will scratch the surface and ruin your container. Freeze the canister in a freezer bag to avoid cross contamination of flavours and smells.
Japanese Vegetable Slicer And Shredder
This is a "plastic fantastic" little box you can source from Asian grocers. There are interchangeable blades for different slice preferences. I do most of my slicing and shredding the food processor. However, if you require more uniform, “pretty looking” shreds and extremely thin uniform slices this is a great option. These vegetable slicers are as cheap as chips too!
This is a more “high speed” version of the plastic slicer and is really useful for thin slicing. Watch your fingers! These machines are super sharp.
I would be totally lost without my digital kitchen scales. I use them every single day, and find them invaluable for accurately measuring ingredients and converting imperial and metric measurements in recipes. These scales are easy to store away, unlike the old fashioned balance scales, and really easy to keep clean. I picked up a set of great digital scales for thirty dollars.
Good sharp kitchen knives are the number one essential item in any kitchen. Save up and invest in quality knives if it is the only thing you do for your kitchen. Sharp knives are safer and easier to use than cheap blunt knives. Good quality sharp knives have a well-balanced weight and sharp edge that cannot be matched by the cheap knives. Once you have had a “slice of the good knife” you will never go back; and wonder why you weren’t this sharp sooner! There are some fantastic brands of knives out there, and knives are really a matter of personal preference - how they feel in your hand and the weight.
I like the Global knives. They are lightweight, super sharp, and look gorgeous. I also love my Cutco knives.
There are a lot of specialty knives available, but the average cook only needs three basic knives.
An all-purpose chef’s knife or cook’s knife to chop herbs and vegetables.
A smaller chef’s knife, or utility knife for light cutting and slicing.
A paring knife for paring and trimming fruits and vegetables.
I also recommend a cleaver if you are going to crack open coconuts or any other heavy jobs that require more force and may damage the fine edge on your beloved chef’s knife.
I always rustically break up and chop most foods before putting them in my blender, mixer or food processor, not only to save wear and tear on my machine, but because foods measure more accurately and are incorporated more easily in smaller pieces.
For my tips on working with knives check out the resources section.
I could not live without glass jars. I have a huge collection of glass jars in a variety of shapes and sizes. I use them to store raw ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits, and sea vegetables. They are also invaluable for soaking and sprouting, making cultured vegetables and kefir, and for storing and freezing juices and smoothies. When freezing mason jars, only fill the liquid to about 3/4 full to allow for expansion of the liquid when freezing. There are fantastic reusable lids you can purchase from Eco Jarz, that turn any mason jar into a reusable drinking vessel. I use these lids all the time. Then I can steralize my mason jars in the dish washer. Jars are also great for shaking salad dressings when travelling.
If you are working on a budget, save all of your glass jars from commercial pasta sauces and condiments. Clean them in the dishwasher, and then sterilize them in a pot of boiled water.
Measuring Cups And Spoons
Measuring cups and spoons are an absolute must have in any kitchen. I prefer the stainless steel variety over the plastic sets.
You can use the same implement to grate or shave citrus zest, chocolate, coconut and spices. But I prefer to use a separate special microplane for my chocolate, and a separate zester, and a separate grater for spices. You can buy microplane graters with different sized holes that make it easier. It is a matter of personal preference whether you use a box grater, paddle grater, or rasp grater. I find box graters harder to clean. I always grate ginger with my porcelain ginger grater.
I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and I just couldn’t live without it. They are incredibly versatile. I use it to make cakes and batters, the dough hook is fantastic for doughs, and the ice cream attachment is wonderful for homemade ice cream. This machine is a one stop shop, and with their gorgeous colours, you can match your mixer to your decor.
Check out my stand mixer recipes.
Mortar And Pestle
You can get mortar and pestles made in porcelain, marble, stone, or granite. A mortar and pestle is fantastic for grinding herbs and spices if you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, and are not using a spice grinder or coffee grinder. There is something about using a mortar or pestle that slowly releases the aromatics that appeals to my senses and releases more flavour. All pesto purists mix their blends in their mortar and pestle. They also look really gorgeous sitting on the bench top next to your favourite cook book. I also have a Japanese Surubachi, which is great for grinding seeds for making gomasio and sauces etc.
Nut Milk Bag
Nut milk bags are cloth bags used to strain plant based milks in order to achieve a smooth, silky, creamy texture. I have tried using cheese cloths and strainers, but they just don’t do the job like these devoted bags. I have to say, I like rustic, course nut milks that contain all of the healthy fibre. But, for use in most recipes straining is preferable. Wash these bags immediately after using, and dry them thoroughly to reuse them. If you don't want to buy a nut milk bag, a sheer knee high stocking hose works really well to strain milks too!
A stainless steel pasta roller is not essential for everyone. But it is essential to make home made pasta. I purchased my pasta machine for about $80 and it has been well used. A traditional Italian pasta maker clamps down to the bench top and kneads, rolls, and cuts off pasta. Never wash your pasta maker. Let the dough dry a bit and then remove any bits of trapped dough by slowly turning the handle whilst flicking the roll with a pastry brush. Dust off the flour residue and then store for use later.
A good pastry brush is essential for baking. Always buy a pastry brush with natural bristles. Nylon bristles have a tendancy to melt in the hands of hot ingredients! I also use mine to push out excess dough from my pasta maker.
These dough scrapers or pastry scrapers are invaluable when working with flours. I have several little plastic dough scrapers. You can pick them up for a couple of bucks. These scrapers help you to cut through and mix dry ingredients and work dough.
Pots And Pans
With pots and pans, it is a matter of personal preference, and what kind of cooking you do. But for my money, I use a mixture of stainless steel pans with heavy bases and enameled cast iron cookware, and some vintage cast pans.
I use them all, depending on what I am cooking. I really love my Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware. It is incredibly versatile. You can put it on the stove, in the oven, and it looks gorgeous on the table or bench top for serving.
No matter what kind of pots and pans you have, always hand wash them with a soft cloth and no scourer. Be patient and use the “soak and lift” approach to cleaning, rather than the “scratch and scrub” approach. Your cookware will thank you.
Just like good knives, there is an endless array of specialty pots and pans that the passionate cook can indulge in. But the average cook can get by with one standard large frying pan, and one small one. However, I like all the sizes in between as well! If you are a crepe lover like me, I would recommend investing in a crepe pan. I also like the deep skillets with the lids for slowly stewing vegetables, and quick basting. However, a cast iron casserole dish would also work for this. So you don’t need to double up. For pots, I recommend a large stock pot for making stocks and soups, and cooking pasta, and a smaller one for cooking smaller soups and stews. A few smaller saucepans are great for cooking smaller portions, and heating soups, steaming vegetables, making sauces etc.
A pressure cooker is not an essential for everyone. But it fabulous for cooking grains and legumes. Make sure you read the instructions before using a pressure cooker, in order to avoid the “lid and food on top of the ceiling” scenario.
I have a wide selection of porcelain and glass ramekins in various small sizes that come in so handy for keeping chopped ingredients, serving dips and sauces; to chilling or cooking desserts.
I cook all of my grains in a rice cooker. A standard four cup or eight cup version is sufficient for most people. I love my little one cup mini for travelling. Check out the One Pot Dish For Your Rice Cooker video I did as part of the Chow Tips series.
A wooden rolling pin is a must have for making dough and pastries, as well as rolling out raw and cooked crackers. Whether you get a rolling pin with or without handles is a matter of personal preference. I have pins in various sizes to accomodate all kinds of rolling tasks.
I could not live without my salad spinner. Forget the old “rinse and pat in a tea towel” approach. My money goes on centrifugal force! I just bought a standard one -- Zyliss, Avanti and OXO all have affordable salad spinners for about forty dollars. I also indulged in a mini spinner, which is fantastic for drying herbs.
A good sharp pair of kitchen scissors is a must for safely opening the tops of packets, cutting baking/parchment paper, and cutting dried fruits and other ingredients. Just make sure you wash and dry them thoroughly before storing them, so they don’t rust.
I have a variety of stainless steel colanders, fine mesh strainers and sieves. One large and small colander, and one large and small strainer is good. A mini strainer also comes in really handy for herbs and small amounts.
Stainless steel skewers are great for vegetable and fruit kebabs, and testing the centre of baked goods. You can buy bamboo skewers in packs at Asian grocers, and they are as cheap as chips. I also use my skewers for gently lifting out dry pieces of dough from my pasta machine.
Good plastic spatulas are essential in all shapes and sizes for scraping out blender containers, dough out of bowls, and retrieving any other blends. I like the wide flat ones for large cakes and bowls; and the smaller narrow ones for those hard-to-reach places. My friend Kris calls these “lickers”. Yes! They come in handy for that too! I use my spatulas a lot for scraping out every last morsel from my blender conrtainer.
Spice Grinder Or Coffee Grinder
I find a spice grinder or coffee grinder (that is not being used for coffee) really useful for grinding spices, making flaxseed meal, or pulverizing small amounts of seeds. I have also used a nutribullet which works really well.
Differnt sized spoons are essential. I have a variety of large stainless steel serving spoons (both slotted and full), small and medium spoons; and of course, wooden spoons.
I use my stainless steel vegetable steamer every single day. These fold up gadgets can be purchased from any cookware shop or grocery store for a couple of bucks. The steamer attached to my medium saucepan gets a workout too. I also have a set of bamboo steamers that can be purchased from cookware stores and Asian grocers for about ten dollars. Just make sure you buy a lid; and purchase the correct size to fit over your pot. I steam vegetable dumplings, nori rolls, veggie dishes, and Asian desserts in these, and serve them in the steamer right on the table. Dim Sum anyone?
A must have tool in any kitchen. Anyone that has had to do a "Cinderella" knows that all peelers were not created equal. I find peelers really hit and miss. At the risk of sounding parochial, my experience has been that Australian vegetable peelers are superior to those found in other countries. They are a lot sharper and easier to use. Either way, find a sharp one that feels good in your hand if you have to peel a lot of large vegetables. Otherwise, you might get peeler’s cramp. I have recently started using a ceramic peeler, and I have to say, I am a convert.
I cannot live without my wok. It is invaluable for stir-frying and cooking large amounts without making any mess. You can pick up woks very inexpensively from Asian grocers or stores. But I would highly recommend investing in a heavy cast-iron wok, and keep it seasoned. It will last a lifetime. Muscle up though -- they are heavy. But well worth the effort and investment.