If there’s one thing that I *never* have trouble justifying the “need” for, it’s kitchen tools.  I – like most people – use them every day, and in my experience good tools can make the difference between an amazing cooking experience and a terribly unpleasant one.

Now, I may be more invested in this than your average person (I tried to convince my parents that I needed a Henckels knife block in my freshman dorm room – even used the “but..but…what if an AXE MURDERER breaks in?!” argument in addition to the “for cooking” argument), but I also don’t believe that you always need the latest gimmick in order to be a successful cook.

In fact, when you get right down to it, there are only a few tools that I abso-toodle-ootly could not live without. They are:

1)Le Creuset 7 1/4-qt. Dutch (err…French?) Oven

This was a wedding gift from Jeff’s aunt and cousin, and is absolutely fantastic.  We’d included several Le Creuset pieces on our wedding registry, and though this is the only piece we received we’ve been getting along wonderfully.  I LOVE the heavy enamel-over-iron; nothing cooks as evenly or cleans as nicely as this thing.  I use it for making soups and sauces, boiling pasta, and cooking chicken.  If I ever get around to buying this book, I’ll be using it to make bread, too.

2)KitchenAid 600 Series Professional Mixer

It’s no secret that I love my mixer, right? 🙂  I do a *lot* of baking so I love having this top-of-the-line tool; it really makes the process faster and easier.  However, I’ll be the first to tell you that this mixer isn’t for everybody.  It’s *very* powerful and *very* heavy, and unless you spend a lot of time preparing triple batches of snickerdoodles or birthday goodies for everyone in your office, you may not need this much power.    No matter which model you might choose, though, I’m sure that you’ll love KitchenAid’s stand mixers.  (don’t tell Roxie, but I’m thinking about selling her so I can buy the pasta making attachment).

3)Cast Iron Skillet

(pictured above: Lodge, available at  This isn’t the one I have.)

I often feel like a good cast iron skillet is the best-kept secret in modern cooking.  They’re not glamorous and they’re cheap as all get-out, but I honestly couldn’t cook without mine.  It’s truly the only skillet that I use anymore, because it can handle everything from a single scrambled egg to baking cornbread.  There’s a reason that pioneers lugged these heavy things along the Oregon Trail and left granny’s rocking chair behind.  One word of warning, though – there are some really bad cast iron skillets for sale.  They’re lightweight or have fussy seams or uneven bottoms or are poorly made.  If you’re looking to buy one, I’d advise you to check antique and thrift stores first (as long as it’s not rusty you’re good to go!) or shop in person if you’re buying one new so you can lift it – the heavier, the better!

4)Henckels Four Star knife set

Everyone has their favorite knives, and these are mine.  They’re exactly the same as my dad’s set, which I used as a kid learning to cook.  Knives are greatly subject to personal preference (umm…what isn’t?) so the ones I love may be the ones you hate.  But let me just say this – I LOVE THESE KNIVES.  The balance seems perfect, they fit comfortably in my hand, they hold an edge well (though I’m also in the habit of sharpening almost every time I use them), and my dad’s 20-year-old set looks almost as good as my 3-year-old set.  And if you *really* wanna get down to it, I could survive with just the paring knife and my 8″ chef’s knife.  But please don’t make me do that.  (for what it’s worth, the set above isn’t exactly mine – mine doesn’t have a santoku, but it does have an 8″ utility knife and a bread knife and one other I can’t think of right now (it’s one I don’t use much, obviously).  I would sell Roxie for a 7″ santoku.  Any takers?)

5)Pastry scraper

This thing is like an extension of my arm, when I’m baking  (so yeah if I were Inspector Gadget this would SO be one of my Gadgets.  One of the big ones that were in every episode, not the little ones that you only see once and then never again).  I use it constantly, for nudging sticky dough off my bread board, scoring breadsticks, slicing cinnamon rolls, removing cookies from baking sheets, and cutting pizzas.  It’s not knife-sharp, so I don’t have to worry about nicking myself as I force stubborn crumbs from the cookie sheet, but it’s got enough of an edge to slice cleanly through cold butter.  It’s often the easiest thing to reach for and has so many uses that I’d call it a bargain at twice the (already reasonable) price.

So I’m not saying those are the *only* things I’d need in my kitchen, and I’m not saying that those are necessarily my “desert island” cooking tools, but I sure do love ’em all.  And I’d definitely be hurting without any one of the five.

What are your top five kitchen tools?


6 responses to “Survival

  1. When you buy your pasta attachment please be sure to get a “buy one get one free” and then give me the extra, okay? Okay. Glad that’s clear.

    My top 5 kitchen things with not so much as an explanation:
    [cobalt blue] Kitchen aid stand mixer and particularly the dough hook.
    Pastry Blender
    Electric Skillet
    4 Cup Pyrex liquid measuring cup
    Knife Block (I don’t know the brand off the top of my mind…)

    Okay, that was really hard. So many things really needed to be on that list but were all equal.

  2. I really would like to get a Le Cruset but they’re so pricey! Is it really worth it to get THAT particular brand or just one of the cheapies?

  3. For some mysterious reason, my list is much like Katie’s, but I would have to include my little 8X10 cookie sheet (good for so much other than cookies) and my stainless ten-quart stock pot. I use my Le Creuset pieces when even heat is critical or when a dish needs to be finished in the oven or under a broiler, but for boiling pasta, making stock, cooking a corned beef, or cooking corn on the cob, the stock pot is my “go-to”.

  4. My top five are exactly the same as yours (well my knives are Global) so here are the next five;

    10″ All Clad skillet (the aluminum core verity)

    Microplane grater/zester

    Parchment paper

    Half-sheet pan and a cooling rack that fits inside if necessary.

    I own an obscene amount of kitchen equipment but I love it all.

  5. Hooray cast iron! Hooray Kitchenaid stand mixer! You have excellent taste.

  6. Coffee maker
    Can opener
    Running water
    Wireless outdoor thermometer

    Do these count?

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