Four Essentials Any Serious Cook Should Have in the Kitchen

Four Essentials Any Serious Cook Should Have in the Kitchen

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  1. There are four basic types of people found in every home kitchen around the world:

    1. Those who hate to cook and don’t have to (nearly exclusively single people without children), who keep only prepared foods in the fridge, only use the microwave and a coffee maker, and eat out as much as possible.
    2. Those who hate to cook but have to because they have a spouse who can’t cook and/or children who annoyingly require regular feedings. These people follow a variation of the previous lifestyle for the most part but have also mastered the use of a toaster oven.
    3. Those who enjoy cooking but are bad at it. Woefully, these cooks nearly never know how bad they are because they have a spouse who lies, says they enjoy the food and gags it down with the help of a lot of water, and often alcohol.
    4. Those who love to cook, who follow recipes but embellish them and occasionally come up with original culinary masterpieces.

    This article concerns only the latter category. The rest of you who enjoy your TV dinners, fast food and microwave popcorn can find something else to read. Might I suggest comic books?


    The serious cook has a cluttered kitchen until they learn how to minimize and discover what tools can serve several purposes. To be a creative cook, one does not need a huge kitchen and every appliance and utensil known to man, but you should have at least four important—and mostly versatile—items.


     Every kitchen with a single oven needs a good convection toaster oven. A regular toaster oven will not do; convection baking is faster, more efficient and cooks food evenly. If you’re preparing a big meal for several people, you will need to bake or roast more than one item, and that’s where the convection toaster oven comes in. We use a Euro Pro oven with which we have been very happy, but there are several good brands available. Make sure you find one that fits your available counter space but is not too small. If it includes a rotisserie function, all the better.


     A multi-cooker is something you won’t realize that you needed all of your life until you have one. With a good one, you can make soups and stews, you can use it as a crock-pot—sort of—you can use it to steam two or more tiers of foods and you can deep fry. When deep frying chicken (or anything for that matter), use a good vegetable shortening if you want it crispy. We use Kaola Gold, which imparts a buttery flavor. There are several multi-cookers out there, but I only use the Presto Options model, which is excellent and versatile.


     A good chopper will save a lot of time and energy, especially if you have several things that need mincing. The average person mincing several items with a knife can save an hour or more with a chopper. Most people who try to imitate professional chefs chopping vegetables at warp speed with a butcher’s knife wind up with little bloody bits of fingers in their food. We use the Slap Chop, as seen on TV, which is as cheap as it looks, is prone to wear out quickly, but is easy to use and a snap to clean. Buy two; they don’t last long.


     Lastly and perhaps most importantly, every serious cook needs sharp knives. It amazes me how often I visit friends only to find that they don’t have a single sharp knife in the house. How do people cook like this? A sharp knife not only saves considerable time and effort, but is also safer. Every Boy Scout learns that a dull knife is more likely to skitter over the surface of whatever you’re trying to cut and inflict a wound to the hand holding the item in question, where a sharp knife will cut into the item rather than your hand. Therefore, every serious cook should have a good, easy-to-use but very effective knife sharpener. If you know how to use a wand sharpener to impart a razor finish to your knives, power to you; most of us only wreck our knives with those things. The rest of us need something motorized and simple. We use the Chef’s Choice 300 Diamond Hone sharpener. It takes up little counter space, it has magnets that hold the knives in the proper position for sharpening, and it provides an excellent diamond-beveled edge to any knife if properly used. I use mine at least twice a week. Not only do you want your knives sharp for food preparation, but you never know when some creep is going to burst into your home and try to attack you. Going after such lowlifes with a dull knife is no fun at all.

    Those who claim that their kitchens are too small to accommodate these four things should see our kitchen.  We have about four square feet of counter space for food preparation, a single antique stove/oven and a wheeled pantry to hold all the essentials that we can’t fit on the limited counter space. If we can do it, anyone can.

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