Utensils

Whether you’re like an Iron Chef in the kitchen or could use a few more hours in a Home Economics class, there are some kitchen utensils that are invaluable.

The more time you spend in the kitchen, the more you come to rely on certain utensils. Sometimes you can make due (like using a travel mug as a rolling pin), but often, there are items you just can’t cook without. Whether you are a cooking fiend or more of a water-boiling beginner in the kitchen, here are several of OA’s essential kitchen utensils to help you along.

Sharp, Quality Knives

You can’t get too far without a few good knives in your kitchen. Knives can be made of carbon or stainless steel, and there are even knives with blades that are ceramic. The choice is yours, but be sure your knives are sharp and are good, quality products. There are several types of knives that make life in the kitchen easier:

Chef’s knife – A chef’s knife is used for just about anything and everything in the kitchen. The blade is usually 8- to- 10-inches long and forms a triangular shape (it gets wider as it moves away from the tip). Use this knife to cut veggies, meat and just about everything else.

Bread knife (or serrated knife) – The blade of this knife is usually 8- to 10-inches long and has scallops on one side. It’s perfect for cutting through bread without flattening it, and also good for slicing through things like tomatoes.

Paring knife – This knife is used for trimming and cutting small items like fruits and veggies. Its blade is about 4 inches long and can be used for jobs like cutting away the skin of fruits on apples or pears.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Sometimes when you’re cooking you can “eyeball” ingredient amounts, but not always (think baking, when your measurements need to be precise). Add your ingredient to your measuring cup or spoon, and make sure to level the amount off at the line of demarcation (for cups), or at the top edge of the spoon.

Measuring cups are used for both liquid and dry ingredients and can be made of either plastic or glass (we prefer the latter). Measuring cup sizes are usually set for 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 and 1-cup increments.

Measuring spoons are also used for both liquid and dry ingredients (think baking powder or vanilla extract) and can come in a variety of shapes and materials. Increments are typically 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 tablespoon and 1 tablespoon.

Colander 

Have you ever tried to make spaghetti without this kitchen essential? A colander is used to drain liquid from foods like pasta or washed fruits and vegetables. A colander, usually either plastic or metal (and, of course, we prefer the latter), is shaped like a bowl and has handles and small holes in its body to allow the liquid to drain away from the food.

Cutting Boards

If you value your kitchen counters and tabletops, you likely own a few cutting boards. Cutting boards provide flat, solid surfaces that help stabilize your food when you’re cutting it.

There are cutting boards made of wood, plastic and glass, but no matter what material you use, it’s important to keep your cutting surface clean and to avoid cross-contamination of foods. For example, you wouldn’t want to cut chicken on your cutting board, then dice an onion without first cleaning it. You might consider keeping a few cutting boards on hand and use one for meat only, one for vegetables and fruits only and one for poultry only. When you purchase your board, read the cleaning instructions and plan accordingly, as different materials have different requirements.

Food Processor

People who suddenly find themselves with a food processor might wonder how they ever lived without one! A food processor is a huge time-saver when it comes to prepping food. It can slice, cut, shred and blend foods with little hassle. Food processors come in different shapes and sizes, so before you buy, consider how much you’d use one.

If you’re on your own and typically cook for one or two people, you might like a 4-cup processor. If you’re regularly cooking for crowds, maybe an 11-cup model would be more suitable. Along with slicing and cutting, you can blend foods, like when making soups, pesto, hummus or even cheesecake.

image: TarynMarie