If you want to be a top home cook or just have the kit to look the part, then these are the eight items you simply can’t do without.
1. The Best Knives You Can Afford
The most important thing is to have a great set of knives, and a variety of them – a few differently-sized prep knives, a small cleaver, a boning knife, and a carving knife, are key. Cheap knives will do the job at first but quickly become useless, so for anything but occasional use it’s really worth investing in some high-end ones for your everyday prep and carving needs– Global knives are my preferred ones.
2. A Steel or Whetstone
If you’re going to spend hundreds of pounds on knives, then you’re going to want to look after them and keep them sharp. The better the knife, the longer it will stay sharp, but in the end all blades need sharpening, and for that you’re going to need a steel or whetstone. If you have bought expensive knives, check the literature or contact the manufacturer to see what they recommend for maintenance.
No, not the instrument. This slicer is a godsend and a must-have, whether it’s a cheap handheld one for £10 to £15 or an expensive professional thing at £80+. It makes slicing a potato, or anything really, a matter of a few seconds’ work; what’s more, the results are precise and consistent rather than time consuming and inaccurate. Dauphinoise will never be labour-intensive again.
4. Fish Tweezers and Scaler
Fresh fish is key for anyone with pretensions to being a good home cook; always buy fresh and whole if you can. By all means, have the fishmonger prep for you (once you know how to gut your fish I wouldn’t blame you for going back to the easier option), but taking some time to learn for yourself makes you appreciate the ingredients more and makes for a more rewarding finished dish. Apart from a good filleting knife, make sure you have fish tweezers and a scaler -they make the work far easier. Even supermarket-filleted fish will often need you to do some deboning and descaling so it’s worth having the tools.
5. Silicone Spatula
There are those that love silicone kitchenware and those that hate it (the same goes for ceramic knives). I’m in the latter camp, but for one exception, a silicone spatula. It’s perfectly-suited for prep work and getting all the last ingredients out of a mixing bowl, saucepan or frying pan. It’s also kind on the non-stick coating of pans and is great for making scrambled eggs – never use a whisk!
6. Digital Thermometer
Get one and you’ll wonder how you ever managed before. You’ll stop worrying about whether meat is cooked just right, all without the need to cut into it and let all those juices out.
7. Hand Blender
A hand blender with multiple attachments – a chopper, wand and whisk – is a must, especially if kitchen space is at a premium. It may not have the power of the larger machines, but when cooking day-to-day it’s all you’ll need for almost anything.
8. A Heavy-Based Frying Pan/Skillet
Most are thin and fine for most cooking, but a large cast iron frying pan is essential for both slower and hotter cooking, whether frying a steak or cooking a risotto. Its versatility makes it invaluable, and you’ll always produce better results than with a thinner frying pan. They’re also pretty indestructible and will without fail outlast any thinner pans you have.