I am a kitchen minimalist. I don’t like drawers overflowing with nonsense, or countertops covered in gadgets. As a general rule, if I haven’t used something in a few months, it goes to charity.
That said, there are a few things in my setup that I use constantly. They’re cheap, and (in my mind) indispensable. And, interestingly, they seem to be missing from a lot of my friends’ home kitchens.
On the left, a digital scale. On the right, a folding probe thermometer. These two things have changed and improved my cooking more than everything else in the kitchen combined. And, you don’t need to spend a ton of money.
As to the scale, the model really doesn’t mater so long as it has a “zero” function and can switch between units (e.g. grams, ounces, etc). I’ve owned several over the years (as they tend to wear out with heavy use), and am confident in saying you can pick up a workable unit for about $20.00.
Uses? Baking, for starters. But this comes out of the drawer for brines, brewing coffee and tea, sausage processing, consistent portioning for freezer storage, and even candle making (coming soon!).
Looking at the thermometer, I’ll confess I own a whole heap of them for various different things, but this is my workhorse. Much like the scale, you DO NOT need to spend huge dollars here, which is (unfortunately) very easy if you go for the big name brands.
Sheet pans and cooling racks. They are cheap, they will develop a patina over time (which you can remove with oven cleaner – or not), and they have ten thousand uses. You’ve probably seen these show up in our recipes for fried chicken, cinnamon-raisin bread, and even some of our BBQ posts. I have about four of each, but am always in the market for an extra set. Once these are in your kitchen, you’ll find yourself reaching for them almost every day.
In that same wheelhouse:
Stainless steel mixing bowls. They’re cheap, they take up very little space, and they’ve invaluable for everything from dressing a salad to developing bread dough to making a double boiler for melting chocolate or heating a hollandaise.
Lastly, the most unsung of kitchen implements:
Tong city. This is probably a third of my collection, and they all get used regularly. We’ll probably do a separate post on utensils at some point, but these are in their own category. If you find a style you like, buy all of them you can.
Their uses are self-evident, but you’ll never appreciate them more than when you’re cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen, trying to toss garlic spaghetti, and someone hands you a silicon spatula.
And that’s it. Those are the big workhorses that seem to be suspiciously absent from many cupboards, but without which I can’t imagine cooking. Go out and get some, and spread the gospel.