We have a guest editor today on Home and Living. Welcome Tsh Oxenreider, author of the book Organized Simplicity.
DECLUTTER the COUNTER: Ten Kitchen Essentials
By Tsh Oxenreider Author of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
Get Rid of Space Hogs and Single Taskers
Kitchens are gadget magnets. It’s easy to watch infomercials and gaze in adoration at those magazine ads for gadgets that promise to make your cooking life easier. Eventually, if you’re persuaded to buy the thing, you’ve probably noticed soon after its purchase that the opportunity cost of owning the thing isn’t worth the space it consumes. You really don’t need much to run a fully functioning kitchen. Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, a former personal chef and editor of SimpleBites.net, recommends these ten basic items that will equip the average home cook with everything he or she needs:
1. A good quality knife. A sharp knife will save you so much time and energy, and it’s one of the best investments you can make for your kitchen. Aimee recommends starting with a 6 1/2″ (17cm) chef’s knife and a small paring knife because about 90 percent of all knife work can be completed with either of these.
2. Melamine mixing bowls. A set of three nesting mixing bowls that are durable, lightweight, and heat resistant are useful for most types of cooking and baking. Rubber base rings grip the counter and make these an ideal choice over stainless steel mixing bowls.
3. Tongs. Perhaps one of the most useful kitchen tools ever, Aimee says she refers to her tongs as a third hand because she reaches for them so often during the day. Not only are they great for turning meat on the barbecue, they work well to loosen boiling spaghetti (eliminating those unfriendly octopi), toss a salad, turn cubes of browning stew meat or chicken, and to fish out deep-fried nuggets. You can also use them to serve food at the table.
4. Stainless frying pans. Heavy enough to sear a steak or dissolve sugar, versatile stovetop-to-oven frying pans are essential for everyday use. Quality ones will last you years before showing any signs of wear and tear.
5. Large cutting board. A hefty wooden board has many different uses, ranging from basic, everyday food prep to serving as a cheese board at a party. If you have storage space for it, opt for a large cutting board. You can have three different items in various stages of preparation in three corners of a large board.
6. Silicone spatula. Heat resistant to 800 degrees F (427 degrees C), these spatulas are the perfect balance between firm and flexible. The silicone head won’t scratch nonstick cookware and is easily removed and tossed in the dishwasher for proper disinfecting.
7. Fine-mesh sieve. Perfect for straining sauces, sifting flours, or passing delicate purees, a durable sieve is also great for rinsing rice and beans, washing berries, and straining pulp and seeds out of citrus fruits. A standard 5″ (13cm) size will accommodate most cooking uses.
8. Immersion blender. A hand blender helps puree soups, whip up batches of salad dressing, emulsify sauces, blend together smoothies, and puree baby food. After a knife, this just may be a kitchen’s most versatile tool. Many hand blenders (or stick blenders, as they are also known) also come with several handy attachments, such as a whisk and a chopper that can serve as a mini food processor.
9. Dutch oven. From pasta sauces to curries to meaty stews and delicate custards, a quality Dutch oven will last you a lifetime and can be used for nearly any type of cooking. It functions as a slow cooker, a rice pudding pot, a paella pan, and many other one-pot wonders.
10. Baking sheet. Useful for more than just cooking, you can use this for drying bread in the oven for bread crumbs, catching vegetable peelings, or holding a mountain of shish kebabs headed for the barbecue. Visit a restaurant store to find the really big cookie sheets; otherwise, don’t invest a lot of money on expensive sheets.
” …the opportunity cost of owning the thing isn’t worth the space …”
There are two other kitchen appliances that can be huge helps if you plan to use them on a regular basis (at least once every week or two).
1. Coffee grinder. A small coffee grinder works perfectly for both coffee and for grinding spices. If you buy your spices whole and prefer to grind them yourself, this is a time-saving tool for you. When you switch spices, or go from coffee to cardamom, simply pulse some coarse salt through the grinder to remove odors and then wipe the grinder clean with a dry cloth.
2. Stand mixer. If you can afford it, and if you have room for it, this gadget will help you make quality pizza dough, cakes cookies, and frosting. A hand mixer works just fine, however, so you should only have this if you bake extensively and if you have the room in your kitchen to use it. Beyond this, do you really need more? You might keep a slow cooker or a coffee pot, but you truly don’t need more than this for your kitchen to work well. If an appliance hasn’t seen the light of day in three months, then you probably don’t need it. Send it along to charity, post it on Craigslist, or give it to a friend who could use it.
Tsh Oxenreider, author of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living, is the creator of the popular blog SimpleMom.net and is the founder of SimpleLivingMedia.com. She is passionate about simplifying life and eliminating clutter so that the truly meaningful things in life can breathe. Tsh spends her days with her husband and three young children exploring the world, reading and learning, and being inspired by whatever surroundings their travels take them to. For more information please visit www.TshOxenreider.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.