Taking Stock of My Kitchen

Posted by Brette in Food | Home and Decorating

Lucky Kevin Sharkey. He is Martha Stewart Living decorating editor and he’s remodeling his apartment. Each month, a piece about it will appear in the magazine (and clearly MSLO is footing the bill, sigh). In November Living, Martha redos his kitchen. Who wouldn’t want Martha redoing their kitchen? Lucky, lucky man. Many of the ideas are terrific – and are things I did when we remodeled (vertical dividers for baking sheets, under-shelf baskets, towel rod, wire basket organizer, and drawer dividers). Some I find annoying. For example, she stored all of his flower decorating items above the fridge, then put the folding ladder he needs to get to them in a drawer on the floor, under the sink cabinet. If that was my kitchen, I would not want to have to crawl on the floor to get that stool out every time I needed to get to that cupboard – however I understand there are space constraints in this project.

The part of the project that got me giddy though, is the Kitchen Must-Have Checklist. It’s almost like a quiz (and who doesn’t love a quiz?). I was so excited to get a pen out and check off everything I have. Items I own are in regular black. Items I do not own are in bold.

Cooking Basics
1 1/2 qt saucepan w/ lid
4 qt saucepan w/ lid
10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet (I know people like these, but I don’t – somehow they always seem sticky and greasy to me, not to mention so darn heavy)
medium saute pan
steamer insert
medium Dutch oven
2 qt baking dish
nonstick frying pan
stockpot
shallow stainless steel roasting pan
instant-read thermometer
pepper mill

Preparation Utensils
stainless steel mixing bowls
bowl scrapers
whisk
wooden spoons
stainless steel ladle (on my Xmas list – I have an old plastic one that needs to go)
colander
cutting boards
silicone spatulas
cookie spatula
stainless steel box grater
stainless steel tongs
vegetable peeler
fine sieve
slotted spoon
cooking spoon
long-handled fork
kitchen shears
kitchen timer
vegetable brush (I don’t get why this is necessary when I have a regular scrub brush)
can opener
vegetable slicer (mandoline) (yes, I need one, but frankly they scare me! I’m always sure I’ll shave a hunk off my finger. I do have a slicing blade for my Cuisinart.)
garlic press (I’ve never seen Martha use one – she always chops her garlic and so do I)
citrus reamer
basting brush (silicone)
salad spinner (I had one but got rid of it when we moved since it took up too much cupboard space. Now I rinse my lettuce in a colander, give it a good shake after it has sat for a while, then dump it into a towel where I pat it dry)
microplane zester
wire skimmer
potato masher (I’ve never seen a need for one of these – I mash potatoes with a mixer)

Measuring and Baking
measuring spoons
dry measuring cups
liquid measuring cups
oven thermometer
9 inch round baking pan (just one Martha? You’ve got to have 2 I think)
springform pan
baking sheets
nonstick baking mats
cooling racks
9 inch pie plates (glass and metal)
muffin tin
loaf pan
flour sifter (I never sift! And if I ever needed to, I would use my fine sieve)
parchment paper
rolling pin
kitchen scale
pastry brush
dough scraper
biscuit cutters (I use a glass to do this)

Basic Knives
3 1/2 inch paring knife
8 inch heavy chef’s knife
8 inch bread knife

Small Appliances
food processor
blender (I never use)
coffee/spice grinder
coffeemaker (we don’t drink coffee!)
stand mixer (I never use)
toaster/toaster oven
microwave

There are only 12 items I don’t have (so I have 85%). And honestly, I’m not really about to run out and buy them since I’ve never really felt a need for them. I would never buy baking pans, loaf pans, muffins pans, etc that are not silicone.  So I would change that. Items my must-have list would also include:

cookie dough scoop

ice cream scoop with antifreeze in the handle

8×12 glass baking dish

potholders!

trivet

square glass baking pan for brownies

Christmas cookie cutters

knife sharpener

offset spatula (impossible to frost a cake without one IMHO)

pizza cutter (pizza is BIG in this house)

hand mixer (I never use my stand mixer since it’s so heavy and I don’t have room to leave it out. I also find it awkward to use. It’s hard to get ingredients in and hard to scrape down the sides)

hand held stick blender (Emeril calls this a boat motor. It’s absolutely the best for sauces and soups)

large microwave-safe plastic lid (I use this when I heat things up in the microwave that spatter, like spaghetti sauce)

I also love my bread machine and my electric steamer (I use this for making rice and for steaming veggies), but I could survive without them.

How many items on Martha’s list are you missing? What would you add to the list? Please share!

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29 Responses

  • Melon ball scoop. Everyone should have one of those for an attractive fruit salad. I must admit to not having a lot of items on this list, though.

    According to my husband, the expert mashed-potato man, you need to mash the potatoes with a potato masher before you use a mixer.

  • don’t have any of the small appliances, and never missed them, though friends think this is really odd…

    have very few of the other specialty items either. good knives, a variety of spoons and now and then one of the heavy forks from my grandmother’s wedding silver [great for mixing pie dough, for example, and mashing potatoes — and I think she’d enjoy me using them that way] are my main cooking tools. works great for me, though most likely not an idea for everybody.

  • A teeny, tiny little pastry brush. I bought one just this past weekend for spreading melted butter on little garlic bites (basically bite sized bread dough with garlic and parm. cheese sprinkled on them and then baked).

  • That is a good addition. I gave up on those brushes because mine was always shedding bristles. That was years ago and they must make them now so they don’t do that.

  • I was complaining to my mother that cast iron skillets are $120 around here (compared to about $30 in the US) and I just couldn’t afford one at that price. She decided to send me one of hers that had been one of my great-grandmother’s and possibly HER mother’s. A skillet that has seen at least 100 years of cooking. I nearly cried, I was so happy.

    Southerners take their iron skillets seriously. In fact there better be a codicil in my granddaddy’s will about his iron skillet, as there is already a line of people wanting it!

    Re: biscuit cutters. Sure, you can use a glass, but if you use a proper biscuit cutter with a sharp edge your biscuits will rise better instead of essentially being crimped down around the edges by the dull glass.

  • Good point about the biscuit cutter – hadn’t thought of that.

  • Great list. I recently found a measuring spoon that slides to different degrees so that you can measure everything on the one spoon, anywhere from 1/8 tsp. up to 1 Tbsp. Very helpful.
    And I cannot live without my salad spinner – that’s an invaluable kitchen supply to me. Whoever invented that is a genius, in my book. I also LOVE my rice cooker; it’s a no-brainer for perfect rice. Plug it in and forget it.

  • You have WAY more stuff than we do, Brett! I want Martha to redo my kitchen (as long as it’s all eco-friendly) too!! This is a fun list… A few years ago we got rid of all of our non-stick pans and plastic utensils and while there’s a bit more clean up, we all feel much happier and healthier and more aesthetic…So I’d take the nonstick off the list of what one needs in the kitchen…

  • I know what you mean about the non-stick. It sort of freaks me out to keep them around, but it’s one thing I can’t give up yet. I’m working on it!

  • I’m suddenly feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. It’s not you. It’s me … I’m sure.

  • Inadequate? Absolutely not! I have all sorts of kitchen junk because my mother likes to cook and I always have too. It just accumulated. Having less of it would make my life easier actually. I think it is absolutely possible to make good food with very little equipment actually.

  • Wow you did so much better on this test than I would have. But honestly, are the all REALLY essentials? Not sure my kitchen is big enough.

  • Kerrie says:

    On the things you don’t have in your kitchen:

    Potato Masher — I have one, but I use it for things other than potatoes. The BEST way to make mashed potatoes is to bake them first (boiled potatoes will end up making mashed potatoes seem starchy). Then, remove the potato from the shell and press through a ricer. You can then hand combine in milk, butter, chicken broth, or whatever you use. You will never whip them with a mixer again, because they will taste instant to you once you’ve used a ricer. I got that tip from Curtis Stone on his show Take Home Chef on TLC, and it was the best advice ever. Here’s a picture of it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Potato-ricer.jpg

    Flour sifter — if the recipe calls for it, it’s really best to do it. Your recipes will turn out much better. It’s an important step not to skip. “Sifted flour” means measure after sifting it. “Flour, sifted” means to measure and then sift.

  • I have needed a list like this all my life! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m bookmarking this page right now.

  • I’m with you on the mandoline. I got one for my husband, we used it twice and it’s been sitting in the cupboard ever since. But the cast iron–I love my cast iron pan. Could not live/cook without it.

  • Nope, I never sift. I just hate it and am morally opposed to it:) And I love my mashed potatoes with a mixer – that’s how my grandmother always made them. If I ever decide to buy a ricer I’ll try it. Thanks for your comments!

  • I agree. You can make do with much, much less. Martha wouldn’t think so though!

  • Oh my gosh. I have everything on that list except the flour sifter (I use either a whisk or my mesh sieve) and the garlic press(I either chop it or use my microplane). I’m amazed! Of course, it’s all in boxes and I don’t know when I’ll get to see it again. Grr.

    Oh, I also wanted to say, I’ve seen cast iron skillets go for a SONG at thrift shop. A fraction of the price and it’s usually already seasoned 😉 Yard sales are good too, but it’s usually a fair bet you’ll find at least one skillet when you visit a thrift shop! I love mine, even though I rarely use them anymore. My grandma picked them all up for me when I first got married (She spent under $50) and I have just about every size.

  • Ok, is it just me, or they cast iron skillets hard to clean? I just remember my grandma’s as incredibly greasy and sticky all the time.

  • Mine aren’t hard to clean 🙂 I just soak them (not for long) in hot water and scrub them out with a nylon scrubbie. Mine don’t feel greasy or sticky either. I wonder if it has something to do with the oil you use to season them? I like to make a batch of beignets in mine when they look like they need to be seasoned a little more. I use regular ole vegetable oil.

  • Ok, thanks. My mom never used them, so it’s not something I grew up knowing how to use. I remember once my father brought some home and she made him take them back.

  • That’s funny! They’re so great for skillet potatoes (go figure!) and pancakes. You’ll never use anything else for pancakes after you get a cast iron skillet 😉

  • My fear is that things will stick!

  • Claudia says:

    Unlike you, I adore my cast iron skillet! It’s seasoned so nicely that it is just as good as Teflon. In fact, it’s better since it doesn’t flake and is proven totally safe to use 🙂

    Going over the list was fun.

    medium saute pan – I don’t need one, since I have a 10″ cast iron frying pan
    nonstick frying pan – I prefer cast iron
    stockpot – I gave mine away, since I never could see a use for it
    shallow stainless steel roasting pan – I’m vegetarian so this isn’t something I need
    instant-read thermometer – hmm, I’ve been thinking of getting one of these
    stainless steel mixing bowls – I have nested plastic bowls with lids
    wooden spoons – I find that one wooden spoon is enough
    cooking spoon – er, how is this different than a wooden spoon?
    long-handled fork – I’m vegetarian so this isn’t something I need
    vegetable slicer (mandoline) – I prefer to slice and dice by hand
    garlic press – I prefer to mince or chop by hand
    wire skimmer – I have a slotted spoon, so I don’t need one of these
    springform pan – I’m not a big cheesecake fan
    nonstick baking mats – I just use unbleached parchment paper
    flour sifter – I just use my sieve on the rare occasions that I need to sift anything
    pastry brush – I don’t need one since I have the basting brush
    biscuit cutters – I’ve never made biscuits in my life but could just use a glass if I ever did
    food processor – I prefer cutting things up by hand; if I want to make hummus, I use my Bamix handheld mixer
    coffeemaker – I have a single-cup filter cone

    One more must-have item that I’m surprised Martha left off her list: a pressure cooker. I adore mine and use it at least a couple of times a week, since it makes short work of bean dishes and rice.

    I also love my pizza/bread stone, but it’s not a must-have item.

  • Great list, thanks for sharing! I’ve looked at cast iron skillets several times, but the weight of them always puts me off. I just can’t see hauling it in and out of cupboards. I know people swear by them.

  • Claudia says:

    I use my 10″ cast iron skillet almost daily, so I never put it away and it just lives on my stove. You might want to try that size, because it’s not insanely heavy but is handy for so much!

  • Ok, thanks. Are the ones they sell at Walmart sufficient or do you have to spend more to get a good one?

  • Claudia says:

    That’s a tough question. The cast iron cookware from before the WW II is lighter and smoother, but can’t take really high heat the same way as the modern cast iron cookware can. So, it depends if you like to sear fish or meat.

    When it comes to the bigger skillets, say 12″ or more, it’s better to get an older frying pan just because then it does make sense to try and find something lighter since a modern 12″ weighs about 7 lbs. But with a 10″ frying pan, it’s not such a huge issue. For example, an old 10″ skillet might weigh 3.5 to 4 lbs, compared to a new Lodge 10″ skillet, which weighs about 5 lbs. Cast iron cookware — old and modern — is much, much heavier than steel or aluminum but the heat is consistent (awesome for pancakes, which turn out crisp and golden every time) and the surface truly does become quite slick. I have found that even with Teflon, you need a bit of oil and it’s the same thing with cast iron. For pancakes, I like using a bit of coconut oil (which is actually solid at room temperature) because it has a light taste and a high heat point.

    The key is making sure you look after your cast iron cookware properly. If you go to Amazon to look at the reviews people have left for the Lodge cast iron stuff, you’ll see all sorts of tips.

    Hope that helps!