Know Your Kitchen Tools

Knives & Boards

How do you choose the proper kitchen tools? It can get confusing walking into a kitchen supply store and trying to decide what’s the most important equipment that you need to start with and what can stay on the wish list for a while longer. First stop, knives. You will need a few good quality knifes to work with; here are the basics to get started:

  • Chef knife—8 to 10 inches long for dicing, mincing, chopping and cutting
  • Paring knife—4 to 5 inches long for peeling and trimming
  • Offset serrated knife for slicing
  • Boning knife—6 inches long for filleting
  • A good quality sharpening steel. I like the diamond coated sharping steel—it is well worth the price and keeps my knives in great shape.

The price of knives varies greatly but there are a lot of mid-range quality knives available today. Look for knives made from good quality stainless steel with a full tang (the knife is made from a single piece of steel; the section inside the handle is the tang), you’ll get a sturdy knife with good balance. Be sure to hold the knives you are considering to purchase. How does it feel in you hand? How’s the balance? If possible, test the knives in the store by chopping, slicing and dicing some vegetables.

As for the cutting boards, I suggest purchasing composite cutting boards. They are easy on the knives and are easy to clean and sanitize. I do not use wooden cutting boards anymore since they are harder to clean and can harbor bacteria.

Pots & Pans

The pots and pans you choose should be viewed as an investment so it is important that they are of good construction. They will last a lifetime if you take care of them properly. There are many choices on the market, but you can never go wrong with heavy-bottomed stainless steel.

An advantage of stainless steel is that it is nonreactive to acids in foods and will not alter the flavor of the food. They are great for browning foods and providing those little browned bits that can be deglazed with wine or broth for excellent pan sauces and gravies. Another advantage of stainless steel cookware is its durability—and it is dishwasher-safe! In addition to stainless steel I suggest adding a good quality non-stick pan as well. Here’s what you should start with:

  • 8-inch non-stick sauté pan—great for making omelets and searing scallops
  • 10 or 12-inch sauté pan—the perfect choice for searing meats
  • ½ to 1-quart saucepans—versatile for sauces
  • 3 quart saucepan—good for larger amounts of sauce or small amounts of stock
  • 8 or 12 quart stockpot—the go to pot for stock and soups

I’ll address small wares that are essential to your kitchen tool inventory in a future blog.