From building a house to painting a masterpiece, everything is so much harder when you don’t have the right tool for the job. When you’re trying to prepare a nice family meal you don’t want to be contending with blunt knives or measuring sets that are missing some pieces. We’ve got a handy list of the top tools you should invest in, as well as some nice extras to keep an eye out for. Remember, shelling out now for good quality items will save you spending money to replace the cheaper onces time and time again.
It’s something that you’ll use every day, but many of us don’t both to keep our knives in tip top condition. Get a magnetic knife board for the wall and make sure it holds:
Chef’s knife – this is the king of knives. A 20 cm or 25 cm knife that you will use for all your ‘big’ chopping jobs (choose based on which size you find most comfortable). This is the knife you will fall in love with.
Paring knife – choose either an 8 cm or 10 cm version to use for peeling vegetables and small-medium chopping jobs. This the knife you will use most often.
Bread knife – make sure you select one with a serrated edge, preferably at least 20 cm in length. It’s useful for more than just slicing bread!
Sharpening steel – not a knife at all, but used to keep your fave three sharp. Use your steel each and every time before you use your knives. Click here so Bob can show you how to use it properly.
I swear there’s some unspoken rule that every house must have a non-working can opener in the drawer! Forget the cheap $2 jobs, get yourself a mid-range can opener that will actually last beyond the 10th can of spaghetti.
Again, the cheap plastic ones from the supermarket are a waste of time (says the lady who’s using one repaired with electrical tape). It’s your choice whether you prefer a top or side peeler, but choose a comfortable peeler with a pivoting blade that stays sharp. You can try sharpening a dull blade using this technique – be careful!
It’s a good idea to have a few different spatulas ready for specific jobs: a plastic non-stick version if you use non-stick cookware, a metal spatula with a fine, sharp edge for handling fish and other delicates and a slotted offset spatula for working with meat.
- Wooden – The wooden spoon is a much-loved workhorse; used by mum for stirring and by child for tasting. Choose best-quality spoons in a variety of sizes and with different head shapes.
- Metal – For the jobs the wooden spoon can’t do – cutting through egg whites, smoothing icing or melting chocolate. They’re also perfect for serving.
- Ladle – The essential spoon for winter. It’s also pretty good in summer for serving punch!
This is a necessity for any households with fussy eaters, who need to hide veggies in meals. For easier zesting and fine grating of things like Parmesan cheese, a microplane is also a useful addition to your shelf.
Measuring cups and spoons
Recipes are largely just a matter of mixing the right quantity of foods with other foods to produce something amazing. Ergo, you need a reliable way to measure your food. Make sure you get a set that has easy-to-read measurements, not ones that are painted on and come off after a couple of dishwasher cycles.
In an ideal world you would have two; a flour sieve that can be used to drain liquids and a metal colander with a base that can stand in the sink. The amount of times I’ve had to yell at my partner for dried pasta in my flour sieve…
Pepper and salt mills
Freshly cracked pepper adds another dimension to any dish – that’s why they always offer it at restaurants! You can get good-quality wooden mills with a choice of grinds but make sure they’re easy to fill, comfortable to use and not squeaky!
I have to recommend the silicone type here. It’s easier to clean and better at withstanding the heat of the oven when basting meat dishes. Make it even easier by finding one with an extra-long handle.
A slotted spoon is perfect for fishing out vegetables or pasta from their sauce, removing meat from cooking fat, I’ve even used it to lower eggs into boiling water!
Who wants to spend their evening peeling and chopping garlic? It’s such a waste of our precious time! With a garlic press you don’t even need to peel the garlic before inserting it into the press and squashing all that flavour straight into your dish.
Helpful for making cakes and stirring the eggs, essential for making meringues or whipping cream. Buy a metal one with thin wires to ensure you get as much air gulping through your cooking as possible.
This one depends on your style. You could just go with a pair of kitchen scissors or a knife, unless you’re into segmenting chickens!
Yes, you can simultaneously squeeze and de-seed if you’re of Jamie Oliver calibre, but what happens when you’ve (inevitably) got a scratch on your fingers or another pair of little hands trying to help? Save yourself the pain and mess by getting a good lemon press that will extract every last drop of the tangy goodness for you.
You can always use a fork if you’re into that kind of self-punishment, but a good potato masher will make the job 10x easier.
This may be slightly redundant now that screw-top bottles are everywhere, but you never know when a corkscrew will come in handy. Get one that doubles as a beer bottle opener and you’re twice as likely to use it often.
Mortar and pestle
Along with shelling your own peas and creating your own curry paste, the mortar and pestle is perfect for kitchen meditation. Just don’t rely on it when you’re in a hurry. Buy the biggest and heaviest one you can get your hands on.
Olive oil pourer
Yes it looks fancy, but an olive oil pourer actually has some good uses! It gives you better control over the amount of oil you’re drizzling on salads and into the pan, and allows you to store your oil without a lid, ready to just pick up and start using. A pourer will also enable you to buy your olive oil in bulk, saving you loads.
Sure, you can wash your salad, drain and then pat dry with a clean tea towel, but salad spinners are so much fun! Plus you can keep your leftover salad in them in the fridge (ignoring the fact that they are large and cumbersome and take up way too much space – there is a reason they are in this ‘extras’ list!).
This is for those that are upping their game and want to impress. Used mostly for cooking the perfect roast, or making toffee and other candied sweets.
Other gadgets (so many, many gadgets)
I could be here all day with the ‘other nice-to-have’ section. Let’s face it, we’ve all bought a gadget or two over the years that we actually use (hello my favourite apple corer), as opposed to the 27 we have bought that never see the light of day.
You know yourself, you know what you really, really need. An avocado deseeder? A melon baller? Pizza cutter? Egg separator?
Just be wary of gadgets that can only be used for one very specific purpose.