Learning to Cook · Miss Mary

Learning to Cook, Cooks’ Prep Tools

2016 LTC counter storage
Hot Mess on the Counter

Get the Printable List 2016 LTC Cooks Tools List

There’s a tool for every culinary task.  For those just starting their kitchens, you don’t need to have everything at once to get dinner on the table.  There are just a few items that will assist you in staying alive besides peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Cooks’ tools used in college will work well in your new home where you might have a little more time to think about food preparation.  Many of them are hand-me-downs from your parent’s kitchen or just a quick Target run for a potato masher.  We pick things out based on what our parents or grandparents did in the kitchen.  We then discover “other” tools that just surprise us when we see someone else use them.

I have favorite stores where I find my equipment.  I love roaming William Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table for “best practices” as well as what’s new.  I surf Target, Walmart, Homegoods, and Meijer’s kitchen isles for things that I have that may be wearing out.  I also shop estate sales and second-hand-stores for items.

The following are the categories of a working kitchen.  My Learning to Cook Series for Cooks Tools will be based on these categories. I’ll show you where to get them, my personal favorites, and throw a recipe or two in there to show how to use them or provide a link to an instructional recipe or video.

  • Cooks utensils
  • Cutlery
  • Cookware
  • Bakeware
  • Small appliances
  • Table top
  • Barware
  • Storage
  • Grilling
  • Specialty items

The last post I covered instructional cookbooks along with trendy cookbooks from bloggers.  I ran over to the Algonquin Library to pick up those books.  Have to tell you, I like them all but my stand-out favorite right now is “How to Cook Everything, the Basics” by Mark Bittman.  He and his photographer did a great job in describing boiling and simmering water.

Market analysis reports show the cooks’ tools industry predicts unprecedented growth through 2020.  What does that mean for you in your home?  It means there will always be much to choose from.  Currently, the Spiralizer, or forms of it, are a hot item.  Do I need a Sprializer?  Hmm, not yet.

2016 LTC Utensils 2We’ll get started with Cooks’ Prep Utensils.  Left to right, top to bottom in the photo.  These are the utensils to prep your meal.

Can opener.  I’ve tried electric and handheld openers and find the electric one to be miserable.  It does not have the flexibility to open all cans that a hand operated can opener can perform.  Just for starters I want you to look here at Amazon and the variety of openers.  My current one that has lasted for quite some time is an OXO Good Grips Locking Can Opener with a Lid Catch.  The Sweet Home did an analysis of 22 can openers and found this one to perform the best.

Small Funnel – this isn’t a need right away but it sure helps to get salt and pepper into their containers easier, and any other item that has to go into a bottle.  I did pick this up at William Sonoma.  I was tired of my pepper going all over the sink.  Some times you just have to find the right tool to end your misery.

Bottle/Can opener – a versatile tool that opens your beer, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, and chicken broth cans.  You could probably find a really cheep one (.49) at Binny’s, or pick up an OXO SteeL Stainless Steel Bottle and Can Opener .

Peeler – If you like root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, or apples, AND the recipe asks that you peel them, you have two options, peeler or paring knife.  I had a difficult time finding one that wouldn’t cut me.  I own an OXO Softworks Swivel Peeler.   You may like a Y shaped peeler – I find them a little cumbersome, or a trendy Joseph & Joseph rotary new one.

Silicone Spatula – there are two types of spatulas.  This spatula is used for scraping bowls, clearing out jars, mixing, folding, and should not be confused with the lifting spatulas used for frying eggs.  There are a WIDE variety of these tools with silicone, wood, or steel handles that come in either flat, contoured, or round.  I prefer flat.  BTW, all tools are personal.  I have one that has a large round wooden handle that I just cannot get a grip on.  I’m just going to list Amazon’s, William Sonoma, and Target’s spatulas so you can see the wide variety.

Chef’s Knife 5″ – this Chef’s hollow edge 5″ knife will do all of your kitchen prep work as well as carve meat.  You could get by with using this one for everything.  I really like mine.  I always look for another one like it.  I first saw Rachel Ray use this type of knife.  I had used a paring knife forever.  My daughter picked up a knife like this and I was hooked.  Hint: JUST KEEP IT SHARP!!!! This is a fancy set that unless I was purchasing it for a shower gift, or a special treat, you don’t need it to start your kitchen especially if you have limited funds.  I once heard Rachel discuss the hollow edge as being helpful for veggies not to stick to the knife.  You may get really lucky and find one at Homegoods.  I prefer the contoured handle. Target sells a J.A. Henckles  set of two.  Mine is an older Kitchenaid which I cannot find a replacement.  I believe I picked it up at Homegoods.  The downside of this knife, after much wear, the end will become thin and break.

Wire Whisk – my favorite tool in the kitchen.  I make my own salad dressings and this is the perfect tool for emulsifying dressings.  I am not a fan of the balloon shape as that’s really for a super chef, not me and it would take up too much room to store.  Sur La Table shows you the wide range of varieties of wire whisks.  I prefer a wooden handle 8″ variety.

Meat Tenderizer – I’ve had trouble trying to find one in the area.  I prefer the head and handle to be made all as one.  The reason being is that when you tenderize a chicken breast, or any meat, you really whack it.  After some time, if you have a wooden handle, it will come loose.  Royal Industries makes the kind I like and I see that Sears sells them.  Here are other varieties at Target (don’t use the Adolphs MSG tenderizer), Walmart, William Sonoma, and Sur La Table.

Cheese Grater – I just procured this big guy at Target.  I was purchsing my Romano and  Parmesan grated cheeses until they started to go bad in the fridge.  I thought maybe they would last longer if I grated them from the fresh cheeses.  That way I only use what we need.  You would be surprised how much and how fine the cheese is which will make your fresh cheese go much further.  This grater has a flat grating surface with a plastic handle.  I know I picked it up off of the Target wall-of-everything-kitchen but cannot find it online.  This one is similar but too wide for my hand.

Rasp – love, love, love this tool.  LOVE IT.  I keep the protector on it at all times because this baby is sharp.  I mean give yourself a new manicure sharp.  I use it with cheese, garlic, lemon zesting, nutmeg, orange zesting, and lime zesting.  At the time I was hunting one down only William Sonoma had it.   Now you can find it at Walmart, Target, or Sur la Table.

Reamer– again one of my favorite tools.  This is used on citrus fruits to juice out the juice of limes, lemons or oranges.  I use a reamer when making Tuscan Lemon Chicken, vinaigrettes, marinades, or adding fresh juice to a recipe or drink.  This is a wooden one.  I like it better than a ceramic one.  For me, the wooden one is much easier to use.  Here’s Ina Garten’s Tuscan Lemon Chicken video using the reamer.

Measuring Spoons – try to pick out 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 teaspoon, 1 Tablespoon.  I like the ring to be on them.  On this Kitchenaid set there is a plastic ring that can open and close.  This way they are all together in the utensil drawer.  I had an aluminum set for years.  Finally they were so beaten up I had to dispose of them.

I’ll go over the Cooks Cooking Utensils next.


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