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My Essentials :: Cook’s Tools

April 27th, 2012

kitchen essentials cooking accessories tools favorite crate and barrel sur la table

Earlier this week, I was buzzing around in the kitchen – zesting lemons with my microplane and snipping basil with my herb scissors – and it occurred to me that I’ve never devoted a post to the little can’t-live-without kitchen gadgets that make my life so much easier when it comes to prepping meals and entertaining. So without further ado, here are the current faves that I find myself pulling out almost daily. Please leave a comment letting me know what little kitchen essentials you can’t live without. I just might swing by Sur La Table this weekend to stock up!

{1} Molcajete. Seem like an unusual “necessity?” Not in Austin, where chips & guacamole are as ubiquitous as cheese & crackers in other parts of the country. I use this molcajete to perfectly smash my avocados up with all the other ingredients for a result that’s well-blended, but not puréed. And I always serve it straight from the molcajete for a totally authentic presentation.

{2} Herb scissors. These are a new addition to my arsenal, and with the crazy amount of herbs I use in my cooking, they’ve turned out to be extremely handy. Sure, a chef’s knife does the job just as well, but when I need to quickly shred a big pile of herbs straight into a bowl of pasta, these guys get the job done in seconds.

{3} Parker bowl set. I tend to go through a lot of bowls when I’m prepping a meal, so I like to have lots of options at my disposal. This set comes in such pretty spring colors, they’re great for prepping, and then serving family-style right at the table.

{4} Microplane zester grater. Where do I begin on this one? My microplane has been one of my bff’s since my mom gave me my first one in college…and I still use it almost daily for grating citrus zest, parmesan and chocolate. If you don’t have one, it just might change your life.

{5} Mini colander. Does anyone else like their fridge to look really pretty when they open the door? Call me compulsive, but I love to fill these little colanders with rinsed grapes and berries and keep them in clear view on my refrigerator shelves. Not only do they look great, but I find myself snacking on a lot more fruit when it’s already washed and ready to go.

{6} Citrus squeezer. I actually have a few different types of manual citrus juicers, and this one extracts by far the most juice of all of them. If, like me, you don’t have an electric juicer, this one is essential for summertime lemonade and margaritas.

I could probably go on and on, but I’ll save the rest for next time! Now your turn: which kitchen gadgets can you not live without?

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23 Comments under :: My Essentials :: Cook’s Tools
  1. I went to a cooking class at Sur la Table with my husband a few months ago to learn a little more about Mediterranean cooking. We used one of the citrus juicers and at first I totally made fun of it, thinking, “what could be better than just using your hands?”
    I was totally wrong. It extracted so much juice I bought one on the spot. It’s amazing – good essential!

  2. Annie Hall says:

    I have all of these except for the Microplane zest grater. I want one! Good advice today Camille. : )

  3. Silvia says:

    I love your list! (I’m going to scoop up some of the ceramic berry baskets this weekend!)

    My essentials:

    - I too love my rasp… It’s great for grating nutmeg, cinnamon, zesting… the list never ends!
    - Food Mill, essential for getting those perfectly creamy masked potatoes.
    - Food processor. I have three in various sizes, a 2-cup, 4-cup, and 14-cup… (this is like processor hoarder status, yikes!) But they’re all great, for different things!
    - Le Creuset silicon spatulas, they are (no joke) the best silicone spatula EVER!
    - Wood Citrus Reamer- perfect for juicing oranges and grapefruits or any citrus too large to fit into a squeezer (love my queezer too btw!)

    I could go on for days… LOVE this post!

    • Silvia says:

      How embarrassing… *mashed not masked!

    • Camille Styles says:

      Ooh, these are some REALLY good ones Silvia! I’ve been meaning to get a food mill for a while now, specifically b/c I’ve heard they make the best mashed potatoes. What else do you use yours for? Definitely picking up some Le Creuset spatulas this weekend. I’m a spatula freak (sounds crazy, but true.)

      • Silvia says:

        I’ve milled veggies from a pot roast before, to thicken the sauce (but my immersion blender is easier- albeit not as fun) and apples for apple sauce! I need to be more adventurous with it… But the mashed potatoes are seriously worth having a one-trick pony special gadget!! :)

  4. Amy says:

    I love those little colanders! I must get one.

    I can’t live without multiple cutting boards of all sizes and my favorite Santoku knife. My other organizational life saver are lazy susans in the pantry, the cabinets and in the fridge!

  5. Jessica says:

    I find my mini-whisk equally helpful as my standard size whisk! Really helpful for whipping up dressings and making individual omlets, etc. I find my mini-rubber sptaulas are always in the dishwasher from constant use.

  6. Reagan says:

    Can’t live without my microplane either! My other most used item would be my salt keeper! It’s so handy.

  7. Sallie Humphrey says:

    I have always been a “clear glass mixing bowl” kind of girl. However this spring/summer I have been finding beautiful mixing bowls at yard sales. I have an awesome collection of vintage bowls that compliment each other on the table while serving practical uses in the kitchen. You can never have too many bowls!

  8. Mia says:

    I, too, think that Microplane makes the best graters/zesters, hands down! I absolutely love my Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven (the “dune” color is lovely!). I cook a lot of soups and beans and the dutch oven is great for slow cooking. And I also bake no-knead bread in it. My Le Creuset pretty much stays on top of my stove all the time even when I’m not using it, because it’s lovely enough to be displayed. And definitely my large cast iron skillet by Lodge – it’s several years old and well-seasoned! And I agree with commenter Silvia above about Le Creuset spatulas and “spoonulas” – I love mine too! High up on my wish list is a Vita-Mix…

    • Camille Styles says:

      The VitaMix is totally worth it. Use mine for smoothies, soups, sorbet, etc., and I’m especially looking forward to making baby food in it next year! I’ve been eyeing the “Dune” color in the Le Creuset line…just might need to be my next Dutch oven purchase. I display my “Flame” one all the time!!

      • Mia says:

        Yes – I hear nothing but glowing feedback from people about the Vita-Mix! Just a few days ago I made a nut pate (from almonds and cashews) and it took FOREVER to get it to the creamy consistency I wanted, using a regular blender. But – I just found this out (I must have been living under a rock) – the VitaMix factory outlet is right here in Cleveland, Ohio – and I heard they sometimes sell refurbished ones!

      • Mia says:

        And by the way – the Dune line of Le Creuset really is my favorite! At first I was torn by all the wonderful colors (like the Caribbean, and yes, the Flame too) – but in the end my love for neutrals won. And this way too, no matter where we move (we move a lot) – it can match any kitchen!
        Did you see the 2-in-1 pan (from Le Creuset also) – a saucepan with a lid that is actually also a skillet! LOVE!!!

  9. I love seeing what people feel their essential kitchen tools are! I live in SOCal and make guacamole weekly, yet I don’t have one of those molcajetes! I guess I totally need one. And those cute mini colanders too. I think I’d eat more fruit if I saw those screaming at me when I opened the fridge.

    I’m obsessed with rubber spatulas, various sizes of cheese graters and zesters and wooden spoons too.

  10. Some of these things I’ve never even heard of, so thank you for sharing Camille! I LOVE spatulas (they make life so much easier) :)

    Kate {Something Fabulous}
    http://thesomethingfabulous.blogspot.com

    {BESO HANDBAGS GIVEAWAY ON MY BLOG!}

  11. Tanja says:

    1. Digital kitchen scale
    2. Rolling pin
    3. Parchment paper (baking sheets)

  12. Debra Kapellakis says:

    I will take 1-5 on your list. I have a juicer and a grater but nothing like those. My favorite tool in my kitchen is my “kitchen scissors”. I use them to cut my herbs, roses from the garden and misc.

  13. Juliana says:

    I love these lists!:) copy that on the microplane zesters…I love the aroma of citrus zet in everything from savory to sweet!
    May I add a french rolling pin? They are without handles and ballbearing mechanisms. I get a better feel for the dough and can roll a broader surface!

  14. I LOVE my mini berry holder from Sur La Table.

  15. [...] of a new kitchen purchase (that I decided I needed after all the gadget recos in the comments on this post) – a handheld mandoline. I wanted to make a salad that made the most of my new tool’s [...]

  16. Jessica says:

    I would love to use more herbs in my cooking, any suggestions? I’m not sure what pairs well with what herbs.

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