Half the battle of cooking is having the proper equipment to get the job done right. It’s easier, faster and more fun when you have the essential tools, and these should be at the top of your wish list this holiday season. Please stop using a butter knife to chop veggies, and definitely stop using your countertop as a cutting board. Arm yourself with these 12 items that every gentleman should have, and you’ll never fumble around the kitchen again (maybe).
One big sharp knife: This is the first, and probably most important tool you should invest in if you want to take your cooking more seriously. You don’t need to buy yourself a $500 knife to create magic in the kitchen, but you do need something a little sharper than the old serrated steak knife that your mother gave to you when you went to college. Do yourself a favor and get a 7 or 8-inch Chef’s knife, which has become the go-to general-utility knife in most Western kitchens. Check out Amazon for some killer deals on some great knives. amazon.com
One Big Wood Cutting Board: You’re probably working with a crappy plastic cutting board that’s half stained and full of deep cut marks. Throw that thing out. It’s a cesspool for germs, can’t handle heat, and will ruin your new sharp knife. A wood cutting board is gentler on knives, and will keep them sharper for longer. Spend the extra dough and get one that will last, and make sure to actually read the instructions on how to take care of it. johnboos.com
Nonstick Tongs: Stop using a fork or your hands to flip sizzling hot bacon. Tongs may not be the coolest kitchen tool you’ll ever use, but burning yourself with hot grease isn’t exactly cool either. Go get yourself a pair of OXO Good Grips 12-inch tongs, and use them for everything from turning steaks to mixing pasta to plating hot food. You’ll be like Edward Scissorhands in no time. oxo.com
One Quality Nonstick Sauté Pan: Do you like your fried eggs over-easy and hate scraping burnt egg off of your pans? Great! Get yourself one 8-inch to 12-inch nonstick sauté pan. Professional chefs hate nonstick pans because they say they don’t get hot enough, but we aren’t pro chefs, and we don’t want our eggs sticking to the pan. t-falusa.com
Cast Iron Grill Pan: One of the better investments you’ll ever make in your kitchen, especially at this time of the year when your outdoor grill is probably packed away for the season. Grilled shrimp, steaks, burgers, and chicken have never cooked so nicely indoors. Check out the pre-seasoned grill pans from Lodge Cast Iron, which are both inexpensive, and pretty indestructible when treated right. lodgemfg.com
Microplane Zester/Grater: Enjoy freshly grated cheese on your pasta or some lemon zest in your cocktails? Most people do, and this classic zester/grater from Microplane is the best way to get it done. You’ll soon be zesting things you never knew could/should be zested, but don’t get too out of control, this thing is extremely sharp. us.microplane.com
Cracked Black Pepper: There’s pepper, and then there’s fresh coarsely ground black pepper. The difference is night and day. Top your meals with a few grinds of inexpensive black pepper like this, and your guests might actually want to come back for more. mccormick.com
Cast Iron Dutch Oven: If you’re into stews, braising whole chickens, or making epic pulled pork, then you need a large Dutch oven. Stick with what you know and buy an inexpensive one from Lodge to match your new grill pan. The heavy cast iron gets hotter than any pot you currently own, soaks up tons of flavors, and maintains steady heat for those low and slow-cooked meats. www.lodgemfg.com
Surgical Huck Towels: Kitchen towels are some of the most underrated and underappreciated necessities that you may or may not already own. You can get fancy ones at Bed Bath and Beyond or Williams-Sonoma, but they’ll be expensive and won’t last that long. Order some of these surgical towels, which are both lint-free and inexpensive, so you won’t care when you stain them or light them on fire. amazon.com
Maldon Sea Salt: This is what every professional kitchen uses, and you’ll realize why once you taste it. This is not the salt you find on the table of your local diner. This stuff is the real deal. Maldon is nothing but pure, flaky sea salt, without the zing or bitterness that you’re used to with other salts. maldonsalt.co.uk
Food Processor: Sure, blenders are great sometimes, but try getting freshly made pesto or pasta sauce out from underneath the blades of a blender. You’re going to have a bad time. One of the most useful tools in any great kitchen is the food processor, which is unparalleled when it comes to whipping up salsas, dips, sauces, and soups, as well as grinding nuts, grains, meats, etc. If you want it chopped up into little pieces, you need a food processor.
A Notebook. You may think you will remember the epic Brussels sprouts, bacon, walnut, scallion, honey, and Parmesan combo that you came up with on a whim for last night’s dinner, but chances are you won’t. It’s important to keep track of what worked well and what turned into a disaster so you can improve on your creation or never make the same mistake again. Get yourself a standard notebook to keep in the kitchen, or since we all live on our phones, try “Evernote Food,” which is an app for easily storing recipes, ingredients, and pictures of food. evernote.com