Do you need a ton of fancy kitchen gadgets to cook with ugly produce? In our experience, no. Cooking your Imperfect box certainly requires some hardware, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive to equip your kitchen. So whether you’re looking to get cooking with your first produce box, trying to up your game to new levels of beauty and efficiency, or buy the perfect gift for your Foodie Father, we recommend the following kitchen tools:
The Essentials – Tools of the Trade
Cooking with fresh fruits and veggies starts with your work station. This is the runway from which your gorgeous creations will soar into the culinary stratosphere. So before you invest in a $500 juicer, make sure you have the following:
- A sharp knife: You can’t cook with fruit and vegetables without doing a fair amount of chopping, so it is worth investing in one sharp, quality knife. You do not need a big knife set, you just need one sharp knife that you feel comfortable using. This does not mean an expensive knife, a flashy knife, or a Japanese knife. It just needs to be sharp, sturdy, and most importantly, something that feels right in your hand. This is one of the few kitchen gadgets that is absolutely worth trying out in the store first. Just like Harry potter, the wand chooses the wizard! Once you’ve bought your super sharp knife and learned how to use it safely, keep it sharp! A sharp knife is safer and more efficient than a dull knife. For an affordable starter knife we recommend a Victorinox, but we’re also fans of Wüsthof for their durability, and Shun for their sharpness.
- A large cutting board: A large cutting board makes chopping vegetables a breeze because you have space to work without getting bits of food everywhere. Like your knife, this is a case where quality beats quantity. How large is large? Place your longest knife diagonally across the cutting board. You should have 2 inches of extra space on either side of the knife. We like wood and plastic cutting boards, although plastic ones are slightly more hygienic and can be put in the dishwasher. If you’re looking to invest in a longterm wooden board, Boos Blocks are the gold standard, provided that you’re up for oiling and maintaining them.
- A Swiss/Y Peeler: Swiss style “Y” peelers are the fastest and most ergonomic way to peel vegetables. Kuhn makes a great one that is the gold standard of peelers and is also quite affordable!
- Kitchen towels: These are perhaps the most unsung workhorses of the kitchen yet they are essential to a clean, efficient, and safe meal prep. Good kitchen towels can be folded and used as hot pads or wetted for wiping off cutting boards and knives. Keeping your cutting board free of vegetable clutter not only makes cleanup easier, it actually helps you focus and work faster. A clean cutting board= a clean mind! A clean kitchen will make cooking less stressful and more fun and kitchen towels are essential to this. You can also use a wet towel placed under your cutting board to keep it from moving while you work. Stock up on a set of white kitchen towels. You’ll thank us later.
The “Software”- Organize Your Workspace
If you’re looking to take your cooking to the next level, it’s worth investing in a few items that will help you stay organized and clean while you cook. Here are some items that will set you free:
- Dough Scraper: Think of this as a food shovel. With a dough scraper you can quickly transfer cut ingredients into a bowl or pan, keeping your cutting board clean and organized. Once you have one, you’ll find yourself using it every day!
- Nesting Mixing Bowls: Mixing bowls aren’t just for baking! Having a variety of mixing bowls makes vegetable prep a breeze. Once you’ve finished chopping an ingredient, transfer it into a small bowl or container with your dough scraper so that you have room to work on your cutting board. You can use these bowls to help organize your workflow as well. Group your ingredients by the stage they are added in the cooking process. Vegetables with a lot of water like bell peppers or onions will need to go into the pan sooner and can live in one bowl, while vegetables like garlic and ginger can go in later from a separate bowl. Garnishes like cilantro, green onions, or lime wedges can live in another, smaller bowl to be added at the last minute.
- Quart/Soup Containers: One of the most annoying parts of cooking has nothing to do with the actual food preparation, it has to do with storing your leftovers (because they’ll definitely be too tasty to waste!). Anyone who has fished through an ocean of tupperware only to emerge lid-less knows what we are talking about. Like socks, or pens, tupperware lids seem to live in a parallel universe sometimes. An easy and affordable solution is buying a large set of plastic deli containers. The beauty of these containers is that regardless of size (8, 16, or 32 oz) they all use the same lid. They are also easy to stack, wash, and can even go in the freezer! We love the Reditainer brand. If plastic isn’t your thing, try purchasing a large set of glass mason jars instead!
The Hardware – Cook Like a Pro!
We’re skeptical of any kitchen gadget that has a ton of moving parts or is a pain to clean. These hardware are just the opposite and will impress you with their functionality, versatility, and ease of use.
- Cast Iron Skillet: One great measure of an easy meal is if you can cook it all in one pan. Our favorite type of multi-tasking pan is a cast iron skillet. We love cast iron pans because they get hot, stay hot, are affordable, durable, and can easily go from the stove top to the oven. Lodge makes great ones that are a great deal. These are one of the few pieces of gear that properly maintained can last for generations. If the foodie in your life already has a skillet, consider getting them a different size (little ones are cute and great for cornbread), a dutch oven (ideal for stews, braises, and baking), or a griddle or grill pan!
- Baking sheet: We have yet to find a vegetable that isn’t delicious after being chopped into even pieces, drizzled with salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot (400-425F) oven until tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. A durable baking sheet will help you turn all of your vegetables into their deliciously roasted alter egos. Pro tip: Line the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat to prevent sticking and make clean up even easier!
- Immersion Blender: Whereas most blenders are expensive and a pain to use and clean, an immersion blender is a simple, affordable, and efficient kitchen tool. With an immersion blender you can easily make soups, sauces, and purees–with minimal work or mess! They’re also hugely helpful for making healthy and delicious smoothies out of your ugly fruits and vegetables. Cuisinart makes one that we love.