Welcome to our series, Product Corner, where each month our Product Manager, Rachel Haynes, will cover a food-focused topic. The series will feature everything from kitchen tips and food myths to the inside scoop on favorite products. (And that’s just a quick taste of what to expect!)
It seems like there's a tool for everything in the kitchen, something to pit your avocado, to hull your strawberries, even a pump for your milk! If you're like me, you can't stand a cluttered kitchen drawer and you're drawn to just the essentials. The items below are my top five essentials every kitchen should have (and only one is single-use!) because even if I had only these items available to me, I could still make a pretty good meal. Anything from pan-seared chicken and roasted veggies to a frittata!
1. Cast Iron Skillet
A jack of all trades in the kitchen, with a little love, a cast iron skillet will be a constant in most kitchens, as it can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven. Searing, braising, roasting; pick a cooking method, cast iron can handle it. A cast-iron pan does require a little care beyond a non-stick or stainless steel. Seasoning your pan is a must, as well as making sure the pan does not stay wet after cleaning (just pop it on a stove burner or in a heated oven for a few!) or rust can form. For a great tutorial on seasoning your cast iron, check out The Kitchn's tutorial.
2. Microplane Grater
Not just an ordinary grater, this tool is perfect for finely grating anything. If you need to mince garlic or ginger, this tool is your best friend. Need to zest a lemon or lime? The Microplane is perfect. It also grates hard cheeses to a perfect size for both melting into sauces and sprinkling over pasta. The Microplane is also grate (see what I did there?) for finely grating hard vegetables like carrots.
3. Instant Read Thermometer
A good Instant Read Thermometer is the difference between grilled chicken breasts and grilled chicken rocks. Quickly knowing the temperature of the food being cooked is imperative for anything from steaks to candy to milk or cream. Make sure the one you choose has a sharp probe for quick insertion into meats and other solid foods, and that the temperature immediately shows when inserted.
4. Quality Chef's Knife
A chef's knife is the most versatile knife in the kitchen. This blade can be used for anything from mincing herbs to slicing cheese to serving a roast. It can range from six to ten inches long, and is characterized by its wide, slightly curved blade, and pointed tip. The slight curve allows for a smooth rocking motion when chopping food, and the blade width keeps knuckles from hitting the chopping board.
Chef's knives can be different from handle to handle especially, so finding one that fits your hand specifically is most important. Make sure that the handle is comfortable and that it isn't too long or short. A handle that doesn't fit well in the hand will mean less control over the blade when in use. A good, sharp knife will actually keep you safer than a dull knife, as it will move easily through the food instead of catching and having the blade tilt. To test, try to slice through a sheet of paper. If it cuts right through without tearing, the knife is sharp. Need to sharpen or hone your blade? I love this tutorial from Cook's Illustrated (and they have some great recommendations for chef's knives as well!).
5. Pepper Mill
Spices lose flavor over time, but many times their life can be extended by maintaining their whole forms until ready to use. Pepper is one of those spices. Enter the pepper mill. Pepper loses potency and flavor through evaporation, and once ground, this process happens much faster. Keeping ground pepper in clear containers also speeds the process along, as light renders piperine (the compound that gives pepper it's distinctive flavor) flavorless. Buying whole peppercorns and using a pepper mill keeps the oils in peppercorns intact longer, preserving the spicy kick pepper is known for. Also, grinding pepper right before using releases aromas that dissipate if ground too long before use.
I'd love to hear from you! What are some of the kitchen utensils you can't live without?
About Rachel Haynes
Rachel joined the Smith Brothers Farms IT department, but made the switch in 2018 to marketing when the opportunity became available to do all the things she loves outside of work: cook, eat, photography, and learn about food. Now she’s in charge of determining what great products to bring on next. Additionally, Rachel leads our recipe development, focusing on fresh, local ingredients and simple preparation. She enjoys creating dishes that inspire readers to try new ingredients and cooking methods.