I originally posted this a few years ago, but people continue to ask me what basic tools most kitchens should have. I thought I would repost it for those of you who have not seen this before.
 –  I am not a natural cook. In fact, I have set on fire or set off the smoke detectors in every kitchen I’ve ever cooked. I am good at following instructions, though, and my family has been very pleased with what I’ve served from your suggestions. My red-meat-and-potatoes-only husband is a convert to your turkey burgers, and my four-year-old who usually refuses soup, has actually eaten your recipes. I’m not sure how to convey what a big deal that is in my household! I really appreciate your willingness to share recipes, and always look forward to your new blog entries. Would you consider sharing tips on what tools you use when you cook? – Lane Buckman

Your hands are the tool you will use the most

When I first started my business, The Roving Stove, I bought every new gadget out there. Then I realized, for the sake of portability, that I actually rely on very few. Here are the tools I could not live without:

Top 10 kitchen tools: peeler, microplane, whisk, can opener, garlic press, scooper, & hand blender

1). Good Knives: I recommend investing in the best quality knife you can possibly afford. You will use this tool more than any other, and prep work will be a lot easier with a good sharp knife that feels comfortable in your hand. Choose quality over quantity… you only need two to begin with… a chef’s knife and a paring knife, you can always add more to your collection when you see fit. A really good chef’s knife should run you about $75 – $175.00, but if cared for properly, it will last you a lifetime.
2). Peeler: You do not need to splurge here. This is not a necessity… you can peel fruits and vegetables with a paring knife, but it is easier to get a closer peel, losing less of the fruit or vegetable, especially if you are inexperienced with a knife, and they do not cost much. A decent peeler should run you about $5.00-$10.00.

Zesting a lemon is easy with a microplane

3). Microplane: I find that citrus zest can really perk up an otherwise dull dish, so I use this often for zesting lemons, limes, and oranges. It also comes in very handy if you are too lazy (like me) to mince fresh ginger. A decent microplane should cost about $15.00.
4). Wire Whisk: Another frequently used tool in my kitchen for everything from scrambling eggs, blending marinades, mixing cookie dough, to whipping cream. At some point you will probably also want to invest in an electric mixer, but this is adequate for most things with a little elbow grease applied. Anywhere from $5.00-$25.00.
5). Can Opener: Unless you are Popeye… you will need one of these to open any canned goods that do not already have flip-tops. A decent one should be in the $8.00-$15.00 range.
6). Meat Thermometer: It is important to check the internal temperature when cooking or (re)heating meat, so that you know the temperature is within the food safety range. These can cost anywhere from $5.00 to $125.00. As long as you know how to calibrate a thermometer, the inexpensive range is fine.
7). Garlic Press: Again, not a necessity, but it sure is a lot easier and faster than mincing garlic with a knife. They start as low as $5.00 to $25.00. With garlic presses you will get what you pay for… I would opt for the upper end of the range if within your budget.
8). Scooper: Not a necessity, but very handy for moving prepped food from chopping board to pan. Definitely worth a $7.50 to $15.00 investment.
9). Hand Blender: This is my favorite tool apart from my knife. I use this to puree soups and vegetables right in the pan, to emulsify mayonnaise’s, or blend sauces. It can do the work of a blender and a food processor if you need to stick to a strict budget. Funny thing is… I find the lower end of the range more durable and easier to clean. Expect to spend $65.00 – $125.00.

Splurge on the best knives you can afford

Hope this helps you Lane. You really do not need a lot of expensive, fancy gadgets. It sounds to me like you’ve already learned the secret… if you can read and follow instructions… you can cook! Here is a hearty winter recipe that ought to satisfy both your red-meat-and-potatoes husband and your 4-year old soup convert. Keep rocking out those recipes in style!

Harvest Comfort Short Ribs

Servings: 4
Ingredients:
2 racks of beef short ribs (4 pounds)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon pepper + more to taste
1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
3 Tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 large parsnips, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 cups dry red wine
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups beef broth
Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

1). Heat 1/2 of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Mix flour, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Dredge the short ribs in the flour mixture, shake any excess off, and brown on all sides in the Dutch oven (you may need to work in batches). Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
2). Add the rest of the oil to the pan, then add onion, celery, carrots, and parsnips. Cook until softened and starting to caramelize, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary, cook 2-3 minutes, giving it a good stir.
3). Pour in red wine, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan, bring to boil and cook until reduced by 1/2. Add diced tomatoes, and beef broth. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, until meat is so tender it falls from the bones. Stir occasionally, and make sure there is always at least 1 inch of liquid in the pan (adding more broth or water if necessary).
4). Transfer meat to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Skim fat, bring to boil, and cook until sauce has thickened, 10-15 minutes if necessary. Remove bay leaves, pour over meat, and sprinkle with chopped parley.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve over mashed potatoes, with egg noodles, or fresh crusty bread.

 IS OUR VERSION OF THE SYNDICATED COLUMN “DEAR ABBEY,” ONLY ON KITCHEN WOES RATHER THAN THOSE OF THE HEART. SEND US YOUR COOKING DESIRES, QUERIES, AND CATASTROPHES TO DEARJEWELS (AT) JULIEANNERHODES (DOT) COM.

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  • January 20, 2010
    11:32 pm

    Hi Julie Anne,It's good to know that I own all these essential cooking utensils. I totally agree with you that good quality knives is recommended. When I got married one of my gifts was a gift voucher to a department store. The first thing I bought was a set of good quality knives which cost around $365 Australian dollars.It may seem excessive to some, but they really are the best knives I have ever used. Love the recipe included. It is definately my kind of comfort food for winter…I can just taste the flavours. Served with mashed potatoes, it is my kind of heaven..mmm…love it. Yet another delicious recipe added to my collection.Aussie Mum

  • January 21, 2010
    1:13 am

    Hi Julie Anne,I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that my husband and I had your Lee's Shuswap Ribs the other night. It was soooo good that we are having them again on the BBQ tonight with some friends. It was just so finger lick'n good. I love the maple syrup in this recipe. I have always used honey in the past but maple is better. The use of red chilli flakes is good too, just that little bit of heat.They are currently marinating in the fridge, so they will be full of flavour for tonights dinner…..mmmmm cannot wait and I'm sure our friends will love it too.Aussie Mum

  • January 21, 2010
    2:30 am

    I agree with the good knife. I didn't realize how valuable one was until I got a good chef's knife. Wow. What a difference. I had a neighbor who worked for a Japanese steak house, who showed me how to properly use a chef's knife and a cleaver, but the techniques only work properly with good, heavy cutlery.I'd probably also add Kitchen Shears to that list. I use it to cut up boneless chicken breast, stewing beef, and other meat, especially when I'm making a stir fry. I find it much easier to finely cut boneless meat with kitchen shears, but maybe that's just me.I use the scooper also as a scraper, as it's so handy for clearing my board of bread dough that is stuck on it, or scraping off excess flour. The only item I don't have is the microplane but I think I may put that on my wish list. :-)Thanks, again, Jewels. Your's is one of my favorite cooking blogs.

  • January 21, 2010
    3:12 am

    I recommend the Kitchen Aid peeler–makes peeling much quicker.

  • January 21, 2010
    3:37 am

    I too have all these in my kitchen the newest being the micograter thing…LOVE that for all kinds of stuff.. I am soo gonna make these short ribs YUM Jewels!! Josie

  • January 21, 2010
    4:55 am

    Thank you so much! I really appreciate the shopping list. And if I serve up the short ribs with the news of my kitchen spending, I'm sure it will sit much better on my husband's stomach ;)I'm self-grounded from the stove for a few days, though. I set it on fire again, and am a little afraid to go near it.

  • January 21, 2010
    8:23 am

    Hey Aussie Mum… hope you enjoy the Short Rib Comfort as much as Lee's Shuswap Ribs. It is cold and raining here, so I've been wanting some comfort food… I know you're in summer there so firing up the barbie.Kimberly, THANK YOU! I like being one of your favorite blogs. Thanks for the recommendation Dandy… I think mine is OXO.Oh oh Lane… how do you keep setting it on fire??? Maybe we should start a Q&A on the FB page under discussions?

  • January 21, 2010
    10:06 am

    Hi Julie Anne,Huge, huge, huge HIT!….Lee's Shuswap Ribs were a great success. Our friends loved it. I'm currently writing this in my backyard on this beautiful warm summer night, surrounded by laughter, stories (which include your recipes), smell of the beach (which is not far) and very, very, satisfied bellies. I am so full that I think I need a huge walk tomorrow.Thank you for making our barbie so great.I sooooo cannot wait for that long awaited book to come out…..oh, and that spice rub, fingers crossed!Very relaxed Aussie Mum

  • January 22, 2010
    5:05 am

    Q&A is a great idea! LOLThis last time, I was boiling water and didn't realize there was a paper plate sitting near the stove. It went up in flames. Fortunately, I had the water there.But I've started grease fires, started a fire in a toaster oven trying to make pita chips (the first batch was great, the second one was a little ashy), and started a fire in the actual oven. Oh, and started a fire in a microwave with foil. The good news is that I never start the same sort of fire twice?The better news is that I pulled off a very good roast today.

  • January 23, 2010
    4:40 am

    Hey Julie Anne,Maybe you could remind your fans to hand wash their knives, PLEASE. Dishwasher detergent is corrosive and knives flying around the dishwasher are dangerous as well. Lovin' your blog. Your friend,Cathy Garossino

  • January 23, 2010
    9:02 am

    Aussie Mum… stop rubbing it in…. frezzing cold and pouring down rain for days here now. Ok Lane… you've had me in stitches. but happy to hear you never set the same type fire twice! Kitchens can be very accident prone Miss Calamity. I have a feeling you are a much better cook than you think… just need to be a wee bit more mindful. Either that or your husband is a gorgeous firefighter you want to stay home more often. Congrats on the roast… which kind? I'm craving a lovely roast leg of lamb.Great pint Cathy! Everyone… Cathy is one of my fellow personal chefs, and very knowledgeable about knives. If you have any questions about sharpening, care, and storage… she is my go to gal.