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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