Chef Meg's Top 10 Tools for a Stress-Free Kitchen

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
3/7/2011 5:40 PM   :  60 comments   :  15,922 Views

Awhile back I shared my six favorite kitchen tools. (Watch the video here.) Well, today I'm going to show you Round 2 of my favorites. Now, you can be a great cook--and a healthy one--without most of these tools and appliances, but boy do they make prepping food a breeze. Put these on your wish list--or treat yourself when you reach a goal! (That's my real-life kitchen in the photo above!)






1. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer: My go-to for mixing cakes and kneading breads. This is the machine that can do it all and leave your hands free. I think they should change the name to the "Multi-tasker Master Mixer." Look for a model with the highest horsepower if you are planning on making a lot of yeast doughs. I have the professional model because I didn't ever want to worry about burning out the motor. Have you ever noticed the front plate on the machine? Well, it is magical. I have pasta rollers that fit in the slot and make pasta rolling and cutting a breeze. You can also pick up a grinding plate that will grind meats in a flash. (I use it to make low-sodium breakfast sausage.) Oh, by the way, check out all the cool colors!

Cost: About $350


2. Silpat: I bought mine when I was working in France 10 years ago, and I still have the same one. These days, you don't need to go to France to pick one up for your kitchen. This is a must-have tool for the healthy kitchen. When using this silicone baking mat, you don't have to grease your baking sheets, and it's environmentally friendly since you reuse it. (Just be careful to never put it under the broiler or in the dishwasher.) Wipe clean with a damp kitchen towel and let it air dry.

Cost: about $15


3. Kitchen Aid Food Processor: Perfect for cutting, shredding, or pureeing foods. My secret, I make all my icings in the food processor. It blends the fat and sugar and does not add any extra air like a regular mixer. This is one tool where you want buy quality. I like the kitchen aid brand because the blades stay sharp and it brings in lots of power.

Cost: about $150


4. Staub Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven: When it is cold outside this is the workhorse in my house. This post provides steady even heat. Perfect for stews, soups, and braised dishes. Can go from the stove top to oven to table. You can spend a small fortune on enameled Dutch ovens if you go for the top of the line brand name. I have found Staub to be the best value. Be careful not to take it from extreme hot to extreme cold, it will crack.

Cost: $30 to 300 depending on the size


5. Victornox knives: I am going to tell my age! When I attended the Cordon Bleu 27 years ago I was presented with a set of Victornox forged knives. I still use them all today- everyday. They hold their edge and are light to the touch. Hand wash.

Cost: $3.89-$30


6. IKEA PS Spraka Pepper Mill: This pepper mill sits right next to my stove for easy access. It has a ceramic grinding mechanism that takes whole peppercorns to a cracked cut in seconds. I love how it looks in my kitchen- usable and functional art work with its stacked circle design. This was my girlfriend gift last year.

Cost: $19.99


7. Glass Storage Containers: Steaming or reheating in the microwave using plastic makes me nervous. I invest in glass storage containers just for this purpose. The food tastes so much better!

Cost: ranges from $2 - $20


8. Best Whisk: Wonder how it got its name? A French chef that I worked with years ago introduced me to this lovely balloon whisk. He kept saying this is the "best whisk" and I would ask, "what is the brand name"? The company that makes the whisk thought the same thing so they named it the "Best Whisk." It has a nice wooden handle and tines that work to help incorporate air into mixes. Makes whipping egg whites a breeze.

Cost: $13


9. Baking Stone: If you want a crisp crust on pizza or golden baked chicken this is the tool for your kitchen. I love mine and use it almost every day. Heat it up along with the oven for preheat mode and food gets cooking the minute it hits the stone. Be careful to clean with a scrapper or stone scrubber only. Soap and water do not mix with this natural stone.

Cost: $25


10. "Y" Peelers: These little colorful peelers really do the job and can be picked up for a great price. I have several in my kitchen. I like the way they are designed to be open at the top. I like to peel like one would strum a guitar so this style of peeler suits me best. Caution- they need to be hand washed.

Cost: $4

Which of these do you own? Which do you want?


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Comments

  • ANGHARAD3
    60
    I would love the kitchen aid mixer but I should start with the knives. - 12/19/2012   7:04:45 PM
  • 59
    I had never heard of a Silpat until I read Chef Meg's articles. I am intrigued. Our hardware store has a lot of silicon cooking gadgets. I'll look to see if they have this. - 12/13/2012   6:48:51 AM
  • 58
    This gives me a new list. Guess I need to update my Amazon Wish List! - 4/1/2012   11:02:39 AM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    57
    The way I learned to peel is with a straight peeler pulling it back toward me. Since I can take long swaths of skin it seems faster than banjo peeling.
    I used to love my food processor when they first came out but I find that I rarely use it now.
    The items I most value in the kitchen are set-and-forget appliances. I love my rice cooker; my rice comes out perfect and when it is done it keeps it warm. Mine is a cheap one so if I leave it on warm too long it will burn the rice on the bottom but it is still so much easier than using a pan and a timer. My in-laws bought me a Richard Simmons vegetable steamer a few years back and I thought it was a joke but it rocks. It has 3 sections that can each be set to different times and it starts each section so they will all be done at the same time and keeps them warm when the time is up. In my bachelor days I discovered the time a pressure cooker saved but I had to listen to make sure the jiggler kept hissing to be sure it wasn't plugged and I had to use a timer. Now I have an electronic pressure cooker that is also set-and-forget. I set the time and it cooks the food and keeps it warm when finished.
    Not sure how they compare to Victorix but I have Cutco knives and these are seriously sharp.
    I don't use it as often the appliances I list above but I do like my high power blender. I have a Vitamix and it makes the best smoothies. It sounds like a jet taking off when I run it but other than that it is incredible. Vitamix was the only blender like it when I got mine but now I understand that Blendtec also makes a high power blender worth consideration.
    Ever hear of Scanpans? They are non-stick but use a hard ceramic surface instead of Teflon. Unlike other non-sticks you can use metal utensils on them. They are expensive but worth it. FWIW, some of my Scanpans did get messed up after a lot of use but the company replaced them without drama. - 3/29/2011   12:54:31 PM
  • MIMSY709
    56
    I have most of these, except the silpat, stand mixer and food processor. The food processor is on my wish list, and for baking I use parchment paper to avoid greasing baking sheets. The extra benefit with parchment paper is that I can work ahead, so when the first sheet of cookies are baked I can slide the paper off the pan onto the cooling rack, slide the next sheet of cookies on the pan and right into the oven. For me the most important kitchen tools are sharp knives, and I agree that the Victorinox chef's knife is superb, and not even very expensive. It was rated best chef's knife by Cook's Companion magazine, and is my go-to knife for almost everything. - 3/19/2011   2:57:05 PM
  • 55
    The only thing I have is the Y-peeler, and I do just fine without most of this stuff. I have a small kitchen with abnormally small cabinet and drawer space. Having all this stuff sitting around, probably unused, would add stress to my kitchen. I had the stand mixer which was great for the few times I used it, but it took up way too much space. I got so tired of trying to clean around it that I donated it to the church yard sale. What would I want--the Victornox knives--good knives are indeed an essential--and the silpat--handy little devil that takes little storage space. - 3/13/2011   11:19:51 AM
  • 54
    I have it all except a Y peeler-- ours broke! need a new one.. We are a family of cooks-- my dad and his dad had restaurants.. even my brother tried-- my daughter is pursuing culinary as her career as well. - 3/9/2011   11:28:03 PM
  • 53
    I've got most of these items, except my whisk, peppermill and dutch oven are all random brands. I've got a couple of generic silpats, and I don't have the pizza stone. Also, my knives are Chicago Cutlery, purchased as a set 20 years ago and still fantastic.

    I probably use the food processor more than anything else; I make spinach hummus with it every week; the recipe I use calls for roasting the chickpeas, and I'm not sure a lesser processor could do it as easily! I also use the same pyrex containers pictured; I "switched over" from plastics about 6 months ago and I've never looked back. I do still use a few teeny plastic containers for bringing things like salad dressings or hot sauce to work, but even those I'll probably swap for glass jars soon. Aside from the toxins issue, I like that you can get them truly clean. And the y-peeler? Awesome! I had an old standard style peeler I'd used for years, and kind of on a whim I bought an inexpensive y-peeler at the cooking store -- what a difference! It seriously made peeling a potato into a PLEASURE!

    And I agree that an immersion blender is awesome for soups, stews -- and invaluable when I make a batch of homemade ketchup -- and I couldn't live without my crock pot, especially in the winter. I'm actually toying with getting a bigger one, 'cause I like to make a lot and freeze leftovers, but I have to make sure it'll fit in the same place in my cabinet!

    Reading all of these posts has inspired me to look further into what all my mixer can do -- I've been wanting to make my own bread, and I totally forgot there's a dough hook on it! And I think I'm going to ask for the meat grinder and pasta maker attachments for Christmas or my birthday; I'd love to be able to make my own sausages and whole wheat pasta! And DUH, I always have a huge amount of extra veg from my garden; I've been wanting to can and pickle but all that chopping was so daunting -- didn't even occur to me to use my mixer's veggie slicer attachment!!! Homemade bread-and-butter pickles, here I come! - 3/9/2011   7:11:56 PM
  • 52
    I'm wishing for a cast iron Dutch oven ,too. Have the Kitchen Aid mixer for years and years!!LOVE IT! and use the meat grinder when we are fortunate enough to get fresh venison(YUM!). My big thrill is that I'm getting a new KITCHEN very soon!!!!! - 3/9/2011   12:38:17 PM
  • 51
    I have pretty much all these things (in varying brands) in my kitchen too. Invested in a Kitchen Aid mixer a few years ago, and it's worth every penny! But my favorite knives have to be our Cutco set...also worth every penny we spent on them. Next on my list to purchase is a Dutch oven. I've wanted one for a while now. - 3/9/2011   12:11:45 PM
  • 50
    Great list and great tools. Yes, the Kitchen Aid mixer is expensive but worth it. The basic Classic model is really quite fine too. I keep my pizza stone in my oven all the time. I've read that in addition to being great for baking on, these stones also help maintain a more efficient oven temperature because they hold heat well. - 3/9/2011   9:07:06 AM
  • 49
    I have wanted a Kitchen Aid mixer forever! - 3/8/2011   11:03:47 PM
  • 48
    I ditched my French whisks a couple of years ago after I got a ball whisk. I feel like it works just as well and is much easier to clean - no dishwasher.

    I have a Lodge cast iron Dutch oven which I love. I particularly like that I can saute in it and then add other ingredients for a soup or stew. (again - no dishwasher - but I actually love to wash dishes. I find it meditative)

    I've been using Rada knives which are inexpensive and easy to sharpen. I started with some from a knife store in Gatlinsburg, TN and since added some that I bought on the internet.

    I have an old fashioned cast iron meat grinder that I use to make ground turkey and chicken and chopped herring salad.

    My two favorite plug ins are my rice cooker and my Magic Bullet. - 3/8/2011   8:35:35 PM
  • 7252LOU
    47
    I have a glass cooktop, so the Dutch Oven is out....however I really want the Silpat...I've heard nothing but kudos for these baking mats. - 3/8/2011   7:25:40 PM
  • 46
    this reminded me to buy covers for my blender, coffee maker and mixer- thank you...had finally figured out that the only way they'd get any use was to put them on the counter- especially the mixer- but never got around to the covers...the mixer i saved up for a while for- hey might be a good incentive- putting aside a dollar or so each day- or as a weight loss goal- using your change- and then you'll have enough after a while for a mixer! - 3/8/2011   3:58:17 PM
  • 45
    I see many people wanting to have a Kitchen Aide stand mixer but not being able to afford one (myself included). Perhaps our Spark People peeps can hook up up with the Kitchen Aide peeps and give away a few. - 3/8/2011   3:34:34 PM
  • 44
    I love my stand mixer. It has probably cut my baking time in half. - 3/8/2011   1:50:23 PM
  • SBATES63
    43
    I have all of these (different brands but good quality nonetheless) except the Silpat and the baking stone. I would like the stone someday, but I'll pass on the Silpat. I don't call things like good knives or a stand mixer gadgets or luxuries. I cook a lot and I love cooking so these thing are necessary tools for me. - 3/8/2011   1:49:23 PM
  • 42
    I absolutely love my stand mixer - after my bread machine bellied up - i didn't replace it - i use my mixer; i did break the dough hook once making dough for bagels:( but got a new one. My absolutely favorite knife is a Victorinox that my m-i-l brought me from Switzerland - I guard it with my life. Haven't used silpat yet but may need to try. Love making life in the kitchen easier. - 3/8/2011   1:37:24 PM
  • 41
    I have the baking stone, which I love and use all the time. But I really would like to have a food processor and a good set of knives. Next on my kitchen list! - 3/8/2011   1:03:25 PM
  • CLAYLADY01
    40
    my husband recently bought me both a ceramic cutting knife and a ceramic "Y"peeler,love them both,the ceramic knife will NEVER dull and the peeler is fantastic. - 3/8/2011   12:27:36 PM
  • 39
    I need some of those items.

    A few on this thread mentioned the Vita-Mixer. I have one and I absolutely love it. I use it everyday!

    - 3/8/2011   12:08:47 PM
  • 38
    I've got all except the knives (I have a great set my hubby keeps culinary-school sharp for me), the stand mixer (which I keep bugging for & never get) and the slipat. I do have silicon bakeware that works very well though (thanks to my Mom-in-law). I spend a lot of time in my kitchen and like to have tools that make it easy-breezy. Nice to see I'm almost on the mark! The dutch oven I have is not Staub but a much older line we've had for years (and I rediscovered at an estate sale) called Flint (made by Ecko). I have replaced nearly all my cookware with it and adore them! - 3/8/2011   11:49:47 AM
  • 37
    I really need to get a set of good knives. - 3/8/2011   11:48:04 AM
  • ANJNNO
    36
    I really want the silpat and the baking stone. Thanks for the list. - 3/8/2011   11:45:07 AM
  • 35
    All I have is a food processor. I'd love a stand-mixer but I can NOT afford that. I also want a Vita-mix someday, but the cost is just too much! - 3/8/2011   11:02:08 AM
  • 34
    I saw that a lot of people want the KitchenAid Mixer, My daughter worked at a "used bowl store" where they sold used ones. The design hasn't changed in decades.
    You can buy a used one in any color except Turquoise for about 100.00.(turquoise is 50.00 more).
    Look for one that has all the accessories with it. - 3/8/2011   10:52:43 AM
  • MYBEAR308
    33
    I also have most of the things on the list, I also love my Kitchen Aid, I had purchased most of the attatchments and my mixer about 5 years prior to working at Whirlpool where we make the mixers and attatchments... So glad to hear that most like the Kitchen Aid tools....they have a new attachment for the mixer, a beater that has a scrapper on it, love it, no need to use the spatula..in Greenville, Oh; they have a Kitchen-Aid Store that sells new and refubished counter top appliances(mixers-food proc,ect)....and utensils, knives,& bakeware...very nice store - 3/8/2011   10:48:27 AM
  • 32
    I have a food proccessor ( not KitchenAid, I think mine is Regal),
    I gave away my KitchenAid stand mixer (not enough room).
    Same with my cast iron dutchoven (too heavy, no room)
    I like the baking stone,don't use it much.
    Have a grocery store veggie peeler that is 30 years old...
    Knives from Walmart ( local grocery resharpens for free, as long as you aren't a pest.. see the butcher..)
    My peppercorns came in a disposable peppermill (Aldi I think)
    I would be scared of cooking anything on or near silicone ( I work in the rubber industry).
    the things I can't do without are my white plastic cutting board (KMart), and crockpots (Sears) - 3/8/2011   10:41:12 AM
  • 31
    I've always wanted a Kitchen Aid Mixer. I would have so much fun baking! Just can't afford it right now. - 3/8/2011   10:29:00 AM
  • 30
    The only ones I have are pyrex storage containers and a silicone mat. BTW, I've never used my silicone mat for baking because it came as part of an inexpensive silicone cookware set, and I didn't know it's purpose...now I know! Thanks! - 3/8/2011   9:58:12 AM
  • AVERYSILLYGIRL
    29
    I only have non-plastic containers but would love everything else on this list. - 3/8/2011   9:55:51 AM
  • KIMBERAKA
    28
    I have a kitchenaid mixer and I love it. I just a Y peeler for Christmas and LOVE it too. I also got a Le Crueset Dutch oven and love that. I got new whisks but not the "Best" whisk, will have to look for that. Also have silpat but don't really use it. I have the baking stone and use it for pizza but not sure how to use it for chicken. To roast a whole chicken I like to use my oven baker from Pampered Chef. Its the BEST! - 3/8/2011   9:52:32 AM
  • GIDGEY
    27
    What a great list! I love and use most of these things on at least a weekly basis. I keep waivering on the baking stone though. I've been trying to bake more European-style breads lately, and I think it could really help with the crust. But my kitchen isn't that big, and storing it when I'm not using it would be a hassle. And if I baked bread all the time, then I would eat it all the time . . . - 3/8/2011   9:27:18 AM
  • 26
    "Steaming or reheating in the microwave using plastic makes me nervous."

    It should make you nervous! A famous Canadian scientist, David Suzuki recently gave a lecture that I attended. Because of plastics in our environment, each of us has about a pound of plastic in our bodies, in our cells. Microwaving in plastic containers is definitely something one should never do. Use glass or ceramic containers.

    I used to use a plastic cover in the microwave that I got at a dollar store for a dollar. Because I'm a potter I decided to make my own microwave cover and toss the plastic one into the recycling bin.

    I have a baking stone that I got at a thrift store for about $5 and we love it!! It makes a good pizza crust a great pizza crust! - 3/8/2011   9:16:45 AM
  • 25
    I have all these things, although my dutch oven and knives are different brands. A stress free kitchen really does make eating healthy easier. Two things I would add to the list are a Vita-Mix and a pressure cooker. Both make prepping and cooking meals fast and tasty. - 3/8/2011   8:59:34 AM
  • 24
    i have always wanted a Veta vita vegga mix! but i guess i would be happy with any high-quality food processor. - 3/8/2011   8:59:27 AM
  • WINEDINETRAVEL
    23
    I own the silpat, peeler, food processor, and the stone. Thanks for the tip on the knives! I'm looking for some new ones that will stay sharp. - 3/8/2011   8:54:10 AM
  • 22
    These are all great tools, but here's what I would add to the list:

    Magic Bullet - shreds and chops, but most importantly whips up an excellent morning smoothie

    Toastmaster Toaster Oven/Bread Machine - this device does everything, including makes a decent bread! - 3/8/2011   7:13:36 AM
  • 21
    My mother-in-law gave my wife a kitchen aid stand mixer for Christmas two years ago and I love it. I also use an immersion blender frequently, especially when making soups.

    My favorite toolath the moment is a stainless steel kadhai (Indian wok) which I use for just about all my cooking needs (soups, curries, masalas, chilis).

    Silpats are great, but there are cheaper versions that work as well for 1/4 the price. I also use permanent parchment paper for a lot of my baking. I find it works better than the silpats, is easier to clean, and is way cheaper. - 3/8/2011   6:39:44 AM
  • 20
    On my list of items I would like are the food processor and the dutch oven. My only issue with extra do-dads in the kitchen is that I have absolutely no space to keep things on the counter and almost no space for storing in cupboards.

    I love my pryex glass dishes! I got a new set for Christmas last year as many of mine were broken and all the lids had disappeared. I love, love my knife set! About 10 years ago, I got a small set of Cutco knives. Love them! I've been gradually adding to the set over the years. They are expensive but are worth the price. - 3/8/2011   3:40:44 AM
  • NASFKAB
    19
    Would love the Dutch Oven & the peelers - 3/8/2011   3:33:53 AM
  • ALEXANDRA64
    18
    I don't have any of those specifically. I would LOVE to have the dutch oven (in red), the food processor, and a good set of knives. Glass storage would be nice but I just got a great set of plastic containers that match my kitchen. One thing at a time I guess. Plastic is fine since I do not use them in the microwave. In fact, I avoid using the mic as much as possible when it comes down to it. I did just get a bamboo cutting board and wow, do I love that! - 3/8/2011   1:20:42 AM
  • 17
    I want the whisk for all those omelets I make! I also want the glass containers to keep the bugs out. - 3/7/2011   11:58:28 PM
  • 16
    one thing I would put on the list is my crockpot. I love it! I use it often. I live alone and I make many meals in it. I eat one for supper and freeze the rest in small containers for another time. What a life saver. - 3/7/2011   10:49:57 PM
  • 15
    I have the non pro Kitchen aid I invested in an extra bowl and have nevr regretted it. I did buy thr slicer and grater they are of litte use to me way too messy.
    I have cuiinart processor with which I can whip spelt flour bread till it is hot and rises with no yeast a lfesaver when yeast bothers me.
    My sheffield steel Friar knives I love. I too use only pyrex in the micowave .I have and really wanted a vita mix blender but it is way too big and cumbersome now. Just 2 of us and I use my magic bullet for grinding my flax and making spreads in small quantities that way I can have more variety. - 3/7/2011   10:44:05 PM
  • 14
    I have a Cuisinart food processor, which I love and some Le Creuset cookware. - 3/7/2011   10:31:17 PM
  • 13
    My father used to make Kitchen Aid appliances, in particular the whips for the mixers. He gave one to his mother in the early 50's, my mom used that same mixer forever and I gave it to my best friend a few years ago. It is still going strong. - 3/7/2011   10:30:30 PM
  • 12
    we have been toying with the idea of getting the sausage attachment, grinder, etc for the kitchen aid. sounds like a good idea. - 3/7/2011   10:05:20 PM
  • LUCANDJOH
    11
    I'm looking forward to purchasing Kitchen Aid Food Processor in the near future. - 3/7/2011   8:47:45 PM

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