Now just because you don’t need something doesn’t mean it won’t make your life in the kitchen easier. Below you’ll find my list of bonus kitchen tools that won’t necessarily be in any recipe, but which can be used to great effect to make things go faster.
In line with the mission of this website, I have listed no expensive digital machines, meaning no instant pots, air fryers, or sous vide circulators. Though these gadgets are fun and have a place in some kitchens, they come with a high price tag that isn’t always worth it for a beginner cook. The tools listed instead are (mostly) non-expensive items which are also multi-taskers, so if you decide you actually enjoy cooking, these are a great little gift to buy yourself.
Bonus Tools from A to Z
So called because it’s main use is in cutting bread, it is distinguished by a serrated blade (giving it a scalloped, teeth-y edge) which helps it act like a saw to cut through food. While absolutely worth having just to cut bread, bagels, and buns, these knives can be used anywhere the pressure of cutting might squish the food or where there is a tough outer layer. This includes things like tomatoes, delicate pastry, cake, and citrus fruits.
Cast Iron or Carbon Steel Pan
These kinds of pans are heavy duty and naturally anti-stick so long as you treat them with oil every few months. They provide great heat distribution compared to stainless steel, and I love using my cast iron for both cooking and baking, especially if it needs to go in the oven. From biscuits to enchiladas, the cast iron just seems to cook it better.
Cast Iron Grill
I live in a flat that unfortunately has no outdoor space for a grill (barbeque). Considering grilling is one of my favourite ways to eat food, a cast iron grill is the next best option. These get placed across two burners on your stovetop and can reach extremely high temperatures, so be careful while handling and maybe be ready to turn off the alarm from your smoke detectors if they’re particularly sensitive.
Maybe a little bit more expensive at about $50/£40, they do come with a lot of add-ons like a blender, multiple blades, and inserts. When I need to shred or slice a lot of something (cheese, potatoes, veggies) I turn immediately to this machine, as it’ll have it done in a matter of seconds what would take me half an hour to do by hand. You can crush breadcrumbs or cookies, make dough for bread or pasta, and create great herb dishes or purees to really impress your friends and family, all with a fraction of the effort.
A tool that was actually made initially for carpentry work, chefs have almost completely co-opted this tool for grating and zesting on a small and controlled level. Whole spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and others are more flavorful when ground fresh into a dish. Aromatics like garlic, ginger, and onion turn into a paste when microplaned, helping the fresh flavour distribute more evenly than when minced. Citrus peels can be zested without worrying about cutting into the bitter pith (white part) like with regular graters. And hard cheeses like parmesan can be freshly added into sauces or on top of food at a size that lets it melt in your mouth.
Stand mixers, especially name brand ones, can be really expensive – like a few hundred dollars expensive but there are affordable options out there that work fine. The stand mixer is a baker’s best friend, helping make dough, batter, frosting, icing, meringue, marshmallow and more. It even has applications beyond the realm of baking, such as stuffing, meatballs or homemade sausage. Though an electric hand mixer will nearly always do the job fine, a stand mixer is a great investment for someone who wants to become a more serious cook.