If you want to take your cooking to the next level but don’t know where to start, forget the $4,000 sous-vide machine and gas-charged whip cream makers. Here are four workhorses of the home kitchen that need to be at the top of your must-have kitchen gear list.
1. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
The absolute most versatile piece of cookware in the kitchen is a cast iron skillet, and they don’t get better than those made by Lodge. We love the Lodge 12-inch skillet ($35) – it’s the perfect size for almost anything you’re cooking, from eggs and bacon to a whole chicken. With proper seasoning, they’re naturally non-stick; you can use them both on the stove or in the oven; and if you take care of it, it will outlive you. Best of all, they’re made entirely in the U.S.A..
2. Japanese Chef’s Knife
Much ado is made about German cutlery, but when it comes to chef’s knives, it’s tough to beat Japanese steel. Forget the big cutlery sets – start with a quality chef’s knife, then add in a pairing knife and bread knife as needed. If you do your shopping in the mall, we love the 8-inch Shun Kaji ($250) from Williams-Sonoma – it’s razor sharp and has a SG-2 powdered steel blade. If you don’t mind shopping online, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value for your money than the 9 1/2-inch Mac Pro ($220). It’s Molybdenum steel is razor sharp and it holds its edge incredibly well, but it’s still easy to sharpen. And because it’s stamped, not forged, the Mac Pro is lighter, easier to control and doesn’t wedge, which in turn allows for finer, more precise cuts.
3. John Boos Cutting Board
Once you’ve got the knife, you need a stable surface to cut on, and you won’t find one better than a John Boos cutting board or butcher block. A legend in the world of cutting boards and a staple in virtually every commercial kitchen, there’s a Boos cutting block in almost any size you can imagine. For a standalone butcher block, we love the Metropolitan Station block ($879), which gives you a 4-inch thick hard maple end grain butcher block on a 36-inch high table. For a smaller option, the 24″ x 18″ walnut cutting board ($170) is a great choice as well.
4. Microplane Graters
Lastly, an indispensable tool for a huge variety of grating and shredding tasks is a set of Microplane Graters. Crafted from surgical-grade stainless steel, Microplane graters shred everything from soft and hard cheeses to chocolate, citrus and more. They’re razor sharp, they work quickly and efficiently, and they’re cheap. You can’t ask for more.
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