When you’re a foodie who also likes to cook, it can be easy to fill your kitchen to the brim with gadgets. Between online shopping, home shopping networks, kitchen supply stores, and mail order catalogs, the temptation to binge shop for every cooking tool and kitchen knick knack can be alluring. After all, you want to make great dishes at home, so why not get all these great tools, right?
Well, yes and no. If you’re investing in time-tested, multi-purpose tools for your kitchen, a few thoughtful purchases can really go far in raising the culinary stakes for your home cooking. But if you’re picking up any and all kitchen doodads you see on the market, you could end up cramming your kitchen with tools you don’t need, ultimately wasting money that can go towards better things in your home.
And that’s if you even have the space for them all. Not every kitchen — home, restaurant, catering, or otherwise — lets you have the luxury of spreading out with a hundred different items when five could do.
How do you know what kitchen tools and appliances are worth your time and kitchen space? Check out the five multitaskers below — pioneered in restaurant kitchens the world over — to get an idea of how to best accommodate your cooking aspirations with the smallest possible investment of space.
1. Food Processor
While it might not seem like it, the food processor might just be the most useful tool in your kitchen arsenal. Why? Because it does so much! You can puree produce, make salsa, grind meat, make mayo (way faster than whipping by hand!), mix pasta dough, shred cheese, cut butter into flour for pastry dough, make salad dressings, grind nuts, make pesto … and that’s just for starters.
Any professional kitchen worth their muster has their own industry-strength version of a food processor, because it’s used constantly. Step into a restaurant kitchen, and you’ll likely hear it called a “robo-coop” thanks to the go-to equipment brand Robot Coupe®, but there are plenty of commercially sold food processors out there that’ll work perfectly for your kitchen. Make sure to look for models that come with an assortment of blade choices so you can switch them out depending on what task you need it to do.
2. Immersion Blender
This handy dandy tool is an amazing sidekick to the food processor. While the food processor can do a lot, blending everything in the food processor, particularly items already warm (or hot!) and in process, can become messy.
Say, for instance, you’re making a soup and want to smooth out the consistency – lading the soup into processor and then pouring it back in the pot can make a mess and take a few rounds to get all the soup blended. A handheld blender helps you avoid that headache by letting you blend directly into the pot. You can even direct the blender to get at particularly chunky pieces, which is something you can’t do in the food processor without processing all of it.
Besides soups, immersion blenders can also be used to make creamy mashed potatoes, tomato sauce, cocktails, and more. Best of all, it’s relatively easy to clean and its shape and size makes it very easy to store in your bottom kitchen cabinets.
If you live in an apartment high-rise, you might be missing savory deliciousness that a grill can bring. Luckily, there are in-kitchen options for those cooks lacking a lawn. You have the option of electric tabletop grills like the George Foreman brand with its clamshell design, but there are also the electric grills that work more like traditional grills.
If you’d rather cook right on your range, maintaining control with your gas burners, check out a cast iron burner skillet. Specifically, look for a double-sided model that offers a grill on one side for your steaks and burgers, and a skillet on the other side for your pancakes the next morning! There’s a lot of versatility with the burner grilltop, and as long as you properly take care of the cast iron (specific instructions should come with your purchase), it can last you for years.
4. Mesh Strainer
Many home cooks already have at least one metal strainer in their home. Others only have a plastic colander with bigger holes. If you’re one of the latter, it could be in your best interest to invest in a metal one as well. A metal mesh strainer can certainly do what your bigger holed colander does (like rinse salad or drain pasta), but it can also do so much more!
You can use it to steam vegetables, or sift your dry ingredients when baking. While you can certainly strain homemade stock of the bones, vegetables, and aromatics, the beauty of the mesh sieve is being able to finely strain things like gravies and sauces.
If you’re making a raspberry sauce, for instance, the mesh will catch all those little seeds! The restaurant industry’s own version of your common mesh strainer is a chinois, whose mesh is very, very fine and also tends to be very expensive.
If you don’t want to shell out the cash for a chinois at home, but occasionally need to get a fine strain, try placing some cheesecloth (available at your grocery store) inside your strainer before pouring in the sauce.
5. Steam Oven
About the size of your standard toaster oven or microwave, the relatively new to the market steam oven is a multitasking appliance if you ever saw one. Steaming food means you’re maintaining more nutrients than other methods and you aren’t drying the food out, but it also cooks food evenly and helps you avoid using extra oils or fats in cooking.
The steam oven also has a convection option, so you can roast, bake, and braise meat in record time. Making bread? It’s a proofer, too. Some models come as wall installations, but tabletop versions are still small enough that they can be stored away if need be.
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