A&K Top 10 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

Saturday, 1 January 2011 | Tags:

Both of us enjoy cooking, as you may have already guessed from our show Anna & Kristinaís Grocery Bag. Here are some tools we can't live without in the kitchen.

1. A chef’s knife

This one is the workhorse of the kitchen, tackling about ¾ of the cutting jobs.

Look for one made with high-carbon stainless steel. The higher the carbon content, the longer it will stay sharp. Look also for something that feels balanced in your hand and has a comfortable grip.

We practiced our chopping skills and tested 5 popular knives. Our top pick: the Wüsthof Chef’s Knife

2. A dishwasher

You may be surprised to hear that the dishwasher is more economical to use than washing your dishes by hand.

Look for a model with at least two spray arms (one upper and one lower) for better cleaning power. Look also for a variety of running modes, including extra hot, pots & pans, and energy saver.

Read more of our research on dishwashers.

3. A good-quality skillet

If you’ve soaked and scraped an old frying pan one-too-many times, you’ll be willing to shell out for a good quality pan.

If money isn’t an object, consider copper-based pots and pans. Otherwise, we like aluminum-core pans with a stainless steel shell. Also, riveted handles tend to be more reliable than welded handles.

Read more of our research on frying pans and non-stick skillets.

4. A food processor

No doubt the biggest time saver in the kitchen, food processors are a total blessing. Look for a model that holds a minimum of 11 cups, and also consider one with a handy mini-bowl (4 cups) for smaller jobs.

Direct-drive machines, where the bowl sits on top of the motor, are more heavy-duty and reliable than belt-drive machines, where the motor is off to the side.

Our top pick: the KitchenAid 12-cup food processor. Read more in our food processor test.

5. Measuring cups and spoons

Though there’s sometimes room for guessing, there’s no cutting corners when you’re measuring ingredients for many recipes. That’s where a good set of cups and spoons come in handy.

Oval spoons are more practical for fitting into spice containers than round spoons. Stainless steel for both cups and spoons is a good choice. Make sure your tools are dishwasher-safe.

Read more in our measuring utensils test.

6. A microwave

There’s nothing faster for quickly heating water, melting butter and chocolate, and defrosting in a jiffy. Look for a microwave with a turntable, which helps cook food more evenly.

Read more in our microwave test.

7. A pepper mill

There’s no other flavour punch equal to fresh ground pepper. Compare it to pre-ground and you’ll definitely taste the difference.

Look for a pepper mill grinding mechanism made of steel, which lasts a lot longer than one made of zinc. Since a good pepper mill will last you a lifetime, we recommend you spend a bit more for quality.

Our top pick: the Peugeot U-Select Paris Pepper Mill. Read more in our pepper mill test.


8. A salad spinner

Dry lettuce is critical to salad success. A good spinner can make the difference between watery, tasteless rabbit food and a scrumptious gourmet-dressed salad, since dressing won’t adhere to wet lettuce.

There are many types of spinners to choose from. Test them out.

We like a simple pump model from OXO. Read more in our salad spinner test.

9. Sauce pans

Two sizes, a 2-quart and a 4-quart are essential to smooth food preparation.

Pick up each saucepan in the store to make sure they’re not too heavy or cumbersome. Remember to add extra weight to simulate a full pot of water. If it’s too heavy to lift one-handed, look for something lighter.

Riveted handles are best, instead of welded. Also consider one with a handle made in the same material as the pan for when you need to slip it into the oven. Be careful, however, since even on a stovetop, a metal handle heats up quickly.

Read more in our saucepan test.

10. Wooden spoons

Have a few styles and sizes close at hand when you’re rolling up your sleeves in the kitchen. Different spoon shapes can make things easier, for example, a square-headed spoon works well for scraping things off the bottom of a pan. A round-headed spoon is good for stirring and scraping bowls.

There are many types of woods to choose from. In a strength test of wooden spoons, we found olive wood particularly strong.

Don’t put your spoon in the dishwasher since the heat can crack it and allow bacteria in.


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