Recently, I was asked by a friend what my must-have cooking essentials are for making delicious, easy food at home. I put together a list of the items I use most often, and thought I would share with you as well!
I’m a huge fan of multi-purpose kitchen tools, not gadgets with a single purpose. While they may look and sound fancy (an apple peeler/corer/slicer? All in one? Cool!), you can use a simple paring knife to do the same thing, and spare yourself clutter from items that don’t get used often, and save money to boot!
In no particular order, here are my top nine favorite cooking essentials:
A good stockpot and skillet set are absolutely essential to everyday cooking, especially for the basics. Cook up an egg, make a grilled cheese, or boil a pot of pasta. All simple to do, but you need one of these items in order to get ‘er done.
I LOVE the TempTations cookware. Each of the sets is limited edition, and each of the designs is so adorable! They come with lids, so you can cook the food, serve it in an attractive dish, and then pop the lid on any leftovers and put it right into the fridge. Save on the number of dishes you have to wash, always a winner as far as I’m concerned!
A crockpot is a lifesaver for getting dinner on the table without too much time and effort. You can truly dump 3-4 ingredients in before you start your day in the morning, and when you get home, dinner is hot and ready to go! I also like to cook and shred chicken breasts over the weekend. That way you have cooked chicken at the ready for casseroles, soups, etc.
I also have a mini crockpot that I serve dips in for potlucks and holidays. It is also good to have if you are cooking for only 1-2 people, and just need to make a small amount of food. Additionally, the mini crockpot is useful for making your home smell amazing if friends are coming over. Simply fill halfway with water, and add 1 Tbsp of vanilla and 2-3 cinnamon sticks. Leave the lid off, and let the aroma fill your home. (Remember to keep an eye on water level so it doesn’t evaporate and burn.)
You guys, I have to say that Mason Jars are pretty much one of my favorite things ever. Aside from canning, they have about a million and one uses. I usually keep variety of sizes on hand. They are perfect for gift giving – you can make a salt or sugar scrub, or a dry rub seasoning and give as a gift. I store the pens and pencils on my desk in one. You can use them for drinking glasses. You can serve dips in them on an attractive plate for appetizers or dessert. And the list goes on!
I’ll admit it, I became somewhat of a Starbucks addict one year after I was given a number of gift cards from students at the end of a school year. But you guys, that habit starts adding up really fast, and pretty soon your budget is wrecked. I bought an espresso machine to keep at home, and it makes a huge difference to my budget. AND I still get my morning coffee fix! You can buy the syrups directly from Starbucks, or you can make your own copycat versions for pennies with ingredients you already have in the pantry. More to come on how to do that – stay tuned!
We have Pyrex baking pans in multiple sizes, which comes in handy because you don’t always need a 9×13 pan for everything. I use the smaller sized pans if I need to cook something in a lesser quantity, for cupcake batter overflow, etc. The kids love to have their own little mini cake; my batter overflow becomes their special treat!
Admittedly, I do a lot of baking. Like, a LOT of baking. Baking sheets are not just useful to make cookies. We use them to cook bacon in the oven to minimize splatters. We use them to corral my son’s Lego pieces from flying everywhere when he sits at the kitchen table to build his sets. Multiple sizes help when you need to make a large batch of cookies vs. cooking just a few chicken nuggets or mozzarella sticks. You would find having regular sized and mini loaf and muffin pans useful as well. Generally I bake using the standard sizes. However, the mini loaf pans make great little loaves to give as gifts for teachers or coworkers. And mini muffins/cupcakes are perfect for little hands who don’t eat a lot and don’t need the extra sugar of a regular sized cupcake or muffin.
We make a lot of popcorn. Seriously, a LOT of popcorn. My son asks regularly if we can have “popcorn-movie” night, and to make the popcorn mommy-style (pop a batch and drizzle with real melted butter and a touch of salt). It’s easy, it’s economical, and is very popular with kids and adults alike. We take a big bag to movies in the park. Its perfect for feeding a big group of kids; our Cub Scout Pack gobbled the popcorn right up just the other day! Do yourself a favor and pick one up, you’ll be glad you did. Sooooo much tastier than microwave popcorn!
A Dutch oven is a handy kitchen tool to have around. Like the TempTations cookware, its a one-stop for cooking, serving and storing. The beauty of this kind of Dutch oven is that you can use it both on the stovetop for things like pot roast or corned beef and cabbage. Or bake and serve a gorgeous casserole! I have also used it to bake a perfectly fresh loaf of crispy, crusty bread. The possibilities are boundless!
In a nutshell, those are my favorite tools. What about you? What is your most-used kitchen essential item?
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