How many cabinets in your kitchen are filled with pots, pans, bowls, serving spoons, and other cooking tools? How many do you actually use? If you’re like many households, you have several hundred pounds of this stuff tucked into every nook and cranny of your kitchen that rarely ever makes its way to the counter-top. Are all those things really making you happier? Or are they just one more piece of clutter holding you back from the freedom of a minimalist lifestyle?
Before I became serious about reducing my footprint of things, I had acquired a grand collection of just about every kitchen implement you could imagine, despite only cooking the same basic meals. I rarely, if ever, used that set of three various-sized cheesecake pans, the three different whisks, the three pots that were behind the other set of pots (why do all kitchen item sets come in three anyways?). After dragging all these things through four different moves I made a satisfying decision to simply get rid of them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, and now cook at home more than ever before in my life, but I’ve found that the entire spectrum of my cooking abilities and preferences can more or less be handled with just a few essentials. Here’s what I now cook 95% of my culinary creations with: cast iron pan with top, wood spatula, rice cooker, large microwavable glass bowl, large metal spoon, two high-quality knives (one large and one small), and a plastic cutting board.
In breaking with my normal theme of advocating against the possession of things, in this post I’m going to point out why you should have these items in your kitchen cabinet.
Cast iron pan. If there is any one single thing I love most in my kitchen, it’s the cast iron pan. When used regularly and treated with care this thing will last forever. It cooks just about anything really well, and can be used for grilling, baking, frying, boiling, searing, etc. It creates its own flavor after a while, it heats the contents evenly, it doesn’t have a layer of chemicals coating the pan to scrape or seep into your food, it cleans super easily, and it looks cool sitting on your stove. It can even double as a rolling pin, cutting board, and serving dish. The only downfall is you can’t use it in the microwave–and some people complain that they’re too heavy (although I see that as a benefit—you can work out while cooking, or use it as a home defense tool when the zombie invasion comes!)
Wooden spatula. To compliment the cast iron pan, I always use a wooden spatula. The one I use is stout and has a smaller working edge than most spatulas, only about 2 inches. The wood works great with the cast iron as it doesn’t melt (unlike a plastic tool), doesn’t scrape (unlike a metal tool), and can be used for stirring, mixing, flipping, cutting and cleaning the pan after the cooking is done. I use it before even going to the stove as it’s great for mixing ingredients in bowls and cutting all those soft fruits and veggies you’re eating. I also use it in lieu of a rolling pin to flatten out dough.
Rice cooker. At my sister’s suggestion a few years ago I bought the cheapest rice cooker I could find (about $20) and I’ve been so thankful for that tip ever since. It easily cooks all types of rice, lentils, beans and vegetables. It’s so easy to throw in a handful of rice and some water after a long day at work, along with some options of pepper, peas, nuts, broccoli, etc. With only a flip of a switch, and a twenty minute wait while I’m doing other productive activities, I have a super healthy, steaming hot meal.
Large microwavable glass bowl. Of course I need something in which to conjure up all those tasty recipes. I intentionally don’t use plastic so that I can microwave safely without worrying about melting plastic or fumes getting into my food, and while mixing I don’t have to worry about scraping off bits or strands of plastic into the food. Glass is super easy to clean, too. Since it’s microwavable, I sometimes cook my meals using only the bowl. A perfect example is eggplant sliced and thrown into the bowl with some olive oil and pepper, then put into the microwave for a few minutes. Pull it out and you have a steaming, delicious meal that is super healthy.
Large metal spoon. My favorite is sturdy, yet has an edge that is sharp enough to cut soft foods, with only a small amount of curvature in the bowl of the spoon. I mainly use the spoon for mixing and stirring in my large glass bowl, but I also use it for cutting soft fruits and vegetables, cooking in the cast iron, and secretly taste-testing all those amazing foods before they hit the dinner table.
Two knives. Although having two high-quality knives may at first seem excessive considering my minimalist bias, I definitely advocate for this. This gives me the flexibility to work with raw meat and fish without worrying about cross contamination, and it allows safer cutting. I find myself using the larger knife for cutting meat and large vegetables while I use the smaller one for cutting most fruits, smaller vegetables, and slicing up meat mid-cooking in the cast iron pan.
Plastic cutting board. I prefer plastic as it protects the knife blades while minimizing the risk of cross contamination of raw meats and fish to other foods. Although I generally advocate for wood tools in the kitchen, in this case I find a wood cutting board soaks up too many juices and it takes a long time for it to completely dry out where I feel it is adequately sanitized for the next use. A plastic cutting board minimizes the amount of time between uses as it dries quicker and I have a higher degree of confidence in my abilities to sanitize the numerous knife cuts and gouges when compared to the nicks in a wooden board that swell closed when wet.
I’ve found these items to be essential in cooking most of my meals. Additionally, I am able to use them as multi-purpose tools so I value them more as I capitalize on their abilities to eliminate other tools from the kitchen. These items are all easy to clean so that I can spend more time enjoying my food and less time working at the sink. I know that these items are durable and will last for many years, providing my table with healthy food options at minimal cost and no worry.
It may come as a surprise to a few that know how much I love to cook that I intentionally left off some items that are commonly found in a kitchen: measuring cups/spoons, rolling pin, egg beater, and a whisk to name a few. That’s a discussion for a future blog post…
Of note is that I choose not to use a dishwasher, and you shouldn’t either to clean cast iron or wooden items. More on my choice to forgo the dishwasher in a later blog post. Stay tuned!
Bottom Line: You only need a few essentials in the kitchen to make high-quality, healthy food. Use these simple, durable, and multi-purposed items to brighten up your culinary creations.
Did you find this post interesting? If so, check out our website at www.minmylife.org. If the subject material of this blog post caught your attention, I recommend starting with our natural health page.
We are always grateful when you share this post!