Sometimes we’re in the mood to buy every expensive gadget we see; other times we want to whisk everything off the counter and keep only the necessities. In the spirit of early spring cleaning, we’ve put together a list of the 10 kitchen tools you need to whip up (almost) anything.
1. It’s always helpful to have an instant-read digital thermometer for roasting meat.
2. If you’re a hard-core kitchen minimalist and your knife skills are perfect, all you need is a chef’s knife. But you might want to keep a set of paring knives around for more detailed work. We find that cheap paring knives work as well as most expensive versions, so this is a place you can economize—whereas a good chef’s knife is worth the expense.
3. Don’t get some uneven or flimsy cutting board; it’ll only cause you trouble (and possible injury) in the long term. A bamboo cutting board is ideal for the kitchen minimalist. Use the grooved side for carving meats and the flat side for your vegetable preparations.
4. Why do we clutter our countertops with crocks full of spoons, spatulas, and tongs? A spoon-shaped spatula is more than sufficient for stirring, sautéing, and most other kitchen duties. The squared-off corners make it easier to get in the corners of pots and to scrape up browned bits on the bottom of your pan, and its flattened shape helps when turning anything from delicate fish to a bulky roast.
5. Make sure you have a set of nonreactive metal mixing bowls. so that you can use them as a double boiler for melting chocolate, put acidic ingredients in them (when making a vinaigrette), or just throw together your next batch of brownies.
6. A good sieve can serve as a colander, a chinois, and, of course, a sieve. Get one that has medium mesh and you’ll be able to do countless things, from draining pasta to sifting flour or straining a delicate sauce.
7. A 4 1/2-quart saucepan is small enough for a batch of soup, sturdy enough to handle a braise, and yet roomy enough for a big portion of pasta.
8. A 10-inch frying pan with an ovenproof handle heads easily from stovetop to oven, and does sautéing and frying duty.
9. An 8-by-8-inch glass baking dish is endlessly versatile. Start with cakes, casseroles, lasagna, and roasts; you can also use it to bread cutlets, store leftovers, or toss a salad. It can go in the microwave, fridge, oven, and dishwasher, and it can be used to transport food to your next potluck.
10. Finally, stock your kitchen with a rimmed baking sheet. Use it for baking cookies, for making a pizza, to catch drippings when you’re roasting, or even as an oversized plate when you’re cooking for a crowd.