Elements of a Functional Kitchen: Tools & Prepware

Ensure functionality in your kitchen.  “With a well-stocked kitchen and essential ingredients in the pantry, it is possible to quickly prepare delicious, nutritious cuisine in a moment’s notice.”1

Along with a well-stocked pantry the ‘right tools for the job’ are also a necessity in the efficient kitchen.  This includes cooking utensils, knives and pots & pans.

In terms of durability and quality, purchase the highest quality utensils that are affordable.  Kitchen tools/utensils constructed of stainless steel or glass utensils are most serviceable for long term use.  Discussed in this blog are the kitchen tools that provide the core for a good starter kit, a base to add onto as it becomes cost effective.  There is no need to get too exotic.

A good starter kit includes measuring spoons, measuring cups, mixing bowls (3), cutting boards, knives (chef’s knife & paring knife), wooden spoons, vegetable peeler, colander, ramekin type small bowls, grater and can opener:

Measuring Spoons – to measure small quantities of either liquid or dry ingredients. The spoons should be clearly marked.  Measuring spoons may be made of plastic, metal or other materials. They come in various sizes, from a fraction of a teaspoon to a tablespoon.

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) mandates a teaspoon to hold 5 milliliters and a tablespoon to hold 15 milliliters.
  • However, all measuring spoons are not equal.  The ones in the kitchen drawer are not accurate by at least a little bit.

Measuring Cups – to measure a volume quantity of liquid or dry or bulk ingredients for cooking.  Measuring cups may be made of plastic, glass, or metal.

A glass measuring cup (in a 1 cup size or greater) will typically have a scale in mL and fractions marked on the side.  These are calibrated for measuring liquids (as opposed to dry ingredients).  Look for:

  • Glass:  does not scratch and easier to read the markings and the meniscus (downward curve at the center & up at the edges, of most liquids)
  • Spout for pouring
  • Clear measurement markings
  • Solid handle.

Measuring cups may also be purchased separately as 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4  and 1 cup sizes. These are typically used for measuring dry or bulk ingredients and are filled to the top with any excess scraped off.  Look for:

  • Stainless
  • Stain & odor resistant
  • Long handles
  • Shallow, wide cup section (sturdy & durable).

In terms of measurement, at 4 degrees Celsius 1 milliliter of water is equal to 1 gram of water.

Mixing Bowls (3): small, medium, and large for mixing ingredients, and can double as serving bowls too.  Purchase a large bowl for large volume of mixing baking ingredients, for example, a medium size bowl for mixing dry ingredients or beating eggs, a small bowl is good for mixing salad dressings, etc.  Look for:

  • Stainless steel (durable)
  • Nesting (takes up less storage space)
  • Bowls with lids (food storage).

Cutting Boards: for cutting and preparing food, made of wood or plastic and come in differing sizes.  Although not always practical, if possible, maintain a dedicated collection of cutting boards: one each for different meats, seafood, poultry, and produce.  Look for:

  • 2½ – 3½ inches thick for durability
  • Wood (easier on knife blades).
    • hard woods with fine grains such as walnut, hard maple, birch, cherry and oak.  The capillary action of fine grains in hard woods pulls down fluid, where bacteria can be trapped. (These bacteria die when the board dries after cleaning.)
    • soft woods such as cypress are easier on the edge of your knife, but they can pose a possible health/safety risk.  The larger grains in softer wood may allow the cutting board to warp/split.  Bacteria can collect and flourish in these areas.

Cutting board care/maintenance:  oil wood cutting boards regularly with a food-safe oil to protect it.

  • Rinse material off the cutting board when done using it.  To avoid contamination do not splatter the rinsing water.
  • Avoid cross contamination; sanitize a cutting board after raw meats/seafood have been on it.
  • Scrub it with soap and water, removing material from any scratches/grooves.
  • Wooden cutting boards require different sanitizers than plastic boards.  For wood cutting boards use an ammonium sanitizer, such as a solution of an ammonium cleaner and water.
  • Make sure it dries completely so that bacteria have no moisture to grow and reproduce.

Knives:  Chef’s knife & Paring knife: are the 2 most important knives to keep in the kitchen.  If the budget allows, 2 other knives to add to your collection would include a long, serrated bread knife and a boning knife.

Chef’s knife (8” or 10”) is an efficient, basic knife for doing a majority of food prep work, including chopping meat and vegetables.

A paring knife(~3½”) is much smaller than a chef’s knife.  It works well for more exacting, smaller tasks requiring precision such as mincing herbs or garlic, peeling produce, coring tomatoes, and hulling strawberries. Look for:

  • High carbon stainless steel; it provides for retention of a tough, sharp edge.
  • Handling and balance good knife should feel comfortable, well balanced and stable in your hand.
  • Weight – try several knives; pick the one that feels right.

Knife maintenance and care:

  • Do not leave your knives in the kitchen sink.  It’s a safety issue.
  • Separately wash, dry and put them away immediately.  If left in the sink, the blade can get scratched or dinged and/or the tip can bend or break.
  • Store your knives in a knife block or knife sheath.  Keeping them in a drawer can cause the blade to become scratched/dented.
  • Use a honing steel, a knife stone, or mechanical knife sharpener to keep the blade in good working order.
  • Always use wood cutting boards.

Other prepware needed:  Colander, small bowls, wooden spoons spatula, vegetable peeler, can opener, tongs:  make prep work easier, and take care of them properly.

1 Nancy L, “The Well-Stocked Kitchen” NancyLFitness Blog, https://nancylfitness.com/2017/11/06/the-well-stocked-kitchen/