by Staff Writer
Food preparation is a big part of cooking, and having the right kitchen utensils for each job is vital. There are many different utensils out there to choose from, and the kitchen utensils you select will have a huge impact on your preparation time and frustration level in the kitchen. You'll want to stock your kitchen with basic cooking essentials first and invest in the right specialty kitchen utensils later. This kitchen utensils buying guide explains your options to save you time and frustration now as well as later.
Can opener: A can opener is by far one of the most used items in any kitchen. From soups and chilies to beans and canned vegetables, even fine cooking requires a can opener now and then. Most can openers feature "comfort" handles and easy-to-turn cutting wheel. Electric can openers are available if you lack the strength to turn a mechanical can opener or if you just want the convenience of electricity.
Vegetable peeler: Peeling vegetables is frustrating and difficult with a knife -- not to mention dangerous. Peel carrots, potatoes, apples and more in no time with a safe and handy vegetable peeler.
Spatula: Using a fork to flip foods is dangerous and inefficient. Also, the metal of a fork can damage the cooking surface. Use a sturdy spatula instead to flip pancakes, mix scrambled eggs or turn over thick foods like fried rice.
Grater: Slicing a block of cheese is fairly easy, but grating it presents a problem without a handy grater. Plus, you can grate more than cheese; try grating carrots, potatoes and other vegetables, too. If you grate large amounts of cheese, try a hand-crank cheese grater for faster, easier grating.
Mixing spoons: When you stir foods in nonstick pans with metal utensils, you scratch the nonstick coating off. The right wooden or plastic mixing spoon helps prolong the life of your pans. Get them in sets with varying handle lengths so you'll be ready to mix anything.
Cutting boards: Cutting boards keep your countertops scratch-free and your knives sharp. Stock your kitchen with at least two cutting boards so you can cut meats and vegetables on different surfaces; this prevents the spreading of germs. If you often cut large chunks of meat, such as the Thanksgiving turkey, consider a large, thick cutting board called a chop block; these are bigger and thicker to accommodate lots of meat and big, sharp knives.
Mixing bowls: Invest in mixing bowls to mix batters, soup ingredients or salads. Mixing bowls are available in a variety of sizes, and many new mixing bowls even feature nonslip feet. Purchase a set of mixing bowls with at least three different sizes so you'll have enough bowls and the right sizes for anything.
Colanders: Rinsing your vegetables is easier if they can drain and dry. Also, using a lid to drain foods like pasta is messy, and splashing hot water hurts. Avoid the hassle and mess with a colander or strainer.
Hot pads and oven mitts: If you've ever burned your hand through a flimsy towel, you know that kitchen burns happen quickly. Protect your hands with oven mitts and protect your tables and countertops with hot pads. Each can be made from thick fabrics or silicone to keep the heat at bay. Many come in matching sets.
Whisk: A whisk is the utensil you need to whip up fluffier eggs, light-as-air cakes and lump-free sauces.
Masher: Mashers are the utensils you want when you're making fluffy mashed potatoes. They are faster and easier than mashing with a fork, and they make your mashed potatoes smooth and creamy.
Serving utensils: Slotted spoons, tongs, large forks, ladles: serving food is difficult without the right serving utensils.
Measuring cups and spoons: Measuring cups and spoons are the handy kitchen utensils you need to get exactly the right proportions of ingredients. They often come in sets. Remember to get measuring cups for both solid and liquid ingredients.
Quality knife set: Don't waste your money on poor-quality cutlery. High-quality cutlery may require a higher initial investment, but its lifespan and cutting ability are worth it.
Kitchen shears: Every kitchen needs a good pair of kitchen shears to cut bone-in meats, bacon, chicken, julienne strips of vegetables or just to open that bag of frozen peas.
Ceramic peelers: Keep vegetables and fruit from bruising in the cutting process with a ceramic peeler.
Thermometer: Check the doneness of meats and make candies with a handy thermometer. Choose the regular mercury kind if you're a cooking purist or a digital model for easy temperature reading.
Mini food chopper: Chop onions and garlic without getting stinky yourself. Mini food choppers are excellent for making homemade salsas, chopping nuts and preparing fresh herbs.
Mortar and pestle: Grind fresh and dried herbs, mix entoxicating spices and encorporate ingredients easily with a mortar and pestle.
Mandolin slicer: This utensil is the secret to perfectly thin sliced potato chips and julienned vegetables. With a mandolin slicer, your vegetables will be uniform, ensuring consistent cooking time.
Ice cream scoop: In some kitchens, an ice cream scoop is an essential. It saves your spoons from damage caused by hard ice cream, and it makes scooping up perfect balls of ice cream or sherbet that much easier. Keep one around to use as a cookie dough scooper when you bake.
Zester: Zesting citrus and making garnishes with a zester is much easier than using a knife.
Nutcracker: Fresh nuts on a salad or baked into a dessert add wonderful flavor. Don't even think about cracking a nut with your teeth, unless you really like going to the dentist.