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Le Creuset's enameled cast-iron Dutch Oven with lid is a top kitchen essential. Photo by David Boylan
Le Creuset's enameled cast-iron Dutch Oven with lid is a top kitchen essential. Photo by David Boylan
ColumnsFood & WineLick the Plate

Lick the Plate’s 10 kitchen essentials

As we entered the new year, I was doing my annual deep clean and reorganization of my kitchen and was quite proud of how I’d reduced my kitchen clutter and non-essential gadgets. I’ve been guilty in the past of getting sucked into kitchen items that sounded great but, in reality, just took up space and were more hassle than they were worth.

One that comes to mind is a chopped salad maker that was downright dangerous. A decent knife and some solid chopping skills were all I really needed.

So here’s my list of 10 kitchen items I consider essential to my home cooking and meal preparation activities. And yes, some of these items are pricy, but worth the quality and will last a lifetime with the proper care.

I’ll start with my favorite all-purpose pan, my “desert island pan,” if only allotted one cooking device: Le Creuset 26, 5.5 quarts, enameled, cast iron Dutch Oven with a lid. I have two of them, one red and the other blue.

Besides being what I consider the most beautiful line of cookware available, one that you will want to proudly display, this pan is a do-all workhorse that will last you a lifetime. They come in many shapes and sizes, but this one has done the job for me for years.

And as a bonus, they have a store in the Carlsbad Premium Outlets where you can pay a bit less. They aren’t cheap — expect to pay around $300, but again, this is a lifetime purchase and worth every penny.

While some purists scoff at non-stick pans, I consider having one in my mix essential and was thrilled recently to learn of the Mueller Healthy Stone 12-inch pan. Engineered in Germany, this is non-stick cooking at its best, free of all the nasty chemicals found in most nonstick pans. Fried eggs slide out of this pan along with any other foods prone to sticking. Mueller offers three sizes, but the 12-inch is the most versatile, and it’s only $49. I’ve found that this cookware company makes a whole range of quality kitchen products at affordable prices.

Another Lick the Plate kitchen essential is a Mueller Healthy Stone 12-inch non-stick pan. Courtesy photo/Mueller
Another Lick the Plate kitchen essential is a Mueller Healthy Stone 12-inch non-stick pan. Courtesy photo/Mueller

A decent-quality pan set is also a key part of my kitchen mix, and the Cuisinart 11-piece Chef’s Classic Steel Collection is still going strong after several years. The assortment of saucepans, skillets, stockpots and more with an attractive stainless steel finish provides the functionality and looks I desire. And for $129, it’s another good value.

OK, now that we have the essential cookware covered, I’m going to segue into some accessory items that I use with regularity.

I love making soups and found that using my Oster immersion blender is the best way to easily make a creamy version of broccoli, potato, carrot or any other healthy vegetable soup. Blenders can do the job but always seem to create a big mess, and a solid immersion device does it with ease. A decent one can be found for around $50 or less.

Speaking of blenders, the most gadget-like device I have is my Nutribullet blender. I’ll take a blended smoothie over juicing any day and found it’s the perfect way to ensure a healthy dose of fruits and greens I might not include in my meals. (Side note: The Green Drink from Morning Star Ranch at the Leucadia Farmers Market has been the delicious and nutritious base of my smoothies for years.)

The Nutribullet also functions as a solid multi-purpose blender and $50 or so will get you one.

I am a huge fan of homemade French fries, fish and chips, and other deep-fried delights, so a modest-size deep fryer is in my collection. Peanut oil is best for high-heat frying, so keep some of that handy as well. And that is a perfect segue to my next item, which is a mandoline slicer to cut those perfect fries and so much more. Mueller makes a nice five-blade slicer for $40, and you will find plenty of more uses for it.

A mandoline will help you slice veggies for salads and French fries at home. Stock photo
A mandoline will help you slice veggies for salads and French fries at home. Stock photo

This may seem like an old-school choice, but I find myself using my Crock Pot on a regular basis, especially during the colder months. I love it for a chuck roast, chili, or any other low-and-slow dish you can start in the morning and have ready for dinner. Crock Pot is the trusted brand, and $40 will get you a seven-quart unit.

My last essential kitchen item is a high-quality set of knives that includes all the desired sizes, along with a solid pair of shears. Henkels offers a premium-quality 15-piece set that will get you the nod of approval from most knife snobs and only set you back around $150.

Of course, there are many other peripheral items one should include in a well-stocked kitchen; food storage comes to mind, but this mix will let most home cooks attain a high level of home kitchen proficiency in style.

If I’m missing something you think should be included, I’d love to hear from you.

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