Number 1: Salt Cellar
Get a salt cellar and place it on your counter top near your prep area and stove. It’s presence will remind you to season your food aggressively and liberally. You should be seasoning your food at every step. Underseasoned food is the #1 reason why something might turn out bland. Trust me – in the restaurant biz, they’re using a lot of salt. There are quite a few inexpensive options to choose from on amazon. But seriously, if you’re looking for one thing to up your cooking game tonight, buy one of these suckers, fill it up with Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt and see what happens. (NOTE: I prefer Diamond Crystal over Morton’s because, essentially, it gives you more control. You can read more about that here if you’re interested).
Number 2: Thermometers
There is absolutely nothing more important than knowing what temperature your food is. Without this knowledge, you have no control over heat, and cooking is basically all about controlling heat and deciding how much of it you’re going to put into your food and how fast you’re going to do it. You’re going to need a total of three thermometers. First, you will need an instant read thermometer. I recommend the Javelin from Lavatools (pictured above). It is inexpensive, has a quick read time, and mine has lasted me for years.
No more underdone/overdone meat; no more poking at steaks trying to guess if they’re the perfect temperature. Buy one of these and you’ll never screw up again (well, at least not in the doneness category)
Second, you will need an instant read thermometer. I use this one to determine exactly how hot my cooking surface is. For example, I know I’m shooting for at least 375°F to achieve Maillard and Caramelization reactions to brown protein. I know that at 220°F it’s safe to drop something into my stainless steel skillet without it sticking. No holding your hand over a hot grill and burning the hair off your knuckles trying to determine how hot your grill really is; no more looking for whisps of smoke in your pan, no more getting stuff stuck on your stainless steel, no more soggy pancakes… you get the drift.
Number 3: Immersion Blender
This one was a game changer for me because I basically stopped buying store bought dressings and dips once I figured out the following trick (seriously, the video above is worth 90 seconds of your time).
Once you’ve got this trick down, the possibilities are endless: From garlic aoli, to homemade mayo, to bleu cheese and ranch dressings, to mango-habanñero-chili-lime dressing, to whatever-the-hell-you-feel-like-making… if you can dream it up, it can be come a reality. Not to mention the absolute boatloads of cash you’ll save not buying store bought dressing. Not to mention how easy it just got to puree soup. Oh, and most of these have a whisk attachment – say hello to homemade whipped cream all the time! But you will need an immersion blender to make these miraculous things happen.
Note: I’d recommend getting one with a stainless steel, rather than plastic, head – I melted a plastic one one time pureeing soup.
Number 4: Microplane Zester
Use a microplane zester to shower pasta with finely grated fresh Parmesan, Asiago or Parmesano-Reggiano. Effortlessly zest citrus (limes, lemons, oranges) so fine that it basically dissolves in your food leaving behind only fresh, bright flavors (and, as a bonus, it’s much easier to avoid zesting the pith – that bitter white stuff between the skin and fruit). Don’t feel like mincing garlic with a knife? Don’t like squashing your garlic with a press? Use a this to finely grate garlic as well. (Note that “Microplane” is actually the brand-name, but it is so popular that it often is referred to by the brand (like Kleenex or Xerox). Click on the picture to the left to get the real thing at Amazon.
Number 5: Fish Spatula
This is the only spatula you will ever need. It’s super thin, so you can jimmy it underneath delicate pieces of chicken or fish that might be stuck to the grill or pan without ripping them to shreds. It’s slotted, so grease, oil and liquid easily drain off of whatever it picks up. And it’s really wide, so you’re unlikely to drop anything; also, its width makes it much easier to flip things with. From making pancakes on the griddle, to flipping fish, to burgers on the grill, this one spatula (sometimes referred to as a ‘fish turner’) will do it all.
Number 6: Mason Jars
Mason Jars are super useful to have around the kitchen. Use smaller sizes to store spices spice blends, BBQ rubs, poultry shakes, etc. Get the wide mouth ones and make dressings right in the jar in which it will be stored using that fancy new immersion blender I convinced you to buy. Plus, they look really cool on your countertop or kitchen shelf.
Happy Cooking! Of course if you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out or comment below.