As a person who loves cooking and food in general, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. If I am not making dinner, cooking tea or preparing a snack for the family, I am probably rearranging the cupboards, noting what I need to add or reading my cookbooks. Being away from home has made me realise what I really need in the kitchen and the home as a whole. I apply a rule before buying any new kitchen tools; do I really need it, will I use it, and what function is it making easier?
I will not list a lot of serve ware in this list, that is, plates, cups and glasses. Most of what we have were wedding gifts. Almost ten years later, I have not had to buy any crockery and glassware. I know it’s not fun opening boxes of glasses and plates after the wedding, but trust me, they have come in handy over the years and one can never have too many glasses or cutlery, right?
Below are some items I find essential in the kitchen, listed in no particular order:-
- Cooking sticks– These include what we call “mwikos”, that is, wooden cooking sticks. I have a couple of flat ones for ugali, and some for stews and for mixing when baking.
- Silicone spoon set -I had bought this in Nairobi some years ago. It has a slotted spoon, a pastry brush, turner, spatulas and ladle and some other serving spoons. It is a handy set that has served me well over time.
- Chopping boards – I believe every kitchen should have a minimum of four boards. One for meats (preferably wooden), one for vegetables, one for fruits and another extra one for any thing else. I had bought some silicon chopping mats from Carrefour some time ago that come in handy for extra chopping needs, such as fish, or herbs.
- Cooking tools– Other essential cooking tools I use are a potato masher, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, muffin tin, a whisk, baking pans both metal and glass, pyrex jug, tongs, slotted spoons, grater, funnel, different sizes strainers / Sieves; for tea and for flour, etc. Citrus presser, colander, stainless steel mixing bowls, plastic bowls, ice cream scoop, rolling pin, garlic press and a little handheld spiralizer and a vegetable peeler.
- Saucepans– This could be stainless steel, aluminium, or non stick. I have a nice non stick sauce pan set gifted by my sister that has come in handy here as I left most of my pans back home. I have no cast iron sets yet, but saving up for an awesome set. *Santa better note this down.*
- Pans– Everyone needs a couple of good quality frying pans. I have a nonstick Vinod pan as old as my son, and its great for most of my frying needs. But a small pan also comes in handy for those quick fried eggs. Add a flat chapati aka tawa pan and you’re set for awesome chapatis and naan. A double sided pan is also quite useful as it is great for a lot of dishes. You can grill your vegetables or meat in it, do a sauté, make potato wedges, fry sausages or a breakfast hash in it, stovetop baking (I have made pizza and plantain bread in mine), pancakes, among many others, and the best thing is you do not have to use a lot of oil when using it. I got mine in Nairobi from Armedeot Interiors. A lot of my kitchen items back home are from them.
- Linens – In terms of linens in the kitchen, aprons and napkins help a lot as well as cotton dishcloths. I divide this into three; for wiping dishes, for covering food and for my hands. A couple of them in each category are good enough to start with. And lots of smaller cloths for wiping the countertops. This will reduce your use of paper towels and serviettes. Oven mitts and pot holders fall under this category too.
- Serving dishes– Platters, hot pots (casserole dishes ), ceramics bowls, and salad bowls are also essential, as well as water jugs / pitchers.
- Knives are essential in the kitchen, and having a good quality set makes food prepping much easier. Basics are a paring knife that’s handy for peeling, a chef’s knife or two, a boning knife, a serrated bread knife, and a smaller knife for dicing. Kitchen shears are good to have too for preparing chicken and fish, and kitchen scissors also help in chopping up herbs quick or opening up packets of milk or broth.
- Appliances– I keep it basic here. A quality electric water kettle is top on my list, an old fashioned slice toaster, blender and grinder for spices, and an instant pot or pressure cooker. I love the instant pot because of its multiple functions; I mostly use it as a rice cooker or pressure cooker, but also learning continually what else I can cook in it. It is also much safer than the old fashioned pressure cookers.
- Mortars and pestles are a must in my kitchens. I know food processors make work much easier but I do not mind grinding up spices or herbs manually. Depending on your cooking needs, one or two may be enough. I, however have three. One for crushing my ginger and garlic, another specific one for grinding up my whole spices for masala tea and the other for less pungent pulsing, like nuts and herbs.
This list of essentials is by no means exhaustive. It is just a sample of what I have and use in the kitchen as a home cook. Over the years, I have found myself letting go of stuff I do not use.
I also don’t have many electrical appliances as much of my cooking does not require them. I rarely use the hand mixer or juicer. I used to long for a Kitchen aid mixer, a bread maker, a soup maker, a Vitamix Blender, on and on the list went, but if I’m being honest with myself, I would not use them that much and they would end up filling up space in the kitchen. Over time, I have come to learn how to pick what works for me in the kitchen.
I did not see the need to include cookers and microwave in this list as these are quite subjective. However, I always urge people to first list down what your needs and cooking habits are, then read reviews online and even ask around before you decide on the brand and model to buy. It is easy to buy what is popular, but it may not be easy to use, easy to clean and may consume a lot of power.
Next post in this category, I will post my pantry/ Cupboard essentials. Keep it here, subscribe to the blog and don’t forget to share the posts as well as feedback.
What are your kitchen essentials?