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Acquiring the most important kitchen tools is a marathon, not a sprint. Young adults furnishing their first apartments may get by with a few nonstick pans and a fork. Newlyweds often receive essentials such as cookware, bakeware, and kitchen gadgets as wedding gifts. Homemakers add to this collection of kitchen tools over time, finally owning a strawberry corer or nutmeg grater by the time they completely retire from cooking.
So what are the most important tools to own? Each cook's checklist may vary, but there are some essential pieces of equipment that everyone should have in order to prepare proper meals. In the simplest terms, raw things must be converted into cooked things, and big things must be converted into little things. These are the basic principles behind most kitchen tools.
One of the most important tools is the multi-purpose manual can opener. There's simply no other way to open most canned foods, and a separate bottle opener or church key is usually one of the first items to disappear in an emergency. A quality manual can opener will last for years with minimal maintenance and allow homeowners to open cans even when there is no household power available. A multi-purpose manual can opener is one of the most essential tools for all stages of adult living.
Knives are also important kitchen tools, since they aid in both food preparation and service. A set of steak knives is essential for cutting through meats and other fibrous foods. A quality chef's knife is versatile enough for chopping vegetables, carving meats, and even rough peeling. Other important knives to own are paring knives for processing fruits and vegetables, filet knives for preparing meat and fish portions, and a butcher's knife for breaking down large meats.
For raw food preparation, peelers and graters are also vital tools. A vegetable peeler can make short work of peeling carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, and other raw vegetables with skins or peels. Foods such as hard cheeses and whole spices may need to be grated, so a grater with several different blades is also an important kitchen gadget. Many beginning cooks start out with a four-sided grater featuring a coarse grater, fine grater, and cheese slicer on the exterior walls.
Sometimes, food preparation requires a little more horsepower, so blenders and food processors are also important for a well-stocked kitchen. A food processor with several different blade attachments can perform a number of services for the cook. Ingredients can be blended together in a puree or simply combined for a salad. Dough can also be kneaded in a food processor, or prepared in another important kitchen tool - a standing mixer. For other blending or mixing tasks, an electric blender with variable speeds is also an essential tool for the kitchen.
Other important tools involve the measurement of ingredients. No kitchen should be without measuring spoons, measuring cups, or a form of kitchen scale. Recipes hinge on the cook's ability to gauge proper portion sizes, so a complete set of measuring equipment with readable gradations is a wise investment. Be sure to purchase both wet and dry measuring tools, since there is a difference between a cup of water and a cup of flour.
Finally, another set of tools all kitchens should have are spatulas, spoons, and ladles. All food must eventually be served, so it is important to have the right tools to transfer the food safely from pan to plate. Serving spoons can have a solid bowl, such as the wooden spoons used for stirring sauces, or they may be slotted for serving ingredients held in boiling water or broth. Ladles are also important for serving soups, stews, and other dishes with both liquid and solid ingredients. A spatula is also an important tool both for cooking and for serving foods from a hot plate or grill.
There are many other kitchen gadgets available which could be considered important for household cooks, so anyone shopping for new kitchen gadgets may want to consider how useful each new item will be. Not everyone needs a nutmeg grater or a melon baller, for example, but they are still useful kitchen tools for certain cooks. In short, the most important tools may be the ones you use the most to create the foods you enjoy cooking for yourself and your family.