Two Tools Every Kitchen Needs

After listening to our tool kit episodes (Part I, Part II), I realized that you need tools for just about everything you do. Cooking is no different, and having the right tool for the right job certainly makes things easier. Today I'm going to talk about the two most-used tools in my kitchen. These are generalists' items that everyone should have on hand.

Enameled, Cast Iron Dutch Oven

The first of these items is the most utilitarian cooking implement ever: the Dutch oven. Dutch ovens come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Although some of them are quite specialized (like the ones with feet for cooking over coals), most are highly versatile. Most of them are decently large and just as at home in the oven as on the stove top.

 A very specialized  Dutch oven for outdoor cooking . This one has feet for setting into a bed of coals and a rimmed lid for holding coals on top. Outdoor cooking Dutch ovens are also highly versatile; because you can heat the top and the bottom of the oven, you can use it to bake.

A very specialized Dutch oven for outdoor cooking. This one has feet for setting into a bed of coals and a rimmed lid for holding coals on top. Outdoor cooking Dutch ovens are also highly versatile; because you can heat the top and the bottom of the oven, you can use it to bake.

One the biggest benefits of most Dutch ovens is cast iron construction. Cast iron is extremely heavy and dense. This promotes even heating of the pot, and helps avoid hot spots on the cooking surface. Though you will have no issue finding bare cast-iron Dutch ovens (I especially like the one from Lodge whose lid doubles as a skillet) I typically recommend going with an enameled version.

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Because it is usually off-white in color, the enamel coating allows better visibility of what you've got cooking in the pot. It also provides a stick-free cooking surface that is easier to clean (in my opinion) than seasoned cast iron. And of course, you don't need to worry about maintaining that seasoning because the enamel protects the metal.

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My Dutch Oven is a 4 1/2-quart Le Creuset. I have owned this pot for almost six years and have used this pot for just about everything including traditional French stews, roasting chickens, baking loaves of bread, braising pork shoulders, simmering Bolognese sauce. I've used it in a pinch as a mixing bowl, and as a salad bowl for the table when it's not being used for another purpose. If I could only have one item of cookware in my kitchen, this would be it.

 A rustic loaf of bread baked in my Dutch oven.

A rustic loaf of bread baked in my Dutch oven.

Now, do you need to go that expensive? Truthfully, probably not. In addition to seasoned cast iron, Lodge also makes some excellent enameled Dutch ovens that are much more affordable.

An Excellent Chef's Knife

The other tool you need in your kitchen is a high-quality, 8" chef's knife. Again, if you're only going to have one knife, this should be the one. Like Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential, those huge knife sets are mostly just a rip-off. You can get by with two or three high-quality blades, and the one that will get the most use is the big chef's knife.

 My  Global G-2  on a cutting board made by my co-host, Rich.

My Global G-2 on a cutting board made by my co-host, Rich.

My chef's knife is a Global G-2. Global knives are world-renowned for being some of the best kitchen knives money can by. I have owned high-end kitchen knives: you know - the expensive ones with the riveted black handles. Only those handles aren’t really riveted on, they’re glued on and the “rivets” are merely a decorative touch. Global knives are a very solid, one-piece design. They are also extremely sharp and hold an edge extremely well. My Global G-2 is the most well-balanced knife I’ve ever picked up. Though it is competitive in price (at around $99) with many higher-end chef’s knives, it is vastly superior.

If you are looking for a more affordable knife, consider the Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef's knife. Despite the fact that this knife only costs around $40, it is a very good kitchen knife.

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I know the tools that I recommended here are expensive, but I would encourage you to think of these items as an investment. I use my Le Creuset Dutch oven and Global Chef's knife on almost a daily basis, and both will almost certainly last a lifetime, and possibly well beyond it. When considering items that you will use constantly, think in the long term and consider buying top quality.

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Justin Carroll