I mean, I always spend a lot of time in my kitchen but “a lot of time” has jumped to “prison time” in recent weeks. It’s fine, I like my kitchen. And when this is over I am going to call a joiner and get them in to treat the kitchen to a new load of smart shelves because the ones we have are appalling and we need more storage because there is crap everywhere. And, you know, I don’t just like my kitchen, I love my kitchen – she’s my princess and I like to treat her right.
But I have also been reflecting on the things in my kitchen I have found that make my kitchen life better and I know how you are all such massive suckers for kitchen chat. Don’t pretend you aren’t!!
Anyway here is my list of things that I rank as “most useful” in my kitchen and then maybe you will leave a helpful comment in the box provided and tell us all what yours are.
Is there anything scissors can’t do? I started with one pair of kitchen scissors and then could never find them and people kept stealing them and one year Sam went out with Giles to buy me some things for my birthday and Sam insisted on getting me two pairs of scissors. And I was genuinely thrilled with my gift and delighted that Sam, only four years old, was already getting the idea that I was almost exclusively to be found in the kitchen. Multiple pairs of scissors!!! I now have at least three on the go and any that go blunt and cannot be sharpened are ruthlessly recycled.
In fact, multiple anything. If you find yourself standing in your kitchen saying “Where’s my…” go directly to the internet and buy yourself three more of whatever it is.
Victorinox serrated paring knives. Again, as useful as scissors. I have got three knives but could always have more. See above. Available on Ocado (if you’re still speaking to them).
Stainless steel bowls
I have gone on about these before but they are the only kind of mixing bowls you ought to consider. Light and unbreakable, you could have ten all stacked inside each other and they would take up the same room as one giant ceramic jobby. I like Dexam the best.
Long spoons and scraping spoons
The way you stop jam from ever going mouldy is to make sure you never leave even a speck of butter or a tiny crumb inside. So the thing to do is use a clean spoon to get out the jam (never a buttery knife), then you dump it on the toast or on the side of your plate or whatever.
Once I realised this I invested in a variety of jam spoons – long things with which to scoop out the jam or marmalade. I have latte spoons and spoons with a sort of swan-neck that hook over the side of the jar and then I discovered these innovative silicon spoons that are absolutely the last word in scraping out every tiny last scrap of jam or yoghurt or whatever from any pot or jar.
I have got two and they are incredibly useful for all sorts of little jobs. I am now particularly vigilant about working from the top-down of jars of anything, starting first with the stuff under the “shoulders” of the jam jar because I got really sick of it being the last, gross stuff left. Ditto with yoghurt pots, when I open one I give the whole lot a stir and start assiduously from the top down.
Am I sounding really neurotic yet.
Tiered fruit stand
This will change your life. This fruit stand means no more mouldy forgotten pear or apple at the bottom of the bowl, and you can keep the bananas, (which some believe make other fruits go over more quickly), separate. I like this one, but there are millions around.
A brilliant tip to me from a friend in catering: buy many identical units of food storage box, probably on the smaller-side, that can stack together for space efficiency – base on base and lid-on-lid. Every unit ought to represent “a portion”, probably 400g or so. If you have made a giant vat of stew, you dole it out evenly between portion-boxes. If you want to decant lots of biscuits or fairy cakes or whatever, you simply use multiple boxes. By having many of identical size you will never have a situation like I have at the moment where my tupperware draw is just shameful with almost no containers but 400 rattly bastard lids, all different sizes and shapes. When the time comes I will take huge pleasure in hoofing these out and investing in this identical set.
Small baking trays
Even for a family of four, there are many instances where you only want to cook a small amount of food at one time – some frozen french fries only for the boy, for example because the girl won’t consider them. A vegetarian kiev just for my lunch, perhaps. I find I use my smaller baking trays far more than the bigger ones.
Large ice cube mould
Bring the bar home! All the smart bars in London serve cocktails now with huge ice cubes. I’m no longer drinking cocktails, (I feel like the next bit of lockdown will require an inner strength that I can only achieve through sobriety), but I still like the way these look in my 6pm kombucha or tonic water with Angustura Bitters.
This wonderful reuseable liner paper just makes everything wonderfully non-stick but in a non-sinister way. You can cut it to fit your most-used baking trays and it’s just the most terrific stuff. Available on Ocado.
Light kitchen tongs
The best kitchen tongs ought to be light and nimble, an extension of your own light and dextrous digits. I find most kitchen tongs are stiff and unwieldy and really not much use. For full magic you most specifically need the Kitchen Craft tongs, which are the Darcey Bussell of kitchen equipment: light, strong, graceful.
This is a thing made exclusively, I think, by Borough Kitchen. This is a great thing on the same principle as the light tongs – a traditional wooden spoon is too clumsy and stupid for the true work of a wooden spoon. These stirrers are long-handled with a dainty paddle at the end and just do the job infinitely better. My sister saw mine and stopped dead still and pointed and went “What is that. I need it.”
I have a medium-sized mandolin, which is very useful for slicing vegetables very finely and quickly for something like potato dauphinoise (ha! Dream on) or more likely a coleslaw. But it is rather large and I really fancy this small one for the endless slices of cucumber I seem to slice at the moment or for shallots or garlic or any number of things.
I’m really not surprised that Mrs Hinch’s books are enjoying rocketing sales. It’s suddenly like 1950 again. I’m obsessed with my house in the lockdown. Obsessed. And I find I genuinely don’t mind clearing out tricky drawers or cupboards that have so far eluded me. I even rearranged the cataclysmic mess of make-up that I keep in our downstairs loo, (not in the loo you understand, but on the shelves above the cistern), that had grown too revolting for even me to stand.
How about you? What are your best friends in the kitchen right now? And have you gone full Aggie McKenzie or what.
I second everything on your list, but esp. the scissors and little serrated knives. Invaluable. My kitchen was supposed to be having a much-needed long-awaited refurb in a month, which is almost certainly in abeyance. I too need shelves, and doors for a cupboard which has been waiting for 40 years (inherited houses – a mixed blessing). A mandolin is an absolute game changer but definitely get a medium one: mine is too skinny for most fennel bulbs and I have to quarter or eighth the cabbage. If you can keep your fingertips it is the most amazing bit of kit. Bought mine in scepticism but use it weekly at least. Benriner.
See I always knew I liked you… but this post has confirmed it: scissors, there is nothing like them. You need at least 3-4 pairs. Kids steal them for random stuff. There is nothing more annoying then needing them and not having them! Great post lovely lady xx
Noel Horlock says
Deep drawers for pans, baking ingredients and utensils instead of cupboards.
I use the deep drawers for cereal. My 5 year old can get in there and help himself to breakfast without too much bother!
Sarah Thompson says
This is best and most useful thing I’ve read in lockdown. Thanks.
Emma Rawlings says
I totally agree with everything and especially the scissor thing, 20 yrs ago my aunt from Australia gave me a pair of scissors as a wedding gift that are serrated and separate into 2 – bizarre I know – but they are my most indispensable and coveted kitchen item, and believe me I have an enormous amount of kitchen paraphernalia. The only other kitchen gadgets I live are my pineapple slicer /corer and my global tomato knife. Love your posts x
Sharon in Scotland says
I have a pair of scissors that do that,, really thought I’d been extra clumsy when I washed them for the first time. I love my tiny whisk, it was free with a magazine. Wooden spoons don’t get lumps out when you are making sauce………tiny whisk does.
Yes yes yes to all of this. I am spending 97.5% of my time in my kitchen. How lucky I am that it’s south facing and has daffodil yellow cupboards which are so cheering.
I’d like to add:
Teatowels. I don’t have hand towels in the kitchen because they’re gross. Instead I go through 2-4 teatowels a day for dishes and hands. Saves me arguing with children about which “towel like item” is for hands vs dishes.
Wide silicone straws. My two are green veg refuseniks so I make them a smoothie most days to ward off scurvy. Wide silicone straws are the best for drinking them.
Just the best post of the year. I have 2 toddlers and I normally work a 5-day-per-week office job and I outsource much of the week day cooking. Suddenly I find myself needing to cook for an entire household 3 times per day 7 days per week and what the actual heck I feel like a short order cook. I’m immediately buying everything on your list. What do I love and use all the time and feel grateful each time I do that I have it? My digital kitchen scales. And having 900 colander / sieve type items for the endless endless pans of pasta I make for the kids.
Have you bugged my kitchen? I’ve been cursing all day ‘who’s got the bloody scissors?’.
i got divorced and bought four pairs of scissors! I’m not joking! (After half a bottle of Rioja and the final episode of Tiger King, watched with my new other half over WhatsApp video – we press play together 😊)
I’m so going to regret writing this.
Wonderful post, Esther. So useful. To which I can only add: digital scales, which you zero-back after each additional into the bowl, makes baking much less messy and stressful. Oh, and a loaf tin for baking that is adjustable – you wait and see how much cake mix you have, then expand or contract the tin so that it matches the volume of content. It’s magic.
Maureen Mccollum says
Over many years I have tried and given up on conventional kitchen tongs. I discovered ice cube tongs and have never looked back. And they are cheap to buy!
I have le creuset silicone spoon/spatula which is the greatest stirrer/remover of every last bit of everything from a pan or bowl be it hot or cold.
It’s about 10 years old and still going strong and comes on any holiday with us where I will be required to cook as al good utensils should.
Full Aggie – dogs vacuumed; cat arranged on a clean shelf; impeccable spice drawers (alphabetised!!) and now starting on cataloguing the books using a library app. Thanks, just bought a Tupperware set, a fruit basket and a wooden stirrer. Pure joy.
Such a great post, thank you! I love my fruit stand and Bake O Glide & am going off to get the steel bowls and silicone spoons immediately. My life changing kitchen tip: freeze batch cooked stews/soups or leftovers in silicone muffin trays. When it’s frozen, decant the lumps into a large Tupperware or freezer bag & they are each 1 portion for easy defrosting. So much easier than having millions of 1-portion boxes in the freezer. And easy for a tween/teen child to bung a lump of something in the microwave and boil some rice or pasta to go with it, if they don’t like what everyone else is having.
Lesley Somerville says
That is genius!
My most used things include my magic bullet, the cheap one is amazing, I make smoothies, hummus, pesto, breadcrumbs, everything in it and it’s only £40 on Amazon.. NUTRiBULLET Magic Bullet Blender, Mixer & Food Processor, 11 piece set https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B078H22NBQ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_9XQMEbZPND7W2
Scissors yes, I have the same serrated pair you can separate that someone else mentioned and they’re amazing.
I also have a mini sieve which is perfect for dusting flour on the side when you’re making bread or pastry, plus sprinkling icing sugar on top of things!
What a great post! Have clicked through to order silicon spoons and tongs. I already have a multitude of scissors and little Victorinox knives, genius items that I always bring on holiday (sob! Will there ever be another holiday again?)
But I’m backing away, shaking in fear, from your mandoline suggestions… I am the sobering example of What Can Happen When… you don’t follow the advice and always use the slicing protector. Yes, day one of my new mandolin and I took half an inch off my pinky finger. It was a decade ago but I still shudder thinking about it. Can never use one again but have mad knife skills so ‘tis fine.
My mother-in-law has used the same wooden spoon for fifty years .. it has been whittled away to half the size through all the stirring. When the grandchildren ask what happened to the rest of it she says “we’ve eaten it!” Great fun.
Yes to mandolin, those small serrated knives (I have 10 so can never not find one) and agree a bullet is an absolute winner, I bought mine to replace a kitchenaid blender, my daughter can use it to make pancakes without any help. My other favours thing is a tabletop teppanyaki grill – brilliant for quick suppers of fish chicken and grilled veg when you don’t have much time and or can’t be bothered. It’s also safe enough for my nine year old to use relatively unsupervised to cook pancakes , I got it from Aldi.
Great post thank you. I’d add;
1. Joseph & Joseph collapsible colander
2. Mesh fly net food cover tent things – also collapsible- Lakeland/ Amazon
Both items great at home and essential for holidays (also sob)
My mum just died, not long after my dad, and we’re living in their house for complicated pandemic-related reasons. Their kitchen is *so* much better equipped than mine – multiple scissors, small knives, etc as per your vision – and it’s been a real eye opener. I’m going to do the exact same in my home whenever All This eventually ends.
Something I find helpful is little sieves for straining small kid sized servings of pasta and rice, then they don’t take up as much room in the dishwasher as the dreaded colander.
I’m all ears for any tips for the endless cooking and cleaning that goes along with small children.
Thank you for the wiping post. All. The. Fucking. Wiping.
Multiple scissors are key! Use for cutting pizza into slices as they’re much better than pizza slicers. Also I heard a tip on the radio yesterday about cutting up herbs in an old mug with a pair of scissors to stop them going everywhere.
Not a gadget but my main thrill of my kitchen is that I’ve stored all the plates, table mats and cutlery in the drawers that are closest to the table so it can be laid by the kids without them getting in the bloody way of the oven/sink/dishwasher etc. I’m not a Hincher but I do follow The Organised Mum method which, despite the naff name, is keeping our house going with three teenagers, two working parents and a golden retriever without a cleaner. You do 30mins a day in a specific room rotating through the week and one load of laundry a day and that’s it. It’s amazing. And has the advantage of helping you keep track of how long we’ve been in lockdown. Which is going on forever.
Thanks you Esther for this. How have I got to middle age and not known about jam spoons ? Plus why haven’t I got more than one pair of scissors when I spend most of my kitchen time looking for the one pair I have ? And a tiered fruit bowl ! Brilliant
Sieves. You need multiple sieves. When I only had one and needed it to sift flour / icing sugar etc I would invariably discover that it was trapped in the dishwasher for 3 hours or had just been used to defrost a packet of prawns.
On the same theme as the jam spoons, you need a Joseph Joseph silicon bowl scraper for when you are making cakes. Game changing.
Oven gloves and mitts – don’t bother. And don’t use a tea towel instead as they can trail over a gas flame.
I use regular face cloths to hold hot things, they are thin enough to ‘feel’ what you are holding (unlike mitts which are hard to grip with) and they the free up your arms to open wide (unlike oven gloves that tie your arms together.They are so cheap to buy and recycle to use as floor cloths when they get tatty.
Joseph Joseph collapsible digital scale. And a le cruset casserole dish. And a microwaveable steamer if your kids are anywhere near weaning age. Never before have I felt so strongly that my house is my castle. I can’t decide if I love or hate it.
Jen jen says
MINI CHOPPER. Sling in the onion, carrot, celery one after the other, so quick and so much easier than getting the whole food processor out. Do stale bread to breadcrumbs, make mayonnaise, hummus, etc. Love it!
My must have is a mini food processor. They are so handy for willing up quick sauces / marinades / pesto whatever – no faff like there is with a full sized one , and so easy to Chuck in the dishwasher afterwards. I really recommend trying one.
(Sigh: what have I become)
Thanks Paul. Imagine how great it would be if we could make a sauce just by WILLING it…
A friend once gave me this grater and said it was expensive but indispensable. True!
Julia Probyn says
A few years ago my husband raided Lakeland and came home with five pairs of scissors for the kitchen. It would never have occurred to me; but now several times a day I reach for scissors and there’s always a pair at the tip of my fingers. It’s a very good trick to keep your wife feeling smug about having married you.
When I a student I was given a solid silver honey spoon commissioned for me (monogrammed and all) by a youthful admirer. It hooks on neatly to the side of the jar. It is unfortunate that he did not think to check whether I actually like honey. I don’t.
There’s a moral in there somewhere.
Sorry I don’t mean to sound sexist but this is such a man thing to do
I can add:
Joseph Joseph nest of measuring spoons – increases my chances of success at a recipe and click together to be stored safely in the cutlery drawer. I have had them for years and not yet lost one.
One of those swivelly wooden honey spoons. Much more efficient than a sticky teaspoon.
Off the order some things I never knew I needed now….
My husband takes the piss out of me constantly for using scissors to cut pizza, bacon, herbs, everything. He’s the son of a chef and is obsessed with the idea of the right knife for the right job. But I’m officially validated now thanks to you Esther!
My others are:
Microplane (the only thing to prepare garlic with)
Whisk (a tip from Hugh FW- whisking flour gets lumps out faster and tidier than sieving)
Mini blender- we call the THE OBLITERATOR (in a German accent) Ace for herbs and curry pastes
And aforementioned husband for being so obliging about doing the jobs I hate for me- lining cake tins, sharpening knives etc)
I was seduced with Nigella’s mezzaluna-ing- she’s constantly reaching for it on her TV shows, so I bought a beautiful one with its own stand and concave chopping board one Christmas. Used it a maximum of five times. Why? Because scissors. They are just easier, not least to wash.
DE OBLIDDERADOR. Love it. Scissors for everything. Scissors for the win. SCISSORS FOR PRIME MINISTER
Nancy N says
Oh YES to scissors. My most useful thing is a little handheld blender – bought for about a tenner in Sainsbury’s ages ago. I use it for making soup (any old veg) and for giving stuff like bolognese a bit of a whir because am too lazy to chop things finely. Actually, anything that might need to be chopped finely – just blitz in. Also useful for making curry pastes.
I dream about new packets of Bake-o-Glide not even kidding
Cheese slicer (which can also be used for cucumber), small pair of tongs with silicone ends, and small colander. And the way I feel at the moment, a notebook to take orders as I might as well be a waitress.
Claire R says
I feel very strongly about the following things in my kitchen:
– A silicone spiral whisk, so you can do a bechamel/dressing/roasting tin gravy without scratching the non stick coating in your pan. This one from Fiskars is excellent: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00PQFEGAE/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
– This OXO pepper mill. Sex is OK, but this pepper mill is amazing. You can see when you are running low on peppercorns, there are different grit settings, and the mill part stores upright so no peppery debri on your counters. https://www.oxouk.com/products/christmas/gifts-30-and-under/pepper-grinder
– My sodastream – this felt like a mad thing to buy initially but I LOVE it. We drink absolutely tons of fizzy water in this house and we use it all day every day. SO much less plastic. The only bugger is that you have to wash the bottles by hand. If you could just put them in the dishwasher it would be perfect.
– Three very sharp large chefs knives. Similarly to the scissors, I need to reach for one and for them all to not be in the dishwasher
– Proper steak knives. We have a set with giant macho wooden handles, like a 70s spanish restaurant.
– Potato bag – you don’t need this but I find the drawstring shroud made of blackout material very pleasing https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004VQXCNQ/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_9rhOEb1KB143H
– This very particular large silicone spatula from OXO – nothing flips an egg quite like it. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000JPVCYE/ref=twister_B07MJGWHGG?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
Scissors. We have so many scissors (not helped by need LH and RH scissors) and they all end up in the playroom.
As far as the wooden stirrer goes, what you really need is a Spurtle. A traditional Scottìsh tool that is sold for stirring porridge but is the best thing to stir custard or bechamel sauce or soup or anything really .
Wowzers. The tiered fruit stand has indeed changed our fruit-eating life. No longer required to rummage through a mountain of good or slowly-going-off easy peelers whilst squashing the pears! Thank you x