OUR HOME KITCHEN MUST-HAVES
Updated: Nov 17
When I tell others I'm dating a chef, responses usually include statements like "You're so lucky!" and "It must be nice!" While I am lucky to have found James, it would be unfair for me to act as though dating a hospitality worker makes for 'normal' relationship. As with any relationship, we've created our normal.
James' work hours are long (8AM-10PM) and physically demanding. Plus, the restaurant industry has a habit of leaving successes unnoticed and failures exploited, making their work emotionally taxing. And don't even get me started on the pay. I'll save those opinions for another post.
Despite these grievances, James and I actually have quite a bit in common as a chef and a scientist, respectively. Recipes and experiments are rather methodical, both require a step-wise approach and a keen sense of time management. Both require precision and at times, troubleshooting. Cooking is a science, you can read about it in The Food Lab. But the logistics of cooking in a restaurant kitchen are quite different than preparing a meal at home. James cooks all day at work, but he seldom gets to enjoy the relative relaxation, and the lack of ticket times, when cooking at home. Nonetheless, there are tools that make cooking in both a restaurant and a home kitchen more efficient and effective.
I've learned a lot from James re: kitchen techniques, efficiency, and seeing as though I'm the one with the blog, I wanted to pass along these resources to you all! Here are our home kitchen must-haves along with brief explanations of why we find them particularly useful!
SHEET PANS, eighth size
Did you know that sheet pans came in various sizes? Because I didn't. I knew there were big pans and small pans, but I had no idea that there exists an entire spectrum of sheet pans sizes. We frequently use the 1/8 size. They're perfect for a single's or couple's kitchen; you can bake a couple cookies or heat up single or double portions in the oven without having to use (and clean) an oversized sheet pan. They're also super inexpensive at $3 from The Restaurant Store. Click the image below to shop this size + explore other sizes.
James is obsessed with these tongs. I'll admit I didn't really get the hype at first, but when you're cooking multiple elements of a dish simultaneously, having a pair of sturdy tongs can come in handy. They're perfect for grilling, searing, turning vegetables, or moving hot pans around your stovetop. I call them the kitchen version of socks - you can never have too many! Click the image to shop.
PRECISION COOKER, sous vide
A precision cooker is an investment piece, but trust me, once you start using it, you'll fall in love (and realize it's worth every penny). I learned about sous vide techniques from James. For those of you who haven't heard of sous vide, you're not alone. The technique requires a water bath and precision cooker. A precision cooker is an efficient and effortless tool (think slow cooker/crockpot) that uses temperature control to do exactly what its name implies...cook with precision. You can (and should) read more about sous vide cooking here.
You can quite literally sous vide anything. Our favorite thing to sous vide? Chicken breasts. Why? Chicken is notoriously hard to cook. It can dry out easily if not monitored. Using a sous vide technique allows you to cook chicken breasts that remain juicy, imparting flavor and moisture with little user input. James has two precision cookers, and I've linked + highlighted the differences for you below.
"With precise temperature control in the kitchen, sous vide provides the following benefits:
Consistency. Because you cook your food to a precise temperature for a precise amount of time, you can expect very consistent results.
Taste. Food cooks in its juices. This ensures that the food is moist, juicy and tender.
Waste reduction. Traditionally prepared food dries out and results in waste. For example, on average, traditionally cooked steak loses up to 40% of its volume due to drying out. Steak cooked via precision cooking, loses none of its volume.
Flexibility. Traditional cooking can require your constant attention. Precision cooking brings food to an exact temperature and holds it. There is no worry about overcooking." - Anova Culinary
Option 1: Breville Joule Sous Vide
James calls the Breville Joule the Macbook of precision cookers. It is sleek, compact (fits in a drawer) and clips on to your pot of choice. You can set, monitor, and adjust cooking with WiFi/Bluetooth (through an app), and the app sends you a notification when when your food is ready. It will also keep it warm until you're ready to eat so your food never overcooks. The Joule is more expensive/advanced than the Anova (linked below). Click the image to shop.
Option 2: Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker
If you're interested in trying out sous vide techniques (before making a full commitment to a more expensive/durable precision cooker) James says the Anova is a great entry level machine. It can be used with an app, but it is easy to even without a phone. My mom hates to rely on technology so the lack of digitization is actually a plus for some. The Anova is a workhorse but less expensive ($129.99). Click the image to shop!
WOODEN COOKING UTENSILS
James loves using wooden cooking utensils as they are beautiful, practical, and sustainable. He suggests this Trifecta set from Earlywood! The set includes a flat saute, scraper, and spreader, and you can select your choice of wood. The tool James uses most often: the scraper. He scrapes burnt bits or buildup when cleaning pans after a meal. The set is under $50 and makes a perfect gift. Click the image to shop + watch Earlywood's video on how best to use the set.
Last, but certainly not least, James' must-haves list would not be complete without a cast and/or iron cookware. We have a lot of cookware because 1) I am dating a chef and 2) my mother loves to gift me practical kitchen gifts. Our three most-used cookware items are Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Cast Iron Skillet, and a Carbon Steel Farmhouse Skillet that has been hand-forged and weighs ~5lbs. Each of the three pans linked transfers and retains heat evenly. While enameled cast iron doesn't impart the same flavor as seasoned cast iron (definition linked), it is great for broth- and liquid- heavy dishes. Enameled cast iron can also be put in the oven. But in my opinion, nothing compares to the char that comes from a well-seasoned cast iron pan. I love cooking with our cast iron skillets, and James is obsessed with his Smithey Ironware Farmhouse Skillet. Click on the images to shop!
This list is not-exhaustive, and James has no shortage of insights and suggestions. These are just the most practical/useful items for our home kitchen. While a crockpot and Instant Pot are great tools, we don't rely on them heavily. Instead, we rely on our precision cooker for low maintenance dinner prep. Be on the lookout for follow-up posts with more At Home content!
What are your home kitchen must-haves? Drop + link your favorites in the comments!
If you feel inspired, comment on this post, share on Pinterest, send to a friend, and/or recreate it with your own personal flair. Don't forget to tag me! For more home inspiration, check out my At Home tab. For more style inspiration, check out my previous looks under the STYLE tab and follow me on Pinterest! Keep up with my everyday looks by following me on Instagram.
Until next time,