Shopping for new kitchen gear can be exciting and overwhelming all at once — there are so many options to choose from, and not every tool is created equally. So doing your homework is required. If you base your shopping on bargains, you risk coming home with an inferior product. If you spring for the latest invention, you may soon realize you just bought something you’ll never really use.
However, some classic culinary tools — those items that both stand the test of time and help to make meals better on a regular basis — are worth digging into your wallet for. We asked Julian D’Ippolito, the executive chef at Toronto’s La Palma, to help identify the kitchen tools that will definitely hold up over time.
Here are seven items that, if properly taken care of, will serve in your kitchen for the rest of your life. How’s that for return on investment?
French Oven (A.K.A. Dutch Oven)
The French oven may seem like a humble tool, but Le Creuset’s version has been around for nearly 100 years, proving that it’s also darn useful.
“I love mine,” said D’Ippolito. “When I’m short on time but want to pack in a lot of flavour for dinner, I’ll put on a quick chicken leg braise. My wife also loves it.”
Just make sure you get it in a colour you like, because you’re going to have it for a while.
Try Le Creuset’s Round French Oven for $530 at Hudson’s Bay.
Cast Iron Pan
Cast iron might not be quite as user friendly as modern non-stick pans, but it’ll last a heck of a lot longer.
“I have one my chef gave me when I was working in the Netherlands eight years ago,” said D’Ippolito. “I love it. But they do need a little love, that’s for sure. Make sure you ‘season’ them, wash them by hand and never leave them wet.”
Try the 15 1/2-Inch Lodge Cast Iron Round Fry Pan for $109 from Williams Sonoma.
D’Ippolito suggested picking up a flat-bottomed wok instead of a round one as they conduct heat more evenly and fit more comfortably on most stove tops.
“Woks are so versatile,” he said. “Aside from preparing quick stir-fry meals, woks can be used for steaming, smoking and shallow frying proteins and vegetables, among lots of other things.”
Try the Napoleon Stainless Steel Wok for $70 at Home Depot.
Stainless Steel Pots and Pans
Thanks to their strong anti-corrosion properties, stainless steel pots and pans can retain their usefulness and their good looks for a considerable period of time.
“As a general rule, a thick-bottomed pot will always be your friend,” D’Ippolito told us. “They hold heat long and conduct more evenly. Stay away from aluminum.”
Once you’ve got a quality set, care for them by using non-corrosive washing materials and drying them after washing. If the steel starts to take on a rainbow colour, you can wash it with vinegar, and if you burn it, use some cheap and effective BarKeeper’s Friend Spray to get it out.
Try the Jamie Oliver by T-FAL Cooper Star Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set for $800 at Hudson’s Bay.
“A good, sharp chef’s knife is paramount,” said D’Ippolito. “Sharp knives need less force to cut than dull knives, and less force means less damage to the food, which you can easily see by looking closely at the cut. A big reason why people tear up when cutting an onion is because they are tearing it with a dull knife instead of slicing through it cleanly.”
Don’t be afraid to spend a bit of money on a knife that you really love the look of and grip. They don’t require any special treatment; they just need to be washed, dried and stored correctly — only sharpen as needed.
Try the Wüsthof 8-Inch Classic Wide Chef’s Knife for $248 at Williams Sonoma.
A knife steel doesn’t actually “sharpen” the blade; it hones it. So, as you use your knife, the blade begins to lose its edge as well and its alignment. Knife steel helps to realign the blade, so to speak.
“Running your knives on a knife steel every once and awhile will bring the edge back, but that’s not sharpening,” said D’Ippolito. “Still, a high quality knife steel should help the average cook out.”
Try Zwilling J.A.Henckles’ 12-Inch Twin Butcher Sharpening Steel for $55 at Hudson’s Bay.
“For people who are more serious about their knife honing, I suggest buying a sharpening stone. Such a great investment,” D’Ippolito explained.
“If you find yourself putting too much pressure on your knife to cut something or if your cuts are becoming inconsistent, your knife may need attention,” he advised. “When I can’t slice through a tomato, I know it’s time for some maintenance.”
Try the Ohira Japanese Natural Whetstone for $355 at Fendrihan.