The Only 5 Kitchen Tools You Really Need… Or Not

casaveneracion.com wok, wooden chopping board, cleaver, bamboo steamer

There’s an article in Wired about the only five kitchen tools you really need. Surprisingly, the list included a thermometer and a cheese grater. My eyebrow shot up and… cheese grater? Really? Perhaps, the guy meant a multi-purpose grater?

After the initial shock, I had to concede that what is essential depends on the cooking culture one observes as well as the personal preferences of the cook. I mean, an Italian cook cannot do without a cheese grater but a cheese grater would be considered merely ornamental in a traditional Asian kitchen. In fact, I don’t see how a cheese grater and a thermometer would fit in an African kitchen.

The article also lists a chef’s knife as THE KNIFE that does just about everything from cutting to slicing to boning. Really? The Chinese constitute a large chunk of the global population and they don’t use chef’s knives — they use heavy duty cleavers that can cut through the bone. Can a chef’s knife do that? I didn’t think so. Considering that Chinese cuisine is one of the most widely embraced around the world, well, that kinda makes the argument in favor of the essential nature of a chef’s knife rather ironic.

As for the thermometer, well… it’s convenient, yes. I own one — an oven thermometer that Speedy gave me recently because the numbers around the temperature knob of the oven had started to wear off. But I haven’t taken the thermometer out of its package — yet. Thing is, when you spend enough time in the kitchen, not having a thermometer does not necessarily mean you have to guess how hot the cooking oil is or whether the roast is done. You just know.

After realizing ALL THAT, the article seemed sillier and falsely authoritative than ever as it sought to impose a universal standard for what is necessary and what is not, and I wasn’t even sure if the author cooks at all.

Well, anyway, according to my personal preference, there are six kitchen tools I cannot do without. Unlike the Wired writer, however, I will not say that they should be your essential kitchen tools as well. I’m using my own photos too — not something lifted from someone’s Flickr account.

A wooden chopping board, a cleaver, a wok (good for stir frying, deep frying, braising, boiling…) and a bamboo steamer. The two other musts for me which are not in the photos — a turner and a sandok.

Connie Veneracion

I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

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14 Responses

  1. How about a vegetable peeler and a can opener?

    But if you really have to narrow it down, I think I can live with a wok, a chopping board, and a chef’s knife. Di ko masyadong hiyang ang cleaver, ang bigat! Whenever we go out of town and stay in a place that has cooking facilities, those 3 essentials are what I take along :)

  2. happy joy says:

    Off topic Ms. Connie, Happy 5th Year Anniversary po!!! About the “right” design for this blog, akala ko pa naman eh trip nyo lang na halos every week eh nagiiba… pero ang cool nga eh! There is always something new!!! Ano pong translation ng chinese characters sa heading?

  3. larysa says:

    off topic..Connie I am an avid reader of your blog. However, the past two days whenever I click on your site (you’re on my favorites list) your main page that pops up is your entries back in Sept ’07. Usually it’s your latest entry. On your archive I can click March 2008 but not April 2008. I’m hunting all over the page to find your current entries. Help! BTW Love your blogs.

  4. Kongkong, did you see the discussion about can opener in the comment thread of the Wired article? Hilarious. LOL

    Happyjoy, thank you! And that’s my name in Chinese. LOL At least according to one site I saw last night. Can’t vouch for the authenticity.

    Larysa, can you try clearing the cache on your browser?

  5. inna says:

    i agree- my 5 most used are knife, chopping board, sandok, frying pan, pot holder
    very interesting topic. so, did you get your cast iron cooktop grill yet? :)

  6. My bro-in-law is arriving first week of August. He’s bringing it with him. :)

  7. Jill says:

    I work in China, cook mostly Chinese and Pinoy dishes, and do concur with your basic must haves, especially the cleaver and chopping board (for deboning, slicing, stripping, mincing… they do all these! Even most peeling… I use the blunt end to scrape the ‘skin’ off root crops).

    I’d also suggest a clay pot. In China, people still use earthen pots for cooking. All have tiny ‘ear’ handles, and some have cylindrical handles protruding from the side. They remind me of our palayok. Very good for lugaw, rice (when there’s no electricity), and stews.

    I think the thermometer is indispensible only if huge slabs of meat are your staple.

  8. Hi Jill. I’ve been tempted so many times to buy a clay pot but was not sure about a lot of things. How to clean it, for instance. No detergent, I suppose? One of these days I’ll get myself one and cook one of those flavored rice dishes I’ve seen in cookbooks. :)

  9. Rudy says:

    How about having a stove! Heh….heh..

  10. Hahaha isn’t that a given? Like a kitchen? LOL

  11. Joseph Nicdao says:

    Thanks for the very interesting article. I do have most of the tools you consider essential, except the bamboo steamer. Will appreciate if you can kindly tip us where to buy them?

  12. Joseph, the steamer is from Cooks Exchange at SM Megamall but they’re also available in supermarkets. Unimart and Shopwise both sell bamboo steamers.

  13. Ryan santiano says:

    Hi ms. Connie, i love your blogsite!

    Where can i get a wok? And also im in the hunt for a paellera. Thanks and more power

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