12 Kitchen Essentials
Every Cook Must Have
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Compare to a lot of people, I most probably is one of those people don't buy every gadget I see on TV.  But I must say that there are a few things that you must have in order to cook efficiently in the kitchen and get the best results.  So, here are what I highly recommend everybody to have in his/her own kitchen like mine.

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Enameled Cast Iron Skillet

Why not just a regular one?  Well, if you have a ceramic or glass stove top, a enameled cast iron skillet would work literally anywhere.  People love to use cast iron.  I myself usually use it mostly when I need to pop it into an oven.

Many skillets out there would tell you that their heat resistance is up to 400F.  (I rarely see other pots and pans was able to stand more than 400F.  I may come across a few for up to 425F.  Still it is not common in the market.)  What if you need to put that skillet into an oven with higher temperature, do you wrap a piece of foil (as some people recommended) around it and pop it into the oven?  Do you feel ok with it?  I don't.  You don't need to worry about it if you use a cast iron skillet.

I live in Upstate NY.  Winter could be nasty.  If we want to throw something on the grill, it could be difficult and COLD.  So, we use the cast iron skillet to pan sear the meat and finish the cooking by throwing the skillet and meat into the oven.

Of course, if you could afford to have the best of the best in the industry, that would be awesome.  I got a Le Creuset one as a gift.  Compared to the other brands, the price could be overwhelmingly expensive.  However, a cheaper brand could have the enameled part chipped off which it happened to my Dutch oven.

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Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Needless to say, this has the same benefits as enameled cast iron skillet.  But its volume is much bigger.  There are some slow cook recipes come out better by using a cast iron Dutch oven than a slow cooker.

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6-8-Quart Non-Stick Dutch Oven

However, cast iron sometimes is too heavy.  If you are cooking for a big party, you are better off with a lighter skillet.  So, this brings me to introduce you the following kitchen-must-have.

This kind of Dutch oven is totally different from the cast iron kind.  They can be either aluminum, porcelain enamel or stainless steel.  The weight comparatively is much lighter, but the pot is still very sterdy.  I always use this when I need to make a bigger portion of dinner, such as one-pot spaghetti and rice.  It is easier and safer to carry from the stove top to the dining table to serve.

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10.5-Quart Non-Stick Stockpot

There are times that I need to cook even a much BIGGER portion of dinner, especially during my family bi-weekly dinner.  There will be 8 people on the dining table.  If I plan for a one-pot meal instead of several dishes on the table, this is my go-to cookware.

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Berry Keeper

I must admit that I was skeptical at first.  Because there are many kitchen gadgets out there don't work the way as they claim.  But man, oh man....how quickly did I fall in love with them.  

As soon as you buy any berries back home, i.e. strawberries, blueberries, black berries and rapsberries, transfer them into this box.  The box is designed to fit one pound of strawberries.  Make sure to discard any berries that look suspiciously moldy or rotten, discard them right away.  Your berries will stay nice and fresh, NOT wrinkle or dry, in the fridge for up to a week. 

There was even a time that I totally forgot a pint of blueberries at the back of the fridge for over 2 weeks.  When I open the box, they are as beautiful and fresh as the day I bought them.  But this is just a very rare incident.

I must say for any berries stay nice and fresh for up to a week is pretty AWESOME.

They have many sizes nowadays.  6.3-cup is the size I recommend.

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Onion Chopper

I love, love, love this gadget, especially I have a lot of dicing in the kitchen.  The first generation one is great because the surface of the grid is bigger.  Compared to my current one, it is much less work.  How?

Think about a slice of potatoes that I need to dice very often for cooking Oven Roasted Paprika Potatoes....the first generation chopper can fit almost all potatoes slices in different diameters.  My current one can't.  So, I often need to cut the potatoes into halves lengthwise.  Then, I slice it up.  Think about one-pounder/potato you need to slice.  It may be as many as 10 slices.  Then, you will transfer those 10 slices one by one on the grid to chop.  Now, you need to multiply the entire process 2 times.  If you cook a lot, that is a significant amount of time and effort increase.

But with the new invention, the nowadays onion chopper can do other functions as well, such as thinly slices vegetables and fruits.  Understand that nothing is perfect.  But having one of these is a SUPER BIG time-saver.

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Thermo Cups

There are several smoothie recipes on EZ-DinnerIdeas.com and I love them all.  One challenge that I encounter time after time is how to make smoothie ahead of time, but still keep it frosty.  This thermo cup is my solution, especially this brand. 

It allows me to make the smoothie the night before.  All you need to do is to pour the smoothie into this thermo cup, cover the lid and chill at the back of a fridge.  Take it with you to work the next day.  Even though it stays in room temperature at work for the entire day, the smoothie is still nice and fresh with the same texture like it just came out of the blender.  

These thermo cups are dish washer safe.  They can be washed on the top rack.

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Ninja Blender

I never like to use blender in the past.  The old traditional one takes literally forever to blend anything to the right texture.  It is difficult and dangerous to wash.  

We bought our Ninja blender because my husband wanted to have a smoothie diet.  Before the Ninja, we bought a blender with individual serving size cup.  But it didn't last very long.  So, he was looking for some good quality blender.  He happened to stumble on one of the Ninjas on sales.  So, he just jumped right into it.  Since then, we had a lot smoothies.  I can also use this blender for making a smooth and silky soup.  It is also dishwasher safe, too.

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7-8" Serrated Knife

I assume everybody has a set of kitchen knives at home.  But what surprised me that not every knife set comes with this size.  In my opinion, this single knife is the most powerful and safest knife.  If a knife set didn't have one of these, it is no good to me.

What's the difference of this serrated knife compared to other knives?

Have you ever tried to cut a cabbage into halves through its core?  The core is one of the toughest things to cut through.  This is the only knife will give you the power.  I have tried all different big knives in a knife set to cut through a cabbage core.  None of them provides the stability, but struggling here and there before I could finally cut it through a few inches.  Then, the knife got stuck in the middle of it.  This is when accident happens in the kitchen.  

With this knife, I have never had to struggle when cutting through spaghetti squash or cabbage.

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Grease Splatter Screen for Frying Pan

Not all skillet in the market comes with a lid.  The screen may not block 100% of grease splattering out of your pan.  But it does help.  In my opinion, the best function of this grease splatter screen is to cover the skillet to keep the heat in, but let the food breathe at the same time. 

This is very effective such as cooking breaded chicken to keep the crust crispy.  Or it works great for sauteeing broccoli to keep the vegetables bright green instead of turning it into dull yellowish green.

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Defrosting Tray

My mother-in-law gave me her thawing tray when we first got married.  Apparently, she has been using it for quite a while before giving it to me.  I was in awe, especially when you forgot to bring any frozen food out for thawing.  Or the thawing process did not complete when you tried to do it in the fridge.

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Heat Resistant Oven Gloves

How many times did you get burn by using a regular pot holder or glove that came together in a package?  You will be amazed how much grip you get from this glove and the strength of its heat resistant.  We use oven at least once a week throughout the year.  This same pair of glove has been with me almost 10 years.  I got all my money back.

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