12 Kitchen Essentials
Every Cook Must Have
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Compared to a lot of others, I am most probably one of those people who don't buy every gadget I see on TV or the internet.  But, I must say that there are a few things that you must have in order to cook efficiently in the kitchen to get the best results.  So, here is what I highly recommend everybody have in the kitchen to achieve the same results as I do.

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Enameled Cast Iron Skillet

Why not just buy a regular one?  Well, if you have a ceramic or glass stove top, an 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 makers out there will tell you their heat resistance is up to 400F.  I have rarely seen other pots and pans that are able to stand more than 400F.  I may come across a few up to 425F.  Still, it is not common in the market.  What if you need to put that skillet into an oven with a higher temperature?  Do you wrap it in foil (as some people recommend) and pop it into the oven?  Do you feel okay 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 into the oven.

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Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Needless to say, this one has the same benefits as an enameled cast iron skillet.  But, its volume is much larger.  There are some slow cook recipes that come out much better when using a cast iron Dutch oven rather 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, I wanted to introduce you to the following kitchen-must-have.

This kind of Dutch oven is totally different from the other cast iron types.  They can be either aluminum, porcelain enamel or stainless steel.  The weight comparatively is much lighter, but the pot is still very sturdy.  I always use this when I need to make a bigger portion of dinners, 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 when I need to cook a much BIGGER portion of dinner, especially during my bi-weekly family dinner.  There usually are eight people at 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.  There are many kitchen gadgets out there that don't work the way they claim.  But man, oh man, how quickly I fell in love with this one.  

As soon as you buy any berries and get them back home, i.e., strawberries, blueberries, black berries, and raspberries, you need to transfer them into this container.  It is designed to fit one pound of strawberries.  Make sure to discard any berries that look suspiciously moldy or rotten.  When you get rid of them right away, your berries stay nice and fresh, NOT wrinkly 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 opened the box, they were as beautiful and fresh as the day I bought them.  But this is just a very rare incident.

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

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

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Onion Chopper

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

Think about slices of potatoes that I need to dice very often when cooking Oven Roasted Paprika Potatoes.  The first generation chopper can fit almost all potato 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 a 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, it is a significant amount of time and effort that increases your preparation time.

But with the new invention, the nowadays onion chopper can do other functions as well, such as thinly sliced vegetables and fruits.  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 a 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 at room temperature while you are at work all day, the smoothie is still nice and fresh.  It will also have the same texture as it had when it first came out of the blender.  

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

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Ninja Blender

I never liked using a blender in the past.  The older, traditional one literally took forever to blend anything to the right texture.  It is also more difficult and dangerous to wash.  

We bought our Ninja blender because my husband wanted to go on a smoothie diet.  Before the Ninja, we bought a blender with a single serving size cup, but it didn't last very long.  So, he started looking for a better quality blender.  He happened to stumble on one of the Ninjas, which was on sale.  So, he just jumped right into it.  Since then, we have had a lot of 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 is that not every knife set comes with this size blade.  In my opinion, this single knife is the most powerful and safest knife on the market.  If a knife set didn't include one of these, it is of no use to me.

What's the difference between this serrated knife when compared to others?

Have you ever tried to cut cabbage into halves through its core?  The core is one of the toughest parts of the cabbage which regular knives just won’t cut through.  This is the only knife that will give you the power to accomplish the task.  I have tried all the larger blades in a knife set to cut through its core.  None of them provides enough stability, so I end up struggling here and there before I can finally cut it through a few inches.  Then, the knife gets stuck in the middle of it.  This is when an 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 skillets on the market come with lids.  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 when cooking breaded chicken to keep the crust crispy.  Or it works great for sauteing 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 had been using it for quite a while before giving it to me.  I was in awe, especially after I forgot to bring any frozen food out in time to thaw for dinner or when the thawing process did not complete after I tried to do it in the fridge.

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Heat Resistant Oven Gloves

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

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