The 20 kitchen tools you need to make 90% of our recipes

1. Oven

cropped-Oven.jpegYou definitely need this kitchen tool. Most ovens are electric but the symbols on the controls are not always obvious. Experienced cooks know these things (apparently) so don’t always keep instruction books. You will need the instruction book. First look for the exact model and serial number on the edges of the door and ask Mr Google who will do his best to find the instruction book on-line for you.

You will need to know if it has a fan or not because that means a shorter cooking time than an oven without one. Look at the back wall of the oven and if you can see something that looks like a fan you probably have one. You are also likely to hear a noise from the fan when you turn on the oven. More about ovens and what they do in other posts.

2. Microwave

Microwave 2

A microwave can be freestanding or built-in like an oven. Again the instruction book  would be helpful as many of microwaves have very helpful features if only you knew how to use them.

Two things to never put into a microwave are metal and glass items. Actually eggs have a habit of exploding in there too.

The key “must know” is what power the microwave has. Some just have one or two output settings but most have several that you can select. It’s like a heat setting. The higher the number the quicker that food gets cooked. Recipes and microwave dishes are based on a specific power output such as 500w, 700w, 850w or 1,000w for example. The specific outputs on a product or recipe may not match the specific power setting available on your microwave and you will need to adjust timings. Yes I know this is a bit crazy. This is one areas where we actually need a standard.  Here is a simple microwave conversion table. which will help.  More about microwaves and how to manage timings in other posts.

3. Hob

HobSome people have gas hobs but they appear to be either serious cooks or have old kitchens. No, I don’t understand that either. A modern electric hob looks something like this induction hob. According to Which consumer magazine induction hobs are cheaper to run and heat up quicker. I’m pleased to say that I inherited an induction hob.

Unfortunately just to confuse people like us there are three types of electric hob (induction, ceramic and solid plate) and not all saucepans, woks or pans can be used on all types of hob. The general rule is that if a magnet sticks to a pot or pan they will work on an induction hob. Those that don’t work tend to be the lighter, cheaper versions without the heavy shiny metal disc thing on the bottom. My simple solution is to only buy pots, pans and woks that work on every type of hob. Problem avoided.

4. Sharp knifes

Set of KnifesTo see if the knives that you have inherited are sharp try cutting a tomato. I would recommend wearing old clothes for this task – just in case. It’s only when you try to slice something soft that you realise how important a sharp knife is.

You’ll need a big knife for slicing vegetables and meat. It’s also good for cutting/dicing things and chopping up herbs. When you do these tasks remember to keep the top knuckle of your fingers that are holding the product on the side of the blade and every bit of you away from underneath the blade. This is what chefs do to retain all their fingers.

A smaller knife often called a utility knife is used for pretty much everything else except cutting bread. The middle knife above with serrated blade does that. You don’t really need to buy a full set of knives but they do look great on a block in the kitchen.

5. Roasting tray/baking sheet

Roasting tray and baking sheetThe roasting tray goes in the oven not just for roasting things but also for cooking food from the freezer such as fish, chips and apple strudel etc. The key feature of a roasting tray is that food should not stick to it. This avoids food burning and a lot of effort washing up. It’s worth investing in a quality roasting tray with excellent non stick qualities that don’t wear off in a few weeks. This one costs about £25 from John Lewis. It also serves as a baking sheet so you could save some money by not buying one of those. I know it sounds expensive but the less than £10 alternatives only lasted me a few months. A tip to cut out washing up is to put a piece of greaseproof paper underneath products like pies and frozen desserts to prevent them sticking to the tray or leaking onto it.

6. Wok

WokThere was no Wok in my inherited kitchen but now I use one three or four times a week. The key feature is the same as the baking tray, non stick. Don’t buy the cheapest and be careful to ensure that it works on your hob. This is the one I use and it has a titanium ceramic surface. Well it impressed me. It was about £40 in John Lewis. Check out the many things that you can use a wok for in addition to stir fry in the recipes. To reduce the risk of damaging the non stick surface always make sure that you have oil or water in the wok before you turn it on.

I must admit that the Wok and the microwave have been my two favourite kitchen tools.

7. Set of saucepans

Red saucepansYou will need three saucepans. They don’t have to be red or even bought as a set. The smallest is called a milk saucepan. Seems a bit strange because I’ve never used it for milk but it’s good for cooking or heating small amounts of food or sauces. The other two saucepans should be 16cm and 18cm diameter. Some recipes translate this to large and medium. The best pans often have internal markings to show capacity so you don’t have to measure. They should also have lids, preferably glass so that you can see what’s cooking, and be “oven safe” so they can also be used in, or transferred to, an oven.

A frying pan is not essential if you have a Wok but if you do get one non-stick is the easiest to use and clean. Needless to say they must work on your type of hob but I’ve said that so many times I promise that I won’t mention it again.

8. Cooking pot

Cook potMost of my recipes are done quite quickly but some stews, curries and certain types of meat need to be done slowly in an oven or on a hob. A cooking pot doesn’t need to be top of your shopping list for kitchen tools but you will need one for some types of dishes.

The main reason that people don’t buy one is the price. The most expensive is over £100 which is far more than most kitchen tools. Fortunately there are many less expensive versions available in John Lewis and Lakeland that will meet your needs.

9. Microwave rice steamer

Microwave rice steamerCooking rice is one of those tasks that many people claim never to be able to get right. My Inherited Kitchen fans hate a challenge like that and want something that will get it right every time with minimum effort. This is it.

You may wonder why a niche kitchen tool like this made it into the top 20. The “not many people know that” fact is that a microwave rice steamer can also be used for cooking other things such as potatoes,  pasta, soup, stew and even paella.

10. Microwave steamer

Microwave SteamerFrom frozen vegetable to cooked in 4 minutes 20 seconds. Need I say more? It cooks fresh vegetables just as quickly but even more important the food retains its flavour. In fact they taste much better than vegetables over cooked on a hob. This is one of my most frequently used kitchen tools.

11. Spatula set (stirrers) made of silicone

Spatular set (stirrers)If you have non stick pans you must have non scratch tools. If you still have any metal tools in the kitchen throw them away now. Replacing them costs far less than replacing saucepans.

I recommend washing these types of kitchen tools by hand. If you don’t the nice shiny, non stick silicone surface will eventually wear off and you could be left with what looks and tastes like a lump of rubber.  However, old spatulas can be used to stir tins of paint when you eventually get round to decorating the kitchen.

12. Food turner made of silicon

The first time that I tried to take a cooked fish out of the oven I realised that it would Food turner siliconnot have been so messy if I’d used the right tool. For very delicate fish I use one turner in each hand to stop it breaking.

Get a food turner with holes in and you can also use it to take food out of hot water or oil.

13. Chopping/Cutting board

Chopping boardThere are three reasons to have a chopping board. The first is that it’s less likely to blunt a blade than most other surfaces. Second, get the right type and it will not slip on the worktop making cutting safer and easier. The last one is food hygiene.

Best practice is to have separate boards for uncooked and cooked meats. Being a bit paranoid on food hygiene I have four different chopping mats to keep different products well away from one another.

14. Potato masher

potato masherIf  you want to mash potatoes, or anything else, you need one of these. Make sure that its not metal so that you can use it in non stick pans and the microwave steamer.

15. Sieve

A sieve is the less dangerous way to drain cooked pasta, rice andSieve potatoes. Avoid getting a small one and go for about 18cm diameter across the top.


16. Kitchen timer

When my son’s mother in law bought me a kitchen timer I must admit that my first reaction was “why do I need this?” The oven has a timer already. What you can’t do Timerwith the oven timer is to carry it around with you to other rooms and let it remind you when you need to go back to the kitchen. The kitchen timer is also very good at recording the total cooking time needed to complete all components of a meal.

A non cooking use is to remind you when football is about to start on TV.  Other sports may be available – so I’m told.

Kitchen scales17. Kitchen scales

It’s really easy to cook too little or, even rarer, too much food. So you really need scales to get it right. Look at the how-much-guide to see how much to use for most of the recipes. Make sure that the scales you buy have a “tare” setting. This allows you to put a container on the scales and it will show you the weight of the contents that you add excluding the container.

Vegtable peeler and scrapper18. Vegetable peeler/scraper

Peeling potatoes with a knife always looked to me like some form of punishment. Using this is almost therapeutic.

19. Measuring jug

Measuring jugSame as the scales but for liquid. You need one of these. The key thing to look for when buying a measuring jug is that the measurements are easy to read and not made more difficult if you happen, like me, to be left-handed. This one from OXO ticks all the boxes. It has a slopping edge inside making everything easy to read even from above.

20. Meat thermometer

Meat thermometerSo what’s best? Overcooked food that tastes awful or undercooked food that may be dangerous?  The solution is a meat thermometer. Get one that shows both Fahrenheit and Centigrade plus the recommend safe temperature for different types of meat. This type of thermometer remains in the meat during cooking and must be visible through the oven window.

Are these all the kitchen tools I’ll ever need?

While these 20 items will help you with 90% of My Inherited Kitchen recipes you will also want to get some other kitchen tools as well. As I discover interesting devices I’ll post them on the blog. If you have good or bad things to say about kitchen tools that you have tried please let me know.

If you haven’t done it already you need to sort out the kitchen tools that you have inherited. You never know what you will find. Here is the best way to do it.

Time for your next challenge?

Ok, lets be honest. Do you have all of the 20 kitchen tools listed above? If not you will have to go shopping. Here are some tips to make it easier.