Stuff You Should Have in Your Kitchen, chapter 1

I need to explain something about my personality: I hate replacing stuff. Hate it. I research the hell out of everything that I buy about 99% of the time just to make sure that I won’t need to buy it again down the road. The other 1%, I make sure that it won’t matter.

This is not the cheapest-per-incident scenario, though. I mean, I spent $100 on cooking utensils. Yep, spoon, ladle, soup strainer, fork, spatula. A hundred bucks. That’s some serious scratch for most people. And it was for me, too. But here’s the thing about spending big bucks smartly… If you buy the right thing the first time, you can amortize the cost of whatever it may be over the useful life of the item. I might’ve spent $100 on 5 tools, but I will never – seriously, never – need to buy those tools ever again. They are 1-piece (no seams), stamped 18/10 stainless steel utensils from All-Clad. I’ll use them for 50 or 60 years. There’s a good chance that my grandkids will be using those things when I’m pushing up daisies out on the Back Forty. Break the $100 down on a per-meal basis, and you’re counting fractions of fractions of a penny. Each tool costed about $20, but turns out to be practically free.

Here’s a couple rules I use for identifying the right instances where spending more on something is probably a good idea:

1 – Frequency of use.

If I’m going to use something every day, or several times per day, the item has to be sturdy enough to handle that. Things that are used in the kitchen are subjected to the most extreme conditions in any house. They’re put in fire, water, acidic environments, alkaline environments, refrigerated environments…

Your kitchen tools need to be able to take that kind of abuse. Most plastics, even modern silicone plastics, will not stand up to this type of abuse for too long, and that plastic will eventually end up in a landfill someplace.

2 – Few or Zero moving parts.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A seam, hinge, swivel, weld, or other joint is automatically the first thing that’s going to break. Fewer unions between parts reduces the opportunities related to incompatible materials down to zero. But, if you have to have some joints, there’s a good chance that buying the product that’s made of the BEST material available is going to be the cheapest option over the life of the product, which is likely to be longer than your life. Not to be macabre about it, but it’s true.

My mom has a spatula in her kitchen that she received for her wedding. It’s got a stainless steel paddle riveted to a stainless stem, riveted to a rosewood handle. This is quality construction of quality materials. Rosewood has a high silica content and is highly rot-resistant, and good stainless never rusts. She might hand that spatula down to a grandkid.

I had a nice, very flexible steel spatula with a silicon covering on the paddle. The silicone was a nice touch; it made the spatula safe to use on the non-stick cookware I was using at the time, and was easy to clean. But it began to crack after a few months in service, which rendered the whole tool uncleanable and unsafe. I paid extra for that silicone coating and that spatula has been sent off to a landfill somewhere. Perfect case of too many ill-assembled parts, and the cost versus benefit ratio on that spatula was not favorable.

3 – Cleanability.

Cutting boards, basting brushes, sieves, sifters, and graters are all places where bacteria can get trapped and grow. It’s important to recognize that not all of these items are created equal. Rust on the screen of a sieve or sifter gives opportunity for a tetanus infection. Rancid oils or bacteria trapped under the binding on a natural or synthetic basting brush can introduce bacteria to your food. This can be harmful. Same thing with cutting boards. I won’t get into the wood vs. plastic debate here, but I will say that wood is technically not a cleanable surface due to inherent porosity and thus is not allowed in a commercial food production facility. Bottom line, make sure you can clean your tools because dirt on the tools can mean dirt in your food.

So that’s my philosophy on value. It makes good sense to spend a lot of money on certain things, but you have to know how to choose them! Remember, the best tools are made from few parts, what parts they have must be well-assembled and sturdy, and the tools must be cleanable. Spend money on these sorts of tools, and you’ll have the best chances of never needing to replace them.

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One Response to “Stuff You Should Have in Your Kitchen, chapter 1”

  1. Looking good! Love the header!

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