Equipping the Plant-Based Kitchen
Is it time to upgrade the tools in your kitchen? There are a lot of options out there that will make your kitchen life a lot easier and more efficient. Below are some guidelines and suggestions. If you’re starting from scratch or just need an excuse to get some new kitchen equipment, buy the best quality items you can afford; they may cost a little more to begin with but will last decades if you take care of them.
Pots and Pans
A good, heavy gauge set of pots and pans with lids is probably the most important thing in your kitchen. Look for stainless steel or anodized aluminum with a thick bottom that distributes heat evenly. The set should include 2-3 different sized sauce pans, 1-2 non-stick skillets and a soup pot. If the set is all metal, it could also be used in the oven and under the broiler – though non-stick pans should not be used in the oven.
Cast iron is an inexpensive option. Cast iron transmits heat well and can also be used in the oven. Be sure to season cast iron pans and keep them well oiled so that they don’t rust.
A wok with lid is very versatile to have since it can be used as a steamer, a stir-fry pan, a sauce pan, and (if all metal and non-stick) in the oven.
Pressure cookers are great devices for making food fast as well as for canning. They are especially useful for preparing beans and grains. Look for heavy gauge stainless steel with multiple safety features – or a plug-in countertop version.
Steaming baskets are helpful for cooking vegetables and rice. Look for stainless steel “1-size-fits-all” or bamboo steamers that will fit inside a large pot or wok. Sometimes pot and pan sets will include a steamer insert or a special pot with holes in the bottom. Steamed food retains more nutrients and is healthier than foods that are boiled or cooked in oil.
If you eat a lot of pasta you may want to purchase a pasta insert for your large stock pot. The insert allows you to pull and drain the pasta right in the pot. It could also be used as a steamer.
If you are a tea or coffee drinker, a tea kettle provides a quick way to boil water. Electric tea kettles are also available.
No kitchen is complete without a good set of sharp knives. The most common types are; high carbon stainless steel, carbon steel, stainless steel and ceramic. Find a style and weight that fits your hand. Select knives where the blade extends to the end of the handle and rivets hold the handle together. Buy the best knives you can afford because, like a good set of pots and pans, they will last at least a very long time. Learn to sharpen the knives because a sharper knife means less effort to cut without slipping or sawing.
Look for wood or bamboo cutting boards that are large enough for your needs. Have two or three cutting boards so that friends and family can join in.
If you buy in bulk or want fresh pantry items close at hand, purchase a multiple sized set of glass jars, stainless steel or clear polycarbonate containers with tight fitting lids. Large food-grade containers can store from 25 to 50 pounds of dried goods in the pantry. Mason jars are very useful and inexpensive.
A Smart Label Printer attached to your computer can be used to create labels to quickly identify varieties of beans, grains, nuts and flours. Using a transparent label lets you see the contents of the jar more readily.
There are many tools that simplify life in the kitchen. Look for tools that fit your hand, can withstand high heat and are easy to clean, Here is a list:
A garlic press minces garlic with a squeeze of the hand.
Use a hand grater for carrots, beets, non-dairy “cheese,” and onions.
Fine graters are good for nutmeg and lemon zest.
A Mandoline will slice, julienne and cut French fry shapes.
A potato masher is quicker than a fork when mashing any vegetable.
A whisk can be very helpful when making gravy.
Vegetable peelers are helpful tools for removing tough vegetable skin.
Look for a can opener with a comfortable grip.
Use spatulas for flipping pancakes and rubber spatulas to scrape batter out of the bowl.
Get soup out of the pot with a ladle.
Use wooden spoons for mixing bread dough, chili and stir-fries.
Use tongs for serving salad and turning falafels.
Ice cream scoops can also be used for cookie dough.
A pizza cutter makes quick work of slicing homemade pizza.
Measuring cups and spoons
Cooks need to measure everything from spices and salt to beans and flour. Look for a sturdy set of cups and spoons that are easy to read and wash up easily.
A kitchen scale is not essential in a North American kitchen, but is helpful when converting recipes or when precise measurements are required.
Mixing bowls can double as serving bowls. Look for glass or stainless steel sets.
Casserole dishes/Dutch oven
Casserole dishes can double as baking dishes and serving dishes. Look for thick ceramic, glazed terra cotta or enamel cast iron with lids.
Baking pans and Accessories
If you like to bake, or warm leftovers in the oven, get a set of metal, glass, stone or silicone baking pans. Convenient sizes and shapes include: 8” x 8”, 9” x 5”, 9” x 13”, muffin pan, round cake pans, pie pan and a baking/cookie sheet. There are also bundt, 9” x 9”, “jelly roll”, spring form and roasting pans.
Bread bakers might include French bread, baguette, hearth and Pullman pans.
Pizza lovers might want to purchase a pizza baking stone.
A cooling rack is nice to have for bread, cakes, muffins and cookies.
Use a rolling pin to make pie crust, biscuits and empanadas.
Kitchen appliances are not essential for a plant based diet, but they certainly make food preparation quicker.
A toaster isn’t essential, but it is nice to have it you like toast! A toaster oven can also be used to roast nuts, warm pita bread or bake small batches of cookies. Stove-top toasters are also available.
A blender is great for making smoothies, hummus and pureeing soup. Look for blenders made of glass or polycarbonate plastic with multiple speed options.
A hand-held or immersion blender purees soup and mixes batter and beverages. Look for one that cleans up easily and fits your hand.
A slow cooker or crock pot is not essential but provides an easy method for making soup, chili, multi-grain breakfast or cooking beans. Buy a crock pot that is large enough to make a meal for your household and had a Low, High and Warm option.
A food processor isn’t crucial to a plant based kitchen, but is very, very helpful. Look for a food processor that has multiple slicing, grating and blending blades.
A spice or coffee grinder is another helpful appliance to have in the kitchen. It can also be used to grind grains.
If you like to eat popcorn, invest in a popcorn popper. Look for a hot air, stove top or electric model.
If you like fresh vegetable, fruit or wheatgrass juice, or fresh nut butters and sauces, purchase a juicer. Several different types of juicers are available so look for a machine that suits your needs with easy-to-clean parts and a powerful motor.
An electric tea kettle is convenient and an efficient way to boil water.
Making bean, nut or grain non-dairy milk at home with a soy milk maker is an economical option. Choose a machine with durable parts that is easy to clean.
A water filter provides a handy way to get clean, fresh water at home. Choose a brand with multiple layers of filtration and change the filter regularly.