I talk about Nourishing Traditions quite a bit here as it has become a sort of pseudo kitchen Bible. When my kids were small, and we sat down to eat lunch together, I would sometimes grab it and read to them whatever “Sally” had to say about the vegetable or fruit we were eating that day. I even still do this every so often when we’re trying something new. I also appreciate the little sidebar anecdotes that accompany the recipes with information on specific ingredients and why the “diet dictocrats” are so wrong.
Of course, the other parts of the book are great resources as well, especially the kitchen equipment list. This is one of the first things I read when I was making the switch to traditional foods and found it to be immensely helpful, not only from the perspective of someone making that change but also just a good way to outfit and simplify my kitchen. I was able to get rid of a lot of stuff that I didn’t want anymore, as well as add a few small things that made cooking a lot easier.
Below is a list of the things she recommends in the book with links to products I use in those categories (or items that are very similar). Since I first got the book in 2011, this way of eating has become more popular and more companies are now offering kitchen tools and equipment that cater to those who have chosen this culinary path. As such, I also have another list after hers of additional tools that I use in my kitchen on a regular basis.
Essential Kitchen Equipment
Here are her recommendations:
- Stainless Steel Cookware – One of the first steps I took when I started eating real food was getting rid of my non-stick pans and switching to stainless steel. You get what you pay for with pans, so try to find a high-quality set from a good brand. You don’t need a set of 12 – just two or three well-made pans will do nicely. All-Clad and Le Creuset are higher-end options also.
- Stockpot – Many cookware sets include a stockpot, but you can also buy one separately.
- Cast-Iron Skillets – I bought my Lodge pre-seasoned skillet 12 years ago, and it has served me well. I’ve had to re-season it a few times, mostly due to my not understanding how to properly maintain a cast-iron skillet, and also because the pre-seasoning used by Lodge is soy-based, which we try to avoid.
- Flameproof Casseroles – I use my Lodge 6-quart Dutch oven for this, and it works great and is very affordable. LeCreuset makes beautiful and high-quality Dutch ovens, but they are pricey. When we roast whole turkeys, I rely on my Graniteware Roaster.
- Good Knives – I was fortunate to get a great set of J.A. Henckels knives from my dad when I moved out my own. This set is at least 30 years old, but it’s still going strong.
- Kitchen Scissors – Costco usually has deals on sets of scissors that are great in the kitchen, but you can also get them with knife sets.
- Wooden Cutting Boards – This is a category with which I’ve struggled as I’m not good at maintaining wooden cutting boards. Right now, I use plastic cutting boards that I picked up at Costco. I know plastic isn’t ideal, but it’s easier to care for as we can just throw them in the dishwasher.
- Handheld Blender – I primarily use this to make soups, though in the past I’ve also used to to make lacto-fermented ketchup and mayonnaise.
- Glass and Stainless Steel Food Containers – One of the first things we did after I read Nourishing Traditions was to ditch our plastic storage containers. At the time, Costco started selling Snapware Glasslock Containers for a great price, so we got a set (and then later another one). We also got a Pyrex glass set. When we pack lunches, especially for hikes, I also love the Blue Water Bentos from ECOlunchbox.
- Wide-Mouth, Quart-Size Mason Jars – These are the holy grail of traditional food cooking, and you can pick them up pretty much anywhere, though I really like these from Azure Standard. I use these for everything, including for canning and as storage containers. In addition to the quart-sized jars, we also have a set of half-gallon, wide-mouth jars, and pint-sized jars, which double as drinking glasses (and I also use these for canning). I also like larger gallon-sized glass storage jars for the pantry.
- Glass Beverage Containers – We don’t have special drinking glasses but generally just use Mason jars, or the jars that come with products we buy, as drinking glasses, and this has worked just fine for us. When we go for hikes, we either use our CamelBaks or bring our Lifefactory bottles.
- Food Processor – This is one thing I can’t imagine not having in my kitchen now. It makes meal prep so much easier!
- Stainless Steel Baking Pans and Cookie Sheets – I usually bake in an enamel broiler pan, various Pyrex or Ikea glass pans, Corningware, or a pizza stone, but I do also have a Norpro stainless steel baking sheet for the few times I need it.
- Handheld Mixer – This is one area where Sally and I disagree. I had a hand-held mixer for several years and did not find it convenient to use. Switching to a stand mixer is also one of the best kitchen investments I’ve ever made. We use it for everything from mixing baked goods to making ice cream to shredding chicken. It’s fantastic.
- Grain Mill, Grain Roller, Corn Mill – Now that we’re eating more buckwheat, I’ve thought about getting one of these, but for now my blender fills this function.
- Mini Mill – I have a coffee grinder specifically for grinding seeds and herbs.
- Ice Cream Maker – The attachment we have for our stand mixer works fine for us as we don’t make ice cream very often.
- Food Mill – I’m still a little iffy on this one as I had one but then ended up getting rid of it. It’s fantastic for mashing potatoes and making applesauce as I didn’t have to peel, and it got rid of skins and seeds. But the amount of space it took up wasn’t worth how rarely I used it.
- Stoneware – I covet any stoneware by Le Creuset, but we haven’t splurged on any of it yet.
- Juicer – This is something we’ve managed to live without. Usually when we’re making beverages, we use our blender or our food processor and they’ve sufficed for us.
- Popcorn Maker – I definitely disagree here. Her reasoning behind this was allowing children to participate in the process, but it just takes up extra space and is unnecessary when stovetop popcorn is so easy and tasty.
- Dehydrator – This has been invaluable for making yogurt as well as dehydrating nuts and fruit.
- Jet Stream Oven – I’ve actually found my toaster oven to be a great substitute for the microwave, though it may not cook as fast as a microwave or jet stream oven.
To this list I would add:
- Toaster Oven – I have an unhealthy infatuation with my toaster oven. As stated above, this is a fantastic substitute for the microwave and works great for baking small things when you don’t want to heat up the big oven. They even make ones these days that are big enough to cook an entire pizza.
- Crockpot/Slowcooker – I have two (one that has 3 different inserts but is sadly no longer sold), and I love them both, especially as I use them to not only make no-fuss meals, but also to make stock. It’s fantastic in the summertime when I don’t want to heat up the whole house by turning on the oven.
- Instant Pot – I love this little kitchen gadget for things like quick hard-boiled eggs and supper on nights that I forget to thaw something. I’ve converted quite a few of my favorite recipes to IP recipes, and cooking has gotten a little easier!
- Stainless Steel Bowls – I have an 8-quart stainless steel bowl that is extremely handy for making sauerkraut, cortido, and cooling chicken stock.
- Silicon Spatulas – These are the best spatulas I have ever owned!
- Garlic Press – This makes cooking with fresh garlic so much easier.
- Vitamix – I hemmed and hawed for a very long time about these blenders as the price was a little scary, but when our Ninja blender seal started falling apart and leaving pieces in our food, I knew it was time for an upgrade. I got mine on a 50% off sale through the Vitamix website (or Costco also sells them), so if the price is intimidating, wait for one of their sales!
- Chemex Coffee Maker – We have gone through several coffeemakers over the years, including regular old automatic drips and French presses. My husband is the primary coffee drinker in our home (my drink of choice is tea), and neither of us is picky about our coffee, but he really does like the coffee from the Chemex. It also looks pretty on the counter (especially in a little caddy).
- Electric Kettle – Because the Chemex is a pour-over coffeemaker and because I drink a lot of tea, our electric kettle is indispensable. It was challenging to find one that didn’t have plastic that came in contact with the hot water, and this one isn’t 100% plastic-free, but it’s better than many other options.
- MasonTops Fermentation Equipment – I was fortunate enough to join the Kickstarter campaign for MasonTops several years ago and got a set of their Pickle Pebbles (sadly before they had handles!), Pickle Pipes, and a Pickle Packer bundled at a great price. These have been absolutely fantastic for fermenting just about anything in my kitchen.
I am, by no means, a kitchen expert. But these are the things I’ve found to be essential in my little kitchen. What would you add to this list?