Posts Tagged cooking

Equipping A Minimalist Kitchen: Essential Equipment List For Cooking

The kitchen is a prime target for clutter.  Companies are inventing a gadget for every little thing – anything that can make cooking a little easier.  In the end, we find our kitchens filled with gadgets, multi-function counter top appliances and it all adds up to a whole lot of clutter.  Some time ago I realized one thing about all these things in my kitchen: they don’t add up to better food on the plate.  I realized what really matters are the initial ingredients and technique, very little relied upon the tools.

minimalist kitchen utensiles for cooking

How To Equip A Minimalist Kitchen With Essential Items

With this realization I began to declutter my kitchen using my tried and true box method (read about how to do it here).  As I needed things, I would pull them out and after a few months I still had 80% of my kitchen things still left in the box.  During this time I brushed up on some of my knife techniques, read up on how professional chefs cook, and focused on simple.

A few things to keep in mind.  I have this setup for how and what I like to cook, I don’t like to bake much, I’m mainly stove top or grill.  I also am cooking for myself, maybe one other person.

In the end, I was able to whittle down to a basic set of tools in my kitchen all the while increasing the quality of my cooking/food.  So what does a minimalist kitchen have in it?  Glad you asked…

Two knives and one steel

minimalist knives for a minimalist ktichen

I see this all the time, you walk into someone’s kitchen and there is a giant knife block that contains 10-15 knives.  If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t know what half them are for and we only use a few on a regular basis.  Most of your work will be done with your 8 inch chef knife, it’s the workhorse.  Next to that I have a 3 to 4 inch parring knife for smaller, more delicate tasks.  Finally a honing steel, this helps re-align your edge between sharpening because as you use a knife, the fine edge actually rolls over, creating a less sharp edge; using a honing steel quickly un-rolls that edge and gives you back your edge.

If you ask me, put your money here.  A check knife in the $100-$200 price range with a full tang and good steel is something that is worth spending money on.  A paring knife for $50-$100 and a honing steel for $25-$50.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

 

Two rubber spatulas and two tongs

tongs-for-tiny-house-ktichen

These two items are pretty much my go-tos when it comes to actually cooking on heat.  It keep two of each so that if I have to make things that can’t mix, I’m covered, or if I’m doing something with meat, to reduce risk of salmonella.  My tongs are a rigid silicone tipped, so they can be used on coated pans and on the grill.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

One metal spatula

minimalist-kitchen-spatula

I use this for grilling or if I ever use cast iron. This is a heavy duty metal spatula that is rigid enough to scrape, but flexible enough to wiggle under a piece of meat.  I’d use this a lot more if I was a big fan of cast iron. Cast iron isn’t my favorite, but if you cook a lot with cast iron, this will be a go to.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Break apart scissors

Break-apart-scissors

Sometimes scissors are the right too for the job, including cutting up chicken.  A solid pair of scissors that come apart so you can thoroughly clean the joint is very handy.  These can play double duty for a bottle opener.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Pot strainer (or colander)

pot-strainer-for-minimalist-kitchen

I use this style of a pot strainer, its very small, compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space.  If I was more of a pasta guy, I’d upgrade to a colander, but this suits my needs.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Pots and pans

pot-set-for-minimalist-kitchen

This is the pot set that I choose for my kitchen, it was the second place that I sunk most of my money into.  When you live a minimalist life, it makes sense to spend some real money on the few things you have.  For this set, I did my research and ignored prices. This set cost me $600 at the time, now it’s much less.  I rarely use the large soup pot and the high side saute pan, but they are worth keeping on hand.  While I still keep these two, I don’t actually keep them in my kitchen of my tiny house, I keep them in my bulk storage area.  90% of what I cook is done in the small fry pan, the large fry pan or the medium sized pot.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Cutting Board

cutting-board-tiny-house

The last thing on my list is a cutting board. I prefer a butcher block style myself.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Your Turn!

  • What else would you add?
  • What is your favorite kitchen item?

11 Low Energy Cooking Tips

Cooking with WineEvery single week day, people come back home after a day of work and almost simultaneously start using lots of energy intensive-things; they turn on the television, the computer, turn on the lights if it’s dark, they plug in their cell phones and gadgets… And then they start cooking food.

We’re all getting more aware of our energy consumption when it comes to cars (hybrids and electric cars are getting more popular) and to lighting (compact fluorescents took over in only a few years), but most of us are still in the dark when it comes to energy-efficient cooking. Here’s a few common sense tips to get your started on the road to low energy cooking.

1. Hot and Cold
The first thing that you should become aware of around the kitchen is hot & cold. It takes a lot of energy to cool something down, and it takes a lot of energy to heat it up. That’s where the savings can be made.

For example, don’t leave the fridge or freezer door open longer than necessary. When the cold air escapes, this means that your fridge or freezer will have to work overtime to bring the temperature back down. Conversely, don’t use more hot water than you need to. Don’t boil a big pan full of water if you only need a little bit!

2. Size Matters
When heating something, make sure that the heat actually goes where you want it to. This means that you should be careful to match your pots and pans to the appropriate burners on your range. Otherwise a lot of the energy you’re using is just heating up the air in your kitchen (which can mean that the A/C has to work overtime in the summer, further wasting energy).

3. Consolidate: One-Pot-Meals are Your Friend
Another great low energy cooking tip is to cook one-pot meals such as casseroles, soups, stews and stir-fries. It’s easy to see why they save energy compared to recipes that require you to use two, three or even 4 burners at the same time. You can find a variety of one pot meal ideas here.

4. Consolidate: Schedule Your Baking
Whenever possible try to bake multiple things at the same time if there’s enough space in your oven and the recipes call for the same baking temperature, or one after the other all on the same day. That way you only have to warm up the oven once, and you benefit from the residual heat left over from the previous recipe.

5. Consider Getting a Slow-Cooker (aka Crock-Pot)
Probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about low energy cooking, the good old crock-pot is hard to beat when it comes to making stew. You just need to make sure to set things up long enough before you need to eat since the cooking temperature is relatively low (that’s what makes it so energy intensive). Here are a variety of crock pot recipes to try.

6. Consider Getting a Pressure Cooker
It allows you to cook food faster, without heating up your kitchen as much, and using less energy. Hard to argue against that! Pressure cooking works because as the air pressure increases inside the sealed pot, the boiling point of water decreases. Only the microwave is more energy efficient (and you can’t do everything in the microwave).

7. Turn Off the Oven Before You Are Finished
Electricity stops flowing to your oven the moment you turn it off, but it will stay hot for a fairly long time after that (depending on how well insulated it is and how often you open the door). This is a good opportunity to save energy, especially with recipes that aren’t too capricious about exact cooking time and temperature.

8. Keep Lids on Pots, Don’t Open Your Oven Door
This one is self-explanatory. Every time you allow heat to escape, you’ll have to use more electricity or gas.

9. Eat more Raw Foods
Salads, raw fruits and vegetables are definitely the best way to go from “low energy” to “no energy”. Usually healthy food too, so dive in!

10. Use the Microwave When Appropriate
Microwaves are more energy efficient than stoves by a pretty large margin. They aren’t appropriate for everything, but if there are things that you cook on the stove out of habit but that could just as well be done in the microwave, you should considering switching.

11. Cook Large Quantities, Then Reheat Leftovers
It’s more efficient to make a huge lasagna (for example) and then re-heat leftovers for a while (especially in the microwave) than to make smaller lasagnas more often.

Planet Green Michael Graham Richard 10/26/2009 with permission