Have we gotten ahead of ourselves? We’re here telling you how to sear scallops and make cioppino, but what if you don’t have a pot to cook in? How can you prep, sear, steam and eat without a couple of basic kitchen tools? While the internet is full of “must-buy” lists for the kitchen, most of them are doomed — more like paid advertisements for expensive gadgets than things you genuinely need. And I hate gadgets. I like heavy tools. Lasting tools. Single function tools are a non-starter… every tool in your kitchen should be able to be used in more than one way. A corn-cob stripper: skip it. An apple corer: save it for Mothers Day. A 3-in-1 egg slicer: fuck that. This list — I kept it to 10 things — is full of basics you’ll have for a long time, and gets you cooking on the cheap. I should know, when my girl and I decided to live in a tent and cook over a BBQ for two years, these are the things we packed. —Paul Brewer
- A couple knives: A great chefs knife and paring knife will do the trick, at least until you become a black belt ninja in the kitchen and want some more blades. It’s an $80 investment, but keep them sharp and they’ll make all the difference. I got a couple of the Global knives for a college graduation gift, I use them daily, and I’m pretty sure I will not part with them until I reach the convalescent home and they take ‘em away.
- Mortar and pestle: Use your aggression and pound garlic, herbs, and peppers into a fine paste, sans electricity. Start with a molecajete mortar ($22) for guacamole, thai sauces, salad dressings, and more. They also double as utilitarian serving bowls, and look proper on your counter when not in use.
- Tongs ($3): Don’t buy the expensive ones! Use them to stir, flip, grab, split, poke, lift and serve. Get long ones unless you like hand burns.
- A cast iron skillet: They are inexpensive ($18), tough, and if you take care of them, they’ll last forever. They’re naturally non-stick, so you can skip the tumorous non-stick coated skillets.
- Large dutch oven: You can boil water in it to make pasta, or make carnitas for you and your lucky friends. Or bring it camping and put it over a wood fire. It’s also inexpensive, heavy, and tough. Le Creuset is very nice, but my matching cast iron one for $35 has worked beautifully.
- Spatula: Rather, a turner or flipper. Since you’ve already gone cast iron, you can skip the plastic or silicone models and get some durable metal pieces. Use to flip burgers, omelets, etc. Here’s some for just over $3.
- Pepper mill and Kosher Salt: pre-ground pepper is a tasteless sin, so get a simple hand-powered pepper mill ($11) and season like the pros. Salt you don’t need a mill for… just keep it in a little bowl you can pinch out of.
- Scissors: AKA kitchen shears ($11). From cutting open packaging to cracking crustacean shells and quick cutting herbs, you’ll use these lots.
- Blender: A standard blender is great, a Vitamix is baller, but I have a NutriBullet ($80). With it I can make my Laird Superfood smothies in the morning (kidding), easy purees, chopped nuts, sauces, and salad dressings. Also, blended cocktails for when I’m feeling zesty.
- Zester/grater: Skip the old style box cheese grater, this Microplane ($12) fits better in the drawer and will take care of you.
By having this stuff, you should be able to shred pretty hard in the kitchen, making everything from scrambled eggs to big racks of lamb, seared fish, or slow cooked pasta sauces. Sure, as you clock some kitchen hours, you might find you need a couple more tools in your arsenal, so invest as you see fit. But please, no gadgets. Be industrious, be creative, and use your tools well.