We know making over your diet isn’t easy, as it requires planning and discipline. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t shortcuts to help you start on the right foot! One of the best ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle is to start cooking. While getting into the kitchen may seem like a daunting task, having the right arsenal of tools will make every meal a cinch to whip up. Here are our top picks for the tools and gadgets that making prepping healthy meals as easy and convenient as possible. Consider it an investment in your health: you’ll never have to fall back on fast food or frozen dinners again.
1. Chef’s Knife
Have you ever tried to cut a sweet potato or spaghetti squash with a dull, flimsy knife? Using an older, dull knife makes preparing meals tedious, time-consuming and dangerous. Dull knives require more force to press through the food you’re cutting, which means you’re more likely to lose control of the knife and cut yourself.
It may be tempting to buy an entire block of knives, but if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, go with a simple chef’s knife. It’s the most versatile knife available that allows you to chop, slice, mince and more without switching tools.
Chef Tip: An 8-inch knife is best, and there’s no need to spend more than 100 dollars.
2. Wooden Cutting Board
The center of a healthy kitchen is a cutting board. While plastic cutting boards tend to be less expensive, a solid wooden cutting board tends to be more sanitary and keeps your new chef’s knife in tip-top shape.
Chef Tip: Make sure it is large enough so there is no crowding when cutting, and solid enough so that it doesn’t move around when using. Make sure you clean your board after each use; rubbing a fresh-cut lemon into the board and then wiping clean will do the trick. For a more thorough cleaning, see this article.
3. Mixing Bowls
Every kitchen needs a set of prep bowls to help you organize all your ingredients and keep your workspace clean. Mixing bowls can be used for prepping, mixing, kneading, draining, marinating and making dips and sauces.
Chef Tip: Skip glass bowls that chip easily and opt for lightweight stainless steel.
A vegetable peeler can save you tons of time and spare your fingers. It can serve as a master veggie peeler and even create fancy veggie ribbons.
Chef Tip: The right peeler is key. Decide if you want a vertical or horizontal peeler. A horizontal one can help you cut slices of vegetables in addition to peeling. A vertical one is easier to hold while peeling.
5. Wooden Spoons
Wooden spoons are great for prepping, stirring, mixing and cooking food. Bonus: they are not abrasive on your cookware surfaces and don’t leak substances (such as metals or plastic) into your food.
Chef Tip: To help maintain the quality, don’t put your wooden spoons in the dishwasher.
This claw-like tool is a multitasking kitchen powerhouse! You can use them to turn meat, fish or veggies in a pan or on the grill easily without getting burned or making a mess.
Chef Tip: Stainless steel tongs are the most versatile and make cooking easier.
7. Food Processor
A food processor is a must if you want to make your cooking quick and easy. It takes over all the tedious tasks of dicing, slicing, chopping, shredding, kneading and mixing and will significantly speed up the time you need to prepare a meal.
Chef Tip: Debating if a food processor is worth it? If you want to save time and easily make puréed soups, sauces, salsas, pestos, dips and spreads, this is the right tool for you!
8. Sauté Pan
The high sides and larger surface area makes this pan great for sautéing anything from leafy greens to braising meat. The taller sides also reduce the risk of sauces or slices sloshing out!
Chef Tip: For the best quality, choose a solid 10-inch stainless steel sauté pan from All-Clad.
9. Grill Pan
Want to celebrate the summer all year long? Using a versatile grill pan, you can create similar results. Although it doesn’t impart the same smoky flavor, it does leave those eye-catching grill marks. A grill pan is large enough to grill proteins and veggies at the same time, and it can go from stovetop to oven.
Chef Tip: Using a non-stick grill pan at very high heat can damage the coating, so look for a grill pan without coating.
Laura Dotson, MS-MPH, CWC
Chef Scott Samuel, Director of Culinary Innovation