22 essential tools in the Grudging Cook’s kitchen

… a bit less if you don’t cook Chinese food.

Before you get cooking from scratch with as little hassle as possible, you need some basic tools. There are also some other gadgets that I use, electronic or otherwise, that are time-savers.

  1. Stainless steel saucepans — we have a set of old ones from Tefal. They’re pretty robust, unless you put eggs on to boil and forget about them. *ahem* Then they get scorch marks.
  2. Steamer basket — my mum bought one from Denby, it fits on the lip of our saucepans, and uses the lid from our largest saucepan.
  3. Frying / saute pan — we’ve had non-stick, but they just flake and have to be thrown out, so we’ve been using cast iron instead (I think they are pre-seasoned, and are from Denby and IKEA).
  4. Wok — if you like a stir-fry, a wok is important. I have a dislike for the flat-bottomed ones, but as we didn’t have a proper burner for a wok, we had no option. Ours is carbon steel from Typhoon, probably a decade old.
  5. Baking trays x2 — these work for pizzas, crackers, biscuits, vegetable crisps, and fruit leather. I got enamelled ones from ProCook.
  6. Roasting trays x2 — these have higher sides than a baking tray. I use our Denby stoneware trays for roasting and baking random things. They are easy to clean!
  7. Oven gloves and tea towels — tea towels are so multi-purpose!
  8. Mixing bowls — one large, one small. Preferably stainless steel or Pyrex.
  9. Sieve — for sifting flour and draining stuff.
  10. Chopping board — With limited work space, I can only use one at a time, and I tend to favour the small bamboo cheeseboard (Christmas present over a decade ago), but if I need more chopping space, I have one from Lone Ranger Woodcraft.
  11. Stainless steel knives — Neil loves a kitchen knife (we even have one specially for tomatoes), but you really only need one big and one small. Serration isn’t important — however, if you intend to bake bread, buying a bread knife is a good investment. We got ours over a decade ago from ProCook.
  12. Knife sharpener — I run the knives through the sharpener (also from ProCook) every time I use them. Neil also bought a proper sharpening steel, but I don’t use it.
  13. Box grater — these are the ones with four different grating holes on each side. Mine’s unbranded.
  14. Wooden spoon — for soup and congee. Easily available.
  15. Wooden turner — for frying. I think this came free with our wok.
  16. Measuring cups — ours are unbranded and stainless steel. An eBay special, I believe.
  17. Tablespoon — for measuring, obviously. I don’t own special measuring spoons, I use our tableware. One tablespoon is 15ml. Our tableware was purchased back in 2003 from Robinsons in Singapore.
  18. Teaspoon — Again, from our tableware. One teaspoon is 5ml.
  19. Food storage containers — We use old Bonne Maman jam jars, as well as borosilicate glass containers from Pyrex and ProCook. We also have larger plastic boxes (for rice, cereal, and so on) from before Neil became a hippie. Sistema is pretty good.
  20. Rice cooker / slow cooker — we have an 8-in-1 cooker from Tefal, and we mainly use it as a rice cooker and slow cooker. Some of my friends have started using the Instant Pot.
  21. Food processor and blender — Kenwood, it comes with all sorts of blades. We used to have a hand blender as well (wedding present), which was very convenient for soups, but it burned out after several years’ service, and we never replaced it. We’ve also got a Nutri Ninja, but you really only need one blender.
  22. Thermal cooker (UK version) — gifted to us by my mum when Anne was born, this is an energy-saving slow cooker (it’s also called the wonder cooker in Singapore, I call it the magic pot). You basically get things up to a boil (it needs to be wet, like a soup, stew, or congee), then let it simmer for around 20 minutes, before taking it off the heat and shoving it in the vacuum sleeve to continue cooking.