Butc(h)er Kitc(h)en: 5 affordable kitchen upgrades

When I was just starting to cook, I had no idea that tools made a difference.  To me, a knife was a knife and any pan would do.  Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in thinking you can only cook with high-end equipment.  But I do wish I had known about these 5 easy and affordable upgrades that would have made it a lot easier to improve my cooking skills.  

The 5 simple kitchen upgrades I wish someone had told me about when I was learning to cook:

1. Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife ($38).

I honestly didn’t know there were knives designed for specific tasks in the kitchen.  I grew up with 3 types of knives: paring, steak, and pocket.  So when presented with a chef’s knife, I thought it would be too big and unwieldy.  But once I learned how to chop vegetables, I fell in love with my chef’s knife.  It’s now my go-to.  You don’t need a knife that costs hundreds of dollars.  This Victorinox knife has been my main knife for nearly 7 years and, if you keep it sharp, it will last indefinitely.

2. OXO Cutting boards ($15).

Plastic cutting boards are admittedly not as beautiful as wooden ones.  But you can actually clean them by putting them in the dishwasher.  Anything that I’m putting raw meat on, I want to be sterile and clean the next time I use it.  These OXO cutting boards have a clever little lip on one side to catch any juices that come out of that beautiful flank steak you are slicing perfectly thin with your awesome chef’s knife, so the blood juice won’t get all over your counter.

3. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet ($15).

Yes, you can use a regular skillet.  But a cast iron skillet is a thing of beauty and practicality.  Nothing is better for sauteeing meat or veggies, making cobblers, baking a frittata, whipping up a stir-fry.  Basically, I prefer to cook everything but eggs and red sauces in my cast iron skillet.  Bonus points if you can hold it up with your weak arm long enough to scrape everything out!

4. Prepworks by Progressive Magnetic Measuring Spoons ($14).

Ok, I know.  You don’t want to measure shit when you are cooking.  I get it.  When I progressed from making boxed dinners to cooking, I just kinda guessed at how much to add when it came to spices.  Here’s the thing: recipes actually taste better when you follow the recommended measured amounts (except for garlic —  I always double the garlic).  Anyway, these measuring spoons have been life-changing.  There are so many times that you need a teaspoon of, say, apple cider vinegar, followed by a teaspoon of . . . red chili flakes or ginger or something.  With these handy double-ended measuring spoons, you can simply flip them around to use the other end instead of gunking up the whole jar of chili flakes by dipping a wet measuring spoon in there.  Not only are you getting essentially 2 sets of measuring spoons in one, but each end is also shaped differently and the narrow end is great for actually fitting into spice jars with small openings.

5. OXO Liquid Measuring Cups – Mini, 1-cup & 2-cup sizes ($5-8).

Again with the measuring.  I know.  I hear you.  But listen.  You will need to use these liquid measuring cups approximately one time before the axis of your world shifts and you see the light.  The mini is the perfect bar measuring cup and is excellent for whipping up perfectly proportioned (and therefore superior tasting) cocktails.  The 1 & 2 cup sizes will become indispensable whether you are cooking or baking.  I understand that it feels like a game to actually measure liquids into a regular measuring cup and try to get it just to the top without spilling it.  We both know that never happens.  Ever.  So stop playing the losing game with measuring liquids.  These measuring cups have been a mainstay in my kitchen for the past 10 years.  I use them every single day.  After 10 years of daily use, the markings are still clear, there’s no warping from a thousand dishwasher cycles, and I can’t imagine my kitchen without them.

Learning to cook can be hard.  It’s a steep learning curve.  But you can make things a lot easier with some good gear in your kitchen.  These 5 affordable upgrades will make the tasks you do over and over and over easier and more enjoyable, which means you’ll want to cook more, which means you will become a better cook, faster.

You read so much about “investment pieces” in the fashion world, but that’s usually a marketing angle to get you to part with a huge amount of money.  In this instance, you actually can invest in some really affordable equipment that will completely level-up your kitchen, last for years to come, and make your time in the kitchen a real pleasure.  These investment pieces will be the tools you reach for time and time again over the next decade.  And every time you use them, you’ll be glad you took the time to upgrade to quality tools in your kitchen.