Many of you lovely readers who are making the move to a healthier lifestyle are finding that you need to get busy in the kitchen a lot more than you used to, especially when it comes to baking. If you want healthy baked goods you pretty much have to make them yourself from scratch. So I thought giving you an Equipment Guide that makes recipes easier and quicker might be useful.
For those of you who haven’t spent much time in the kitchen prior to embracing a truly healthy way of eating, you may be overwhelmed by all the gadgets available, and are not sure what you need to make your time in the kitchen most effective and get you the results you want. Many of the items I list here is this Equipment Guide are not essential by any means – they just make cooking and baking easier, quicker, and help you to get great results time after time. Many of you have asked me what I use when I am in my kitchen, so here’s a rundown of the things I use most often.
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I have a KitchenAid blender in addition to my Vitamix, for those times when I don’t want to pulverize everything into oblivion. Some recipes just need texture, or don’t require the extra power. I use this Kitchen Aid blender when I don’t want or need to use the Vitamix. Grinding nuts is a great example – try this in a Vitamix and you’ll have awesome nut butter, but you won’t have any ground nuts.
For all those scrumptious low carb cookies and scones, you’ll need cutters, because cutters make food fun. And pretty. Anything that makes your healthy food more appealing is a good thing. Cutters will help. Get metal ones in whatever shapes and sizes make you happy. Plastic cutters will stop your scones from rising so well. Metal is best.
Deep Fat Fryer
Now you can revel in your deep fat fryer – as long as you’re using good, healthy fat! This is the deep fat fryer I use.
Food processor – large
Not essential, but it does make things easier and quicker. I use mine mainly for mixing doughs, but it is also super handy for slicing and all manner of other uses. I love this Cuisinart Food Processor because it comes with three bowls that sit inside one another so you can do three different things before you have to wash up. Love that. It also has a large capacity, which I find very useful when making large batches.
Food processor – small
I have a baby 3.5 cup processor / chopper for those times when I don’t want or need to break out the big boy. I love this Kitchen Aid Food Chopper because it handles small amount with minimum fuss and cleanup.
I have a multi-purpose hand-held blender that doubles up as a grinder / chopper as well as a blending stick for blending directly in a pan or bowl. I have the Kitchen Aid 5-speed Hand Blender that comes with a bunch of attachments, choppers, and jugs, and I love it. Super useful.
I use a hand mixer for quick things like whipping egg whites and mixing batters when I don’t need the power of a food processor, or don’t want to get too much stuff dirty. I use this Cuisinart Hand Mixer because it has 9 speeds and a timer, so it is useful for lots of different recipes.
High Powered Blender
A Vitamix or Blendtec will be your very best friend once you start using it to make your smoothies and soups. These machines smash everything that goes in them into liquid. Forget juicers – with one of these beasties you put whole fruit and veggies in and get juice out, with all the fiber still in it – you just can’t feel it. Given that a healthy lifestyle requires fiber, one of these will help you enormously to make sure you’re getting all the fiber you can. I have a Vitamix. I’ve heard that Blendtec are just as good. A high powered blender might be my number 1 piece of equipment that makes recipes easier and quicker – not to mention more successful.
Second jug for Vitamix / Blendtec – I find having a second blending container incredibly handy. Or maybe I just don’t like washing up when I am on a roll in the kitchen.
Huge mixing bowl
For making large quantities of recipes like Strawberry Seed Porridge I use this huge, awesome bowl.
Ice Cream Maker
I wrote you a whole cookbook full of fantastical ice creams using these Ice Cream Churners – the Cuisinart ICE-21. I also have a Cuisinart ICE-100 which is awesome, but unless you are going to make a large amount of ice cream, or regularly need more than one flavor at a time I would stick with the ICE-21 and a spare freezer bowl. You can spend all that money you save on some of the other things on this list. In my experience, countdown timers, auto-stop functions, LCD control panels, and other such bling are entirely unnecessary (and expensive) additions you won’t get any better ice cream with.
This handy little gadget makes short work of turning vegetables into “spaghetti”. Especially good on zucchini (courgettes), cucumber, and carrots. I use it with zucchini instead of baking a spaghetti squash. Super simple, super fast, and won’t break the bank.
When I moved to the US I was completely dumbfounded that no one had an electric kettle. Brits use kettles multiple times a day, and I cannot imagine living without one. Boiling water is a breeze. I have this Cuisinart Kettle and I love it because it has pre-set temperatures and other features that make it even more useful than a regular kettle. For any Brits reading this, I can hear you all shrieking, “What?? No kettles??!!!”
A mandoline is a slicer that makes very short work of cutting, slicing, dicing and otherwise making all manner of veggies into uniform sizes and shapes. When you’re eating a ton of veggies it’s more important that those veggies look super-appetizing and you have a lot of variety to keep it interesting. There are many mandolines available – choose one that fits your budget, although usually, the higher the cost, the better the machine is.
Mason / Le Parfait Jars
These are the perfect thing for ice cream making. No – not that shake-your-cream-in-a-jar-and-get-frozen-flavored-cream deal. I mean for making proper-like-premium ice cream. Once I have made my ice cream custards I pour them into these jars to store them in the fridge overnight. Then, when I am ready to churn I just stir them well and pour the custard straight into the churner. So easy! Less mess! Less waste! They take up minimal space in the fridge, are air-tight, the perfect size, and can be stacked. So much upside! Mason Jars (screw lid) Le Parfait Jars (bail lid). I only prefer Le Parfait Jars because they were what I used in England for so long, and I brought whole pile with me when I moved stateside. Either works great.
I have 4 sets of these measuring spoons, because when I am making stuff up for you I use them constantly, and rinsing them every 5 seconds is just annoying. These are double-ended, which effectively doubles the number of spoons you have. They are also magnetic so they stick together tidily and don’t get lost, and they have flat bottoms so they will sit on the counter without tipping over. Who knew someone could get so excited about measuring spoons?
Melamine pouring bowls
I use these melamine pouring batter bowls more than just about anything else in my kitchen. The handle design makes them stackable – saving tons of space, and the melamine means they do not transfer flavors and colors like plastic, but they are way lighter than glass. I use them for mixing up just about everything, and find the handles super useful. If you hadn’t realized – I LOVE these bowls.
Microplanes are the bomb. I have several different shapes and sizes and use them for all sorts of things. So much better than a grater – faster, cleaner, way sharper. Grating is no longer a chore with these puppies. Yay!
I am not a fan of plastic for storage. At all. I use these glass Pyrex lidded dishes for storing everything – in the ‘fridge, in the freezer, in the cupboard, and to transport breakfast and lunch to the office. If plastic is capable of absorbing colors and flavors, then that means the plastic is not impermeable. The thought that the chemicals in plastic are therefore capable of transferring back into my food is highly unpleasant to me. In the Brown house, it’s gotta be glass.
If you read some of my baking posts you’ll know I insist on weighing things, rather than using cups. Cups are not consistent. The only way you can hope to have baking success time after time is to be accurate when measuring ingredients. A scale is your best friend. I use this Oxo Digital Scale because it can weigh an awful lot of stuff, plus it has a pull out screen so you can put really large bowls on it and still read the display. I reverse weigh a lot and this scale makes it so simple. It also weighs in both ounces and grams, so you can switch between the two and not have to do any conversions in your head – keeping everyone happy all the time. Hurrah!
I am a perfectionist, so I use sieves a lot. A lot. Strawberry pips in the sauce? Sieve. Hazelnut skins? Sieve. Cocoa powder? Sieve. Nut dust in the nuts you just chopped? Sieve. Ice cream custards? Sieve. Green tea got a few stray leaves? Sieve. I sieve everything in the name of texture perfection. You don’t have to go as far as me, but I do recommend having at least one really good fine mesh sieve. Plus a set of regular general purpose sieves.
Silicone molds are used for jellies, fat bombs, chocolates, sweets, and other such treats. You can also use ice cube trays.
My steamer is in constant use for steaming veggies instead of boiling them in a pan of water, as it keeps the nutrient content much higher. We love that.
Having a great toaster oven makes total sense when you have a small batch, are cooking for 1 or 2, or don’t want to heat the house up. I have the Breville BOV845BSS Smart Oven Pro Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ (wow that was a mouthful!), but Breville make several different toaster ovens for your needs and budget.
For me, using kitchen equipment is like an extension of my body, so I may have forgotten things that are new to you. I’ll add to this as I think of things that I think you may find helpful. If there is something missing, please shout! Do you have equipment that makes recipes easier and quicker that isn’t listed here? Let me know what your favorite healthy cooking gadgets are!
Happy, happy cooking!
BobOne of The things I love about cooking is the variety of ways you can go about it.
The only utensil I have that vaguely resembles anything on this list is a beat up kenwood mixer!
I also swear by all things made from clay, but that’s not really surprising, ( and I have the arms to lift them all up !)
Despite all of this, I KNOW we both have just as much fun.
And I hope my food is as delicious as Carrie’s (i confess I STILL leave the strawberry pips in !!!!!! :-)
ellenCarrie, GREAT list! Thanks! I would like to mention a tool that I LOVE – my julienne peeler. I can make “spaghetti” out of yellow squash and zucchini which is quicker than spaghetti squash. I can send you a link if you’re interested.
carrieOh, oh, oh Ellen! I totally forgot to include that one, and I use it all the time! Silly me. I will add – THANK YOU for the reminder!
TraciWhich models of vitamix do you and Jonathan each own? I want to get one and there are so many choices!
carrieTraci – I own a 5200 and I use it A LOT!!! Works like a dream. Hope that helps!
Sandy Shepardtotally agree re electric kettle. I use mine a billion times a day – and as you surmised, didn’t know they existed until I lived in Britain. Oh, foolish us ;-) I would add one more thing to your list, a “spiral slicer.” It’s a BLAST to use, a stupidly easy “gadget,” and makes making “zucchini spaghetti” etc. a breeze. Also, I recently got an avocado “peeler” (??) at Goodwill for 5 cents and I am using it like a crazy person – it goes down an avo half with small “wires” that slice out perfect avo pieces? (Do you know what I’m talking about?) Finally, again, another “unitasker” but OMG life saver is a mango slicer. With one of these you’ll never look at mangos again and say “delish, but if they weren’t so dang hard to ~pit~”…Happy Holidaze!
LeeAnn O'ConnellI have to share my good news with you all here because I know that you will understand why I did my happy dance last night. I received as a gift yesterday my very own Vitamix Creations Turbo machine. It is so new that I have not used it yet. It is sitting on the counter in my kitchen. I could not afford one. I have been making my smoothies with an old blender (which was working fine but had it’s limits). I am so excited! My sweet mother bought it for me as a “thank you” gift for handling some personal matters for her. I never even asked for one. Just kept telling her about the smoothies I was making. I can not wait to dive into Carrie’s soup recipes this weekend!! I promised mom some soups. The perfect time of year to get started. Yeah!!!
carrieLeeAnn – this is indeed awesome news! Congrats! What goes around come around. Have a blast with your new toy :-)
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RichJust a note – The crock pot book sends you here for equipment, specifically on the page about choosing a crock pot, but I don’t see anything here about choosing a crock pot. I’ve got several, but wanted to take a look just to see what you were recommending. Someone else might be looking for the actual advice. ;)
Bonnie TewI need a good crock pot. Which one would you recommend?
Bonnie TewCarrie, could you recommend a good crock pot?
AmandaThat’s funny that you’re surprised no one here uses a kettle. haha I’m sitting here thinking WHAT in the WORLD would a person use a kettle for?? lol I just don’t know how it would do any better than a pot of water on the stove! They are cute though. I guess if you drank hot tea…
Tiffany MimsThe link for the steamer goes to the cutters
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