Cooking in the kitchen can be an arduous task, but can be much easier with the right tools. If you plan on cooking often and for a long time, investing into the right kitchenware is worth it! I have done a lot of research into kitchen tools, appliances, and cookware, and I have found what works for me!
I own: 4.5 quart Le Creuset Round Dutch oven
The Dutch oven is one of the most essential tools in my kitchen. It is made of enameled iron cast metal, and heats your food up evenly and beautifully. Perfect for jigaes, braising meats, soups, stews. My Dutch Oven gets everyday use! One of the great things about the Le Creuset brand specifically is that it looks great in the kitchen with many colors to choose from, and has a lifetime warranty. It cleans up so nicely too! They tend to be expensive, but given how often I cook with this, it was well worth the investment.
I own: 3.5 quart Le Creuset Braiser Pan
The Braiser pan is a luxury, and a nice addition to the kitchen. The Dutch oven can do everything that a Braiser pan can, but the Braiser pan does a better job specifically with braising meats, and cooking stews with delicate ingredients, like fish.
I own: 9 inch Wusthof Chef’s Knife
The Chef’s Knife is the chef’s/cook’s best friend. It is an extension of your hand to prep all of your vegetables. Having a SHARP knife is very important! Many people have told me they are too scared to prep with an ultra sharp knife, however most cuts and injuries occur with dull blades! Dull blades lead to more difficult prepping, because you require more force to cut. Slippage tends to occur while slicing, and that’s when accidents occur. Keep your knives sharp, and you will notice much more enjoyable prepping!
I own: multiple, but for everyday use I have 1 plastic and 1 wooden board
You should be using 2 separate cutting boards, one for meat, and one for vegetables. For meat, I like to use a plastic cutting board. Plastic cutting boards are non-porous, and therefore bacteria from the meat does not stick to the board. They are easier to wash, and require no maintenance. Try to get a dishwasher-safe board, in case you wanted to sanitize your board. Keep in mind plastic boards dull your knives faster, so most of your prep work should be done on a wooden board.
For your everyday prep work for vegetables, use a wooden board, bamboo tends to be cheaper than the high-end boards, less maintenance, and last longer because the knife does not damage the board as quickly.
Please get large cutting boards, so that you can prep your vegetables efficiently. Also use a sturdy board that will not slip on your countertop, as slippage leads to accidents!! If your board slips a lot, place a damp towel underneath while prepping.
Metal Mixing Bowl
I own: OXO Good Grips 5 quart Mixing bowl
I love this bowl. The reason why you want a METAL bowl, is because if you marinate a lot of meats like I do, then it cleans up easier than a plastic bowl! The marinades also can be pungent, with lots of garlic and strong flavors, so you need a bowl that won’t retain those smells. Plus, the exterior is NONSLIP. This feature has saved me from so many potential accident disasters!
I own: Vitamix 5200 series
A good blender makes life so much easier when making marinades for meats. Of course, you don’t NEED to have a Vitamix. However I made the decision to get a Vitamix because of it’s power and versatility in the kitchen for things BEYOND marinades. My kids love smoothies, so it is a great way to sneak vegetables into their diet. The added benefit to getting a powerful blender is that it blends your marinades to a smooth consistency, and releases the flavor of your ingredients to its maximum potential. The top of the line blenders for the everyday cook (in my research and opinion), is the Vitamix, and Blendtec series. They have long warranties, great customer service, and both have the power to blend ICE without any problems!
A Food Processor
I own: Cuisinart Elite 12 cup food processor and a Cuisinart 6 cup food processor
I own two because I purchased the 12 cup food processor to make baby food for my daughter, and I found that I didn’t need such a big food processor for smaller jobs like mincing garlic or an onion. You could probably make due with just a small food processor (any is fine) to finely chop vegetables so you can save some time. The larger food processor comes in handy from time to time when making food for large groups.
I own: Japanese Madonlin - Benriner
I mainly use this to julienne vegetables. You can julienne your vegetables by hand with a chef’s knife, but this will save you time, and your pieces will come out evenly. I still get scared of my mandolin from its sharp edges, but I have not yet had an accident with it. Even so, use with caution!
I own: Ceramic surface nonstick pans (from Costco)
I have to be honest. I still have not found the perfect nonstick pan. I have gone through multiple nonstick pains in my years, and so far, these have served me well. They are not perfect by any means. I dislike Teflon due to the surface breaking down that you have to buy a new pan every couple months (Teflon tends to be cheap for this reason). Ceramic surfaces do not break down like Teflon does, and is healthier since the cooking surface does not end up in your food. TIP: never cook with your nonstick pan on high, only medium or lower. When you cook on high, you ruin the surface of your pan quicker, and will warp the shape of your pan. This becomes a problem if you have an electric stovetop like I do, because this creates uneven heating.
I own: a nonstick flat bottom wok and a carbon steel seasoned flat bottom wok
A nonstick flat bottom wok is useful for large jobs and lower-heat type jobs. I like to do my Korean fried rice in the nonstick wok because Korean rice tends to stick to heating surfaces more easily than Chinese/Jasmine rice.
A carbon steel flat bottom wok is better for chinese/high-heat cooking. I will have a post dedicated to the seasoning of a wok, and wok cooking. I am not an expert on wok cooking, but I have done some experimenting with this and I am excited to share my experiences with you!
I own: Le Creuset enameled 12-inch skillet
The best way to grill Korean meat is on a grill. If that is not available or feasible, then the skillet is the next best thing. The skillet holds its heat well, and therefore grilling meat on this is wonderful. The Le Creuset skillet is very nice because it is very easy to clean compared to its other cast iron comparisons. The disadvantage is that it is about 3 times more expensive than a similar skillet without an enameled surface. A cheaper skillet (like Lodge Cast Iron Skillet 12-inch) will have similar cooking performance as the Le Creuset, but it will require seasoning the surface (which also requires time).
Electric Rice Cooker
I own: Zojirushi Rice cooker 12 cup
This rice cooker is a midlevel rice cooker. It cooks rice very well, and I am always left with fluffy rice that is not too sticky. There are many rice cookers out there, and my suggestion is that you get a Korean rice cooker if you plan on doing a lot of Korean cooking. Since it is an “everyday-use” kitchen appliance, it is worth it to buy a good rice cooker rather than a cheap one. The difference between a mid-level rice cooker vs a high-end rice pressure cooker, is the types of rice you can cook from them. If you want to make kong-bap, rice with beans mixed in, this is best cooked in a high-end rice pressure cooker, because the beans will evenly cook while still creating a fluffy rice. Also the rice will be done quicker than the midlevel rice cookers. But they are expensive! (around 300-500$). If you want a high-end rice cooker, then go for a Cuckoo brand rice cooker. If you plan on mainly making white rice then a mid-level rice cooker would be just fine for that purpose (usually less than 100$).
There has been a new wave of “Freezer cooking” where you prep food in bulk, and freeze portions in Ziploc bags, and save for another day. I have come up with Korean food freezer methods, which has saved me SO much time! I initially bought my chest freezer to store breast milk for my son, but now this freezer has become essential space to store my broths, and marinated meats. I also buy my meats in bulk at Costco, and store them in the freezer for use to save money!