If I had to pick a kitchen tool I absolutely couldn’t live without, it wouldn’t be a hard contest.
Hands down, I’d choose my cast-iron skillet. I inherited the skillet from my mom, who inherited it from her mom, who inherited it from her mom. This skillet has made more cornbread than your local Cracker Barrel, and by now, it’s so seasoned that every loaf comes out perfectly crisp and flavorful.
There’s a lot to be said for today’s expensive, high-tech kitchen gadgets. We’ve got colorful avocado slicers, panini presses, vegetable steamers, and food processors. But many of these gadgets are made overseas. They often break long before they should. And some, like our Teflon-coated cookware, might even be leaching dangerous chemicals into our food.
I often think that the cooks from decades past had it best. They had quality tools that really worked. Everything in their kitchens was used, and used well. And there were no fancy gadgets or expensive appliances that only served an occasional purpose. If a tool was lucky enough to grace a kitchen, then you could be darn sure it was going to have multiple jobs to do.
I used to have a kitchen full of such gadgets. I had serving platters that were specifically designed for bread and olives. I had an olive pitting tool. I had a pizza stone, a salt pig, and a lime-green tool just for juicing…you guessed it…limes. I spent a small fortune on all this stuff.
And then? I got rid of all of it, including some appliances you might be surprised you can live without. Aside from some kitchen remodeling, my kitchen now probably resembles the way one would have looked in 1945. And I don’t waste money on kitchen gadgets anymore because I have everything I need, and nothing I don’t.
Want to do the same, or at least add some quality kitchen tools? Here is a list of old-time kitchen gadgets I think we should all have in our kitchens.
1. Cast Iron Skillets
I had to put these in first because cast iron skillets were made long before we had to worry about Teflon scraping off into our food. Cast iron skillets, when treated right, last forever. Really. My cornbread skillet is at least 80 years old, and it’s still in almost perfect condition.
I also have a cast-iron Dutch Oven and a deeper skillet. My three cast iron pots are the workhorses of my kitchen. I do everything with them, from baking bread to making stew to baking peach cobbler. They’re awesome.
Cast iron skillets are a great investment because again, if you treat them right, you’ll be handing them down for generations. They can often be picked up for a song at thrift stores and garage sales.
2. Mason Jars
When I started canning (a great do it yourself project), I learned to love the utility of mason jars. Sure, I bought a ton of jars to hold my homemade jam and pickles. But I quickly realized how useful these jars were for other tasks around the kitchen.
For instance, they’re great for food storage and reducing food waste. I know most people use plastic containers, and I used to as well. But plastic containers, like Gladware, might leach chemicals into our food, especially over time as you reuse them and the plastic molecules begin to break down. Plastic containers also stain, hold odor, and warp with the constant heating and cooling they go through.
I now use glass (or stainless steel) for all my food storage. And mason jars are a huge part of my arsenal, especially for hot soups. They’re cheap, there’s no danger from toxic chemicals, and they can be used over and over again without warping. Add that to the list of ways to recycle and reuse household items.
Mason jars make great vases for flowers. You can use them to store sugar, oatmeal, and flour and they’re also great for storing baking soda, for holding candles, and for making sun tea.
3. Mortar and Pestle
The mortar and pestle just might be one of the oldest kitchen gadgets apart from spoons and bowls. We’ve been using them for over 4,000 years, and they’re still just as handy now as they were then.
You can use a mortar and pestle to crush spices and herbs: they taste FAR better than the stuff you buy at the grocery store. You can use it to make pesto, pound garlic, and crush olives. There are endless uses for this tool, which many professional cooks consider to be the most underutilized tool in the kitchen.
Do you have any old-school kitchen tools you can’t live without? Any tools that you use regularly to help you save money?