Nonessential Kitchen Essentials

Posted 5 March, 2016 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 37 Comments


Nonessential Kitchen Essentials


A few months ago I read an article on The Kitchn about the wedding registry gifts that really get used and those that don’t. I started thinking about my own registry and the things that are still in our cupboards (I love my Mikasa Italian Countryside dinnerware so much!), and I realized that with the exception of a few items, most of my kitchen essentials are things I’ve picked up along the way. And most of them are hardly essential but I’ve gotten to the point where I wouldn’t want to cook without them.

Nonessential Kitchen Essentials

Olive Oil Dispenser – I admit that all of those Rachel Ray cooking shows I watched in grad school sold me on my need for an olive oil dispenser. “Grab your EVOO and swirl around the pan two times!” Having a dispenser makes olive oil so much easier to quickly pour into a pan without overpouring, but it’s also great for little helpers. I can trust Elle to give roasting veggies a few swirls of olive oil with the dispenser without drowning them. Ours is a cheap TableCraft version.

Thermapen Instant Thermometer – When Scott bought this thermometer, I thought he was crazy because it makes it one of our most expensive kitchen gadgets. Now I can’t cook meat without it! We’ve had several thermometers over the years, but this one is instant and incredibly accurate which means that we rarely eat dried out, overcooked meat anymore. I don’t know if Thermapen makes our exact model anymore, but this one is similar.

Vacuum Sealer – The vacuum sealer is another splurge of a buy that has changed the way that we buy food and cook it. In the past I used plastic baggies to freeze cuts of meat or leftover foods, but it’s difficult to get all of the air out of the bags. I also had bags bust or leak when trying to defrost the contents. Now I use the vacuum sealer for all of our frozen foods (except liquids) and we’ve never had any problems with freshness. Our FoodSaver is similar to this.

Ball Jars – What I don’t freeze with the Vacuum Sealer goes in Ball Freezer Jars. Chicken stock, spaghetti sauce, soups. I also love using these jars for snacks and other dry goods in our pantry. Pint and a half jars are my favorites and I love these BPA free storage caps.

Spatulas/Wooden Spoons – This might seem kind of like a no-brainer, but we go through so many silicone spatulas and wooden spoons in a week it’s ridiculous. Since we have non-stick pots, spatulas and wooden utensils go a long way towards keeping our much abused cookware looking nice and working well. Both the spatulas and wooden utensils were cheap finds from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Other items that get a fair amount of use in our house is my Le Creuset Dutch Oven (oh how I love that thing!), tongs (we’ve gone through several pairs), and the George Foreman Grill (yes really).

Curious about those wedding items we thought we had to have but rarely ever use? My blender (I’ve thought about donating this so many times!), the fondue pot, the immersion blender, the shake maker! I’m way overdue for a round of Operation Use My Kitchen Stuff!

What nonessential kitchen items do you find essential to your cooking?





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37 Responses to “Nonessential Kitchen Essentials”

  1. Diane

    Helpful post Trish. I use my immersion blender whenever I make cream soups – love that thing! Regular blender has not been used in 8 years lol

  2. I love all your things. I too have a food saver and really do use it — especially for freezing. I love my microplane grater/zester, which can be used for more than citrus rind. Also, Mr. BFR once brought home a hinged lemon squeezer that I thought would end up sitting in the drawer, but we use it all the time for lemons and limes.

    That thermometer — I’ve eyed them up but always hesitated over the price. I have a cheaper version that is probably not accurate, is definitely slow, and makes a bigger hole. Hummmm. I might have to break down and get one.

  3. Great post idea! And now you have me wanting a vacuum sealer! Have you ever used it to marinate? Apparently it really gets that flavor in there quickly…which I learned watching Chopped! I think my least used wedding gift is a sushi making set (seriously?!!)…which will go into the donation pile when we move out of our rental house!

  4. Great topic. We use our crockpot at least once a week and have gone through several since the original we received as a wedding gift thirty-seven years ago. What else? I love my quite-powerful stand mixer (upgraded to this from the small hand mixer I used for a good thirty years). A sentimental attachment to my grandma’s waffle iron (said to be around seventy years old) though I’m too afraid of what-might-happen to actually plug it in. And that’s about it. Fun to read about others’ essential non-essentials.

  5. mae

    I recently gave away an espresso maker and a popcorn popper that were used intensely for a while, then began to gather dust. Unlike you, I wouldn’t give up my immersion blender.

    best… mae at

  6. I was just looking at my 2 crocks full of wooden spoons, whisks, tongs and spatulas last night and I said “I need to condense” My daughter in law said—I have just the book for you. (she just read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying up) But I LOVE my wooden spoons, whisks, tongs and spatulas!! And my microplane zester and my emersion blender. I love bell jars too, but I don’t use the Vacuum sealer like I should with just the two of us. I love to have people over for dinner —I love to cook—and I’m ashamed to admit this, but I have 5 sets of dishes plus a set of China. BUT You know—you have to mix it up sometimes!! You can’t have a dinner party and always use the same dishes. LOL Luckily I have the room to store them.

  7. Now you’ve got me thinking! I have an immersion blender that I use enough to justify having it but I definitely wouldn’t use a regular blender. I had a waffle iron for awhile but I tossed it when we moved because it had literally never been used. I did get waffle iron plates that fit on my panini press/griddle and now I make waffles a lot because the plates are so easy to snap on and fit in the dishwasher. I love that thing just because it’s so versatile. I use my crockpot a pretty good bit but I have a fryer in the pantry gathering dust. Can’t remember the last time I used it! Great post!

  8. I don’t often use my thermometer. Bread maker and crock pot could be used more often. Love my Kitchen Aid and my Cuisinart grill.
    When we downsized I got rid of items that I considered non-essential like a tortilla warmer.

  9. Kristi

    I’ll have to get those pint and a half jars for freezing. I only have the super small jars with plastic kids that fit and it’s too small to even fit a cup worth of anything, so when I made homemade broth for the first time, I ended up using quart bags and laying them flat on a cookie sheet. Kind of a pain.

    Funny that two of the things we use quite a bit are on your list of rarely used–fondue pot and immersion blender. My husband grew up eating fondue as a family tradition, so we usually do savory a couple of times a year and chocolate fondue quite a bit more. I use the immersion blender several times a month. It’s so much easier blending soups with it rather than transferring batches to a blender. It helps since my kids don’t really love chunky soups so I can get them to eat more veggies than they realize since it blended and they can’t see them.

    • I’d be interested in hearing what you do for the savory fondue if you don’t mind sharing. We just did chocolate for the first time the day after Valentine’s and of course the girls loved it. Think we’ll be doing it again here and there. We are the opposite with soup–the girls LOVE chunky soup. I made a pureed potato a few weeks ago and they both turned their nose up at it. And yes–I definitely recommend the ball jars for broth! I do use the little ones for a few fillings in case a recipe calls for a cup or less, but the bigger jars are so nice to have on hand. When I make beef stew, I freeze it in a giant ziploc and lay it flat like you did. Makes it easy to stack multiple bags and a freeze to defrost! The one downside to the jars…

      • Kristi

        We’ve done fondue with friends over a few times, and it’s pretty fun. We usually do two pots for savory–one with beef broth and one with a cheese sauce. My husband’s family used to do oil, but I think the beef broth gives it a better flavor and isn’t greasy. We cube meat to use with the broth (we’ve done both beef and chicken, but the chicken kind of freaks me out with possibility of being under cooked). For the cheese sauce, we do cubes of bread and vegetables.

  10. What an interesting post. We need a thermometer so thanks for the recommendation. :) We have quite a few things we rarely use — immersion blender, popcorn popper, herb spinner, clay pot, bacon press, etc. Most were gifts and yes, I need to donate them!

  11. I have a much smaller kitchen in our FL house, so really try to stick with essentials only. The immersion blender and crock pot were must haves, but a couple non-essential essentials I recently purchased include a zester and silicon basting brush. Still trying to decide whether an olive oil mister (Misto) qualifies.

  12. Great post! My boyfriend turned me on to how useful having some Ball jars around is.

    For what it’s worth, I love my immersion blender (stolen from my dorm kitchen – shhh), but I make soup on a weekly/biweekly basis.

  13. I would definitely add crockpot to this list. I LOVE having an easy way to cook a bunch of chicken to use throughout the week and the crockpot works great for that. Besides other uses like soups, stews, all kinds of things. I LOVE it.

  14. I love those colorful spatulas!

    As for me, I am all about the Crockpot. If I wait till after 10 a.m. to start supper, chances are it won’t happen.

  15. I collect three things, lighthouse pictures and nic nacs, books, and kitchen gadgets. So, I have a kitchen full of gadgets, and I have all of these items, most of them more than one. My kids were making fun of me a few weeks ago for having so many whisks. Sadly, my olive oil dispenser is broke, which isn’t really all that sad. I get to go buy a new one!

  16. Yes, yes to the oil dispenser! Since I’ve started the healthy eating I’ve come across more opportunities that call for it.

  17. Fun post! I love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven for sure–the color and using it makes me happy. I could not get along without my Vitamix Blender and my immersion blender for smoothies and soups respectively. I would not have told you that a mango splitter/slicer was essential but mine broke last month and it drove me crazy trying to cut my mangoes (I eat a lot of them) without it so I had to go by a new one. Hah! ;-)
    Aloha, Deb–Kahakai Kitchen

  18. The Olive Oil I buy actually has a dispenser built in. You open the lid and it pops up. I love it and think it is a great idea. I noticed the new bottle I bought warns about that. Scaring people maybe? lol

  19. I love this post and the comments! I only learned about immersion blenders through Weekend Cooking posts, and love mine. I got a new Crock Pot to replace my old, falling-apart one a couple of years ago, too, and use it once or twice a week now! (Tips: buy a dedicated Crock Pot cookbook with recipes that are easy and appealing to get you hooked on using it, and have it easy to get out and an open space for it to go on a counter, if you don’t keep it out.) I have a lot of spatulas of different sizes and shapes, because I hate having them all dirty in the dishwasher when you go to use one. My popcorn popper is a must-have, and it gets used on a nightly basis! In fact, it’s so essential, I probably wouldn’t have even thought of it (because I would never think of giving it up) if someone else hadn’t mentioned it in the comments! ;)

  20. I went through a food saver phase many years ago….. I wrapped up everything… eventually got bored with it and – well it is somewhere in the house. Now that it is only the hubby and I to cook for I want to start using it again. Often meat packages are too big for the two of us so I need to save some for another time. I also still tend to cook like I am cooking for four leaving LOTS of leftovers.

  21. I love my immersion blender! Great for making soups and even milkshakes! I also thought for ages before finally buying a breadmaker. Love the convenience of that. And surprisingly, an old waffle maker, like decades old, that still works (and I found the best crispy waffle recipe to go with!)

  22. Right now, my most essential is a step stool! Our new cabinets are so tall (and maybe I’m short, too) that I’d have to ask my husband to get something every five minutes without it. I’m also really specific about pot holders – I hate typical oven mitts and absolutely cannot live without those silicone grabbers that just cover your fingers. They make grabbing hot stuff so much easier!

  23. We just started using our foodsaver the other day and it’s insanely easy! I’m not sure what all to use it on besides meats, but I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it. Other than that I love my slow cooker, food processor, cookie scoop, and of course tongs and whisks. lol

  24. I am definitely going to snag that thermometer – it’s such an issue for me, trying to find a reliable one! We also have multiple wine bottle openers because they keep breaking on me and Kim (shoosh on the easy jokes lol), and multiple ice cream scoops because we go through so many between weekend ice cream splurges and using them for muffin and cupcake batter.

    • Oh my goodness it IS daunting! Good luck…but have fun. :) We still use our plates (Mikasa), glasses, and silverware and I love all of them. I’m glad we went more classic than trendy.

  25. I love love love my foodsaver. I recently got a newer fancy one after my old beloved one died. I also am becoming a fan of mason jars.

  26. This is such an awesome post, Trish! I’ve been thinking about all the kitchen toys I’ve accumulated over the years (35 to be exact!) and there are a few that I couldn’t live without. The meat thermometer is definitely one of them. I use it all the time and like that I can set a desired temp and it will alert me when the meat/chicken/pork has reached that temperature. I also love my lemon squeezer, which I use a lot more than my juicer. It’s just a mechanical hand-held device that doesn’t take up a lot of space in a drawer. I do use my blender several times a week for my green smoothies, but rarely ever use my Cuisinart. I use my crockpot a few times a month, as well as my trusty griddle. Hmm. Rather than write a huge comment, I think I’ll do this for a Weekend Cooking post. Thanks!

  27. Oh, golly, I use my immersion blender at least once a week, often for things I would not have thought of using it for. Shockingly we’ve never owned a meat thermometer for the oven, although we do own one for the grill. Spatulas? I’ve got 4 in different sizes and often think I need more!