Every once in awhile, it's nice to intersperse some practical, on-board information midst the sightseeing and boat chores. Thought this might be a good change for you. In the past, David has provided his list of essential supplies, hand tools and electric tools aboard Nine of Cups. I've certainly talked about specific items I like in my galley, but I've never outlined what I think are the top ten essentials that I use constantly and couldn't live without. So here goes … not in any specific order.
I've shouted the praises of my teapot in past blog posts, so you know how much we use it and rely upon it. We drink lots of hot tea and coffee throughout the day, whether it's hot or cold outside. I can't think of another item we use in the galley more than the teapot.
2. Silicone bakeware
I really like silicone bakeware. It doesn't take up much room because I can squish it up and fit it into lockers. It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes from loaf pans to cupcake/muffin cups to roasters. No oil or grease is required and using silicone reduces the need for extra items aboard like muffin papers. The negatives … I find them hard to clean and a pain, especially in the little crenelated crevices of individual muffin cups. Even though you don't grease them, burned on grease or fat from what you're cooking sometimes discolors the bakeware. Then there's that floppy, flexible nature of the bakeware which really requires that you put what you're baking on a cookie sheet. All those negatives and I still love the bakeware. I also have a silicone colander that I use frequently to drain pasta and wash and drain veggies and fruits. It collapses, so it's very space efficient for what's usually a bulky item.
3. Collapsible steamer
I steam veggies all the time and I've used the same simple collapsible, stainless steel steamer I brought with me when we moved aboard. It doesn't take up much room when it's collapsed, fits most any size pan, it's easy to clean and works like a charm.
4. Veggie peeler
A veggie peeler is a pretty mundane, but I use mine pretty much daily, so it's an essential. I had a fancy one and didn't like it and resorted to a plain old stainless steel model until Lin gave me a new one in my Christmas stocking and it became my very favorite. It's a cheapie … she got it free at a convention … but it works better than anything I've used before even on tough-to-peel items like butternut squash, pumpkin and turnips.
5. Can opener
No electric can openers on Nine of Cups, so having a good manual can opener is important. I've tried skimping on can openers and bought cheap ones. What a mistake! I use the Swing-away brand which lasts a couple of years on the boat and does a good job. It doesn't rust and the cutter seems to stay sharp. It's easy to clean. I keep an extra in the drawer for when those “couple of years” runs out.
I have several wooden spoons aboard, but I purchased a silicone spoon/spatula a few years back and I absolutely love it. I also have my mom's old wooden spoon aboard. She used it for years and it has a good feel to it. These are the two I usually grab when I need to mix something up. I've got a stainless spatula for flipping the burgers.
7. Sharp knives
There's no substitute for good sharp knives. Ours are certainly not the best (Chicago Cutlery), but they serve their purpose most adequately aboard. They have riveted wooden handles. I own a butcher knife, a carving knife, a bread knife and lots of paring knives and the set came with a sharpener. Lin gave me a bright orange Freshprep paring knife with a high carbon stainless blade that comes with a sheath and I use it constantly. It holds its edge well and it's handy. Note that David has a filleting knife in his fishing kit, but it never makes it to my galley.
Hint: in the galley, turn your knife holder block backwards and mount. Knives stay in place even in the roughest weather and they're always handy.
8. Plastic ware
I tend to use washable storage containers instead of reaching for plastic wrap or a zip-loc bag, mostly because I hate throwing the plastic bags away after use and the containers keep things fresher. There's also less chance for a spill in a rocking fridge. I tend to mix something up in a container and then just cover it without dirtying an extra bowl. My sister-in-law Mary turned me on to a set of Rubbermaid containers that are great. They're sturdy and don't discolor when microwaved (not that I microwave much). The set came in several different sizes which nest inside each other and stack when the lids are on. And, the best part, … all the lids are the same size so you don't have to search for the one that fits.
Speaking of plastic ware, I have a nesting set of three mixing bowls with good tight-fitting lids. I also have a simple set of plastic measuring cups and spoons. That's it, nothing fancy
I use our grater frequently for cheese, nuts, veggies, etc. It's one-piece, no moving parts to break and easy to clean. It has a different grating option on each side (fine, coarse, etc) The downside, because of its shape … it's kind of a pain to stow. But I've had it forever and I'd hate parting with it.
10. Good pots and pans
I bought a good set of Caphalon pots before we moved aboard 14 years ago. They're stainless (not Teflon-coated) with steel-riveted handles and they're still going strong. I have three saucepans (1-2-4 qrt size) which hang on hooks on the galley wall and a soup pot … all with glass lids. One large frypan with a lid came with the set. Mary gave me a small omelet pan as a gift and that completes my pot inventory. As far as pans go, we have two aluminum pizza pans that I use for pizza, baking sheets and support for the silicone pans. I've had more from time to time, but that's all I've ever needed and truth be told, I could probably get away with less.
Yes, I have other tools in the galley. I have a manual rotary egg beater and a potato masher and a simple wooden rolling pin. None of these, however, are used on a daily basis and certainly none of them, in my estimation, are indispensable.
A few considerations …
- Size of kitchen tools is important. They must fit easily into a convenient and accessible drawer close to my work area in the galley. When I'm making a purchase, it's easy to just pick out a spatula or spoon that looks good, only to find that it's just a little too long for the drawer or takes up too much space.
- Space is always an issue and gadgets take up lots of unnecessary space. I've had garlic presses and lemon juicers, nutmeg graters and milk frothers. They take up room and I use them infrequently … out they go.
- My pressure canner is important, but not essential, and not used frequently. We had a small pressure cooker, but I seldom used it. Gone.
- I have a microwave which I only use if we have shore power which is pretty infrequently. When we do have shore power, I usually forget it's there. I could definitely live without it, but it's there.
- I'm not considering dinnerware (plates, etc) part of my galley tools, but in case you're interested, we have Corelle dinnerware, enough for 6, aboard. They're square, so they fit into the locker more efficiently. They don't chip or break. The inventory consists of six each large plates, luncheon size plates, cereal bowls, soup bowls and small custard bowls.
As an afterthought, I thought I'd share the most essential “power tools” in our galley …