Every trade or skill comes with a list of tools that are fundamental to achieving the most effective and efficient output. The skill of crafting plant-based food is no exception. The avenue to a successful transition into a healthy plant-based life begins through starting where you are at, using what you have, and steadily taking steps forward. Therefore, we give you this list as a pin-board for some of the essential tools that make plant-based living easy, fun, and effective.
Remember learning, growth, and progress comes from going through the steps. If you aim to plant a tree, first you have to put the shovel in the dirt. Become a master with the tools that you already have, then start building on and replacing with better tools.
Due to frequent consumer safety issues with items made in China, we suggest looking for items made in the United States if at all possible. We know this can be a tough feat with the plethora of made in China products out there.
These are some of the tools that we use ourselves, have tested, or researched:
1. Large Blender: Our tool of choice is the Vitamix. We started out with the everyday Oster-style blender that is in every household. After years of making delicious blends from this type of blender we were able to observe what stronger professional-grade blenders like the Vitamin, and the equally great Blendtec, were capable of. We opted for the Vitamix over the Blendtec simply because we came across a friend selling one that they never used at a discount. Therefore we became partial to the Vitamix. Now if you have ever seen the Blentec in action at your local restaurant you know that it never fails to amaze. The quickness of the blend, along with the industrial sound, is a beautiful observation. If you are taking this journey to health, make a plan to purchase one of these professional-grade blenders when you’re able.
2. Small Scale Blenders: After purchasing the Vitamix we thought that we had a one-stop powerhouse, and no longer would have to use the smaller NutriBullet in our collection, but we soon learned the benefit of having both a large and small blender. We shifted all of our liquid blending to the Vitamix, and the NutriBullet became a grinding boss. –From sea salt to chickpeas, to nuts the NutriBullet has become the tool for us when making flours, seasonings, and other items that need to be broken down into finer particles.
Many companies have entered this small blending market. Three strong contenders are the NutriBullet, the Magic Bullet, and the Ninja. We actually had both the NutriBullet and Magic Bullet, but again by default ended up going more with the NutriBullet because it was newer than the well-used Magic Bullet from Dave’s collection.
3. Food Processor: To finish up our things that spin, we arrive at the food processor. Food processors are great all-around tools. If you are considering a raw-food diet, a food processor may be your first item of choice. We use our food processor for making patties like falafel, making crusts for raw pies, sauces, and pureeing. It can easily be used for chopping vegetables, but we say why take the fun out of hand chopping with a great knife? We use a Cuisinart 9-cup processer and sometimes wish it were bigger.
With food processors there are an array of good choices. A few things to consider are capacity and the ease of cleaning – check for places within the parts that easily trap food.
4. Knives: Knives can become addicting purchases and we’ve all fell for the demonstration of the super knife cutting through the toughest of material, then immediately slicing effortlessly through a tomato.
There are three knives that we use frequently. These are the chef’s knife, paring knife, and bread knife. Simplify your life: Try to clean out that knife drawer, put away that butcher block, and work on getting a few good knives. It is not necessary to go out and spend your whole check on these key knives. Start by taking a local knife skills class, then half of your cutting battles will be solved by technique. Make the big purchase the chef’s knife, making it one that is comfortable for your hand and wrist. Until you are ready to make the big purchase, periodically check the home goods sections of Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. We also recommend investing in a sharpener and a honing rod to keep blades in good shape.
5. Cast Iron Pots and Skillets: Cookware is similar to knives. People often fall right into the shine and glamour of new pots at the department stores and soon realize that the items are not as magical as they first appeared. We’ve found that our most used pieces of cookware are our cast iron and porcelain coated pots. Cast iron, along with cast iron covered with porcelain enamel, ensures a more balanced heat distribution and ensures the longest life span of the pot.
With iron intake being an area of concern for most people jumping into plant-based eating, cast iron cookware has the added benefit of transferring iron into your food to help you get your recommended daily intake.
Le Creuset is a cookware brand that has beautifully crafted skillets and pots that can be passed down from generation to generation, but until you are able to save up for each piece, check out their outlets, TJMaxx or Marshall’s.
We suggest getting one large and one small cast-iron skillet. Lodge is an affordable brand for skillets. We also recommend at least one large dutch oven, one medium-size saucepan, and one small saucepan. Le Creuset makes 2-in-1 pots that have tops that double as small skillets.
6. Cutting Boards: If after purchasing your amazing chef’s knife, you go home and find it just didn’t cut as well as you thought, the problem may be your cutting board. The wrong cutting board can affect your cutting and also dull your knife rapidly.
With plant-based cooking we opt for wood cutting boards. However, the wood can take on odors from the food that is placed on it. So keep your surface properly cleaned. To maintain the surface you can keep it oiled using a food-grade oil.
7. Ramekins: Ramekins have become an essential part of our kitchen. They are great for food prep portions, serving, and baking. Right now our daughter uses them to eat her homemade baby food. Revol is a good brand to take a look at.
8. Kitchen Mitts and towels: A basic necessity for every household. Dish rags and towels should be washed often, as they can hold bacteria, so use a new rag and towel every day.
9. Measuring items: Every plant-based kitchen should at least one good sized measuring cup. We have a glass Pyrex 2-cup capacity measuring cup and a set of Kitchenmade stainless steel dry measuring cups. We try to avoid plastics as much as possible when it comes to anything that deals with food.
Measuring spoons and a food scale can also be useful tools for baking. We’ve read good things about Cuisipro or Prepworks measuring spoons.
10. Strainers/Colanders: We recommend investing in a nice sturdy metal colander for cleaning, rinsing, and even sprouting foods. Strainer sets with long handles are great for straining liquids and can even be used for steaming. You can use basic cheesecloth, a nut milk bag or a D-I-Y cloth, for straining nut milks, juices and brewed beverages.
11. Salad Spinner: The addition of a salad spinner to our kitchen has been wonderful. This is the best way to get excess water from your leafy greens after cleaning them. Typically you will see the push-spin and the turn-spin varieties. We have used both, but currently have the push-spin variety. One of the best ones that we have tested was a cheap turn spinner from H-E-B our local grocery store. So you don’t have to spend a lot.
12. Dehydrator: If you are on a raw-food diet, a food dehydrator is an essential tool to have. We often choose to do short sessions of raw food living in which our dehydrator stays humming its tune. Other times we use it to experiment on new food ideas. If you have the money and kitchen space, we recommend it. We have the Excalibur 2400, which is easy to use, and we find it easy to clean.
13. Cooking Utensils: This is another area where its necessary to swing by your nearest TJ Maxx or Marshall’s and find the best metal spatula, tongs, whisk, and wooden cooking spoons on sale. Look for single-packaged items, as they tend to be of better quality. Also, look for sturdy utensils made from untreated materials and those that are one piece rather than various pieces screwed or welded together. This makes for better sanitation and longer utensil life. Again, do your very best to stay away from plastic.
14. Graters: A box grater and a microplane zester will prove sufficient enough for your grating needs. Again, consider sturdiness, and ease of cleaning. You do not want something that is going to hold food in small crevices that is difficult to clean.
15. Juicer: This item is not a necessity, but nice to have as an option. Juicers are ideal for extracting juice from more solid foods like apples, pears, beets and carrots. The juice extracted from these items are superb. The two types of juicers are masticating and centrifugal. Centrifugal is usually the less expensive of the two. It usually uses high speeds and sharp blades to extract the juice. Masticating uses very low speed and food is crushed and pressed in order to extract juice. The mastication process is considered cold press and is known to retain more of the nutrients than centrifugal juicers.