Cooking during the colder months of the year is all about building flavour through simmering, roasting and braising. This starts with having the right tools on hand to indulge in your favourite cool weather comfort foods. Here are the seven essential tools to have within easy reach all winter long.
1. Enamel Dutch oven.
The ultimate tool for one-pot meals, a Dutch oven can go right from the stovetop to the oven, making it the ideal pot for braising. These heavy pots are often made out of cast iron and come in a variety of sizes, but a 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven is a good place to start. Look for Dutch ovens with a thick bottom and sides as well as a tight fitting lid. This helps to ensure even heat distribution and to seal in moisture, resulting in a perfectly cooked and flavourful dish.
2. Roasting pan and wire rack.
As one of the simplest techniques for cooking meat and vegetables, roasting is an essential dry-cooking method that develops and intensifies flavours. Look for a roasting pan with thick, large handles (this makes moving the pan in and out of the oven a breeze), with sides that are around 3-inches tall. Roasting pans come in a variety of shapes, from oval to round, but the most versatile pans will be rectangular as they are larger and allow for more variety. Always have a wire rack on hand as this allows the hot air to circulate whatever you are roasting instead of stewing in its own juices.
3. Meat thermometer.
This is the time of year for entertaining with impressive roasts, but these dishes can be intimidating to cook. Rely on a meat thermometer and you’ll never worry about over-cooking or under-cooking meat again. Precision is key when it comes to cooking and it doesn’t get more precise than an instant read thermometer. Keep in mind these essential cooking temperatures before you get started.
4. Rimmed baking sheets.
Sheet pan suppers are a staple weeknight dinner requiring a couple of multi-purpose rimmed baking sheets. Many recipes call for one pan, but it’s always a good idea to have two on hand in case you’re cooking a larger meal. Also known as jelly-roll pans, these pans have rolled edges that keep everything inside (unlike cookie sheets) and can be used for roasting a pan of vegetables or chicken breasts, baking cookies or granola. When shopping for rimmed baking sheets, opt for a shiny, aluminum pan for even baking.
5. Cast iron skillet.
A cast iron skillet is the workhorse of any kitchen. This non-stick pan can withstand incredibly high temperatures without warping or other damage, and is known for its ability to evenly distribute heat. Also the best tool for getting the perfect sear, cast-iron skillets are durable and easily transfer from stovetop to oven. This handy skillet can be used year after year, making it a budget-friendly kitchen tool.
6. Large stockpot.
For big jobs, like cooking batches of soup, chilli or homemade stock, a large stockpot is essential. While they may take up a bit of real estate in the kitchen, you’ll be thankful for the amount of soup you can make in one. This pot will spend hours on the stovetop, so look for high quality models with a thick and heavy bottom as this will prevent food from scorching on the bottom during long cook times.
7. Immersion blender.
A simple way to puree soups and sauces without pulling out the blender, an immersion blender is a no-mess, multi-purpose tool that fits snugly into any cupboard. They are more affordable than blenders and make pureeing even the thickest, comforting soups right in the pot a breeze.