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What up, y’all? Today I wanted to start a conversation about some tools that make cooking just a little bit easier and faster. Two of the big themes that I try to get folks to keep in the back of their minds is that “when cooking is easy, you’ll do it more often” and “the more often you do it, the better your food will be which makes you more excited to cook.” This is what I call the virtuous cycle of cooking and why I focus so much on the little things because when it comes to speed and efficiency in the kitchen, simply tacking up little traits, actions, or micro systems add up to super easy cooking. This is similar to why I focus on the fundamentals of cooking because when you stack up all the simple fundamentals (selecting good produce, proper knife skills, proper cooking techniques, proper seasoning, proper flavor combining, etc.) there is no way it can’t be delicious! I’ll save expanding that thought for another post and just stick with a few of my favorite tools.

I have a whole post just on your Chef Knife that you can take a look at, but in this post, I want to stick to some of the less celebrated tools in the kitchen since you’ll need to use most of these almost as regularly as your knife! Having tools that “work” with you, with your cooking style, your hands, in your kitchen, and in your life are super important for making cooking feel easier and more enjoyable! I have done a good bit of hiking in the past and I try to take a hikers approach to my tools in the kitchen; only have what you need and make sure it “works” with you and how you use it. This way you don’t end up carrying (or having to sort through) a lot of needless stuff which can make hiking (or cooking) a pain in the @$$. And because I am kind of a cooking process nerd, let me do the (over?) thinking of all these little things so you can benefit from what has helped me in my cooking! But remember one of the golden rules in cooking, “listen to what everyone tells you and decide what works for you.” Let’s get started with the little things to make the big things that much easier!!

The Unsung Hero

In professional kitchens, cooks truly take care of their knives and the old saying goes, grabbing another cooks knife is akin to grabbing their *ahem* “private parts”. But outside of a cook’s knives, potentially the next most coveted thing in professional kitchens is a good, sharp peeler. This is so much the case, that I have frequently seen cooks simply keep theirs in their pockets so it doesn’t get lost or stolen. Now, I think keeping a kitchen tool in your pocket is gross, because who knows what type of dirt, lint, grit, change, and sweat is in there, but this semi-common little behavior illustrates just how important professional cooks believe a good peeler really is, hence why I thought the gross story has an illustrative meaning here. A great peeler can truly make the difference between struggling with something simple or breezing through it with ease.

Now, peelers tend to fall into two main categories, a Y-style peeler or a Swivel/Euro-style peeler. Many people love either type of peeler and on either side of the debate, you will have your die-hards and at the end of the day, whatever style works best for you is the best for you! I wanted to give my thoughts on this debate because I am a convert from one style to the other and thought it might be helpful to y’all to hear what made me switch.

For decades (literally) I was a huge fan of the Swivel/Euro style peeler because that was the type I had used for years and it was what I was used to, and quite frankly, I hadn’t thought about it that much. As I got a little more attentive to the little things and micro-processes in cooking, I began to slowly get more and more frustrated with that style of peeler when it came to harder vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I found it felt more and more hard on the wrist as the peeler would inevitably get dull and because of the design, required more wrist strength with each passing year. When I was a young(er), invincible cook, I just took the “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger” and the “it takes a bit of strength to cook” approach to cooking and was happy (even immaturely proud) of doing it “the hard way” to protect my ego of how I had always done it. It worked for me, so why should I change it? Well, then I got a bit older and in my late early 30’s, came down with a debilitating case of tendonitis from cooking so long and so hard that I had to wear solid braces on both of my wrists for a 4 months just to continue using my hands. Trust me, that sucked… So I started (was forced to) thinking a whole lot about the ergonomics of cooking to make it easier on my body so I could continue in my career that requires hands to perform.

Thus began my slow transition to the Y-style peeler, which is now my go-to for all my peeling needs.... (sorry about that last phrase, but couldn’t help it…) The other thing that helped make the switch was when I began my soup business to survive in a crippled industry during the pandemic. I started going through large quantities of butternut and sweet potatoes and had a fellow friend and cook who was definitely from the “power-through-it” school of work/cooking that kept snapping the Euro/swivel style of peelers when going at butternut/sweet potatoes. So I said, let me get some of “the other type” of peelers to see if that would be more helpful and last a bit longer. And I have never looked back! It definitely took some getting used to as how you end up holding the vegetables is inevitably different with the different style, but as with most things in cooking, give it a few times and it’ll become second nature to you. It is easier on my hands and wrists and tackles the toughest of tasks with ease. Plus, neither my crew nor myself has yet to break one and we regularly prepare 40+ gallons of soup in 1 day (see our Soup Club).

One other little helpful thing that I learned the hard way is that the “name brand” stuff isn’t always the best of what’s out there. There is basically one brand (I’ll let you figure it out) that pretty much is the top of the category in Y-shaped peelers that I have seen cooks use all through my career. Since I was trying out a new style and it was “the brand” I had seen all the Y-peeler die hards use, I spent the extra $5-6 to get what I thought was the best. Well, I quickly found out that this was not in fact “the best” since it began to rust almost immediately. Longevity in any blade is a must and I am certainly not going to be sharpening my peeler or pay it the level of attention that I pay to my chef knife. I believe a peeler should be able to be tossed around, thrown in the dishwasher, and not have to be worried about. So, I bought the “knock off” variety and have been super impressed! It functions just like the pricier one but the blade stays rust free and I certainly don’t “baby” it. The brand that has performed super well for me is in my Kitchen Tools page and I highly recommend it!

Now, I do have to tell you that I have become an Amazon Affiliate and may receive a small commission if you buy it through my link (within 24 hours of clicking). That being said, I hate the idea of being a billboard for money and certainly will never recommend something that I don’t truly believe in and believe it will make you a better cook! But if I believe in something, go to the trouble to recommend it and tell you why it’s worked for me, I’m ok with making a little money on giving you the benefit of my experience and expertise. I hope you agree and I thank you for the support!

This will be a series of posts (and videos) so I can give y’all the long form version of why I stand behind these supremely necessary items and how they can help you to become a better cook! Thanks so much for reading and I wish you happy and easy cooking! :D

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