Here’s a list of time-saving tools that I use most in my kitchen, along with tips on how to use them. When you cook more at home, the preparation becomes much easier when you already have your kitchen set up with the tools you need.
Chef’s Knife and Paring Knife
Apart from your own hands, these are probably your most essential tools in the kitchen. If you cook from scratch most of the time, then you’ll be doing a lot of vegetable chopping, which requires good knives. Be sure to get a chef’s knife with a size and weight that fits well in your hand. And don’t forget the knife sharpener. Keeping your knives sharp will help make chopping much easier and will protect your hands from slips that happen more readily with a dull knife.
I use my citrus juicer just about every day for freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. It’s much easier to extract more juice this way than by hand.
Wooden cutting boards are the most sustainable choice, and they help protect your knives, unlike chopping directly on ceramic counter tops. Flexible cutting boards are also good choices because you can easily slide whatever you’ve chopped right into your pan or bowl.
Electric Crock Pot
Using an electric crock pot (or slow cooker) makes it easy to cook a big batch of beans, rice, stew, chili, and other dishes on the weekend to eat from during the week. Or you can use it to cook while you’re away from home or sleeping or just doing other things. You won’t have to constantly check on the food, and when it’s hot outside, you won’t have to turn on the stove or oven. Crock pots are also energy efficient, which makes them cost-effective to use, as well.
Chopping vegetables, onions, garlic, and nuts are much easier with a food processor. It’s also great for easily making sauces, dips, and pesto.
Glass Baking Pans with Lids
It’s a good idea to get standard (9×13-inch) and larger sizes of these glass baking pans for making delish dishes like lasagna, mac and cheese, and fruit cobblers. And the lids make them convenient because you can keep them in the pan when you store them in the fridge.
Glass Canning Jars
These are my favorite containers for storing my leftover smoothies and green drinks in the refrigerator. I also use them to store dry staples like beans, nuts, and whole grains.
I fill mine every morning and leave it on the counter to drink from to be sure I’m getting my 6-8 glasses of water daily. I sometimes add chop fruit slices or fresh berries for variety. It’s a pretty reminder to drink my water.
I highly recommend investing in a good quality high-speed blender if you can because it makes eating more plant foods a breeze. I use a Vitamix, which can be a bit costly, but it lasts. I’ve used mine every day for many years to make daily green smoothies or vegetable drinks that come out silky smooth, with no or low visible pulp. I also use it to blend just about anything else, from soups to pie fillings to cashew cream to pureed fruit.
I use my kitchen scissors to cut my baked tortillas and pitas into chip-size pieces for dips and soups. They also work well to cut stalks away from greens, especially if neatness counts for making wraps or rolls.
These are essential to wipe your hands as you cook and to cut down on the use of paper towels. They’re also great for unexpected uses, as I mention under Rimmed Baking Pans.
Nonstick Muffin Tins
I love, love, love warm muffins from the oven! I usually put silicon baking cups in the muffin tins, but you can also use nonstick muffin tins. Either of these options help minimize or eliminate using oil for muffins. Also, if you love muffins as much as I do, you may want to get a mini-muffin tin, so you feel better about eating two or more at a time.
Rimmed Baking Pans
The large sizes are great for baking cookies, of course. I usually line the pan with unbleached parchment paper to remove the cookies easily, and to make wiping the pan clean a breeze. I also use the pans to dry freshly washed berries in the summertime. I place a kitchen towel on the pan, and spread out the berries on the towel to let them air dry on the counter before putting them in the fridge.
Besides my blender, this is probably my most used kitchen tool. Salad spinners help take away the pain (!) of washing and drying dark leafy greens. You can easily wash and spin-dry your greens without the mess, then store them in the refrigerator right in the spinner. Here’s my secret: I actually have two salad spinners. One I use to store my washed and cleaned kale for my daily salads. And the other I use to wash, dry, and store the other vegetables I eat during the week, including broccoli, collards, mustards, chard, and others.
A spiral slicer (or spiralizer) is especially useful to help you eat more fresh vegetables during the summer months when there’s so much more fresh produce available. You can use the spiral slicer to make paper-thin slices of a variety of vegetables or spaghetti, like strands of zucchini and squash. You can also use it to julienne strips and half rounds of vegetables to easily add to salads, stir-fries, and soups or to dip in hummus or salsa.
Stainless Steel Bench Scraper or Pastry Scraper
I use these every day to scoop up anything that I’ve chopped into small pieces on a cutting board, including onions, garlic, apples…you name it.
Stainless Steel Tongs
In addition to using stainless steel tongs to toss salads, I use them to toss leafy greens, string beans, or bell peppers when I’m lightly sautéing them on the stove. I also use them to turn grilled tempeh or tofu in the oven. Be sure to get long tongs to handle these hot cooking tasks.
In addition to using a stainless steel teapot to make my favorite teas, I use it to quickly boil water for my morning oatmeal. I just pour the boiling water over dry rolled oats, chopped apples and walnuts, and cinnamon in a bowl, and cover the bowl with a flat glass plate for about 15 minutes – and done!
Stainless steel whisks are essential for stirring dry mixes when baking or when mixing together marinades. You can also use them to stir ingredients directly into a soup pot on the stove.
I like using mine to back crusty cornbread in the oven, but they’re also great for cooking most anything that calls for a sauté pan. Plus, they last a long time, so if you’re only using it for vegan cooking, it’s a great family heirloom to pass on from one vegan to the next.
An enameled dutch oven can be pricey, but they’re ideal to cook with because they evenly distribute heat, whether you’re sautéing or roasting veggies or simmering soups and stews. They also last a long time, which make them worth the investment.
A handheld immersion blender is a convenient, lightweight, and simple way to blend and mix ingredients directly in a bowl or hot soup pot, eliminating the extra steps needed to place ingredients in a standard mixer or blender. And they’re surprisingly affordable, which makes them even more appealing.
Mortar and Pestle
I just love the idea of having this age-old tool in my kitchen, whether I use it often or not. They’re great for grinding fresh spices, when you want to switch up from dried, store-bought varieties.
Stainless Steel Skewers
I like having these on hand in the summertime for making colorful fresh fruit kabobs or grilled veggie kabobs. They’re a great way to add fun and variety to summer cooking.
These make peeling the skin off fresh vegetables much faster and easier – for when you don’t want to use the old-school method of a knife in your hand.
When you’re using these kitchen tools, be sure to have designated counter space that’s cleared for food preparation. And be sure the appliances you use the most are easily accessible so you’re more likely use them.