Depending on your homesteading style, and what your own personal preferences are, there are certain day to day kitchen items that you just use all the time. I absolutely have my most favourite things and in some instances, I’ve invested good money into them because I want them to last a long time.
That said, I also have to be practical. Living in QLD means we have a wet season and we often get summer storms. And even though I am in a south west area of the South East Coast (close to the tail end of the Great Dividing Range), I’ve been subject to flash flooding more times than I could count, and sometimes we get flooded in so bad we can’t leave our property. And because of this, I learnt very quickly that I needed to be adaptable and have the ability to change according to the circumstances around me.
So, what does all this have to do with kitchen tools? Well, let me explain. Alongside having the necessary tools to do a job, you also need the right skill. Learning how make fresh egg pasta is not so you can be a snob, but you can use your own produce to make up pasta if you run out an/or are in a situation where you cannot get any (a current pandemic comes to mind). Being gluten intolerant/coeliac means I have also learnt to make a lot of GF options, which I will be able to post about on this blog in due course.
So, don’t think about kitchen tools as independent of themselves, but more about what skills can you explore and reiterate in the kitchen as a result. Not only is homesteading about going back to doing things the way they used to, a push against consumerism and all, but it’s also about simplifying life. Making fresh pasta takes no longer than boiling a pot of water, cooking your durum wheat pasta and draining it. Really, it isn’t. But if you don’t have the right tools, you are less likely to implement this into your routine and give it a go. Personally, fresh made pasta is better for you, and you can control the ingredients. Have a look at the next regular durum wheat pasta you get that costs a couple of bucks from the supermarket – it may have soy flour in it, absorbic acid or some other numbered ingredient. And all you need for pasta is the flour, egg, and salt.
Having the right tools is also about learning and maintaining the right skill, and having more control over your food and your broader circumstances.
So this is going to be a list of my top 5 favourite kitchen items, with bonus items for storm season. Let me know in the comments below what your favourite kitchen tools are, or if you think I need to add something else to my list!
- Kitchenaid Stand Mixer
Now don’t get me wrong. I know they are expensive for a lot of folks. And really, they’ve become a bit of a kitchen centre piece with their fabulous bold colours. But I was gifted my mums old Kitchenaid that she bought when she and dad got married, and when my husband and I first started dating and had moved in together, she gave me this. While the machine died a few years back, I still have the bowl it came with and use it constantly. But I digress.
Investing in a good stand mixer really will help save time and money. I went for the medium range model, which had a lifting bowl as opposed to the standard model where the entire head/top of the machine is pulled back with the attachment on there.
The model I chose was the KPM5, linked here: KPM5 Bowl Lift Mixer | KitchenAid. There were many reasons I chose this:
- It was the first model to have the metal gear set inside. The basic model has a plastic one, or used to at the time I was looking and the most reported problems were people complaining about the gear set needing repair. The models above mine, the professional ones, also have the metal gears instead.
- The standard inclusions were very good. A whisk, flat beater and dough hook. The 4.8litre stainless steel bowl has handles and is suitable for the dishwasher. It also came with a bowl cover and pouring shield. My only issue with this bowl is, that the attachments don’t go entirely to the bottom, so you will need to pause and re-incorporate sometimes to make sure what you’re making gets done properly.
- The front of the machine has a knob where you can add additional attachments. Over the years, I’ve invested in the pasta dough rollers and cutters for fettucine and linguine, and the sausage mincer and stuffer. The sausage mincer I found second hand for $50, and the pasta attachment I purchased heavily discounted from a Black Friday sale.
- I enjoy that it isn’t the commercial/pro model, so better priced, but has the same features, and is just a little bit better than the basic model.
If you’re going to invest in a stand mixer, then I highly recommend saving, putting aside the money, whatever the option is, to invest in something like this. I use it easily every second day. I make all my doughs in there, I mix all my batters for cakes (glute free and regular), I’ve minced meat, made sausages, and at least fortnightly make fresh pasta and use it then too. It saves me a lot of time and also ensures I get the best I can from my dishes. I enjoy cooking too, so I think it’s a treat to have such a beautiful kitchen tool, especially if you know you’ll use it as often as I do.
- Phillips Multicooker
I bought this after a friend told me she meal preps using a pressure cooker and a slow cooker at the same time. At the time, I was doing batch cook ups of things like sarma or chilli con carne and bolognese, on the stove and a slow cooker. But if you’re mad like me, when you cook, you really cook. If I’m planning on doing a big meal prep, I am in the kitchen for 2-3 days and cook easily up to 3 months’ worth of base dishes. What that means is I cook the things that can freeze, needing only steamed vegetables, fresh rice/pasta or some mashed potatoes to go with the meal and a fresh salad. But that’s a post for another day.
At the time, the Instapot range was not available in Australia, like it is now. But the brand Phillips had a multicooker, and I purchased that. You guys – it is the best tool. I use this daily, multiple times a day, and just now, I invested in a second bowl so I can switch out things to continue cooking when one dish is done.
The model I have is about 4 or 5 years old now, so I will link the current model: Philips All in One Cooker | Original Multicooker | Philips. Touch wood to date, I have never had any issues with it at all. I use all the functions – stew to make jams, sear to sauté onions when I’m making chilli con carne, or spaghetti or any other dish I am planning on pressure cooking later, I make rice and risotto, soups – everything. Every.single.thing.
Anything that you can cook in the stove, you can cook in this. I haven’t tried, but recently read on reddit, that you can start your seeds in your cooker…..#gamechanger
The other reason this is good, is if you are on dual gas/electricity, and your gas goes out, then you still have something to cook full meals in. The recipe book even has recipes for making pasta based dishes with adding the uncooked pasta in and pressing the relevant buttons! (I personally haven’t tried that particular option but it’s there!) Additionally, and most importantly for us in QLD, is you can still cook without overheating the house. We all know that cooking in the summer even when you have good air conditioning is just murder. But this allows you to make a full meal without breaking a sweat. Literally.
- Air Fryer
Now these things can be controversial, but let me explain my thoughts on this. Unless you’re a tiny homer and you need to conserve space, then you can do with having one of these in the kitchen. I don’t buy the fancy $300+ ones and I refuse to. These days on ebay, you can pick up really good jupes for less than $100, and if you wait when there’s a sale or EOFY promotion or similar, you can often get it for even less.
The first one we bought was one of those that had the pull-out bucket with tray inside. This had an adjustable dial for heat, between 180-220c I think, and some pre-set options on a manual dial. This one we paid I think about $60 for and had it for 2 years. The inside tray was dishwasher safe, but we used it so much and it got so gunky we couldn’t take the oil off, despite cleaning it all the time. It still worked, but we chucked it out for health and safety reasons.
The one we have now is a multi-option one with a digital display and lots of preset options for different meals. It came with an oil catch tray, a flat basket, and a rotisserie. The rotisserie option is great, but you couldn’t put an entire chook in there. I tried, and failed. However, if you have chicken thighs or breast, or even quail, then its fine. I use it often to make my own rotisserie chicken thigh and its fantastic.
Now this machine was over $100 when we went to buy it, but as I said above, there was a promotion going at the time and I paid just under $80 for it and have had it for 3 years. We use it every day. We make hot chips, “boiled” eggs, bacon, fry large pieces of bread or rolls to toast, make salmon, steak, chicken, pork – anything you can think of. During winter, I do air fryer chestnuts, and even baked potato. As I write this post, I have some hot and spicy spam in thick slices frying up so I can make spam and egg sushi rolls.
The main advantage of this, isn’t necessarily the less fat option. I mean, that’s great, but not my biggest draw card. As a homesteader, I am in and out of the house a million times. And I often have multiple chores to get to. I may need to take out washing, but be in the middle of meal prep. I may need to go and feed the horse and rug him and prepare his food for the next day, and again, be in the middle of meal prep. I can set and forget this. This machine in particular beeps and turns itself off when cooking is done. So, I can be outside for 30 mins fussing with the horse, come back, and my whatever I had in there cooking is finished, meaning I can go onto the next step of making dinner. It’s just so convenient.
And again, with the blasted Australian summers, particularly the QLD ones, this is fantastic if you want to make a meal, reheat pizza or make toasted sandwiches without heating the entire kitchen.
- Cast Iron Pans
Now I wasn’t lucky enough to inherit any, but I did invest in some when again, I saw some on special. I have a mixture of cast iron with an inside enamel finish and pure cast iron all throughout. I have also picked up lots of second hand ones that are slightly smaller for camping size from the op shops.
When it comes to cast iron, you cannot beat the finish or taste of a meal cooked on cast iron, particularly steak or chops. What I love about them, is you can start a dish on the stove, and then take it out onto your BBQ or oven to finish. A good example would be a baked risotto or the like, where you may need to do some sautéing or cooking first, before finishing the meal off.
These are also fantastic for making no knead bread, which my husband loves. They have the taste and texture of a traditional sourdough started bread, but with no kneading. Plop your dough into one of these and bake it and you’ll end up with a bread that looks like it’s just come out of a French boulangerie.
Investing in them as new can be expensive. But once you start using them and have seasoned them well, you will not go back to the non-stick rubbish. I mean, honestly how many times have you had to swap out and repurchase non-stick ones, only for them to last a few months and you do it again. If you want long lasting, then you need cast iron. It’s also infinitely better for you than non-stick pans, as the non-stick coating has been shown to be quite dangerous for human health.
The only pitfall I can see as a new owner of cast iron, is having to go through and season them and learn about correct seasoning. Once that hurdle has been passed though, upkeep, care and maintenance of cast iron cookware is as easy to use as any other.
- Coffee Machine
I have one of these because I am one of those people that cannot function first without coffee. Admittedly, I am not using the best option at the moment, as I do have a pod based Nespresso Vertuo machine, but I am super mindful about recycling the pods, and do use coffee grounds in soap making and for the garden. I send my pod casings back to Nespresso for recycling.
But because my husband and I are coffee snobs, we do have a pretty decent coffee machine, and when this one finally does die, I will look to invest in a better bean based one instead of the pod based machine.
We have had a few issues with ours. But in all instances, I was able to send it back to Nespresso to get it fixed under warranty. In fact, this is how I ended up with two machines I alternate. For me, the same issue has been what occurs every time – so I can’t say I would invest in one of these machines again, but the sheer fact Nespresso has fixed, and replaced it every time has kept me using the product probably a lot longer than I normally would.
- Weber Family Q
Now a Weber BBQ is much of a brand name and staple in Australia as it is a good BBQ there might be other decent ones out there, but I have always had Weber, the pot kind and the gas BBQ. I would like to invest either in a BBQ smoker or smoker attachment, but I am still doing research into viability, use, and cost per use to see if it is suitable for us.
I originally looked into getting the Baby Q, as we were on our first acreage with a smaller house and I wanted something more for portability. But then we decided a bigger one was better, as it allowed us to cook things like a ham or bigger roast, and also cater for a cook-up or meal prep easier. It did set us back about $1,000 AUD at the time, as we bought most of the attachments and options, but we have had it for about 10 years and it hasn’t missed a beat. I use it all year round.
Our neighbour was able to pick up two Baby Q’s off gumtree for pretty cheap, and whilst they were slightly damaged it was something that was a relatively easy fix. Parts and support in Australia is also pretty available everywhere.
Again, being in SEQ in wet season storms, I have had to whip this out for ‘emergency’ cooking more times than I could count. I’ve boiled water, grilled meat, made breakfast, made bread – you name it. You do need to obviously modify your heat and timings, but its not impossible to cook entirely off a BBQ if you have to in an emergency situation.
Eventually I would like to have a fully decked out and functioning outside kitchen, because I think we’d use it a lot more living in QLD.
- Camping stove
For the reasons above, a camping stove with gas bottles, the little ones, is perfect for emergency situations. Boiling water or cooking a small meal can be done quickly and easily. We travelled with this to our beach house when we went there for a week between tenants and had no power connected, and were still able to make great meals quickly with little fuss.
The replacement bottles can be expensive, but I often wait for sales and pick them up in a bulk pack. For emergency situations, they are absolutely perfect though.
So there you have it. Some of my favourite and most used kitchen items and a must for homesteaders. I always try and look at a kitchen tool and see in what ways I can use it. If it has use across many different needs, then that’s always a positive. But if I were buying a toaster and an air fryer just because, then that wouldn’t be the best investment and just cluttering bench space.
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