If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably doing a lot of quarantine baking and cooking. I know that we are at my house. While we’re able to make do with most of the kitchen tools we have, we have discovered some must-haves that we, well, don’t have.
For example, we’ve been making a lot of sautéed vegetables and stir fry dishes. One of the best ways to prep onions, peppers, carrots and more for this kind of quarantine cooking is to slice them very thin. Our 24-year-old daughter, who is staying with us temporarily, told us that she has a mandoline slicer, with a guard, and it’s become an essential kitchen tool for her. While we have decent knives to work with, it can be so time-consuming to slice and slice and slice peppers and onions. Never mind the crying and tears.
So based on her advice we got a mandoline slicer on Amazon. It’s not very big but it makes a big dent in our food prep. It’s got a cutting glove and guard so you don’t slice your finger off–all pretty important–plus a silicone mat so it doesn’t slip. Best of all, the whole thing goes in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Quarantine cooking kitchen tools
Another quarantine cooking purchase is an air fryer. With all the quarantine baking, we do want to try to eat a bit healthier. So air frying potatoes rather than deep-frying might help. Plus, we’re not eating out anymore but sometimes you really want French fries. We’re hoping the air fryer will satisfy that craving.
Then there is our immersion blender. It’s a kitchen essential if you make a lot of soup or sauces. My husband, who is of Italian descent, is the kind of homemade sauce. He can whip up an off-the-cuff pesto and recently he made from scratch butternut squash soup.
Originally, he wanted to take the soup from the pan into a regular blender and then back into the pan. I reminded him of the immersion blender. This lets him blend everything to a smooth finish without switch pans or making more dishes to do. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools.
If you’re ever going through a kitchen renovation, you’ll want to read my blog post on the best cooking equipment to get you through.
Quarantine baking kitchen essentials list
Given all of this quarantine baking and cooking, I’ve decided to put together this kitchen essentials list blog post. Ironically, many of these items originally appeared on this blog when it was called Suddenly Frugal. That was a decade ago.
At that time I was writing a regular segment called the Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval. It was something I would put together when I found an essential or must have item that served me well–and I wanted to share with my readers. I think of it now as a precursor to my obsession with lifetime warranty products. If I’m going to spend my money on something that works great, not only should it last but I’m going to tell everyone I know how great that product is when it does serve me well.
At least two items that appeared long ago on my Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval list now appear on this kitchen essentials list and have become essential for our quarantine baking and cooking.
Even as some states are lifting the stay at home rules, I feel like we will all have a newfound appreciation of baking and cooking because of this quarantine. That’s why I think that even if the quarantine is no more, these quarantine baking and cooking kitchen essentials will still be relevant.
Quarantine baking bread machine
Twelve years ago I got the Cuisinart Automatic Bread Maker as a birthday gift. This was during our full-on frugal years, and I was thrilled. One of the biggest sacrifices our family had to “make” when we adopted frugality was giving up our weekly pizza from the local pizza shop. But we didn’t have to stop eating pizza, thanks to the bread maker.
That’s because I was able to make pizza dough in the bread maker. It was so simple–just add ingredients, and press the “dough” option on the menu. When the machine stopped about 40 minutes later, I had a perfect ball of dough that I could roll out for pizza. Once baked I was thrilled to discover that it tasted like the stuff we paid for at the pizzeria.
How we’re using our breadmaker during quarantine baking
Flash forward to quarantine baking, and once again we’re making pizza at home–when we can find yeast, that is. However, we’ve been able to make a number of quick breads–read no yeast required–in the bread machine.
Recently, we had a bunch of bananas that were past their prime. Rather than compost them, I wanted to put them to good use. During quarantine baking and cooking, we’d used old bananas to make banana pancakes and banana waffles. This time around I wanted to make banana bread.
A quick Google search turned up a recipe for breadmaker chocolate chip banana bread. The only prep work I had to do was mashing the bananas. Ninety minutes later we had warm, freshly baked banana bread. It was super easy, thanks to the bread machine.
We’ve also used the bread machine to make a loaf for sandwiches when our Instacart shopper couldn’t find sliced bread at the store. When my husband cooked pasta one night and we didn’t have any bread to eat with it, he used to he bread machine again.
Mix all ingredients at once
Best of all with the bread machine: you can put all the ingredients right into bread machine pan and let it mix them for you. In addition, when you’re done with your quarantine baking, you can put that pan on the top rack of the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
While I love my the Cuisinart Automatic Bread Maker–and it’s still going strong after a decade–I recently read a review of other bread makers, which I’ve highlighted below.
If you’re interested, here is a link to that original Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval for my breadmaker.
Quarantine cooking with a rice cooker
I’ve been a big fan of my rice cooker long before quarantine baking or cooking became a thing. Ten years ago I gave the rice cooker my Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval. We’ve been cooking with one ever since.
While technically not quarantine baking, we are cooking at home 100 percent of the time now. So there’s quarantine cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Therefore, we’ve got the rice cooker on heavy rotation.
I’ve tried all kinds of rice in my rice cooker over the years. I’ve found that basmati rice and Jasmine rice work the best. Regular white or brown rice tends to dry out or even burn. That has never happened with the other two kinds of rice. I wonder if it’s because their cooking instructions have a 2:1 water to rice ratio whereas “regular” rice is 1:1.
Cookie sheets for quarantine baking
Years ago I gave that aforementioned Suddenly Frugal Seal of Approval to Pampered Chef kitchen shears. These Pampered Chef shears have been a terrific tool to have in the kitchen. They cut everything and never get dull. However, they aren’t the only Pampered Chef products I own.
Maybe you once attended a Pampered Chef at home party. Or have participated in one online. But did you know that you can also buy Pampered Chef products direct on Amazon? In my opinion, so many of these are must have kitchen tools. However, Pampered Chef isn’t the only direct selling brand you can get on Amazon.
Years ago I bought two different sized Southern Living at Home cookie sheets. Do you remember Southern Living at Home? I loved their stuff.
The cookie sheets I got have a pebbled texture to them. They are unlike any other cookie sheets I have. I don’t know quite what pebbling does–help warm air circulate, maybe? But every time I use them for quarantine baking–or long before we were all staying at home–things cook beautifully and evenly. And nothing sticks. Also, they clean up super easily with hand washing.
Turns out that those very pans that I love so much are for sale on Amazon under the brand Doughmakers. The description of these pans even mentions the “pebbled” surface that I’ve referred to above.
I discovered that there are nine different bakeware options from Doughmakers, all with the pebbled surface. I’m so excited. While I have the round pizza pan (not available anymore ?) and the rectangular cookie sheet pan, I think I’m going to order the jellyroll pan to add to my kitchen tools for quarantine baking.
Final thoughts on quarantine baking
It will be interesting to see if so many people’s desire for quarantine baking remains once the quarantine is lifted. I know that we’ve taken great satisfaction in making our meals, snacks and desserts from scratch. And as long as time allows, I hope we’ll keep this up going forward. Of course, having invested in these kitchen essentials should make doing that much easier.
If I’ve missed an must have kitchen tools or items that have helped get you through quarantine baking or cooking, please post a comment to let me know. I’d love to check out your suggestions.