Slate Plus asked Laura Anderson—L.V. Anderson to Slate readers—about her four indispensible kitchen tools. Are you Doing It Wrong: Outfitting Your Kitchen? Read on.
Famously, Microplane began as a brand of wood rasps, and then people realized they were awesome for zesting citrus and grating Parmesan cheese. (And chocolate, although I rarely do that.) It's not like I'm zesting citrus and/or grating Parmesan cheese every day, but I find it very satisfying to use a Microplane grater: to remove the thinnest layer of skin from a lemon or orange, leaving it bald and pastel-colored, or to turn a hard block of cheese into a downy mound of shavings.
Slate ran a story, which I edited, praising wooden spoons a year and a half ago, but I am 100 percent team silicone. I use this practically every time I cook. It is perfect for scraping onions off the bottom of a skillet or for scraping cookie dough off the sides of a bowl. It is a really good scraper is what I'm saying. And, as a bonus, it works silently—you don't get a goosebump-inducing shriek the way you do when you scrape a metal spoon or spatula against a metal bowl or pot.
My affection for my cast-iron skillet probably has more to do with what it symbolizes than with the practical experience of cooking in it. I love that it does not carry a risk of contaminating your food with carcinogens—in fact, it imbues your food with beneficial dietary iron. I also love that you have to take good care of a cast-iron skillet if you want it to work well, and that it lasts forever. My apartment is too small for me to have a dog, so I feel like my cast-iron skillet is a stand-in for a pet. Like a Tamagotchi, only useful.
Do you actually wash your cast-iron skillet?
I do not wash my cast-iron skillet with soap except under the direst of circumstances (i.e., when there is some really stubborn egg residue on it). A good scrub with a soapless brush usually suffices. Yes, there is always a thin film of oily grime on my skillet, but it doesn't bother me—it just makes it more nonstick.
For several years when I was younger, I lived and cooked without a knife sharpener. I was a total idiot. It is incredibly easy to sharpen knives—you literally just scrape the blade against the little whetstone a few times—and sharp knives work so much better than blunt knives. This is probably obvious to most people, but just in case anyone reading this is living sans sharpener, I feel obligated to mention it.