As homesteaders, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen processing the garden harvest, cooking real food from scratch, and preserving the excess.
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Here are my kitchen implements that have been the most useful and reliable.
All items have received at least 4 out of 5 stars from customer reviews on Amazon.
Wherever newer/ better/ cheaper models now exist (compared to when I acquired my products), I’ve noted that, too.
In 2011, we made a bold move. We got rid of the microwave and replaced it with this toaster oven. At the time, this model was the most efficient and economical one we could find on the market.
Using a toaster oven took some getting used to, but now I can’t imagine going back to the microwave.
In fact, recently I stayed at my mom’s house to help her recover from surgery, and I had blunder after blunder trying to remember how to use the microwave appropriately!
This particular toaster oven has treated us quite well. The temperature seems to be accurate. The convection feature reduces cooking time. I definitely save on energy because I can cook certain things in the toaster oven rather than heating up the regular oven.
I’ve even cooked a whole chicken in it!
This model only received 3 out of 5 stars from reviewers on Amazon who didn’t like the manual control dials. But we chose this model specifically for those dials! Digital-touch timers can sometimes be the first features to short out, and we try to purchase appliances that have the best chance of lasting.
I generally only recommend products that I’ve tested that rate at least 4 stars, but I just don’t have any complaints about this toaster oven.
If I were in the market for a new one today, I might check out this model, since it’s $30 cheaper and has received good reviews. Although, it has that digital display...
My 7-cup processor makes kitchen work so much simpler. It slices, shreds, chops, and mixes. It purees. It even mixes dough. It makes a mean pumpkin puree, hummus, or pate.
Shredded zucchini for zucchini bread. Shredded carrots for salads or carrot cake.
My food processor gets a lot of use! My only complaint, as I’ve said for many of the kitchen implements I own, is that I wish I had a larger size.
When processing large amounts of produce I’ll have to do multiple batches in the 7-cup size. Not the end of the world, but if I were buying one today, I would definitely go with the 14-cup food processor.
I believe if you’re going to buy a household appliance, you might as well buy the biggest and best one you can afford. In almost every instance where I’ve purchased a household appliance, I’ve wished I’d gotten the larger size.
Not the case for my Excalibur. I splurged on the large 9-tray model, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve packed it to the brim so many times! Comparing different sized models, you’ll notice that not only does the 9-tray have more trays than the 4-tray (duh), but the higher the number of trays, the larger each tray is.
So the 9-tray model is almost 4 times larger than the 4-tray even though the number of trays is only double.
The Excalibur is known to be superior to other dehydrators because of the horizontal air flow, which provides even and consistent drying over all trays. Plus, the adjustable thermostat ranges from 105 to 165.
I love being able to set an exact temperature appropriate to the item I’m drying.
Be aware of the size of this model - 19 x 17 x 12.5 inches. The only downside is trying to find a good spot to set it.
This model comes with polyscreen tray inserts, but you’ll definitely want to buy non-stick sheets as well for drying small things that might fall through the polyscreen or for making fruit leathers.
We’ve dried all kinds of fruits, veggies, and herbs, and this model has worked perfectly. I even make my yogurt in the dehydrator. Someday soon I’ll experiment with making jerky!
The dehydrator would be of little use to me without a guide book, so I also bought Preserve it Naturally: The Complete Guide to Food Dehydration, written by Excalibur. It’s the only guide I’ve needed to operate my dehydrator with confidence.
This thing has been with us since before we got married. It’s portable, and we get compliments on it all the time at potlucks and family gatherings.
It comes with a serving spoon and a place to put a name tag or recipe card.
Most people comment on how big this one is, but if I could do it all over again, I’d get an even bigger one. However, the bigger ones aren’t portable, so maybe I just need two of them!
Oh, and the ceramic insert and lid are dishwasher safe.
If I were buying one today, I would look at this model because it’s the same size, is portable, has great reviews, and is $20 cheaper.
Electric kettles are an energy-efficient way to heat up water. We purchased an electric kettle in 2012 before we remodeled our kitchen, back when our old cooktop was an energy hog.
This kettle heats up water so fast that it’s almost boiling by the time I get two mugs and two tea bags out of the cupboard for our evening cup of tea.
Beside tea, this kettle gets a lot of use. I frequently make chicken broth by adding chicken bones and a splash of apple cider vinegar to the slow cooker, and filling it up with boiling water from this electric tea kettle.
I cook the chicken broth on low for 24 hours to produce a healthy, tasty base for soups.
I also use the tea kettle to boil water for maintaining clear sink drains. About 4 times a year, I put baking soda in each of the sink and tub drains in the house, then chase it with boiling water and a few cups of white vinegar.
It works to reduce any odors, keep the drains running clear, and to prevent clogs.
I really like the kettle model that we have. Unfortunately you’ll notice that although this model received good reviews, it is currently off the market. So I did some searching, and if I were in the market today, I would look at this model.
Obviously I can’t vouch for it, but it received good reviews and is about the same price we paid for ours.
One note on maintenance: After use, we leave the lid open for a day to air out before storing it. Storing it with moisture trapped inside could attract mold. This trick of leaving the lid open has kept the inside clean, odor- and mildew-free.
I wrote a blog post about all the reasons why I prefer a pressure canner over a water bath canner. Check it out! The pressure canner is so versatile and can be used for pressure cooking, pressure canning, or water bath canning.
Once I decided I wanted a pressure canner, naturally, I added it to my Christmas list! And I received this 16-quart Presto pressure canner.
It has worked like a dream without any problems for years.
Like many of my kitchen appliances, my only complaint is I wish I had gone with the larger size, the 23-quart Presto pressure canner. The 16-quart will hold 10 pints, while the 23-quart will hold 20 pints.
Presto is a reputable brand with high reviews, and I’ve been happy with it. But if you have a couple-hundred more dollars, you can go with the All-American brand. I can’t vouch for it, but it comes highly favored.
Don’t forget your canning materials:
For the record, we don’t drink soymilk. Bleh. However, this little machine can do so many things! I love versatility in an appliance.
It makes any kind of nut milk. Homemade maple almond milk is the bomb (which has no resemblance to the shelf-stable stuff you buy at the store).
I’d like to thank the creators of the owners manual for the out-of-this-world recipe. SO dreamy.
I’ll let you in on a brilliant secret: After you’ve made the almond milk, you’ll have a container full of almond pulp. Spread it out on your dehydrator’s non-stick sheets and dehydrate until crispy.
Then grind to a powder using any of your amazing kitchen gadgets: the Vitamix, the food processor, the coffee grinder...even this nutmilk maker. Voila - almond flour for gluten-free baking. Store in the freezer or vacuum seal for freshness.
This thing can also make soup or grind coffee. Amazing.
This thing is magic. We bought our Vitamix in 2008 after being frustrated with the non-smoothiness of our smoothies in the “normal" blender.
Our normal priced, normal blender just wasn’t getting the smoothies smooth and the purees weren’t ever fully pureed.
Weekly smoothies (as you might have guessed), pureed soups, liquefied sauces, and almond butter are some of the things we make on a regular basis.
I feel like a culinary professional when I use this thing.
Warning: It’s loud and powerful!
Also, customer service is excellent for this Cleveland, Ohio- based business. After a couple of years, the blade assembly got a little wonky and sounded loose when blending.
We called customer service and they sent us a new container and blade right away without question (or charge).
I never thought I would need so many gadgets before I started homesteading!
It’s nothing to core one or two apples, but boy, does this little non-electric tool make life easier when you’ve got a bushel of apples!
When you start growing your own fruit trees, you’ll have to buy a few implements in order to process the bounty. Cherries need to be pitted before cooking or preserving.
A couple years ago, I asked for a Multiple Cherry Pitter. Instead I got this Oxo model as a gift.
It’s worked very well. Still I can’t help but wonder if the multiple cherry pitter would work any faster. I’ll never know, but they both have excellent ratings, so I’m sure either one will work!
So, we’re serious about our coffee. It’s totally unnecessary, but this coffee grinder is amazing. I love a very fine grind for my stovetop espresso, while Mr. TAF likes a French press-style coffee from a courser grind.
We can have both with the 18-position grind selector!
Beans are ground evenly in the burr mill, and with the least amount of heat to retain the coffee bean oils. I can definitely taste the difference. Or maybe I’m imagining it, but either way, it makes me happy in the morning.
This grinder should be cleaned regularly, but the truth is we’ve had ours for over three years and haven’t done any maintenance. Seems to still work like a charm. Knock on wood?
Warning: It’s noisy! Don’t press start when Mr. TAF is on a conference call for work. FYI.
Here’s a different burr grinder I would take a look at if I were buying one today because it’s received a higher rating in customer reviews. However, it’s also twice the price, so you decide.
Ours has worked like a champ even if other reviewers had a different experience.
Here’s our stovetop espresso maker that makes the specialty grinder worth it.
If you appreciate good coffee and enjoy the ritual of making yourself a morning cup o’ joe, this stovetop espresso maker is for you.
Sure, it’s a bit indulgent, but I make sacrifices for my special wake-up drink!
Here’s how I look at it: If I’m going to indulge in buying a product simply for the sake of enjoyment, you betcha I’m going to buy a quality product that will last a long time.
I don’t want to send a bunch of stuff to the landfill.
That would be like going to Starbucks every morning and throwing away those non-recyclable paper cups. Plus, my fancy coffee only costs me 50-cents a cup!
If you like espresso but don’t want to buy an espresso-making contraption that takes up your entire countertop, this adorable little pot is for you.
The stovetop espresso maker works on all types of stovetops, even over a flame. It’s perfect on our induction stovetop.
We have the 4-cup model, but as in many of the kitchen implements we’ve acquired over the years, I wish it were bigger. The amount of coffee made in the 4-cup equals one cup of coffee (remember, it’s espresso, not coffee).
But I drink it like coffee - a full mug with a splash of cream. It’s quite ridiculous, actually. Here’s how we use the 4-pot model for 2 people: I make a pot-full (one mug) for myself, I cool the pot in a bowl of water, then Mr. TAF makes his pot-full (one cup).
Lots of “ritual" for a couple cups of dreamy coffee.
You’ll be happiest if you go with this 6-cup pot!
If you plan to have a high-production homestead kitchen, your compost bucket should be at least the size of this stainless steel pail.
I bought it after I got tired of having to empty the older, smaller one so often.
The stainless steel matches the appliances in my kitchen, and the carbon filter works to keep it odorless until I empty it in the compost bin.
Some reviewers have said that they get fruit flies in their buckets, but this only happens for me when I neglect the bucket and don’t take it out to the compost at least once a week.
It comes with 2 carbon filters (you use 2 at once). Here’s where you get more. I replace them about every 3 months or so.
I bought this scale in 2007 when I started a little soap business. There’s a lot of precision measuring in making soap, and this scale did the job.
It’s still kicking, even if the soap business isn’t. I use it almost daily for measuring garden produce, food prep, and making household herbal products.
It measures up to 13 pounds, and can be used in ounces, grams, pounds, or pounds + ounces. It’s cordless and uses a 9 volt battery. In all of these years of use, I’ve only had to replace the battery once.
A food mill is a magic contraption. I bought ours primarily for canning bulk produce. I push tomatoes, berries, or apples through the food mill after I cook to soften them.
The food mill removes the skins and seeds, leaving me with the juice and pulp.
The food mill is also good for mashing cooked potatoes or sweet potatoes. Sure, I can puree stuff in my food processor, but the food mill is amazingly efficient and is non-electric, too.
Off-grid solutions are a great back-up to our powered appliances.
The Foley brand has a reputation of quality and is the most reasonably priced stainless steel model out there. I’ve been really happy with it.
I’ve been so pleased with this black-coated steel drying rack. While I use my Excalibur dehydrator for drying large amounts of herbs, this herb drying rack is perfect for drying small amounts of herbs or drying flowers.
Plus, it adds a touch of country whimsy to any room.
I bought a set of extra hooks to go with it and use rubber bands, twine, or twist ties to tie bunches of herbs to the hooks.
I love my Escali digital scale. It works like a charm on a 9-volt battery. However, if you’re looking for a scale that will work even after the zombies take away our batteries, this scale is it.
It’s very precise for a mechanical scale. It measures up to 11 pounds (the Escali goes up to 13 lbs), and it comes with the stainless steel bowl!
This garlic press was a wedding gift from my aunt and uncle, the result of a random conversation, in which they expressed shock that Mr. TAF and I cooked from-scratch meals without this tool.
I’m always game for another non-electric gadget, but I had no idea how much it would ease my time in the kitchen and enhance dishes with fresh minced - not chopped - garlic.
This press can mince a couple of cloves at once without much effort on my part, and is easy to clean.
Hint: The non-slip rubber handles come off so you can wash the whole thing in the dishwasher without getting water stuck inside.
I decided to buy these scissors and designate them for the kitchen after I noticed the regular scissors were all gunky from opening cardboard boxes and such.
Figured it was time I grew up and had a separate pair of scissors just for food-centered tasks.
It so happens that this pair also has a handy herb stripper on it, which I use mainly for fresh rosemary and thyme.
I can’t believe it took me so long to get one of these. Not only is salad-making easier, but it’s also great for all the leafy greens I bring in from the garden.
My favorite is washing a bunch of freshly-harvested kale or chard, spinning it dry in the salad spinner, then flash-frying it with fresh garlic and oil.
Flash-fried greens retain their nutrients and are still bright green when served.
I also love to process a bunch of lettuce for entree-sized salads and store it in the spinner in the fridge. We eat so many greens around here that my only complaint is I wish the spinner was bigger.
Alas, this is the biggest size. As far as quality goes, I have no complaints. It’s gotten a lot of use in the last couple of years and shows no signs of aging.
We’ve had this coffee grinder since before we were married! It’s sturdy and reliable. We grind coffee, of course, but mostly, I use it for grinding herbs and spices.
For herbs and spices that I can’t grow myself, I buy them in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs, then grind them myself for my spice rack. They’re fresher that way, and buying in bulk saves money.
The grinder is easy to clean with a dry paper towel after each use so that the flavors of spices and coffee don’t mix.
For a fancy grinder, this is the one we use primarily for coffee. ‘Cuz we’re serious about our coffee.
I got these as a gift for Mr. TAF a few years ago. Perfect for our breakfast smoothies. No more waste! They take a little getting used to since they don’t bend, but they do the job without creating waste.
One purchase, a lifetime of uses.
A pipe cleaner-like cleaning brush is a real plus. If you don’t have one, get the pack that comes with them at no extra cost.
When I started growing more of my own herbs and drying them to use as teas, I needed to be able to brew loose leaf tea without tea bags.
This infuser does the trick, and the fine-mesh filter keeps organic matter out of my cup. The lid becomes a parking spot for the infuser after steeping.
Stay-cool handles, see-through glass lid, and oven safe...all reasons why I bought this pan. I love making stir frys in this pan or even just frying up large amounts of leafy greens for a week’s worth of side dishes.
Saute a little fresh minced ginger, garlic, and a pinch of cayenne in a few tablespoons of coconut oil, and fry a pot-full of leafy greens at high heat for two minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in a few pinches of salt. Perfecto!
I received this little thing as a gift from my Grandma, one of the first implements I added to my kitchen collection as a young adult.
It’s not super useful for a family of more than two, but it does come in handy to quickly steam small batches of vegetables on weeknights when I haven’t had a chance to prepare dinner in advance.
The stainless steel is still in great shape years later, and the glass lid allows me to see when the water is boiling.
Cast iron is the superior, multi-element cooking implement. I was so excited to get a couple of cast iron skillets as wedding gifts!
Cast iron heats evenly, sautes and fries on the stove or bakes and braises in the oven. It’s even non-stick, and works on my induction cooktop.
Washing cast iron and maintaining the non-stick seasoning takes a little getting used to, but it’s totally worth it. This is a piece of cookware you will pass on to future generations.
My skillet is a 10-inch, but if I could do it over, I’d get the 12-inch skillet, which comes with a hot handle holder (the 10-inch doesn’t come with it).
p.s. As a homesteader, always go with the bigger model!
Definitely get a hot handle holder made especially to fit the Lodge handles! I’ve tried to use other store-bought skillet handle mitts, but they just don’t do the job.
I have to be honest, I have no intention of making pasta with this thing. So why did I buy it?
It’s my ingenious way to blanch tomatoes: Fill the deep pasta insert with tomatoes and lower them into the boiling water to blanch for one minute.
Then pull the entire insert out and set it in another pot of ice water. No more leaning your face over a steaming pot and fishing out each individual tomato as you splash scalding water on yourself!
This method works for any other veggies you might want to blanch or boil, too. I boiled my 20 pounds of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving in this thing and it worked like a charm.
Also, I like to do batch cooking, meaning I cook really large amounts of food at once so that during the week all we have to do is heat stuff up. The extra large steamer basket allows me to steam a couple pounds of broccoli or green beans all at once.
And of course, if you’re into pasta, then this pasta/steamer set is that much more useful.
It works on my induction cooktop.
When you start making a whole bunch of food from scratch, at some point you get the hankering to make a big batch of soup, stew, or chili with all of the fresh ingredients from the garden.
And when you do, you’ll realize that the 8-quart stock pot in your cookware set just isn’t big enough.
At least, that’s what happened to me. I wanted to make giant batches of soup to freeze for later, as well as make giant batches of jam to can for Christmas gifts. The 8-quart pot was too small.
I like this model because it has a heavy-bottomed pot and a clear lid so you can see when liquid is boiling or simmering.
You guys with big families are laughing and wondering why you wouldn’t just go with the 20-quart size? And to that I say - always go with the larger model if you think you might need it. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, as we got most of our kitchenware as wedding gifts before we were homesteaders.
Just make sure you get the glass lid so you can see what’s going on in your pot.
Look, Tenth Acre Farm isn’t a diet website. However, health and wellness and a preventative lifestyle are absolutely a part of the homesteading movement.
The truth is, when I tried a paleo diet, I became symptom-free of a lifetime of migraines, digestive problems, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Where doctors told me that I would need medication to live a comfortable life, a paleo diet showed me that prevention is everything.
Now I’ve got a new lease on life, and a whole lot of energy to tackle my homesteading lifestyle.
Since I’m sharing tools and appliances that help me live this lifestyle with ease, I may as well throw in the cookbook that helps me fuel myself with healing, processed-free foods!
Practical Paleo is not a deep read, but it has all the information one would need to give the diet a trial run. There are 30-day menus for all sorts of specific ailments, plus recipes.
Preserving Whole Fresh Food with Live Cultures in Your Home Kitchen
The tagline got me right away. I’d been wanting to be more confident about making ferments in my own kitchen, but an experiment with sauerkraut a few years ago didn’t go so well.
I was afraid to try again without some guidance. This book had clear, simple instructions and good pictures. Although I’m still pretty new to fermentation, this book guides me through.