From Wi-Fi-enabled Crock-pots to digital measuring cups, it’s clear that technology has taken a place on the kitchen counter. But newer isn’t always better. Some old-school kitchen tools are not only cheaper and last longer, they also work just as well or better…and they make healthier food, too. Examples…
Cast Iron Skillet
This is a kitchen classic for good reason—it’s the epitome of versatility. It beautifully cooks everything from meat and eggs to vegetables and bread and moves seamlessly from the oven to the stovetop and even to the grill. Cast iron lasts for generations, and the “seasoning” (the protective coating that naturally forms over time as you cook with the pan) only gets better with age.
Cast iron also transfers beneficial iron from its surface to your food, so much so that using cast iron cookware has become one method for treating iron deficiency. Worried about getting too much iron? Don’t be—iron toxicity is rare, and there are few, if any, cases of people overdosing on iron from cast iron cooking. Bear in mind that iron absorption is highest when cooking acidic foods and in less seasoned cookware.
Nonstick pans may seem easier to clean, but to clean a well-seasoned piece of cast-iron cookware, you normally just need a bit of scrubbing with coarse salt and a paper towel. Plus, with nonstick pans, their chemical coatings have been proven unsafe in the past, and the long-term safety of current coatings is still unknown.
Glass Storage Containers
When it comes to storing food and reheating it in the microwave, as compared to plastic containers, glass is safer (free of chemicals, such as BPA and phthalates, that leach into your food), more sanitary (can be cleaned more thoroughly), more appetizing (free of lingering odors and colors from previous food) and more environmentally friendly (glass lasts longer and is eminently recyclable).
Glass storage containers’ pure transparency may also save you money on food—when you can clearly see what leftovers are stored in the fridge, you may be more likely to use them while they are fresh and not have to throw them away.
This is a great way to store and serve foods that come in plastic clamshell containers. A berry bowl is a (usually ceramic) bowl with holes in the bottom that sits in a companion dish. You can extend the shelf life of berries, grapes, tomatoes, mushrooms and any produce that tends to get soggy and spoil without air circulation. Even better, if you want to wash and serve these foods, you can do it in the same bowl.
Pretty berry bowls may even influence the taste and likability of a food. A study published in Appetite found that people are more likely to eat food that’s presented in an attractive manner—for those who need encouragement to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, a berry bowl just might provide it.
This Asian cooking essential isn’t just for Asian recipes. It provides a quick and easy way to prepare fish, meat and vegetables of many kinds. It also can be used to reheat leftovers and warm bread and tortillas. Steaming is one of the healthiest cooking methods because it retains nutrients that are often lost through boiling or frying.
To use a bamboo steamer, simply fill a compartment with food, cover it and place it in a wok or sloped saucepan with one or two inches of water over medium-high heat. Once the water starts boiling, it will create steam that gently cooks the food. (The exact timing depends on the food and your desired doneness.)
Bamboo steamers have the added benefit of being stackable so that you can cook different foods separately, adding different compartments at different times.
Ground meat from supermarkets can be overground, gummy and insipid. When you grind your own meat at home, whether with a freestanding manual meat grinder, freestanding electric grinder or grinder attachment on another appliance, you’ll instantly create better looking, better textured and better tasting meat for burgers, loaves, casseroles, stews and chilis. And this works with beef, pork, lamb, poultry and many types of seafood. You can even make your own veggie burgers by grinding soaked beans and vegetables to form into patties.
Because food will retain some texture after passing through your grinder—it won’t turn to purée as it would in a food processor—it’s also a great way to make relish, process onions for chili, chickpeas for hummus or falafel and prep tomatoes for tomato sauce.
Also known as preserving jars, these are a DIY-lover’s dream. Available in a wide range of sizes, they’re used to ferment cucumbers as well as sauerkraut, kimchi, carrots, pearl onions and kefir. Fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics, which contribute directly to better gut health.
When you’re not pickling, use the jars to extend the shelf life of many pantry foods. Their airtight sealing rings can keep foods like herbs and spices, coffee, tea leaves and other dry ingredients fresh for a long time.