EQUIPMENT

ARM YOURSELF FOR THE SUSTAINABLE FOOD REVOLUTION.

If you're going to make a stand, there are some things you need.  You could probably find a lot of these at a thrift store or garage sale, but if you need to get the right stuff, right NOW, we've got you covered.

Just so's you knows, if you buy anything through these links on Amazon, FeralCuisine.com will get a small commission.  You won't be paying any more than what you would otherwise.

THE BASICS

This shit right here is absolutely essential if you're going to take control of your own food.

You can find a lot of this stuff at thrift shops and garage sales, and you probably already have a lot of it.  If you do need to do some shopping, see if you can find a restaurant supply store in your area that's open to the public; restaurant equipment is build for function and durability, while consumer kitchen equipment is built to part you from as much of your money as possible.  If you can't find an available restaurant supply store, I've included affiliate links to the equipment on Amazon.

8-INCH CHEF'S KNIFE

A good knife, kept sharp and honed, is nads-down THE most important tool in the guerrilla kitchen.  Or any kitchen, for that matter.  Almost every single cut you make will be faster and easier with a sharp 8-inch chef's knife than it will with any other knife.  The Victorinox Fibrox is the top-rated knife on Amazon for a really good reason.  It's also the knife I use every day.

KNIFE SHARPENER

You notice I said a good knife, KEPT SHARP, is essential.  A dull knife will make you a lot slower, a lot more frustrated, and a lot more likely to seriously wound yourself.  Keep your knife sharp; it only needs to be done once or twice a year, but it makes for a hell of a difference.  As in, the difference between getting a righteous supper on the table and getting so frustrated you decide to just O.D. on convenience store hotdogs.  This model is cheap and gets solid ratings on Amazon.

HONING STEEL

Honing is just as important as sharpening to taking care of a knife, and you do it a lot more often than sharpening.  As in, right after you pull your knife out to start chopping.  Sharpening actually takes metal off of the blade; honing aligns the minute bends and wiggles that happen to a blade with regular use.  This one gets some good reviews.

CUTTING BOARD

Get a big, solid wood or bamboo one.  Plastic works okay, too, but don't get a glass one; they dull your knives and make sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

CAST IRON SKILLET and LID

I could do just about all of my cooking in a cast iron skillet.  They're cheap, easy to take care of, and last longer than entire civilizations.  Lodge is a solid brand.

SAUCEPAN

A good saucepan is a necessary workhorse in the kitchen.  Here's the one we use.

FISH SPATULA

I used a beat-up old spatula, the kind with a flipper on the end of an arm, for forever.  Then I switched to the fish spatula style and my life became 100% easier.  Trust me on this; the control you get with a fish spatula blows away the competition.

LADLE

Because you can't serve soup with a soup spoon.  Or gravy, or stew, or... mulled wine, I guess... What I'm saying is if it's a liquid, and it's hot, you're going to find a ladle very useful.  If you can't find a solid ladle at a garage sale, here's a good one.

TONGS

I actually went without tongs for a long time.  I figured I could do anything with a couple of forks that anybody else could do with tongs.  Then I got a pair of tongs for christmas, and I found that I was wrong about tongs.  Now I manipulate my meat and fiddle with my sausage like a pro.  If your meat needs manipulating, try this pair on for size.

COLANDER

No way around it, sometimes drainage needs to happen.  I prefer a solid metal colander to a plastic one, just because I know it will last longer.  Ours looks a lot like this one.

MIXING AND PREP BOWLS

Things gotta get mixed sometimes.  Having a really big mixing bowl is essential, because it gives you the room to mix stuff up good without any shit spilling out over the sides.  Metal bowls work better for me because they're light and durable; you don't have to worry about breaking them, unlike ceramic bowls.  I keep a variety of different sizes of bowls around for prep, it makes things go a lot smoother.  They all stack up together, so storage is a nonissue.  This set is a lot like the one I've got.

MEASURING CUPS AND SPOONS

Not all the time, but sometimes, you've got to measure shit.  Metal cups and spoons are way more durable and useful than plastic crap.

BAKING SHEET

When I put something in the oven, 75% of the time it goes in on a baking sheet.  Don't fall for the fancy air-filled, Teflon MkII-coated versions at cooking stores, just get rimmed aluminum half-sheet pans from a restaurant supply store or online.  They're more versatile, more durable, and more cheap.  (More cheap?)  These are the ones I use in my kitchen.

GLASS BAKING DISH

This is what I use in the oven the other 25% of the time.  (Except when I use the dutch oven... Let's make it 23%.)  I pull out a Pyrex dish any time I'm making a casserole or enchiladas, or if I'm cooking a big piece of meat that's going to release a lot of juice.  Pyrex baking dishes are ubiquitous because they are essentially perfect.

USEFUL EXTRAS

If you're ready to take sustainable eating to the next level, you're gonna need some more stuff.

To eat more and more completely from scratch, you'll need some heavy equipment.  All of these tools are things that I use myself.  Again, if you can find any of them at a garage sale, or hell, in a dumpster, seize the opportunity!  Or if you want, click the Amazon link to get a brand spanking new specimen.

PROBE THERMOMETER

Is the chicken done?  It looks done... Aw crap, it's still raw inside.  I could have avoided this whole situation if I'd used a probe thermometer that keeps track of temperature while the food is cooking.  It even has an alarm that I could have set to go off as soon as the chicken got up to 160°!  I've heard this one is good.

FLOUR SIFTER

If you're making sustainable baking part of your arsenal, a flour sifter can be incredibly useful. Fully whole wheat flour can be problematic; large flakes of bran cut gluten strands and absorb a lot of liquid, leaving breads heavy and dry. Sifting out the largest flakes leaves flour that behaves much more like all-purpose flour, but retains most of the nutrition of whole wheat. I've been satisfied with this sifter so far.

MICROPLANE GRATER

A small grater is indispensable for hard cheeses and large whole spices. I use ours for parmesan, nutmeg, and ginger. I've generally found a longer one is easier to use than the shorter models.

DUTCH OVEN

There are things that you just can't cook properly in a cast iron skillet. Stew, for one. A big dutch oven will take care of all the things the skillet can't. Cast iron models will outlive you and your family; this model has a lid that can also double as another skillet.

FOOD PROCESSOR

When you're cooking from scratch, you sometimes have huge batches of vegetables to chop or grate, chickpeas or peanuts that need pureeing, or bread dough that you don't want to knead for half an hour by hand. That's where a big food processor comes in. I've been using this 12-cup model from Cuisinart for over half a decade now.

MAGIC BULLET

For grinding spices or pureeing small batches of stuff, a food processor is overkill. Juliana and I got a Magic Bullet for our wedding, and even though I had made fun of it as infomercial fodder for years, now I can't imagine life without it.

STOCK POT

If you're going to bother making stock, you need to make a lot of it. More than a dutch oven can handle. You might not use a stock pot very often, but when you need it, you need it. The model we use holds eight quarts.

PURE KNOWLEDGE

Get food FOR YOUR BRAIN,

If we're going to win out over the industrial agricultural conglomerate, we need to be researching, studying, and discovering.  Here's some of my favorite revolutionary literature.

THE THIRD PLATE: FIELD NOTES ON THE FUTURE OF FOOD

Dan Barber's critique of the farm-to-table movement was one of the turning points for how I think about sustainable food.  His argument is that current food trends are consumer-driven, with farms having to supply what customers are demanding, rather than farms discovering what they can sustainably produce and consumers exploring what they can make with those products.  Barber's theoretical solution to America's industrial food problem excites the hell out of me: he proposes regional cuisines based on the local terroir, because that is the only way that people were able to eat for thousands of years.

THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA: A NATURAL HISTORY OF FOUR MEALS

Michael Pollan eats and explores four meals that look similar, but are fantastically different in the means of their production.  For one meal, he digs into the barren soil of modern industrial agriculture.  For another, he hunts wild boar.  The scope of this treatise, and Pollan's writing skill, make it required reading for anyone interested in the future of food.

FOOD RULES: AN EATER'S MANUAL

Michael Pollan is an important guy to the sustainable food revolution.  This is not so much a book as an easily-digestible (eh?  : D) list of traditional food wisdom from around the world.  It's a return to food attitudes governed by wisdom, simplicity, and joy, rather than popular science and fad diets.

THE FLAVOR BIBLE

Thousands of interviews with chefs were the starting point for this exhaustive reference on taste pairings.  What goes good with catfish?  This book has a list.  Sorrel?  It's in there.  If you are looking to invent new dishes and explore the possibilities in your own kitchen, this tome should be in your kitchen.  Get an easel for it, too, it's pretty.

POSSUM LIVING: HOW TO LIVE WELL WITHOUT A JOB AND (ALMOST) NO MONEY

This alternative-living manifesto is already a classic for the early retirement community, but the title fails to reveal that this is a book about urban homesteading before the term existed.  Dolly Freed and her father lived in suburban Philadelphia, raising their own chickens and meat rabbits, growing vegetables, gleaning grain, fishing, making wine and moonshine...  Possum Living was a turning point for me, because it showed me that to really get close to food, I was going to have to raise it myself, and I could raise it myself.  The book is also fun as hell to read.

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