Slate Picks

My Skillet Is Like a Pet

Slate’s You’re Doing It Wrong writer L.V. Anderson explains what tools she uses to get it right.

Photo by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

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.

Microplane grater

Photo by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

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.

Silicone spatula

Photo by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

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.

Cast-iron skillet

Photo by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

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.

Knife sharpener

Photo by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo

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.