As homesteaders and people striving toward a more self sufficient life, we spend a lot of time in our kitchens. There are some things we absolutely need on hand to do the work and some things, we can do without.
So, what do we really need in our kitchens?
Before we moved to our current property, I had an incredibly tiny galley kitchen. And space was an absolute premium. Here, I am blessed with lots of cabinet and counter space in the kitchen, but it still comes at a price… there’s not much for storage elsewhere in our house.
But, as we work toward our self sufficiency goals, I see us filling up that precious cabinet space. While I try to keep our materialistic belongings to a minimum, the kitchen is a place where I try to keep on hand exactly what we need. Here are some items I find essential in self sufficient kitchens.
A good set of knives is essential for any kitchen, but especially where someone is striving toward self sufficiency and butchering their own meat.
We butcher a huge portion of the meat we bring into our home including the deer we harvest during hunting season and without a good, quality, sharp knife it would be almost impossible to accomplish such a task.
What Knives You Actually Need
Boning knife/fillet knife a boning knife is very similar in appearance to a fillet knife, but instead of being utilized for both bones and skin removal, boning knives are used to remove just bones from meat. There is a bit of overlap and they can be used as a fillet knife, but they’re not specifically the same.
Bone saw if you butcher your own meat, a bone saw can prove invaluable. In a pinch, you can utilize a saws-all, but a bone saw is more practical and useful. A good bone saw will cut through without leaving chips and shards and jagged, uneven edges with little work.
Butcher knife. Another essential if you’re butchering your own meat. You need a good butcher knife. Using this in combination with your saw and boning knife will help you break down that carcass into manageable, primal cuts. The heavy, rectangular build of this knife makes easier work of cutting through bones and other large portions of meat.
Paring knife. This is a knife I use daily, multiple times a day. I use it for peeling potatoes and other veggies and dicing foods into small pieces for our meals.
Chef’s knife. The absolute most important knife in any kitchen is a chef’s knife. While it used to be primarily used to help cut and disjoint large, primal cuts of meat (similar to a butcher knife). Now, it is utilized as a multi-purpose utility knife.
Serrated knife. If you eat bread or even just slice those garden fresh tomatoes, the serrated edge of this blade will make your life so much easier. A longer knife will make the task of using it a lot more simple. And an offset style, deli knife will minimize the risk of knicking your knuckles.
How to keep knives sharp
You have them, the 6 knives you truly need (and only 3 knives if you don’t butcher your own meat). As you use them, they’re going to dull. So, how do you keep them sharp?
Honing steel. The more you use this, the longer the edge on your knives will last. This is utilized easily between sharpenings and you will often see chef’s utilizing this tool while preparing food.
To use it, you’ll simply hold your knife at a 20 degree angle and slide the knife across the steel about 5 times for each side.
Sharpening stones. My husband pulls out his set of sharpening stones a few times a year to sharpen our kitchen knives, his field knife set, and his pocket knife.
You utilize the stones the same way you use the steel. Hold your knife at a 20 degree angle and slide the knife across about 5 times for each side.
Cast Iron Pans
Our entire homesteading journey started with a desire to own an old, vintage cast iron pan. We have a set of pans that are well over 100 years old that we use multiple times a day and I will never go back to a different type of cookware.
Whether you buy vintage or new is largely a personal choice, but there are also differences between the two you should be aware of.
Old cast iron has a smoother surface and is generally lighter than newer cast iron. They were cast completely differently and with quality and longevity in mind. Newer cast iron pans are more porous and heavier.
We prefer vintage pieces, not just because I think it’s cool that they’ve been preparing meals for over a century but because they’re more quality and cheaper to obtain.
We did spent quite a lot to get a few of our pieces, but that was simply a personal choice… we’ve become vintage cast iron snobs in some regards.
I love the versatility of our cast iron. We use it in the campfire in the summer, on the stove top, in the oven… and they can be used on old vintage wood stoves. With a little cleaning up, you can find old rusted out pans for cheap, season them with some rendered lard and you’ll have the best non-stick pan you’ve ever owned.
While I now prefer to smoke our jerky, we do still utilize a dehydrator for many things. You can use it to dry herbs, to make fruit leathers, or just to dehydrate your harvest to make shelf stable goods.
Drying fruits retains their nutritional quality while providing a shelf stable food. You can also, of course, make jerky in your dehydrator and a multitude of other things.
We have an inexpensive dehydrator that was traded to us for some other goods by a friend, but I definitely have my eyes on an excalibur so we can stop needing to move trays.
Kitchen Aid Mixer
One of the best investments we ever made was purchasing a kitchen aid mixer. I use this thing so often and it’s a true workhorse, even though it’s newer.
We had a different stand mixer at one point that we got cheaper than the kitchen aid and it only lasted a year.
I use our stand mixer to make everything from bread to desserts and everything in between. Even homemade whipped cream and butter.
Plus, a kitchen aid can have attachments added to it to do things like making pasta and grinding foods.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge fan of plastic. But, we do vacuum seal all of our meat and frozen veggies.
It’s quick to package up the meat and it lasts a lot longer than using butcher paper (which is typically coated in plastic anyway). It also is a great way to make things like home cured bacon while it’s sitting in the fridge as it keeps food fresh a lot longer, even in the refrigerator.
Our vacuum sealer is a workhorse, especially during hunting season and I wouldn’t be caught without it, the food stays fresh so much longer.
This wins for the best investment in our kitchen. While it was a large sum of money, it was well worth the investment.
I can can meat, beans, carrots, corn, and other low acid foods with this thing. Which makes it essential as we expand our garden and our meat production (and hunting).
It can also be used to can up things like vegetable soup for quick meals and I use it a lot more often than I initially thought I would.
I have two of these. One for making soap and the other for making food. I think every homestead needs at least one (for soap making).
You can use this simply to blend up things like soup and sauces to make them silky smooth. Most also come with a whisk attachment so if you don’t want to pull out the big kitchen aid, you can still make some homemade whipped cream.
I never, ever thought I would use a kitchen scale since a lot of recipes give measurement by volume. But, I do use it, a lot.
I use it when we are butchering to measure out packages of ground meat. I use it to weigh out flour for certain recipes and I use it to make soap.
Measuring by weight instead of volume is a more accurate way of making pastries and breads even if it does take a little extra time.
They’re really inexpensive and I think you’ll find you use it pretty frequently.
Cutting Boards/Chopping Blocks
You need something to use all of those knives! A good, quality cutting board is essential.
Wooden cutting boards are less damaging to your knives than plastic or glass and I much prefer them. You can keep your cutting board in tip-top shape by coating it with beeswax after it’s been washed and dried.
Some people say you can’t get a wooden cutting board clean and disinfected but I strongly disagree. We have three. A large one we use for cutting those large primal cuts into useable meat, a smaller one we use for slicing meat and veggies into smaller pieces for things like stews and a third simply because the other smaller one is usually dirtied up at some point and I’m looking around for another.
Any self sufficient kitchen needs a set of canning jars, lids, and rings. Whether you use reusable tattler lids or just buy new lids each season is entirely up to you.
How many you need depends on how much food you preserve on a regular basis. You can build your stash as you go along, though.
Lots of times you can get good deals on used canning jars instead of purchasing brand new ones if you look at a flea market or garage sales.
A food mill is an old-fashioned kitchen tool, but it still fulfills a purpose in today’s modern kitchens.
This tool will crush food by forcing it through a disk and will remove any seeds, skins, and even cores of fruit.
A lot of people utilize food mills to make applesauce and tomato sauce (or paste). It can also be used to mash potatoes and make soups.
Growing your own grains to mill into flours middlings or buying whole grains to grind yourself is a great idea.
Whole grains will stay fresh longer than already milled grains and you can make what you need for a short time instead.
Whether you’re making your own wheat flour or creating corn mill from your home grown corn, a grain mill can make easy work of a difficult task.
If you make a lot of bread at home and utilize sticky doughs, a proofing basket will soon become your best friend.
While not essential, it makes the work (and clean up) of proofing dough a lot easier and helps the dough to hold a shape while it proofs.
Mortar & Pestle
The first real kitchen tool I ever purchased (other than some knives) was a mortar and pestle. And it sat in the corner for 5 years while I wondered what purpose it would ever serve.
I had seen my mom use her mortar and pestle numerous times as a child, but I never found a use for it. That is, until I really started to cook from scratch and grow our own food.
If you’re mashing up garlic into a paste, use your mortar and pestle. Making things like pesto, hummus, and even guacamole if you have a larger, traditional Mexican molcajete.
I also utilize it to grind up my own spice blends and a ton of other things. So, something that sat in the corner for 5 years is used on a frequent basis now.
Carboys & Bottling Equipment
We are stepping into the world of home wine making and these items are essential for it. You don’t need to spend a fortune, and you can accumulate the bottles as you move along (just like canning jars).
But, making small batch wine is so neat and using a 1 gallon carboy as opposed to a 5 gallon carboy is really all most home vintners need.
Right alongside our cast iron pan collection is two stock pots. And I use them as frequently as I do the cast irons. A large stock pot (20 quart) is great for making bone broths and cooking down large quantities of veggies for canning larger batches.
Smaller (5 quart or so) is great for everyday use, making small batches of canning stuff and making soups.
Another homesteading realm we are just stepping into is fermenting. If you’re making small batches, canning jars will do. But, if you’re really getting into fermenting, a larger one or two gallon crock will probably be more your speed.
While I try to keep our belongings to a minimum, the kitchen is not somewhere I scrimp. We spend a lot of time in there and I make a lot of our food, so I make sure I keep it stocked and add the essentials as I can when I can and pay for quality so that I know it will last.
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