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The Top 10 "Must Haves" for Cooking Great American Food

Improve Your Cooking Skills by Simply Using the Right Tools

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Here is a list of 10 essential items that every good kitchen should have, especially one that will be used to make all the great, classic dishes that form the cornerstone of American food and cuisine. Whether you're buying for yourself, or for a gift, you can't go wrong with these classics.

1. Dutch Oven

Photo © Flickr user Lee Coursey
It's hard to list all the great American foods that are produced in these heavy and versatile pots. From Boston baked beans to chicken and biscuits, it's difficult to imagine doing traditional American Food without a high-quality Dutch oven.

Here are some recipes that are perfect for the Dutch oven: Turkey Chili
Old Fashion Beef Stew
World's Easiest Chili Verde - Green Pork Stew

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2. Cast Iron Skillet

Photo © Joshua Sherurcij
Along with the dutch oven, real American food was practically born in the black, well-seasoned, impossibly heavy, cast iron skillet. Nothing else does what it can, for as long as it can. A true must-have in the American kitchen. Now, where is that cornbread recipe?
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3. Charcoal Grill / Smoker

Photo © John Mitzewich
You can't call yourself a great American cook without owning a charcoal grill. I know, gas may be a bit faster and easier, but Americans, since the first Native tribes, have been cooking over open flames and glowing embers. Many of today's charcoal grills also come with options for smoking foods as well. As far as meats go, this is about as American as it gets. Succulent, slowly smoked pork shoulder anyone? Or, maybe a faster, hot-smoked salmon fillet?
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4. Heavy-Duty Food Processor

Photo (c) Pricegrabber
One problem with American food is that it's usually made by "too busy" Americans. There is really no time saver quite like a good food processor. Don't be tempted to save a couple dollars and get a cheap model, it's not worth it. A heavy-duty food processor will last a very long time, and has the extra horsepower needed for the tough jobs. This is the first thing a professional chef asks a restaurant owner for when they are buying new equipment.

This is a great secret weapon for prepping the veggies in a super moist meatloaf recipe.
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5. Butcher Block Kitchen Cart Combo

Photo © John Mitzewich
All right, just a thick wooden butcher block cutting board would be nice, but why not take advantage of having the ultimate cutting surface, plus a space saving kitchen cart to store all your other essential tools? No one ever has enough room in the kitchen and this is a great solution. And, cutting big thick New York strip steaks on a thin plastic cutting board is simply un-American!

Click here to watch a video demo I just produced about how to clean and care for a wooden butcher block cutting board.
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6. Sandwich Press

Photo © Flickr user Sashertootie
Oh sure, some models may be called "panini" presses, but don't let that bit of marketing semantics fool you, these are made to make stunning grilled sandwiched of all varieties. No one anywhere would dispute that Americans are king of the sandwich makers!

While this tool is relatively new compared to the dutch oven, and cast iron pan, etc., for making modern American cuisine's finest pressed sandwiches these magical machines are a must. How does a grilled Vermont cheddar sandwich with broccoli soup sound about now?
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7. Roasting Pan

Photo (c) Pricegrabber
This is another classic must-have. You'll want something with heavy construction and sturdy handles. From the Thanksgiving turkey to the roast prime rib of beef, this pan will make you forget you ever knew about those disposable aluminum pans. Not only can you sear the meats you are about to roast in these great pans, but after the roasting is done, you can make your sauce, or gravy, right in the bottom of the roaster, using all those amazing pan drippings. Like the Dutch oven, a good one will also last generations.
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8. Deep Fryer

Photo © Flickr user jslander
The thought of deep-frying food at home may sound scary to some, but over the last few years the quality, and ease-of-use, of these home fryers has improved dramatically. Think of all the American foods that are just begging to be made fresh in your kitchen like fried oysters, hushpuppies, onion rings, and apple fritters - just to name a few!
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9. High-Quality, Professional Knife Set

Photo (c) Pricegrabber
No matter what type of cuisine you are preparing, a really great set of knives is incredibly important. Since American food tends to be heavy on the meat dishes, as well as slicing and dicing all those classic vegetable and potato side dishes, this is even more important. Make sure you are buying knifes that are "forged," which means the steel of the blade goes all the way through to the bottom of the handle. A set of high-quality, forged steel knives will make huge difference in your kitchen.
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10. Collection of American Cookbooks

While many of America's greatest dishes are passed down from generation to generation - like your mother-in-law's tuna casserole - many are not, and why miss out on all that great American food when you can have it right at your finger tips. Starting an American foods cookbook library is a fun and addictive hobby, and will provide you with much more that just the recipes, as these books are also filled with the stories behind the food. Not to mention the amazing photography.
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