Summer rental houses are great. You leave the office (early) on Friday, maybe brave a little traffic.
By sunset, you’re on the porch of a house in some quiet, summer town, cocktail in hand.
Nothing to do but relax and wait for dinner to come off the grill.
THAT IS, UNLESS ….
… you arrive at the house and the only thing in the kitchen is a fork and one of those glass cutting boards that makes everyone’s brains hurt just looking at them. So you have to nix your exciting cooking and drinking plans for the weekend because you realize the only way to move steaks around the grill would be with your hands.
What you need is a VACATION COOKING TOOLKIT!
(Warning: This list was made from the perspective of people who enjoy and are asked to produce a large quantity of cocktails for many, many people over the course of a summer weekend. Hence the strainer, reamer, muddler.)
With a little bit of foresight and a bag full of stuff you already own, you will never again be reduced to store-bought margarita mix, twist-off Bud Light, and three straight meals of nothing but hot dogs. Here are the 15 things you should considering bringing with you on a weekend getaway — ranked in order of essentialness/ease of purchasing in a random town.
1. Sharp Chef’s Knife
Use it to cut pretty much everything. You’ll probably find one in a drawer, but it’ll be old and rusty. Worse, it’ll be dull. Ideally you won’t have to bring your best/favorite knife and worry about someone else treating it poorly or leaving it there (same goes for some other tools below). But you need a good knife.
2. Kosher Salt in a Plastic Bag
Not technically a tool, and there could be an entirely separate post on the best pantry for traveling, but this one is essential. This is the kind of thing that always happens: You don’t buy salt at the grocery store when you go to stock up on provisions for the vacation either because you don’t realize you need salt, or because you don’t want to buy a whole box when you’ll only be in this house a couple of days. But salt is what makes things taste good. Cooking awesome food and then realizing you have nothing to season it with but a half-full, water-logged salt shaker is the worst. So pack some dang salt.
3. Grill Tongs
The long ones. Grilling with short tongs is miserable and will burn your forearms.
4. Meat Thermometer
You may be able to gauge the doneness of your steak by feel, but the same is definitely not true for that beer-can chicken you’ve been waiting all year to grill. 165 degrees, please.
5. Citrus Reamer
It might seem over the top, but summer nights are the perfect time for margaritas, and efficiently juicing limes without a reamer is damn near impossible.
6. Microplane Zester
If you’re going to be juicing lemons and limes, you might as well use the zest. In anything, really; salad dressing, steak marinade, pancake batter, whatever.
7. Can Opener
If you need to open a can and you don’t have one, you are basically shit out of luck.
8. Wine Key
Make sure it’s the kind that can uncork wine and open a beer bottle.
9. Vegetable Peeler
You know what’s a really great summer side dish? Potato salad. And nothing is more annoying than having to peel potatoes with a knife.
10. Kitchen Shears or Sharp Scissors
This way, you won’t have to open the sealed bag of chicken thighs with your teeth or your knife. Also, scissors always come in handy.
Mint juleps and mojitos will not happen without one. And using the back of a spoon is annoying. No, seriously. The herbs need to be muddled.
12. Small Strainer
Wouldn’t want that cocktail to be too pulp-y. Obviously this is not essential, but it’s nice to have.
Sometimes the stove light will go out. Or, worse, the grill. With a lighter you can solve the problem in probably three seconds.
15. Birthday Candles
Crazy, maybe. But it’s always someone’s birthday, and if you don’t remember in time to buy/make a cake, you can throw some candles in a bowl of ice cream.