Getting ready for a vacation with kids is a sport in its own right, so when I get to our summer rental I want things to go as smoothly as possible – especially with cooking. In order to help, I put together a list of ten must-have items for your vacation rental kitchen.
I purchase some of these items as soon as I get to our home away from home and bring others with me, especially if we’re driving. I’ve also been to known to call ahead and ask the owners what’s available: You’d be surprised what some are willing to leave out.
How to stock a vacation rental kitchen like a pro: What you need.
1. Sharp knife. If you have one, bring it. You will chop, slice, and dice in half the time than you would with a dull vacation rental kitchen knife. And you’re less likely to cut yourself too. If you do find yourself without a knife, check out this crazy cool tip from J. Kenji López-Alt on how to sharpen whatever knife is available.
2. Blender. I figured out that I need to bring my own the hard way on a two-family trip to South Carolina last year. We had just prepped the guacamole, cleaned the margarita glasses, the sun was shining and — whomp, whomp — the blender didn’t work. If you think cocktails aren’t worth schlepping yours, blenders are not just for margaritas; a powerful blender is clutch for smoothies (especially if there’s great local produce), my favorite chimichurri sauce, and make-ahead dressings.
3. Foil. Foil not only keeps food warm, but it can also be used to clean the grill grates: bunch it up, and using tongs, scrape off any gunk or charred bits. Foil also works as a grill basket for fish and veggies.
4. Reusable and re-sealable snack baggies. The obvious need for reusable baggies (or plastic if you forget) is the constant deluge of snack requests. But re-sealable baggies are also ideal for protecting iPhones at the beach, pacifiers, medicine, and other important goodies.
5. Meat thermometer. A meat thermometer is the best and quickest way to nail those juicy steaks and grilled chicken. It’s also pretty great at making sure your food isn’t undercooked. No one wants to deal with getting sick!
6. Coffee. If you’re particular about your coffee, I suggest bringing your own. Some grocery stores don’t have a great selection and you don’t want to be lugging the kids to a coffee shop for a $3 cup of joe first thing in the morning. Brewed a batch that tastes bitter? Check out my easy tip for how to make coffee taste less bitter.
7. Bottle opener. You can stock up on screw top rosé, but chances are at some point you’ll need a cold beer or bottle of white that needs a real opener. And I never really mastered the ‘ol use-your-wedding-ring method.
8. Salt. I’ve never found anything but primordial-looking table salt in a summer rental kitchen. And vacation cooking should be simple: quality steak, chicken, fish, and veggies can be excellent just by seasoning them properly with salt. Don’t bother buying a whole box, just bring a small container full of good kosher salt from home.
9. Condiments and spices. If you are on a budget (and who isn’t?), I would recommend making a short list of the condiments and spices that your family loves best (ketchup? cumin?) and bring those items with you. Buying them at the local market can really add up, plus there’s so much waste since you’ll use a tiny bit of the whole bottle.
10. Y-Peeler. This small, inexpensive peeler will have carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes peeled in no time. Or use it to peel a strip of lemon or orange for your happy hour cocktail.
(BONUS!) 11. Bottle cleaner. Don’t get stuck with a crying baby and dirty bottle. If you’ve got a baby, pack a bottle brush just in case.