Here at Outside, we’re strong advocates for investing in high-quality gear. Just a few key items can transform an average camping trip, allow you to explore new corners of the wilderness, and elevate your performance.
This same idea applies to the kitchen. Having the right appliances and culinary gear makes it that much easier to create a restorative recovery meal—a crucial part of your diet when training—and make the underwhelming energy bar or subpar recovery shake a thing of the past.
Here are a few tools that the pros—and those who are in charge of feeding them—keep around the kitchen to help fuel their adventures.
Kelly Bailey Newlon
Kelly Bailey Newlon began her career in the restaurant industry 30 years ago as a pastry chef. In 2014, she and her husband opened RAD, a Boulder, Colorado–based food service company for endurance athletes, prompting her to entirely switch gears. “I would say 90 percent of the elites I work with now are gluten- and dairy-free,” Newlon says. “I went from chocolate as my main medium to kale.” These days, her most valuable kitchen tool is a turning slicer, colloquially known as a spiralizer. Newlon uses it to make vegetable noodles and to jazz up the experience of everyday salads. “It provides different textures and, visually, it keeps people excited about the food,” she says. “It just adds a little more rock and roll.”
Pro Tip: You don’t need to spend a lot. Newlon’s go-to is the $30 Müeller Spiral-Ultra. “They last forever, and you can throw them in the dishwasher,” she says.
Author and Podcaster
Matt Frazier spends a lot of time in the kitchen. As an ultramarathoner and author of The No Meat Athlete, the North Carolina–based pro has several cooking tools that he deems crucial, but Frazier’s most valuable appliance is something you’ve likely never heard of: a tofu press. It’s a gadget specially designed to change the texture of tofu by eliminating excess water.
Pro Tip: “A lot of people say they don’t like tofu, but really it’s the texture they don’t like. A tofu press helps solve that problem by removing a lot of the moisture, so you can actually sear or bake tofu in a way that will make it crispy or chewy, instead of soft and spongy,” Frazier says. His favorite, the Gourmet Tofu Press from TofuXpress, goes for just $40, far cheaper than the weekly curry habit you currently use to avoid cooking tofu for yourself.
Sports Physiologist, Cycling Coach, and Skratch Labs Founder
When Allen Lim talks about his rice cooker, he borders on apostolic. “Without a doubt, my rice cooker is the most important kitchen tool that I own. It’s my secret weapon.” In fact, Lim says that the “rice cooker—the same one found in millions of homes across the world—has fundamentally changed pro cycling.” Although the simple device is now the single appliance that you can find on every Tour de France team bus, Lim initially got a lot of flack for bringing one along. “The more traditional staff on the pro circuit didn’t like that I was changing the basis of the meals we were serving athletes,” says Lim, adding that pros at the time were refueling with baguette sandwiches or energy bars.
Pro Tip: Buy a rice cooker that has a locking lid—they work the fastest and are the most consistent, especially at altitude. Besides that, keep it simple: “A single-button rice cooker is always preferable to the very complicated ones, which are cumbersome, prone to break, and take way too long to cook the rice,” Lim says. Try the Tiger JNP Cooker and Warmer for an affordable yet durable option.
Big-Wave Surfer and Spearfisherman
Living in Hawaii, Mark Healey catches so many fish that there’s no way he’d be able to eat it all before it spoils. To ensure that no fish goes to waste, Healey figured out a way to keep the extra meat fresh for months: a vacuum sealer. “If you want to eat healthy, local food year-round, a vacuum sealer and a chest freezer are a must.”
Pro Tip: Don’t wait to seal the items you want to save. “If you prep your food correctly and vacuum-seal it right away, it will last over a year in the freezer and still taste good,” Healey says. FoodSaver created a starter kit perfect for beginners wading into vacuum-seal territory.
Author and Minimalist
Leo Babauta is a Davis, California–based author of five books and the popular blog Zen Habits. His career is built on simplicity. Babauta likes to maintain that ease in the kitchen as well, which explains his affection for his Vitamix blender. “It is indispensable,” he says. “Best gift my wife has ever given me, besides my kids.” After all, it’s about as simple as a kitchen tool gets—throw everything into one container, press a button, and you have yourself a meal.
Pro Tip: You can use a Vitamix every day to create soups (like butternut squash), bowls (açai is Babauta’s favorite), and smoothies (include things like green leafy veggies, soy milk, berries, banana, and almond butter). Babauta uses the Vitamix 5200, but there are many different options to choose from depending on your needs.
“One of the things with being a professional runner is that I find if I don’t knock my run out in the beginning of the day, I really limit my food intake until I head out, because I’m afraid to have an upset stomach,” Jim Walmsley says. His solution: toast. Walmsley uses his toaster at least once a day, and it keeps him from falling into a calorie deficit, which is easy to do when you’re running more than 100 miles a week, as he is. “I find that toast is a really good snack you can eat through the day, because it’s light and it’s not necessarily going to weigh you down if you haven’t run yet.”
Pro Tip: Go for the KitchenAid Long Slot. It’s simple and practical with both warming and defrosting options. The toaster slots are larger than usual, so you can fit any cut of artisanal bread for a gourmet toast experience.