Kitchen Essentials

Some dear friends invited me to “supervise” during Operation Ratatouille. Basically, some friends have been trying to learn to cook and needed some help. We were dividing the tasks. I was cutting vegetables with extremely dull knives, with no sharpener or steele in sight. One friend’s plans for toasted breadcrumbs was thwarted by the lack of a food processor or blender.

When I got home, I took a look at my kitchen. I have built up a collection of appliances and tools – some more necessary than others. Then a coworker suggested that I make a list to help other people our age build up a solid kitchen. Many of my friends (myself included) have been moving out of our parents’ homes, starting with only the sparsest collection of cooking tools.

Absolutely Necessary Basics

  • Knives + Honing Steele

You need at least two knives: a chef’s knife and a paring knife. These will allow you to do most chopping, mincing, slicing, etc. The honing steel should be used frequently, usually prior to using the knives. Buy a knife block with a full set of knives if you want, but these two will be used the most frequently. I own

  • Cutting board (Wooden for fruit & vegetables and plastic for raw meat)
  • Frying pan
  • Large saucepan
  • Pots, at least two (Large and small)
  • Various cooking utensils (spoons, ladles, spatulas, etc.)
  • Colander/Strainer
  • Mixing bowls

I have both glass and stainless steel. This is really up to you, but I recommend at least two or three, each a different size. My metal bowls are from Costco.

  • Baking sheets for cookies, sheet pan dinners, etc. (2)
  • Casserole dish (square and rectangle; glass or ceramic)
  • Round or square cake pans (2 about 9 x 9 in.)
  • Pie dish (glass or ceramic)
  • Muffin tin
  • Oven mitts
  • Rubber spatulas
  • Zester (doubles as a grater)
  • Pastry brush
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Measuring Glass

Measuring solids and liquids requires different containers. Any standard glass measuring glass for liquids is fine. I bought mine at the grocery store.

Highly Recommended but Not Necessary

As I’ve learned to cook and stocked my kitchen, I have found that some items are good investments, even though they can be more expensive. These tools tend to cut down on cooking time and effort, though it is absolutely possible to survive without them.

  • Sifter
  • Slow Cooker
  • Cooling Racks
  • Food Processor

My food processor has multiple attachments. I can grate cheese, pulse to gently mix or blend, or completely blend. I use it frequently to make things easier on myself.

  • Stand mixer

Everything can be mixed by hand. It takes more effort and more time, but it can be done. I haven’t found a distinct advantage of the stand mixer over a hand mixer other than when I’m kneading bread (which can also be done by hand).

  • Dutch Oven

I love my Dutch oven. It has made cooking many items in the oven more convenient. I can cook things for long periods even at high heat. If you chose to get anything on this list, I would get a Dutch Oven. Mine is from Le Creuset, a high quality coated cast-iron that is sold in most home and kitchen stores.

Things You Do Not Need

This section should be called things I have, but don’t really need or use. These items are great for experimenting or making specialty items, but shouldn’t be considered “everyday necessities”.

  • Air Fryer
  • Specialty Pans
  • Pie Weights

One of my favorite Instabakers uses dry, uncooked beans over and over. Another uses granulated sugar because it toasts the sugar for a caramel flavor in other baked goods.

  • Spiralizer
  • Smoker Gun
  • Immersion Blender
  • Spice Grinder
  • Piping Bags/Tips

How you design and stock your kitchen is very individual. I have many specialty pans because I frequently experiment. Start with the basics and adjust as you need for yourself.

Did I leave anything off the list? What are your “must-have” kitchen tools?

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