While we all wish for a fully equipped kitchen with all the trimmings, few of us are that fortunate! Whether it is because of budget or space, it’s not always possible to get everything we want but we can definitely strive to get what we need to make wonderful meals for our family and friends. With some well thought out planning, you can start off with the essentials and gradually work your way up to a kitchen full of gadgets that will make every recipe easier to accomplish.
Let’s start off with some of the basics.
- Measuring cups and spoons- I prefer metal as it is sturdier and plastic stains easily.
- Mixing bowls of various sizes- Again, I don’t care for plastic as it stains and can get scratched up. It’s also a problem when you need to melt or heat up an ingredient so I prefer the glass variety. If you have a budget to stick to, plastic will work but in the long run, glass is the way to go.
- Large, long handled cooking utensils- When you have to continuously stir something while it cooks to prevent burning or scorching, you will appreciate the long handles as it keeps your hand a bit further from the heat. Be sure to get a slotted spoon, a whisk, a regular spoon, a forked pasta spoon with a drainage hole, a ladle, a meat flipper and tongs. I have a set in metal and another set in plastic for my nonstick pots and pans.
- Hand mixer- Nothing builds up the biceps as quickly as mixing a batch of cookie dough by hand. Buying a hand mixer will make the job much easier.
- Pans- I will never be without my large cast iron skillet as it provides an even and consistent heat while it can also sear meat, bake a pineapple upside down cake, put a beautiful crust on corn bread and yet can simmer a stew all day long. Cast iron skillets are multi-functional, and while they are very heavy, they have been passed down from generation to generation as they are durable and long-lasting. I love the nonstick pans for much of my sautéing and pickier cooking, such as fried eggs and breaded pork chops. Buy pans with longer handles to make handling easier.
- Pots- A large saucepan is handy for most cooking but a large pot for making things like a batch of chili is a necessity. I also recommend having two because if you are making a large pot of spaghetti sauce, you’ll need another large pot to cook the pasta in at the same time. I do not recommend buying aluminum pots as tomatoes and other high acid foods corrode and dissolve the aluminum over time. Look for large, sturdy heatproof handles for safety reasons.
- A colander/strainer- You can try tipping that pot of boiling water and pasta into the sink and hope your pasta stays in the pot while the water escapes but chances are you will end up with a sink full of pasta. One large stainless steel strainer that fits into your large pot will serve several purposes. You can leave the strainer in while you boil your pasta inside it and just lift the strainer out or you can strain the pasta through the strainer in the sink when it is done as well. When making chicken soup, I place the chicken in the strainer, inside the pot so I can just lift the strainer out when the meat is done to finish making the soup. For potato salad, I place the whole potatoes into the strainer in the pot so I can just pull out the strainer when the potatoes are done. I also use my strainer to drain washed fruits and vegetables. If you want to steam vegetables, you can place several strategically placed metal forks in the bottom of your large pot, add water to the top of the forks, and place the strainer of vegetables on top of the forks.
- Knives- I have three knives that I use the majority of the time. My chef’s knife, a paring knife and a filet knife are used most frequently. The bulk of prepping food involves using the chef’s knife. A wide, long blade with slight scallops in the surface (prevents sliced food from adhering) with an easy to hold handle is my favorite chef’s knife. I use it for chopping, dicing, slicing, and more. I use the paring knife for most of the peeling work and wherever a small knife is needed. The filet knife, with its long thin blade, is handy for removing fat and the silver skin from cuts of meat and for slicing meat very thin. Always use sharp knives as it is when your knives are dull that most accidents happen.
- Baking pans- Having two cookie sheets insures that while one sheet is baking, another sheet is being readied to be the next one in the oven. I don’t like the two layer cookie sheets as the air between the sheets prevents the bottom from browning while the top is done. A dark metal cookie sheet is best as it allows the tops and bottoms of the cookies to be done at the same time. Having two different size cake pans is handy since the majority of the cake recipes call either an 8 inch by 8 inch pan or a 10 inch by 13 inch pan. If you prefer glass cake pans, remember to lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees since glass bakes hotter.
By having these basic essentials available in your kitchen, you are well on your way to making some fantastic dishes!