Dear Home Ec 101:
What would be the top 20 or so things that every kitchen must have?
~Going Gadgetless in Gainesville
I am not a huge fan of gadgets, but I will gladly list of what I feel any home cook needs to be able to easily prepare meals for a family. A baker will have more extensive requirements. Some of the items listed will be categories that could be expanded, but for simplicity I’m only listing the basics and a couple of items I feel are worth their weight in gold. This list assumes the cook owns basic appliances: oven, range, microwave, refrigerator, and freezer.
- Pots and Pans – I highly recommend stainless if it is in your budget. I use the Emeril set by All-Clad. As far as cookware goes they are more expensive than what you’ll find in Wal-mart but they come with a lifetime warranty. If you choose to go the non-stick route NEVER heat an empty pan as this may release toxic fumes.
- Knives – Your knives are some of the most important kitchen tools you will own. I do recommend buying high quality and keeping them sharp and in good repair. Sharp knives make cooking much less work. There are three that I use consistently:
- a chef’s knife – I use this knife daily for most jobs: chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. Do not purchase the biggest one you can find. Ask to handle it in the store and make sure the knife is balanced and comfortably fits your hand. A poor fit may cause fatigue during even small chopping jobs.
- a utility knife – I often use this one for handling meat.
- a paring knife – This comes in handy for coring and peeling fruit as well as other small job
- Mixing bowls – I really like my stainless bowls, however if you choose metal it is important to have at least one glass mixing bowl as there are some recipes which will react with certain metals.
- Wooden spoons – I use these for the bulk of my stirring and cooking. My favorite has a flat edge perfect for scraping carmelized bits of goodness from my sautee pan. However, if you just can’t stand the feel of wood, nylon spoons will do.
- Spatulas – I use three kinds: rubber for scraping, nylon slotted for removing pan fried items from oil, and regular nylon (stiff) for lifting heavier items.
- Measuring spoons – I typically eyeball most recipes but there are times where accurate measurements are a must. I prefer 1/8 – 1TBSP metal spoons on a single ring.
- Measuring cups (dry) – 1/8th – 1 cup metal or plastic
- Measuring cups (liquid) – I have two, both are glass in 1 and 4 cup sizes
- Bakeware – I use your standard Pyrex and Corningware for casseroles, pies and such. 9″ and 10″ cake pans are useful too, and a 9 x 13.
- Cookie Sheets – I keep 3 – 5 on hand. Replace these as they become rusted or warped
- Broiling pan – I use this frequently for oven frying.
- Vegetable peeler – Don’t spend big bucks, but buy one that is comfortable, it will need to be replaced when it dulls.
- Grater – I have 3 sizes, they were sold as a pack for less than $5.
- Tongs – These are a must, they come in handy for turning as well as steadying some foods while carving. Ivy says she has 6 pairs of tongs- she uses them for literally everything.
- Cutting boards – You need at least two one for fruits, vegetables, and cooked meat, the other for raw meat. Be sure to sanitize them often.
- Whisk – I have two one metal, one nylon to use while cooking
- Instant read thermometer – Invaluable for roasts and poultry.
These last few I don’t consider necessary but I still frequently use them.
- Stand mixer – I love my Kitchen-Aid. I received it as a wedding present six (gasp) years ago and it’s going strong with frequent use.
- Immersion blender – I have no use for a standard blender, but I use this all the time for soups, baby food, eggs, and smoothies. I also love the mini-processor attachment.
- Pastry cutter – I rarely use it for pie crusts, but it comes in very handy for mashed potatoes.
- Garlic press – I’m actually in the air on this one. I use it, but find it annoying to clean.
- Steamer – I have had a cheap Black and Decker for five years. I love the thing for no brainer vegetables like steamed broccoli. If I plan right, sometimes I can use this and never turn on the oven or stove for a meal.
What are your must have kitchen items?