KITCHEN BASICS – EQUIPMENT & TOOLS FOR A WELL EQUIPPED KITCHEN
Below is a comprehensive list of kitchen basics – the equipment and tools that will help achieve a well run, efficient, no frills kitchen. You don’t need to purchase all of these things before you begin making meals at home. Instead, think of this as a goal list of items that you plan to acquire over time. These are my go-to kitchen basics. These are the things that make my kitchen work.
A Chef’s Knife
A good chef’s knife is a lifelong friend in the kitchen, good for nearly every task you’ll face, from boning a chicken to chopping carrots or mincing parsley. You want a sturdy, forged-steel chef’s knife that’ll last a long time, with a balanced handle; a full tang (meaning the knife is constructed from a single piece of metal that runs straight through the handle); and solid riveted construction.
A Serrated Knife
Though a chef’s knife is more essential and more versatile, a good serrated knife, a.k.a. bread knife, is hard to substitute: Nothing does a better job of slicing through the soft crumb of fresh bread, or the skin of a ripe tomato, than its saw-toothed blade.
Because of that serrated edge, your bread knife will be nearly impossible to sharpen, meaning it’ll require replacement every five years or so.
A Paring Knife
A paring knife can’t do too much that a chef’s knife can’t, but, after your chef’s knife, it’s the chopping tool you’ll likely reach for most often. For small tasks, like halving lemons or mincing shallots, or tasks that require closer attention to detail, its size and light weight make it a more convenient choice.
A Cutting Board
There’s nothing wrong with buying a pretty and fancy wooden carving board if you have the cash to spare. It’s a good investment: Wood harbors less bacteria than other materials, and a wooden board is gentler on your knives. But if a better price is what you’re after, a heavy-duty plastic board, preferably one with rubberized grips, is A-OK.
A 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet (and a Stainless Steel One, if You Can Swing It)
This is my absolute FAVORITE skillet! Whether you’re searing a steak, sautéing vegetables, cooking up a frittata, baking Southern-style cornbread, or even making no-knead pan pizza, a heavy-duty, well-seasoned cast iron skillet is the pan to reach for. Its significant weight helps it retain heat better, and its rugged construction means it will probably outlive you (and, most likely, your children and grandchildren)—not bad for a piece of cookware that costs about $40. A 12-inch pan will be big enough for just about any recipe.
A cast iron pan will see you through a tremendous variety of cooking tasks, but if there’s room in your starter-kitchen budget for a tri-ply stainless steel skillet, we heartily endorse adding it to your list as well. Stainless steel conducts heat better than cast iron, making it ideal for tasks like sautéing vegetables; it’s also lighter in weight, so it’s much easier to maneuver.
A Nonstick Skillet
You can get away with cooking just about anything in a well-seasoned, well-cared-for cast iron pan. But when it comes to cooking egg dishes like omelettes and scrambled eggs, as well as delicate items like crepes, you can’t beat a modern nonstick skillet surface.
A Large Stock Pot
Probably one of the most versatile piece of cookware in your kitchen. Excellent when cooking soups and boiling pasta.
A 3-Quart Saucepan
For making most sauces, from béchamel to caramel, not to mention custard desserts like butterscotch pudding, a quality saucepan in a versatile size is essential for ensuring that the contents heat evenly and the finished product comes out velvety-smooth.
An Enameled Dutch Oven
An enamel-coated cast iron Dutch oven is the ideal vessel for slow braises (like these Chinese-spiced short ribs) and soups. In the oven, the pot’s thick walls and heavy lid are ideal for low-and-slow heat transfer, meaning stews and pot roasts will come out juicier and more tender, with minimal evaporation during cooking.
On the stovetop, its tall, wide sides retain heat well and promise easy, splatter-free browning when you’re cooking large amounts of meat and vegetables at once. Plus, it’s great for deep-frying and boiling pasta.
A Large Baking Dish
Like the Dutch oven, a good-sized casserole is a necessity for big-batch comfort-food dishes that you can eat throughout the week, or even freeze for hectic times to come—we’re talking creamy spinach lasagna and shepherd’s pie blanketed in rich, buttery mashed potatoes. These tempered glass and porcelain baking dishes aren’t fancy-looking, but our tests to find the best baking dishes found them to be sturdy, functional, and easy to clean, not to mention economical.
A Loaf Pan
Quick breads are a great way for novices to try their hand at baking, but a loaf pan is also handy for making meatloaf, pound cake, or simple yeasted loaves. The below loaf pan is made from aluminized steel, which is long-lasting, rust-resistant, and helpfully nonstick.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
As much as we appreciate—celebrate, even—the precision offered by a scale, there are times when it’s either impractical or just plain unnecessary to weigh out your ingredients. To get accurate quantities by volume, you’ve gotta have measuring cups: both dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups, plus a set of spoons.
Rimmed Baking Sheets and Wire Racks
Rimmed aluminum baking sheets are not just for baking. Also called “sheet pans” in the restaurant industry, they’re used for a huge number of oven tasks: baking a batch of cookies, crisping up a tray of broccoli, even roasting a whole turkey or chicken. Beyond those functions, sheet pans are endlessly useful—say, for spreading out vegetables or tofu to dry before frying, or for providing a steady, easily grabbable surface on which to place a pie for baking, cooling, or chilling.
A Box Grater
A Microplane is a terrific tool, and highly recommended for creating a fine shower of Parmesan, lemon zest, or fresh nutmeg. But if you need to shred two whole pounds of cheese to make Classic Baked Mac and Cheese, a box grater is a far better bet. The larger holes will make short work of the block of cheddar, and its upright position makes it easy to grip while you shred away.
An Instant-Read Thermometer
If all you’re doing in the kitchen is making simple, forgiving, largely vegetable-based dishes—things like stews, sautés, and casseroles—you can get away without a thermometer for testing your food’s internal temperature. But if you want to cook any kind of meat and cook it well, a good thermometer is a necessity.
Metal Mixing Bowls
Wanna know why television cooks use glass mixing bowls? It’s not because they’re better than the cheaper metal versions. It’s for one reason only: Metal bowls are too reflective, and they make life difficult for the camera operators. On the flip side, they’re also lighter than glass, take up less space, and last longer (and yes, modern microwaves can handle metal bowls!). Go into any restaurant kitchen, and you’ll find that the mixing bowls being used are exclusively metal.
A Wooden Spoon
A good wooden spoon is any cook’s best friend, whether it’s used for stirring a sauce, tasting a soup, or making the creamiest possible risotto. For the true aficionados among us, it’s not unusual to end up with half a dozen wooden utensils in various shapes and sizes.
Heat-Resistant Flexible Spatulas
This is a very different beast from a fish spatula, or from the wider turner you might use with your nonstick skillet. Rather than turning and flipping with it, it’s what you’ll grab for scraping out every drop of custard, batter, or sauce from the inside of a pot or bowl.
A Stainless Steel Colander
We prefer the steel colander to its plastic counterpart. Food, specially pasta tend to stick less and makes for easier clean-ups.
A Vegetable Peeler
Every kitchen needs at least one good vegetable peeler.
It’s true that beating egg whites and whipping cream are made much easier with the help of a stand mixer (or a handheld electric mixer), but if you’re still saving up for one, a good old-fashioned whisk-and-bowl combination works, too.
An Immersion Blender
A good starter kitchen doesn’t necessarily need a pricey high-powered blender or even a food processor, but some kind of blending capability is nice if you want to make a creamy blended soup, whipped cream, or your own mayo. And for that, there’s an immersion blender.