Whether you’re just learning to cook and stocking your kitchen for the first time, or an experienced cook who’s merely starting over, you’ll want to make sure your new kitchen is prepared for extraordinary cooking.
Here are ten things – in no particular order – that you must have to get your kitchen in working order quickly but that will also provide you with what you’ll need for the largest variety of dishes.
1. Pots. A large (six to eight quart) stockpot with a lid, and a medium (two to three quart) saucepan with lid at minimum. These two items are versatile enough for a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, pastas and sauces. You can always add more items later as your kitchen grows, but this is a great start.
2. Basic stove top cooking utensils. You’ll need a 12 silicone spatula (dishwasher safe, even if you don’t have a dishwasher), a large cooking spoon, a set of tongs, and a good 8-inch chef’s knife for prep work. Add a four-sided cheese grater that allows for a few different grating sizes, and you’re adequately prepared for the finishing touch to number of dishes.
3. Cooking oils, herbs and spices. A bottle of olive oil and a bottle of vegetable oil are good to have on hand for most dishes. As for herbs and spices, make sure you have the following (and you can buy them at bulk spice counters in grocery stores to some cash for that chef’s knife):
- Kosher salt (better than regular table salt for most dishes). Add just a pinch to sauces and vegetables, and taste how it brings out the natural flavor.
- Black pepper. If you’ve got a grinder for peppercorns, that’s great, but basic ground black pepper is fine as well.
- Dried Basil
- Ground Ginger
- Red pepper flakes
4. An apron and some huck towels. It may not seem absolutely necessary, but don’t skip this. Even a cheap apron and a set of four hand towels will allow you to focus on making the meal, not being neat or protecting your clothes. And frankly, one can never have enough hand towels in the kitchen. (Bonus: if you’re new to cooking, this gives your guests the impression that you know what you’re doing!)
5. One good 8-10 inch non-stick skillet. Find one you can also use for omelettes or as a sauté pan. This will ultimately be the pan you use most, so cut costs everywhere else if you have to, but make sure you get a good quality, well-reviewed skillet that will last you awhile.
6. A covered bucket or bin you can use for compost or scraps while you cook. Just having one on hand can save you minutes in the kitchen, keep your cooking area compact and neat, and simplify removal once the chopping and prep work are done.
7. Measuring implements. Start with a 2-cup glass measuring cup, and a set of measuring spoons. Take a look at the Pyrex brand of measuring cups. A basic set of stainless steel measuring spoons that includes one tablespoon, one teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, and ¼ teaspoon will cover measurements for most dishes.
8. Air and light! Make sure you’ve got a strong light over or near your stove, and a fan for ventilation. You’ll want to see what you’re cooking, and if things get away from you, you’ll want to a fast way to clear out the smoke. Most newer homes and apartments will have a light and fan over the stove, but if you’ve got an older place, a desk lamp and a small fan can work as well.
9. A large 10 by 15 inch cutting board. Make sure it’s dishwasher safe. Take a look at the Epicurean brand for ideas. Keep in mind that the wood boards will split over time, and sometimes it’s tough to get some food matter out of them as well. The important thing is to save your counter surfaces – thereby keeping them bacteria-free – and simplify your prep work.
10. Your sense of adventure…and forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to try cooking something new, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped. Cooking for friends and family is a gift you’re giving them. Put a little joy in what you make.
That’s all you need to get started. Here are some additional tips for building your kitchen without spending a fortune:
- Buy your spices in bulk. Start with smaller amounts, get a few glass containers to keep them in and label them. Getting a few at a time will build your kitchen slowly but surely towards the well-stocked kitchen you want.
- Check clearance stores like Ross, Marshall’s, Burlington Coat Factory, etc. for housewares that are significantly discounted. Name brands and high quality kitchen items are plentiful in these stores, and you might find larger discounted sets at a much cheaper price.
- Check Craigslist for moving sales. Over time, some people realize that they’ve purchased multiples of items and no longer need the extras. Take advance of their over-shopping to get the items you need.
Have you got all the basics covered and now you’re ready to expand? Consider these next few items as additions to your new kitchen:
- A colander for straining pastas and rinsing potatoes, etc. Go with a stainless steel version for ease of use and cleaning.
- A set of mixing bowls. Again, stainless steel are fine and will get the job done, but ceramic ones can double as beautiful serving dishes for the table and raise the bar on a meal’s presentation.
- A few ramekins for sorting prep food. Simple ceramic ones are best. These can also double as serving bowls for dips and garnishes, and add some visual flair to your table.
Now, you’re all set! With these items, your kitchen will be functional – and versatile – and will support many happy hours of cooking fine dishes.