Moving out on your own can be exciting. You will probably end up enjoying the creative exercise of furnishing your apartment or condo. When it comes to the kitchen, it may be tempting to deck your cupboards and counters out with all sorts of kitchen tools and appliances. But if you're living by yourself, you can definitely get by with a few kitchen essentials. With the items in this article, you can make most of the dishes you would be able to make in a fully equipped kitchen, but with less clutter and cost. Cooking on your own doesn't have to be complicated.
Chef's Knife - If you could only buy one item for your kitchen, it should be a chef's knife. The chef's knife is the most important kitchen tool; it is certainly the most versatile and most used tool. You will use this for everything from chopping onions, slicing carrots, boning chickens. Because you will use it all the time and a chef's knife will, choosing a good knife will save you the most time and effort cooking. A good knife will provide a lifetime of service.
If you want to save money equipping your kitchen, this is not the item. You will want a knife that feels good to grip, and has good weight and balance. In selecting a knife, be sure to test it thoroughly. See how the grip feels and be sure to try different cuts. Good kitchen shops will let you try a knife out first. If you're left handed, there are knives with specific grips. Also pay attention to the knife length. Chef's knives range from 6 to 12 inches in length. If you're going to be doing a lot of fine chopping, like mincing and chopping herbs, 6 â 8 inches will work well. Alternatively, if you work with a lot of large meats, you may want to look at the 10 â 12 inch range.
Steel - A great chef's knife will soon be dull and difficult to use without some maintenance. If you've purchased a quality chef's knife, you will easily notice the difference between a sharp and dull edge. A honing steel is critical for maintaining the sharp edge of your knife. Learning to use a steel properly will keep a knife's edge sharp longer. I hone my knife with a steel every time before I cook. Even with heavy use, I only need to visit a professional sharpener once every four or five months.
Be sure to choose a steel that is appropriate for the knife you purchased. Knife manufacturers will usually indicate what kind of steel you should use (stainless steel or ceramic).
Paring Knife - A paring knife, while not as critical as the chef's knife, is still useful for many small tasks like peeling fruits or mincing small items. If you chose a smaller chef's knife, you may be able to get away with using that for intricate mincing or trimming, and use a cheapo peeler for the time being. In the long run, owning and maintaining a paring knife will go much further. It's pretty hard to maintain the blade of a peeler.
Cutting Board - It's useful for protecting your countertop! Avoid glass or steel cutting boards as they damage your knife edge quickly.
2 Pots, 1 Pan - Avoid purchasing those pot sets that are always on sale. Chances are, you'll only use three pieces: a skillet, a sauce pot and a larger pot. I personally use my skillet the most - I love the sound of sizzling on an evenly heated pan. The small pot is good if you want to make sauces. larger pot is great for broth, soup, and boiling things.
Go for anodized aluminum or stainless steel sets. While non-stick Teflon is convenient for delicate work, like omelettes, the coating will eventually wear off, and you'll need to replace the set in a few years. If you want to avoid getting a separate strainer, look for pots with strainers built into the lids.
Baking sheet - I use this for both general baking and roasting vegetables. A cheap one will suffice.
2 Bowls, 2 Plates, Utensils - If I'm cooking for myself, I will often eat out of my pot to save on washing dishes (I hate washing dishes), but if you have a guest over, you may have to use real dishes. The upshot is that bowls are useful for prepping ingredients.
Tupperware - Cooking for one can sometimes be demotivating. Why not cook a little more and save a portion for a time when you're feeling low on energy? I have four small square and microwave friendly 16oz tupperware containers for my most finished meals, since they are well portioned for single servings. I have two long and deep rectangular containers for things like lasagna, casseroles or even soup stock.
Odds and Ends - You'll probably want at least one wooden mixing spoon, one spatula and one whisk.
I've used this setup quite successfully to make cooking for myself a much simpler, enjoyable activity. I've also been able to conjure up delicious entrees for guests when the need arose.
While this equipment set should fulfill the bulk of your cooking projects, it shouldn't keep you from buying appliances that you will use regularly. But by setting up a minimalist kitchen first, you will be able to figure out what tools you will use frequently and what you won't. Since I make a lot of rice dishes, purchasing a cheap rice cooker was a no brainer. Likewise, when I started to bake a lot of bread, I invested in a quality pizza stone for my oven.