If you ask ten good home cooks to give you a list of equipment someone new to cooking should have to basically, yet sufficiently, outfit a kitchen, you’ll get ten different lists. If you add a couple professional chefs to the people you survey, you’ll not only get varied responses – you’ll get some very long lists.
While there is no real right or wrong about what someone should have in his or her kitchen, I’ve put together a list of basics I think all the folks above would agree on. You won’t find any single-purpose tools you’ll be likely to use just once or twice a year, nor will you find ridiculously expensive wonder-gadgets “as seen on TV!”. What you will find, is a basic list of essential items that will get any new home-cook, hungry college student in an apartment for the first time, or clueless newly single guy, started feeding himself. The items below focus primarily on cooking - not baking. If your goal is to be able to feed yourself healthy food, it would be irresponsible to add too many items for making goodies…..plus the list would be much longer :)
Just like so many other things in the consumer world, you get what you pay for. My suggestion is to think critically about how much you’ll be cooking and what your culinary goals might be. Has cooking become your new passion?…. or are you hoping to simply be able to feed yourself until a better cook comes into your life and takes over the task? You’re probably somewhere between these two extremes.
While cheap cookware, utensils, etc. will only frustrate you and perform poorly, outrageously expensive copper fish poachers and your own personal meat grinder are a waste of money for the average cook.
My suggestion is to buy the the plain white underwear of the cooking world…in other words, the basics.
Choose maybe not the absolute best you can afford; but definitely choose with longevity in mind.
If you have some wiggle room in your budget the the best place to spend a bit more is on a few good pans and at least two good knives. A crummy pan will heat unevenly and fall apart. A cheap, dull knife can suck all the fun out of cooking by making prep-work a nightmare.
Items with an asterisks, while really nice to have in a basic kitchen, aren’t absolutely essential to get you started.
Pots and Pans
I’d recommend stainless steel with an aluminum or copper base for even heating.
- 3 Sauce Pans: 1 quart, 2 quart, 3 quart – all with tight fitting lids
- 1 Stock Pot: 8 quart – with tight fitting lid – sometimes known as a pasta pot
- 2 Skillets: 8 inches, 10 inches – choose one in a non-stick finish
- 1 Dutch Oven or Casserole: 3 quart – can double as a stock pot in a pinch *
- 1 Glass or ceramic baking dish: 13 x 9 x 2
- 1 Shallow roasting pan: about 15 x 10 x 2
- 1 Deep, large roasting pan: about 16 x 11 x 5 – Can buy disposables if money is tight *
- 1 Collapsible vegetable steamer that fits into different size pots *
- 1 Set of nested mixing bowls (usually 3 or 4 to a set) – stainless steel
- 1 Set of measuring spoons – stainless steel
- 1 Set of dry measuring cups – stainless steel
- 1 Liquid measuring cup – clear glass or plastic….yes, there is a reason for the two types
- 1 Instant-read meat thermometer
- 1 Rubber spatula for flipping things in your non-stick pan
- 1 Metal spatula for your regular pan or grill
- 1 Standing 4-sided grater
- 1 Potato Masher *
- 1 Long-handled fork for carving or moving heavy pieces of meat *
- 1 Stainless steel wire whisk – 8 inches
- 1 Can opener
- 1 Long-handled, slotted stainless steel spoon
- 1 Long-handled stainless steel spoon – no slots *
- 1 Flexible rubber spatula – heat resistant
- 1 Colander – 8 – 10 inches wide, with legs
- 1 Pair tongs
- 1 Vegetable Peeler
- 1 Dishwasher size plastic cutting board
Remember – good knives will make your life in the kitchen much, much easier. Shoot for buying high-carbon, stainless-steel……no ginsu knives, please!
- 1 Paring knife – 3 1/2 inches
- 1 Chef’s knife – 10 inches
- 1 Serrated bread knife – 8 – 10 inches
- 1 Good knife sharpener
- Cake pans – 2 round – 9 inches *
- Cake pan - 1 rectangular – 9 x 13 *
- 1 Loaf pan – 9 x 5 x 3 *
- Range with oven….obviously :)
- Microwave if possible
- Blender *
- Hand Mixer