In this first lesson, I'm going to walk you through what I consider to be the absolute essentials for your kitchen. I've accumulated TONS of equipment throughout the years, but there are certain pieces I always find myself using more than others!
(I've also bought quite a bit of equipment through the years that I really don't take out of the cabinets all that often. So I do hope this list will save you money and sanity! :D)
However: keep in mind that not all of the tools and pans are required - it all depends on your style of cooking! Read through the class to see which cooking techniques you think you'll use the most and then start stocking your kitchen with equipment.
Much of the equipment below are brands that I use and enjoy, like Cuisinart, OXO, and Pyrex. Others are top rated on Amazon and other sites. Many times you can buy some of these items in sets, so keep an eye out for deals! I always try to buy kitchen equipment on sale since it can get expensive fast.
Below is a comprehensive list of all my recommendations. In the next few steps I'll walk you through the tools and equipment below and what they're useful for.
Pots + Pans:
Knives + Accessories:
Utensils + Tools
You don't have to buy a huge set of cookware to get all the essentials. Below are the pots and pans I use the most often, and some recommendations for good ones in different price ranges. :D
You can cook almost anything with this basic set!
12 inch frying pan
Pick a nice heavy frying pan - thin pans will warp over high heat. If you can get a pan with a lid, even better! (And if the handles on the pan and lid are oven-safe, you can use the pan both in the oven and on the stovetop.)
7 quart dutch oven
Dutch ovens are perfect for making soups, stews, sauces, and braising meats. A 7-quart dutch oven easily makes enough food for a couple days for two people - choose a larger model if you have move folks to feed!
4 quart stainless steel saucepan with lid
I have several Cuisinart saucepans and love them!
A 4 quart pan is a good size for cooking pasta, rice and other grains as well as simmering and boiling all sorts of things. Again, look for a heavy bottomed pan for best results.
9 x 13 inch baking pan
I prefer the glass Pyrex ones, but there are also metal models available.
This pan is the perfect size for baking vegetables, meats, lasagnas and casseroles.
Half sheet baking pan
A half sheet baking pan is roughly 18x13 inches, with a small lip around the edges. The Nordic Ware sheet pan is my favorite!
These pans are my preferred tool for roasting meats and vegetables - they're also great for baking!
6 or 8 inch chef's knife
A chef's knife is the perfect multipurpose knife for your kitchen! You'll use it to do the majority of your chopping. If you have small hands, you may find a 6 inch knife to be easier to hold. But I'd still recommend getting an 8 inch one - sometimes you just need a big knife!
A paring knife is a small, thin knife used for smaller, more precise cutting. Great for peeling, dicing or coring fruits and vegetables.
Serrated knives are the tool you'll want for cutting bread and other baked goods. They're also useful for slicing tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables with waxy, slick exteriors.
Wooden or plastic cutting boards
While there are many ways to keep your knives sharp, including getting them professionally sharpened or using a whet stone, I admit I prefer electric knife sharpeners.
If you do go this route, try to buy one in the $50-$100 range. You don't want a cheap one that will ruin your knife.
I use all of these items frequently and couldn't live without them! They make a great basic utensil set to handle all kinds of recipes.
Large metal whisk
I highly recommend getting a metal whisk over a plastic one - the plastic ones are too bendy and have a hard time breaking up clumps and stirring as efficiently.
Plastic and wooden spoons - slotted and regular!
I have more spoons that you could imagine. You can never have enough cooking spoons!
Slotted spoons are useful for easily removing food from liquid, or for serving food without leaving it in a puddle on the plate.
Plastic or metal ladle
Ladles come in very handy for serving up soups, stews, and chilis.
A good pair of tongs will be your best friend. I have several sizes, from 12 inches down to 6 inches.
Smaller tongs are great for flipping things like bacon - the larger ones are great for wrangling large cuts of meat.
Spatulas are great for mixing ingredients, scraping the bottom of your pans, and getting the last bits of food out of any container.
Plastic turner spatula
A flat and thin turner will make your life so much easier. Flipping meats, fish and veggies is much easier with one of these. Also great for breaking up ground meat into small pieces while cooking.
A splatter screen is a must have in any kitchen! Anything you're cooking something that is bound to splatter, cover your pan with one of these. It'll save you loads of cleanup later. (Aaaaaand if you're like me and constantly forget to put on an apron, this will also save your clothes.)
You may not need all of these tools at the start of your cooking endeavor, but I guarantee they will come in handy quite often.
2 or 4 cup glass measuring cup
Used for measuring liquid ingredients. The Pyrex ones are able to be heated in the microwave, too! I actually have 1, 2, 4, and 12 cup measures - I might be addicted.
Measuring spoons + cups
Used for measuring dry ingredients - things like herbs, spices, or grains.
While you can peel your veggies with a paring knife, it can be tricky. Might as well get one of these and make the process quick.
Vegetable peelers come in several types, but my favorites are the regular swivel peelers and the palm held ones.
There are many types of graters out there, but I recommend getting a sturdy box grater to start with. You can always upgrade to a different type later if you find you use a certain side of it all the time. You'll use this for potatoes, cheese, onions, carrots and much more!
Every kitchen needs one of these!
Cooling racks are useful for many things: holding hot pans, allowing fried foods to drain without getting soggy, and even for cooking ribs and other meats in the oven.
Oven mitts or potholders
Always a good idea to protect your hands. These come in both fabric and silicone these days, but I like the fabric ones.
An instant thermometer is one of my favorite tools! It takes all the guesswork out of cooking meat.
Ovens are not entirely reliable, especially the cheap ones found in rentals. My current oven is almost always 25 degrees under what it says it's preheated to. Yours could be a little weird too! An oven thermometer will ensure you're cooking at the right temperature.
I highly suggest buying a large fine-mesh metal strainer. That way you can use it for pasta, rice, beans and other grains.
A well stocked pantry is just as important as having the right tools and equipment for cooking!
You'll learn all about the best staples to keep on hand to make cooking much easier. With a nicely stocked pantry, you only need to buy fresh produce or meat to make a home cooked meal. :)
Once you've read up on stocking your pantry, let's move on to another important part of cooking: knife skills!
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