Ok, we admit it, sometimes we like to get all cro-magnon and roast meat by holding it over an open flame on a stick. It’s slightly less feasible, however, to make a full meal without the proper equipment (not to mention the difficulty in building a fire in your apartment big enough to cook with). Check out our list of basic kitchen equipment below to make sure you’ve got what it takes to make goodness happen.
Chef’s Knife – While you don’t always need to have the biggest and best of what’s out there to be a good cook, dropping a little extra dough on a quality chef’s knife is an investment that will pay very tasty returns. A good, sharp knife with even weighting and a good grip will make cutting everything easier and actually help prevent you from losing fingers (counter-intuitive we know, but you won’t have to put in as much effort and run the risk of slippage with a cheaper model). Aim for something with an 8 inch blade and decide if you want to go with a traditional style (skinnier blade with a curve towards the tip) or the Japanese santoku (a wider blade with almost no curve); the only difference is personal preference.
Butterfly Sharpener – You can get a traditional sharpening steel if you learn how to use it properly, but if you don’t you’ll do more damage than good. Do yourself a favor (for now at least) and get a butterfly sharpener so all you have to do is pull the knife through it a couple of times and viola, sharpened.
Cutting Board – Do you like having money taken out of your security deposit for having counters with scratches and cuts? Do you like looking at counters with scratches and cuts? How about dull knife blades, do you like those? I think we’ve made our point. Plastic cutting boards are cheaper and easier to store, but we like the heft and durability of wooden ones.
Frying Pan – If you only buy one frying pan, do yourself a favor and get one that’s oven-safe (i.e., no Teflon and no plastic handles). This gives you flexibility to cook dishes that need to be finished in the oven without having to transfer them to a different vessel. We like 12 inchers (that’s the diameter) so you can tackle jobs big or small. If you just can’t live without Teflon, just be sure not to scratch it. Not only does this f-up its non-stickiness, but more importantly it introduces the risk that chemicals will leak into your food (file under un-good).
Saucepans, Saucepots and Stockpots – These are simply known as pots to the layperson, but the names indicate exaclty what they’re used for. Saucepans are the smaller pots that you’re used to seeing (typically 1-3 quarts) and have a single handle while saucepots are larger (anywhere from 3-8 quarts) and have two handles. Stockpots are the big boys of cooking, typically at least as tall as they are wide (6 quarts and up). Ideally you should have a 3 quart, 5 quart and 8 quart pot so you can A) boil, simmer and cook everything you need for a meal all at once and B) accommodate cooking larger dishes. 1 quart pots are nice to have for making sauces and when you’re cooking soup for yourself, but aren’t totally necessary.
Meat Thermometer – Have you ever gotten food poisoning? If not, consider yourself lucky that you’ve never had to endure the gut-wrenching-bodily-fluid-fest that it is. Sounds appealing? Yeah, we thought so; buy a meat thermometer and avoid the whole mess.
Baking Pan – The name says it all. When you have to put something in the oven, use this. 13 x 9 inches is a good, standard size. Look for something glass or ceramic.
Baking Sheet – Again, for baking things in the oven. Good for stuff that doesn’t involve sauce or a bunch of liquid, since these have little to no lip on them. 10 x 15 inches (or something close to it) is pretty standard.
Colander – For rinsing and draining things.
Tongs – Things get hot and you need to turn them and take them out of their cooking vessels. Good luck using your hands.
Mixing Spoons – Get wood or metal, plastic melts.
Potholders and/or Oven Mitts – (see “things get hot”)
Spatula – For flipping things.
Wine Opener/Bottle Opener – Because smashing a bottle to open it is so uncouth.
Potato Masher – Mash things. Can also be used to flatten or tenderize meat in a pinch.
Measuring Cups and Spoons – C’mon, do we really have to explain these?
Whisk – Beat your eggs and whip your cream.
Grater – Easier than julienning things by hand.
Can Opener – Don’t make us say it.