If you are just learning to cook, or are moving into your first place, you probably don’t have much in the way of cookware and kitchen tools. And you may not even know what basic tools you need. Here is what I recommend to begin your journey from beginning cook to gourmet chef.
Cutting Board: This is a very basic tool, but provides a number of essential functions. We all know that using a cutting board saves our counter tops, but when used properly, it also can reduce knife injuries. Butcher block has been the traditional favorite; however, concerns about bacteria getting into the wood grain have encouraged switching to other materials. Plastic cutting boards are inexpensive, easy to clean and can molded with antibacterial agents in the plastic. Other popular materials for cutting boards are glass, bamboo and corian. Start with at least two large cutting boards – one for vegetables and fruit and a separate one for meat products. Using two cutting boards like this will reduce the risk of cross contamination from raw meat.
Good Quality Knives: You really can’t cook or chop anything properly without a good knife. Inexpensive knives will last only a short time and can never be as sharp as fine cutlery. Not only does a good, sharp knife help you prepare food efficiently but it also makes cutting and chopping safer. A dull knife can slip and cut your finger very easily. These are investment pieces, and they can be expensive, so do your research before purchasing. Minimally, your kitchen should have a eight or ten inch chefs knife and a paring knife. Neither should have a serrated edge. As your cooking skills grow, you will add to your knife collection.
Large Pot With a Good Fitting Top: You need a pot for pretty much anything – from boiling water for pasta, to cooking vegetables, and making soups and stews. High quality cookware is typically stainless steel, with variations of core thickness and layers of stainless. These variations are what the manufacturers use to differentiate their product from other similar pieces of cookware. Study the differences and consider how they match the way you cook and what type of cooking you do. Some work better for slow cooking, like stews, while others are better suited to quick cooking methods, like boiling water for pasta.
Saute pan. This may be the cooking pan you use the most. Versatility makes them essential in the kitchen. Use a saute pan for stir fries, frying chicken, making grilled cheese or hamburgers, sauteing a fish filet, or flipping an omelet. You should get one without a wooden handle and check that they are oven proof. Then they can do double duty on your stove top or in your oven. If your budget allows, consider getting a smaller size for omelets and vegetables and a larger size for stir fries and multiple pieces of meat. To properly use a saute pan, you will need to avoid overcrowding the food, so do consider those larger sizes if your budget allows.
Roasting Pan. These are perfect for preparing things in the oven. From a beef roast to a roasted chicken to roasted vegetables, a roasted pan can help you cook your favorite dishes in the oven.
Some people put off purchasing a good quality roasting pan and get by with the aluminum throwaways from the grocery store. While it will get the job done for your Thanksgiving turkey, it isn’t a long term solution for someone who really enjoys cooking.
Like most things in life, quality does cost more. Start by purchasing a few high quality kitchen tools and add to your collection as your cooking skills grow.