You have retiled the backsplash, installed soapstone counters and picked the perfect porcelain sink, now it’s time to fill your kitchen with the must-haves for fantastic cooking. Whether you’re living in a gourmet’s heaven, or just making do in your rental apartment, serious chefs need specific cooking essentials.
Have you got these in your nest?
- A kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer
This is, in my humble opinion, the best “plug-in”? tool you can own. Any baker will benefit greatly from this classic mixer and even simple dinners (like mashed potatoes) are made magnificent with the help of a stand-mixer. Invest in one and bring your kitchen to the next level.
- A Cuisinart
The chopper that chops, the slicer that slices, though there are acceptable variations in food processor brands, and some suitable substitutes, the big dog on campus is and probably always will be the Cuisinart. Use it to puree foods, to finely chop nuts, to mix dough or to mince herbs. It’s endless.
- Sharp and good knives
No substitute for sharp and well made knives. Consider Wusthof as a reputable brand. If you can’t afford a whole set (and we wouldn’t blame you), try getting a chef’s knife and pairing knife to start.
- Wooden cutting blocks
The preferred surface for cutting, and the nicest for your knives is a wooden cutting board. It’s best practice to have a few on hand, small are fine, for working across many different foods in one meal. Clean your boards with soap and water and dry immediately. If stains, mildew or smells are an issue, do a light bleach bath once a week, or as needed. As with all wooden surfaces an occasional oiling will prolong the life of your boards.
- Rimmed baking sheets
A sturdy rimmed baking sheet will make all the difference when baking cookies, brownies and more. Thin, or coated baking sheets are more of a letdown, and will not stand the test of time. A good cook will have at least a couple of sturdy rimmed sheets for rotating products through your oven. Need to make 200 hundred cookies? Not a problem with four of these pans.
- Cooling racks
These are so valuable if you do any sort of baking. Beyond that though, cooling racks make the perfect place to place large slices of eggplant that have been salted, allowing them space to weep before cooking.
- Measuring cups & spoons
This one is easy. Baking is nearly impossible without a set of measuring cups and spoons. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been asked for a loaner set. Obviously the ardent cook will have these on hand (preferably metal, not plastic).
- Heavy Duty cast iron pot (think Le Creuset)
This huge and heavy pan will be used for soups, roasts and even boiling pasta. An all-purpose worker bee, the cast iron pan just makes for great cooking.
- A stainless steel sauté pan
Everyone should have a nice sauté pan, one without non-stick coating, and a thick “bowl”? or bottom, which will evenly distribute heat around the pan. Avoid pans with non-stick or plastic handles.
- Sturdy cooking utensils
The workhorses of the meal, wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, whisks and metal spatulas are your hands in the food (without actually putting your hands in the food…). There is nothing more anti-climatic than cooking with a big plastic spoon, or creating a masterpiece only to flip it with a floppy and chipped plastic spatula.