OK, so you want to start cooking but you're not sure where to begin? Before you boil your first egg, let along turn out a spectacular meal, you have to have the right equipment. This list pertains strictly to cooking equipment, we are not talking dishes to serve the food on, tableware, etc. It is also assumed that you have a stove and oven.
Now don't just go out and buy everything on the list. Some of these items are only necessary for certain tasks. For example, pie pans are only necessary if you plan to make pies (or if you're bored and want to learn to juggle). If pies aren't your thing, you don't really need the pans. If one specific use isn't given, however, you can probably assume that you will need the item in question at one time or another during your culinary adventures.
Here is a list of the bare bones minimum you should have in your kitchen. Once you have these things we offer more advanced tutorials. Find them in the Related Features section below.On to the bare essentials list:
- set of measuring cups - cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/8 cup
- set of measuring spoons - teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon
- non-stick skillet(s) - one small about 8 inches in diameter, one large about 12 inches in diameter.
- pots and lids - one small, one medium and one larger, deep stock pot.
- spatula - plastic if using no-stick cookware.
- cake pans - if you plan to do any baking at all get a set of two 8 or nine inch round cake pans.
- baking sheet(s) - a large rectangular baking sheet or two will come in handy
- springform pan - essential for making cheesecake and many other types of cake. This pan has a separate bottom which the side part fits around. The side has a hinge that tightens it onto the bottom. When it's time to take the cake out of the pan, you simply open the hinge and life the cake out.
- loaf pans - essential only for making certain kinds of breads or cakes. The disposable tin foil ones will do if you don't want to invest in the real thing.
- pie pans - essential only of you plan on making pies. The disposable tin foil ones will do if you don't want to invest in the real thing.
- wooden spoon(s) - get a few, you'll be glad you did!
- garlic press - these range in price from a couple of bucks to twenty or thirty. Don't buy the cheapest model, it will break easily (beware of plastic handles) and not do the proper job. Ikea carries a decent garlic press in the five dollar range.
- knives - invest in a couple of good knives. You will need a small paring knife and a larger chef's knife. A medium size in between wouldn't hurt either. A "Ginsu" type serrated knife is also indispensable, they really are as good as the commercial says, they last forever and are very inexpensive too. I've had my "Ginsu" for about 12 years now and it's still going strong (yes, I have used it to cut aluminum cans just like the commercial and it still slices tomatoes just fine).
- rubber spatula(s) - these are handy for scraping every bit of batter out of a bowl, the last bit of mayonnaise out of a jar and hundreds of other uses. Rubber spatulas usually come in sets of a couple different sizes (handy, but not essential). It is important the rubber spatula is flexible. The cheaper models are too stiff and thus cannot do the job they were meant to do. Also, do not put these on the bottom shelf of your dishwasher, they will melt!
- electric mixer - a hand held electric mixer is essential. You can get by without a lot of more expensive pieces of kitchen equipment if you have this one.
- mixing bowls - a set of mixing bowls is a must. Get at least three, a small, medium and large. If you can, invest in an extra-large mixing bowl. If you're ever having a party or cooking for large groups (or making lots of leftovers) you'll be glad you have it.
- slotted spoon - a large slotted spoon is necessary for removing items from liquids
- grater - a grater is necessary for grating cheese, vegetables (cabbage and carrots for coleslaw come to mind), citrus zest etc. One grater will usually have several different sets of blades for grating different textures and sizes. Graters can be clumsy and time consuming and there are many other gadget that can do their job, but make sure you have something in your kitchen that can grate.
- colander - for draining pastas, vegetables and anything else that has been cooked in hot liquid
- strainer - a wire mesh strainer will come in handy for washing rice. Used like a colander it can separate food from cooking liquids or to strain large pieces out of sauces, etc.