There are many lists of things you should have in your kitchen on the Internet. This is ours. After cooking many meals and trying out kitchen gadgets, this is our list of things you should have. This isn’t a “you MUST have only these things”, but more of a “here’s where your money goes the furthest”. We’re assuming you have a stove and oven.
1. Without question, a good, sharp chef’s knife. This is the most important thing in the kitchen. Next time you cook something, try doing it with a butter knife. It will be frustrating. A good knife makes cooking far more enjoyable. While the chef’s knife is good, pairing it with a small paring/utility knife, a Santoku knife and a good serrated knife will ensure you cover all of your cutting applications. That’s all of the knifes you need. Knife sets will have more knives and they are generally not used. We have a Wusthof Ikon chef’s, Santoku and utility knife. The serrated knife is from Cutco.
2. A good cutting board. We got ours from a wood shop in Pittsburgh called Wood-N-You Like It. I’m not even kidding. I’m a big fan of the small rubber feet on the bottom. I can’t flip the board over, but I know when I’m cutting something my board isn’t going anywhere.
3. A meat/food thermometer. Being scared of whether or not your food is fully cooked is one of the biggest reasons people are afraid of cooking in general. One of the best purchases is a good instant read thermometer. We have two. One is a probe thermometer that can be used to quickly check temperatures of all sorts of food. The other is an oven/alarm thermometer. This one is a leave in model that you would use to monitor the temperature of something and make sure it doesn’t go over a certain mark. I use this one for oil temperature when frying or cooking a chicken/turkey in the oven. Just be careful with the probe leads. This makes sure your food is cooked safely and makes sure you’re not overcooking for the sake of food safety.
4. A food processor. I could go on and on about what you can make in a food processor, but that’s not the point here. The point is to get one with a cutting/shredding wheel. Have you ever shredded an entire block of cheese and enjoyed it? I suppose you haven’t. It’s worth it just for that and then as a bonus you get a machine that can make banana ice cream. Ours is a $40 Hamilton Beach model from Target. AJ bought it randomly while Abby was out of town.
5. Pots and pans. Many people have a million pots and pans and use only a few regularly. We pared ours down to 8. A pair of non-stick pans (8″ and 10″), two All-Clads (9″ and 4 qt. sauté pan), A small 2 qt. sauce pot, a 4 qt. sauce pot and a Le Creuset dutch oven and braiser. Yes, we have nice pans. They’re basically never going away. The dutch oven is the most versatile of the bunch. We’ve made candy, bread, fried chicken and many various stews in it. Investing in cookware will rarely steer you wrong unless you go completely overboard with it.
6. A salt pig/server. Salt is one of the most important things you do while cooking. Adding salt in the various layers of cooking bring out amazing flavors that you didn’t think were even possible. Why keep this magical fairy dust in a shaker? Besides giving the ability to pinch salt out for seasoning, it makes it really easy when a recipe says “1 teaspoon of salt”. Open the top, scoop and go. Personal note: there are many forms of the salt pig/cellar/container. AJ chose the flip top because Alton Brown had one and he liked it.
7. Kitchen Scale. Are you planning on baking anything? Ever wondered why when you baked from a recipe it didn’t turn out even though you did everything absolutely to the letter? That’s because you probably measured dry ingredients by volume instead of weight. Flour (in particular) is really good at holding air. When you measure out a cup of flour, there is potentially a lot of air in that cup. Measuring out by weight gives you a far more accurate and reproducible value to use. We picked up a $50 unit from OXO. It allows switching between imperial and metric (the latter is really important for french press coffee) and has a zero out or tare function. The tare function allows you to remove the weight of the bowl you’re using from the measurements. Your cookies will be far more consistent once you start weighing everything.
8. French press and electric kettle. Before we get sort of kind of coffee snobby here, we’d like to point out that we have a Keurig because sometimes waiting stinks. Anyways. Few things in life make a morning better than a really good cup of coffee. You can dive deep into coffee snobbery and get into water temperatures and grinding tools, but for us the french press was as far as we were going to go. We picked up a Bodum 8-cup french press. This replaced the previous 8-cup Bodum press that Abby had that broke. Quick recipe for coffee: 60 grams of coffee (See? Told you you’d need a scale) into the press, boil water, pour water into the press until the grounds are covered, wait 1 minute, stir, fill the rest of the press with the water, cover, wait 3 minutes, press and pour. That boiling water part sounds like a pain until you get an electric kettle. It takes 1 minute per cup of water to boil so with the 4.5 cups I use for the press, it takes 4.5 minutes. That’s not bad at all. Sidenote: get a thermos for whatever you don’t pour into your cup. Keeping the coffee off of the grounds makes it not taste burnt.
9. Good food containers. I can not tell you how much more enjoyable cooking and baking are when you have containers that aren’t frustrating to use. We used to have jars for flour and sugar. They were great until you tried measure a cup of either. Our measuring cup barely fit through the opening. It was not great. We bought a ClickClack container and it was miles better. The openings are large and because they’re square allow you to pour from them easily. We ended up buying two more for coffee and sugar. We also made a small investment in Pyrex, specifically their food storage containers. Tupperware is good, but you have to spend Pyrex money to get stuff that will last forever. The reusable Glad containers are OK, but warp if you wash them or microwave them too many times. The Pyrex dishes are glass and don’t warp or bend. You can usually find them on sale in a set. The two smaller ones are generally one serving of something for an adult, which is great for leftovers.
Let us know if we missed anything!