You want a better kitchen supply, but you don’t know where to start. Here are 10 critical items I’d recommend for anyone stocking a kitchen.
Cooking is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself. When eating out tends to cost 2-3 or more times what you’d spend to cook yourself, there’s a lot of fiscal sense in staying home to eat.
But that’s more easily done when you’ve got great kitchen equipment to work with!
Whether you’re getting married and setting up a wedding registry, or you just love to cook and need better gear, here’s a list of the best kitchen gifts to ask for.
There are great sets of cookware out there, but you can put an amazing set of individual pots and pans together as well. The latter is a great way to make this a more affordable gift for those doing the giving, and possibly how to get better quality on individual items. Skip the pots you know you won’t use a lot and go to the ones that’ll make life easy, like great skillets, pasta and soup pots, saute pans, and more.
Obviously you’ll need something to eat from. Do yourself a favor and avoid loud patterns and vivid colors. You might love them now, but odds are good your tastes will change. There’s another reason you want to go basic too, though, and it’s the same reason you’ll find most good restaurants opt for white dishes: Food looks better without the distracting designs. If you really love to cook, let your food be the star and go for basic white or something that doesn’t stray far from it. (A slate grey set can be gorgeous!)
From wine glasses to highball tumblers, glasses are a necessity. It’s not rocket science, just look for styles you like. Keeping classic designs will ensure they’re right for a long time in the future. Ignore the wine snobs who insist on eleventy-billion styles of wine glasses to pair with different kinds of wine; most of us will never, ever have the palate to appreciate the subtle nuances they might offer your wine. If Italians are drinking wine out of tumblers, you’ll survive no matter what you choose, so stick to a red and white set of wine glasses and save space for other stuff.
Here’s where you really need to take a little more time with choosing, because flatware that doesn’t feel good in your hands will be tolerable for a little while, but after weeks and months and years of use, “tolerable” doesn’t last. I remember my aunt spending a ton on fancy modern-looking cutlery, only to realize her hands would cramp up by the end of the meal because they were too narrow to hold comfortably. Be practical.
5. Chef’s Knives
Skip the mega-monster block of a dozen-plus knives. You won’t use them, and you’ll be getting poorer quality. Instead, get a sense of a paring knife you love, a great chef’s knife, and a filleting knife. I’ve given you plenty of tips on choosing a quality knife here. You’ll also need some good steak knives.
6. Enameled Dutch Oven
These are pricy, but some folks make ones that can go on sale for steep discounts sometimes. Be careful and don’t buy some bargain made-in-China product, because quality enamel coating is critical. After all, buy good quality and this is the kind of long-term investment cookware that should last you as long as you live, if you care for it correctly.
It’s for making everything from 12-hour Bolognese to baking bread and cooking stews. There are few pieces I love in my kitchen as much as my enameled Dutch oven, so much so that it’s going into storage for the five years I’ll be travelling the world. After all, I’ve spent years developing the seasoning in it.
7. Instant-Read Thermometer
Hands down the most important tool for any meat-loving chef. Even if you’re vegetarian, they can be useful since you can test the doneness of breads with it and, if the range is great enough, you can use it for checking the fryer’s oil temperature for deep frying or even making candy with it.
But if you spend a lot on high-quality local cuts of meat and you’re not using a thermometer, you’re not getting the best cook on those meats. My thermometer is one of five gadgets I’m bringing with me for travelling the world for five years. Wherever I am on the planet, my meat will not be overcooked. Huzzah!
8. Mixing Bowls & Bakeware
When it comes to both of these, I prefer ceramic. They’re the most flexible. You won’t have to worry about acidic contents reacting with metal. They clean easily. They tend to be available in nice colors and a wide variety of sizes.
Look for a set of nested bowls so you can have multiple sizes while storing them in a minimum of space. Similarly, a bakeware set is often made to be stored all packed together to conserve your cupboard space, but independent pieces might not work so well for storing simply.
9. Food processor
You can get huge food processors and small ones, and I’d just say pick one or the other. I have an eight-cup one I use religiously for things like making hummus, or when I’m cooking recipes with a ton of chopping, like some of the Middle Eastern recipes I love.
It also works on things like pie pastry and some kinds of bread dough. It’s handy for quick slicing of veggies for salads, if you get the right extra blades, and so much more. If you do a lot of typing at work, or you have hand or wrist problems, or frozen shoulder or something, food processors make cooking a lot easier on your body.
10. Powerful blender
From making salad dressings to smoothies and pureeing soups, a good blender should last a long time and help you with all kinds of kitchen tasks. If you’re not a soup-eating, smoothie-loving person, though, you might be able to get by with an immersion blender.
I’m not a big blender person, but I absolutely love my immersion blender. (Make sure it’s all metal, if you’ve got a thing for pureeing hot soups like I do. Most of the plastic ones will eventually warp and melt, as I learned the sad-faced way.)
Avoid gadgets, think long-term
Gadgets will waste your space and just end up being sold in a yard sale in half a decade or so, once you get fed up seeing it in your drawers unused.
Flashy patterns can be nice, but if you keep things toned down, you’ll save money in the long run, because you’re unlikely to tire of it or find it no longer suits your decor.
Follow those simple guidelines, do your research on what specific products you’re interested in amassing, and hopefully you’ll be given gifts that will keep you cooking for years to come.