Welcome to Part 2 of the "How To Cook" series! If you missed the first post, you can find it here. This second post is all about the supplies you will need to set up your kitchen for success! Below you will find the basics needed, along with links to examples of these items. A note on the links: I think it's always best to support your local community by buying your kitchen items from a locally-owned store like a hardware store or a local kitchen supply store, but I understand that you can't always find what you need, or don't always have time to shop around, so I have included the links below for your convenience, and as an example of the item if you don't know what it is!
Please note, that most of the links below are affiliate links. This just means that if you end up buying something that you like by clicking one of the links below, this blog makes a small commission. It's a win-win! You can read more about how these links work and why I use them by clicking here.
Where To Shop
The first step is knowing where to go to buy your kitchen items. There are a lot of options, but don't feel overwhelmed, I will break some of them down for you! Department stores usually have high markups, but also frequently have big sales, so keep an eye out for special sales. Hardware stores are usually a little less expensive, but don't always have a big selection. Also, look around your area for a professional cookware outlet that will usually have good prices. Thrift stores have a lot of very inexpensive but good kitchenware items, especially glass baking dishes, plates, cutlery, etc. If you are on a tight budget you can also check out places like HomeGoods or Marshall's which do stock some good quality seconds, but don't always have a big selection.
These are especially important to have around so you can accurately follow a recipe. For example, if you measure a teaspoon of salt using a teaspoon measure and a teaspoon from your cutlery drawer, they will be two totally different amounts of salt. If you cook a lot you will be able to eventually estimate a teaspoon by sight or feel, but why risk it now? If you want to make sure your food will taste as planned, make sure to measure!
dry measuring cups: these are nesting cups with straight sides and a handle which are used to measure flour, chopped fruits, veggies and nuts, peanut butter, pasta, sugar, cheese, etc. You should have at least 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup measures. Look for metal measuring cups as they wont break or melt in the dishwasher.
liquid measuring cups: One liquid cup does not equal one dry cup measure, so these are really important to have around, especially when baking things like bread or brownies. They are glass and have different measures such as cups, ounces and milliliters marked on the side. Get one with a 2-cup capacity and a spout for pouring liquids.
measuring spoons: Purchase metal ones which are long and rectangular for ease, and make sure to have a set that includes at least 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 1 teaspoon along with a tablespoon measure. Quick tip: you can detach them from the ring that holds them together when you buy them and store together in a ziplock bag or something similar. This way you don't have to wash all of them when you only use one.
Baking Dishes And Pans
These are used for anything you will be cooking in an oven. They are specially made to withstand the high heat.
cookie (or baking) sheets: Look for a large size (make sure it will fit in your oven if you have a small one!) that has 1/2 inch flared edges to hold in any spills. Many foods can be cooked on cookie sheets, from pizzas to cookies. It is handy to have more than one of these.
glass baking dishes: These are round, square or rectangular, and they usually have built-on handles on two sides. You can even find some with lids which are either ovenproof, meaning the lid can go in the oven, or are plastic which are used once the dish has cooled. These are what you will make casseroles, or bake brownies.
sharp knives: This is where spending money on a good product is important! A lot of people assume that a sharp knife is dangerous in the kitchen, but the opposite is actually true. Most kitchen accidents happen because of a dull knife - when you are trying to force a dull knife through something it can easily slip and cut you! A sharp knife glides through whatever you are trying to cut, which makes using a sharp knife the safest thing you can do in the kitchen! I will go over some basic knife skills in the next post, but for now these are the knives you will need:
a 10-inch chef's knife: you can do most all of the cutting and slicing with this
a serrated knife: for cutting bread.
Pots And Pans
A pot: has two opposite-set handles and a lid. A pan: one long handle and comes with or without lids. Some tips when looking for pots and pans: Look for ones that are ovenproof which means the handles can be placed in the oven or under the broiler without danger of melting, and make sure the handles are designed to stay cool on the stove top. Make sure they feel good in your hand (as in they not too heavy for you), and make sure they have sturdy, close fitting lids. Don't bother buying whole sets, even if they are on sale, unless you can use every piece. Most pieces in a set will end up collecting dust, and you can buy one high-quality piece that you will use often for the price of a whole set that will just take up space. Avoid buying non-stick as there are many studies that show health risks associated with the chemical coating used. Instead, buy ceramic if you wish to cook on a non-stick surface.
frying pans: These have sloped or flared sides and a large bottom. A 10-inch is the most versatile, and make sure the depth is about 2 inches with a tight-fitting lid. You will use this for sautéing, braising, frying and making quick sauces. Don't worry if you don't know what those words, mean, there is a blog post coming up that explains all of these!
sauce pans: These are about 4-5 inches deep with straight sides. Usually a 3-quart size will be perfect for what you will need, and make sure to get one with a lid. This pan is used for cooking vegetables, soups, rice and sauces.
stock pots: These are very large containers that are used to boil pasta, make soup and cook large quantities of liquid. Look for a 10-quart size with a lid. This is perfect for making soups or cooking pasta or other large-quantity foods.
roasting pan: These are large and heavy, with sides about 3 inches tall. They should come with sturdy attached handles. Look for roasting pans made of stainless steel, or clad aluminum. A wire rack that fits into the pan is a great way to cook large roasts and the thanksgiving turkey.
Other things you will need to stock your kitchen for success!
colander: A colander is a great thing to have to wash spinach (put the colander in a large pot of cold water and swish the leaves around to remove dirt. When you remove the colander from the water the leaves will be clean!). You will use this also for draining cooked pasta, beans and legumes or to drain frozen fruits and veggies.
meat thermometer: This is important to check if your meat is fully cooked or not.
can opener: Look for the "safe edge" type to avoid any accidents.
kitchen scissors: Use these to cut open anything having to do with food. Avoid using a knife for this as the knife will become dull. Scissors are great to cut herbs, poultry and vegetables, too!
cutting board: Avoid glass, and make sure to buy a large one that will fit all your needs. Also make sure to clean and sanitize your board between uses.
spoons, ladle, turner, whisk: Wooden ones can be used on any type of pan without worrying about scratches - buy a set of wooden spoons that has different types. Go for a metal ladle though.
pot holders and trivets: These are used to take things out of the oven and to place hot dishes on top of tables or counters to avoid scorching them!
With these items your kitchen will be stocked to be able to cook almost any meal! Before cooking, though, make sure your stove-top and oven are functional (you can buy an oven thermometer to make sure it is heating properly) and you will be good to go!
The next post in the series will be all about different cooking techniques you need to know, like what is the difference between mince, chop and dice?
Can you think of any other kitchen item that you can't do without? Tell me about it in the comments below!