Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Reader Request: Kitchen Essentials (Part 1)
Hey guys! I’m back from IFBC Nola and finally getting back into the swing of work, life, and blogging. I can’t wait to tell you all about it! However, due to a huge pile of laundry and a big ol’ suitcase to unpack – I haven’t had a chance to upload my photos yet (you know how that goes). In the mean time, I wanted to do something a little different.
This Reader Request Came in a week or so ago and I thought it would be a great blog post:
“I was wondering if you could e-mail me or do a blog on basic cooking tools/kitchen essentials when you are buying for your first kitchen. I am totally lost when it comes to cooking, but I do have to say I am a pretty good baker. Any advice would be great!”
This is a HOT topic. I know when I was registering for my wedding/new house, it was SUCH an overwhelming task. Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, Williams Sonoma have these HUGE registry “guides” with hundreds of must-have items. Surely not ALL of these items are must-haves. So what are the essentials? What does one really NEED in a well used kitchen?
Okay, so here’s the thing with kitchen essentials: a lot of it comes down to personal preferences. I’m not a huge baker – so baking gadgets aren’t high on my list. But cooking? Move over. I probably have gadgets that most people would never use in their lifetime (hello potato ricer and gnocchi board! hah). Anyhow, I have compiled my list of kitchen essentials (in my own experience):
Here’s my list of “Everyone Needs” Kitchen Essentials:
- Good Quality Set of Pots and Pans: My first set was an inexpensive non-stick set. The non-stick started peeling (gross and major health hazard) so on round 2 I chose the Calphalon One Anodized set. I wanted something affordable (there are some uber expensive All-Clad pots that are amazing, but they weren’t even close to being in the budget). I was over the non-stick (because they dont last!), I wanted something oven safe, oh and a lifetime warranty. Too much to ask? hah These pots fit the bill. Take it from me… get the good pans from the get go. Eventually you’ll have to anyway… don’t waste your money on the first set! (lesson learned)
- 1 or 2 non-stick Pans: You need at least ONE non-stick pan (for eggs and stir-frys). I got the Calphalon Contemporary non-stick 12″ and it’s been PERFECT!
- Commercial Baking Pans: These are SUCH a great multi-purpose tool: Baking cookies, roasting chicken, vegetables… it’s my go-to pan! I bought a set of 2 of jelly-roll pans from Sur la Table a few months ago and they are by far the BEST i’ve ever had… I am ready to throw out all my crappy ones (that came in the popular “baking sets”) and build up a stash of these bad boys! They don’t buckle under the broiler or high heat like some baking pans do!
- Standing Mixer: I LOVVVVVEEEE my Kitchen Aid stand mixer! LOVE. I got it as a wedding shower gift from my highschool English Teacher (Thanks Mrs. G! You are the Best!). THis puppy kneads dough, mixes batters, makes whipped frostings… throw on some of their nifty attachments and it can do pretty much ANYTHING.
- Hand Mixer: Believe it or not, you’ll still need one of these for certain instances (ie: beating mashed potatoes in the pot they were boiling in etc…). I just got a cheap one for under $20. I think it’s Hamilton Beach.
- Food Processor: another favorite gadget. I use it to shred cheese, shred lettuce, make hummus, make tapenade, blend fruit… you can put the dough blade on and make dough for bread or tortillas. GREAT multi-purpose gadget! Get one with a good-sized bowl capacity. I have the Cuisinart 11 Cup, which is great, but sometime I wish I’d upped for the 14 cup.
- Blender: I’m lusting after this Vitamix, but i just can’t rationalize $380 bucks for a blender (especially when there is an accessory for my camera that I want more! hah)! We own a Cuisinart which is ehh… mediocre but it gets the job done for our purposes.
- Coffee maker (AKA: liquid fuel machine): Some prefer having brewing a batch (I like this carafe-less Cuisinart for the job), and some love the individual cup (I’m a fan of the Keurig – love the re-usable cup that you can buy to use your own coffee!)
- Toaster: I like the simple ones
- Good Knives: I love my Henckels – they aren’t top of the line, but they aren’t bottom of the line either. Great price and they are really nice knives. I have LOVED them.
- Knife Sharpener: I love this one. Works great and is easy to use (I could never figure out how to use that daggum sharpening stick!).
- Cutting board(s): I can never have too many!
- Measuring Spoons: I like to have 2 sets beacause I’m messy in the kitchen and like to always have a backup when using dry and wet ingredients (make sure to get one that has TBS, tsp, 1/2 tsp, and 1/4 teaspoon).
- Dry Measuring Cups:
- Liquid Measuring Cups I have a 1 cup, 2 cup, and a 4 cup Pyrex Liquid Measuring Cup
**Little side note about the measuring cups… dry and liquid cups are DIFFERENT. It will make a difference if you don’t use them in the proper application. One common misconception is that sour cream or cottage cheese should be measured in the wet measuring cups… WRONG. They are measured in dry cups (if it’s something you can use the back of a knife to scrape smooth – use the dry cups). Liquid cups are for water, oil, broth… things that you cannot level with a knife. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.
- Kitchen Utensils (i like to have multiples): a few wooden spoons, a few scraping spatulas, a flat spatula (for flipping pancakes and eggs), a couple whisks, a few tongs, and a ladel for soup etc…
- Garlic Grater: I like this microplane as opposed to the traditional garlic press. I’m all about multi-purpose tools. It can grate garlic, zest citrus, grate parmesan cheese, or chocolate. Multi-Purpose!
- Can Opener: because, let’s face it, I don’t make EVERTHING homemade 😉 I prefer the old fashioned hand crank one. The electric ones seem to break… so I prefer to know I’ve always got a reliable one. Plus- we get hurricanes down here so I need one that works when there is no power!
- Mixing Bowls: I love having a nesting set (the ones that stack inside of eachother) – I have a plastic OXO set, and a glass set – whatever you fancy!
- Colander: got to have something to strain that pasta!
Here’s my “Personal Favorites” list that is definitely not considered “essentials” to everyone:
- Pizza Stone & Pizza Peel (we love homemade pizza, calzones, bread)
- Ice Cream Maker (we love homemade ice cream)- I use the old fashioned one where you add ice and rock salt! Cheap and does the trick!
- Digital Kitchen Scale: great for baking and accurate measuring (not a necessity but I really like having it). I have this Cuisinart one
- Lastly, my Stick Blender: purees soups, sauces, etc…
What kitchen essentials can you NOT live without??