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! 

Kitchen Electrics

  • 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 :)

Miscellaneous Tools:

  • 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:

What kitchen essentials can you NOT live without??

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25 Responses to “Reader Request: Kitchen Essentials (Part 1)”

  1. 1

    Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family — August 30, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    Great post and great recommendations. Thanks Tina :)

    • Kristina replied: — September 7th, 2011 @ 11:48 am

      glad it was useful!

  2. 2

    Shannon O'Connell — August 30, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    I love my Lodge dutch oven! I use that sucker almost everyday.

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

      oh nice! Dutch ovens are fabulous!

  3. 3

    susie t. — August 30, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    LOVE the post! Kitchen gadgets are my weakness! Mom jokes about it being a family illness. Do you have any of the Kitchen Aid attachements? If so, which ones?

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

      I have that same illness… just ask my husband haha! I don’t have any of the attachments othen then the standards: beater, paddle, and dough hook. I’ve been eyeing up the pasta one & the meat grinder one!

  4. 4

    Holly Henry — August 30, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

    Love the Calphalon too! Great product and lasts a long time! Thanks for sharing your insight :)

    Holly

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:50 pm

      Calphalon for life! ;)

  5. 5

    Lilly — August 30, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    What a wonderful post! I had so much fun reading it especially since I recognize most of the stuff you are saying.

    Good (working) kitchen tools are a much. My sister just got me a microplane grater and I love it! And I love my very very sharp knifes. Next on the list in a pizza stone since I am very curious to see if the pizza would actually turn out better or not.

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

      I think a pizza stone makes a big difference. Preheat it really well and it’ll help crisp that crust up nicely!

  6. 6

    Kim Bee — August 30, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    Great post. Love knowing what other people use. I have to see if we have those baking pans here in Canada. I hate wasting money on crappy ones so knowing they work is great. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. 7

    Christine — August 30, 2011 @ 6:06 pm

    Great post.

  8. 8

    LizAnderson — August 30, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    Could I recommend a stick blender (aka immersion blender, or boat motor)? They aren’t very expensive, and if you get the little chopper you can use it to cut up herbs and nuts or emmulsify a homemade dressing (among other things) in no time. This is fabulous for making cream soups or getting the lumps out of hot gravy, and should the need arise — get your diet or protein drink mixes all put together.

    I’d also give thumbs up to getting the magnetic strip holder for your good knives. Our is mounted near the sink so we can get them washed and out of the way quickly, and I don’t have to worry about them banging around in a drawer (eeek!) or littler persons messing with them if they are in a block on the counter.

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

      yep… i love my immersion blender! My in-laws got it for me last Christmas and I kept telling the hubs “I can’t believe I’ve NEVER had one of these!!!”

  9. 9

    Mom — August 30, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

    Love all of the info… Great post girl :)

  10. 10

    Gloria — August 30, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

    I can’t live without the magic bullet! Since I have it I never skip breakfast (which consists in a mix of everything necessary turned in liquid and ready to consume on the go!!!!) Still I’m dying to buy a dutch oven and one of those skillets which have “grill marks”

  11. 11

    Suzanne — August 31, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    I cannot live without my grill pan, especially on a cold New England night when I cannot brave the weather to cook my hubby’s steak :)

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

      haha it’s never too cold to use the grill here in South Florida… but I can see how useful that would be up North!

  12. 12

    Kita — September 1, 2011 @ 4:35 pm

    I cant remember life before my kitchenaid stand mixer ;) Great list!

    • Kristina replied: — September 2nd, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

      AGREED.

  13. 13

    Kerry (newlywedcooks) — September 1, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

    This is a great post! I’m just starting out and am lucky to have a lot of what you’ve included in this list. I think my ultimate “can’t live without” are my Calphalon pans. I use them for everything and are so easy to clean! :)

  14. 14

    Fran {The Flavorful Fork} — September 3, 2011 @ 10:04 am

    Great list! I can’t live without my Wusthof chef knife, my microplane and large cutting boards. I also agree with you about the jelly roll pans from Sur La Table. They are wonderful and so versatile. Here is my Top 20 list: http://www.flavorfulfork.com/2011/02/top-20-kitchen-items-all-cooks-should-have/

    • Kristina replied: — September 7th, 2011 @ 11:48 am

      great list! :)

  15. 15

    Girl Cook Art — September 4, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    I tell u, one the perks of getting married is the registry..there’s so much i could go yiphee on! I love buying plastic storage boxes in different cute colours that would just enliven my dull shelf. Cant wait to get married to fiance..i agree with u on the list..great list!

    • Kristina replied: — September 7th, 2011 @ 11:49 am

      aw congrats on the engagement – SUCH a fun time!!

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