Whether you're building a home with a partner or getting a place of your own, stocking a kitchen for the first time can be daunting. When starting out, there are essential tools that will make cooking and baking easier, and help you create delicious meals for your friends and family. A hot dog bun warmer probably shouldn't be your first purchase.
Here we list the 10 most important kitchen tools every new cook should own.
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A starter knife set will typically include a chef’s knife, bread knife and paring knife. Some sets also come with steak knives, utility knives, Santoku knife, and carving knives. Chef knives can be used for everything from chopping vegetables to slicing meat. Paring knives are more commonly used to trim and slice vegetables and fruits.
When you search for knife sets online, it’s easy to find collections ranging in size from 3 to 20 pieces, forged from specific material combinations and impressive brand names. Adventurous shoppers can mix and match particular styles and brand, or look for one place that has everything your kitchen needs.
If you’re just staring out, you can probably get by with three knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. If you’re going to expand from there, take into account the kind of food you’ll be preparing. If you’re going to be butchering meat, you may want a 7-inch carving knife or cimeter. Fish eaters may require a filleting blade. Kitchen shears can be useful for breaking down poultry. Be sure that the set you get is sturdy (a simple way to check is if the metal from the blade continues through most of the handle).
While a cutting board isn’t the most expensive tool you’ll have in your kitchen, it will be one of the most used. A cutting board provides a stable, level surface for chopping fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish. It protects your countertops from being scratched and makes cleanup easy. If you’re going to be cooking turkey and roasts, make sure the area is large enough to support the meat. It also helps to have a lip to catch the drippings. Cooks who are worried about the cross contamination that can happen between different types of food may opt for an easily cleaned plastic board. You can also buy one board for meat and fish, and another for fruits and vegetables.Sustainably minded chefs may prefer a wood material that’s easily replenished such as bamboo or teak.
Few people think about a mixing bowl until they need one. You want containers that are built to last, look good and come in multiple sizes. If they come with storage lids, that’s definitely a bonus. If you’re never going to display a bowl of fruit, plastic bowls are probably fine. Homemakers who want to use their containers as show pieces may go with decorator ceramic. Bakers who plan to make a lot of cookies with a hand held mixer will likely need a metal bowl or two. Glass is nice for a cook that plans to use the bowls also as storage containers. Whether you’re whisking together a dressing, tossing a salad, or baking cakes and cookies, a good set of bowls makes the task easier.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
A lot of cooks just wind up with a set of measuring cups, either as a hand-me-down or picked up at tag sale. If you really want a good set, consider whether the cups and spoons have good grips, since your hand can get gunky while cooking. Also are they weighty enough so they won’t tip over when you’re pouring in oil or leveling off flour, sugar or spices. Glass measuring cups can be particularly handy for heating water in the microwave.
Pots And Pans
Thousands of articles have been written about different types of pots and pans you can buy. Some promise that you can do everything in one pan; others have a lifetime, non-stick warranty. A saucepan can be used for cooking pasta; a frying pan is perfect for eggs and pancakes. A stockpot comes in handy for soups, stews, and one-pot meals.
Most cooks these days want at least one good nonstick sauté pan for easy cleanup. Then you have to start thinking about the food you’re going to make. Steak eaters who want to sear the meat on the stovetop will probably want a stainless steel fry pan. Soup makers will want a 12 quart stock pot. A roasting pan or dutch oven is great for cooking a large chicken, turkey or roast. Of course a saucepan, is great for sauces and reheating soup.
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The options for mixers, blenders and food processors can get very expensive, very quickly. Mixers tend to be used for dryer ingredient combinations like dough and batter whereas blenders make more liquid items such as smoothies, sauces and soups. Food processors can be used for both, depending on the blade or attachment.
A nice low cost option that doesn’t take up much space is a hand held immersion blender. A decent can cost about $35 and very good ones are a little over $100. Budget food processors, which not only blend, but also grate and chop, will run you about $50. Depending on your available counter space, it will probably be a good investment.
A Colander Or Strainer
A colander, that bowl-shaped container with holes that lets liquid strain out, won’t be the biggest investment you make in your kitchen, but you do have options to consider. If you plan to make big piles of pasta or wash a lot of fruit at once, you want a colander that holds at least four quarts.
Some smaller strainers are designed to filter impurities and lumps out of sauces. Canonical strainers are used to smooth out large amounts of liquid like soup.
It’s likely you’ll need a larger colander, yet even with those you can consider collapsable ones to save space.
A Can Opener
Simply put: A good can opener makes opening canned foods easy. That may mean the grip is good, so the opener doesn’t slip out of your hand when it’s wet, or the can doesn’t quickly drop out of a machine. Before you buy any can opener, make sure it fits comfortably in your hand when you’re clenching tightly.
If you can’t test an electric opener, carefully read reviews since some of them easily fall apart.
Chances are your cooking plans are going to include carrots, potatoes and other vegetables that need peeling. A good peeler has a strong handle that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. More interesting ones are also able to julienne vegetables as well.
If you’re going to be cooking meat or poultry, it’s wise to have a thermometer. A lot of beginning cooks will guess whether a roast or turkey is done. Then you wind up cutting it apart, realizing it’s not quite cooked inside and then heating for longer. The result can mean a hacked apart piece of meat.
These 10 essential items will help you create an armory of tools for your kitchen. By researching well and purchasing wisely, you'll be able to prepare almost anything. Of course, don’t forget the kitchen towels, spatulas, tongs and stirring spoons.