I’d like to think that I’ve moved along my cooking learning curve enough to offer some advice on what a good kitchen should have in it.
For the most part, I started by doing things the hard way and then justified to myself the need to buy individual items for my kitchen. This is a list of all of the things in my kitchen I now know I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) live without if you want to make real food a part of your life these items are must haves.
One thing to keep in mind is that good tools make all the difference when it comes to buying things for your kitchen always look at it as an investment and buy the best you can afford.
Trust me when I say that having good knives is a must, a good and sharp knife makes preparation work simple and fast. Start out with a simple set of knives and add to them as you go. Essential knives I would recommend are;
- a paring knife, this is a small knife you can use for peeling, coring and slicing fruits and vegetables. The knife is small and versatile; it will likely become one of your favourite tools in the kitchen.
- a utility knife, similar looking to a paring knife but with a larger blade, I tend to use my utility knife for cutting cheeses and meat, you can get utility knives with serrated edges that can be utilised for cutting things like crusty bread.
- a Chef's knife, this knife has a much larger blade and is evenly proportioned, I use my chef's knife for most things, and it is my go-to tool in the kitchen, the shape of the blade makes chopping, mincing and slicing easy and efficient
If you have no other knives in your kitchen, these three are a must.
The way the knife feels in your hand is crucial, don’t buy a knife until you have held it, make sure the knife sits comfortably in your hand and feels right, the balance of and weight of the knife should feel good for you. Remember that the handle is going to be just as important as the blade.
When it comes to knives, it is important to keep in mind that sharp is safe, no I haven’t lost my mind if your knife is sharp it will cut as it should. A blunted knife is more likely to slip and cut you instead of your food. Buying a sharpener for your knives is also an investment (otherwise, you may need to invest in medical insurance), I would recommend getting a sharpener that suits your needs and comfort level with knives. I bought a 3 grain stone sharpener, it allows you to sharpen most knives with minimal effort, but there are plenty of other sharpeners out there.
I've had a few really unimpressive vegetable peelers in my time, so I appreciate the presence of a good peeler in my kitchen draw. I cannot claim any credit for the great peeler that I have, I got mine as a gift about two years ago and have loved it every day since. Mine is called the Shogun Power Peeler, and it is from South Africa, and I can highly recommend it.
If you cannot get your hands on one, do not worry there will be a peeler out there that is right for you. I find that the Y-shaped peeler is better than the traditional potato peeler; each has pros and cons. The range of Y-shaped peelers available should make it easy to find one you like if you are a fan of the more traditional potato peeler I can recommend the Good Grips peeler.
A big mixing bowl is everything; this is serious when looking for a bowl, find the biggest one you can get your hands on when it comes to mixing bowls bigger is always better. I would recommend finding a stainless steel bowl as they are easier to clean and don’t discolour the way plastic ones do and will not react with food.
Easy to clean and a great way to protect your knives, I recommend you stay away from ones made of marble and glass as they will make your knives dull. Wooden chopping boards come in a range of materials and sizes, bamboo boards are generally a good choice and reasonably priced. Always be sure to clean your board after each use and store it away from moisture and heat to prolong its life.
Stockpot and saucepans
A good sized stockpot and good quality pans are great additions to the kitchen cupboard. Stockpots are very useful for making stocks, soups and broths, I also use mine for making large batches of tomato sauces. I have two saucepans, one large and one small, these are ideal for making sauces, cooking coodles or warming soups. There are lots of different kinds of pans available, stainless steel is usually a pretty good option and one of the cheaper options, depending on your budget and needs you can also choose from aluminium clad stainless steel, copper, bonded copper, non-stick cookware, anodised aluminium and enamelled cast iron.
Much like your saucepans, there are lots of options out there, your budget and needs will play a huge part in picking your pan. I find that having two pans, one large and one small is really useful, at least one being non-stick is an excellent idea. I've recently started using a large cast iron pan as my frying pan, cast iron is great but takes some getting used to and some serious seasoning before it is non-stick enough to use for some foods.
I know it may not seem like a kitchen essential, but trust me when I say this one piece of equipment can change your life when it comes to preparation. I only added a food processor to my kitchen a year ago, I got a small one so that I could make my own seed and coconut butter. It is now my most used piece of kitchen equipment, and I'm saving to upgrade to a larger model. Investing in a food processor with some grating and shredding attachments will save you time and skin (yes you read that right). Grating heads of cauliflower takes minutes not hours, shredding cabbage for coleslaw, making mayo and pancake batter all done with minimal effort. If you only buy one kitchen gadget make it this one, I would not be able live without mine now..... well actually I would, but I would be missing most of the skin on my right hand and have one arm that would make Popeye jealous.
Anyone that has to juggle a job, family, gym and real food will both love and appreciate the excellent addition of a slow cooker to their kitchen. Load in the morning with your meal, turn it on, and then come home to a lovely meal ready for eating. Soups, stews, curries, ribs, pulled pork and steaks are just some of the things I have come home to. It is a great tool that allows for safe unattended cooking.
Other essential items to have in your kitchen include
- a good size pyrex jug, try to get 500ml at least it comes in useful for measuring liquids like stocks and milk
- a set of measuring spoons usually required for measuring ingredients for baking or sauces
- good kitchen scissors, I like the ones that are good for cutting everything from meat to food bags
- a large size baking sheet one with a lip will serve you well, look for one that is the perfect size for cooking bacon :)
- a muffin pan in this instance a silicone one is usually preferable, I find mine comes in very useful for baking snacks but also good for cakes
- a large wooden rolling pin, well sometimes it’s good to beat the crap out of something, I like to use mine to flatten out chicken
- slotted spoon, a must for poached egg goodness
- solid spoon, ideal for serving meals
- wooden spoon, always better than metal spoons as they are less likely to scratch your pans
- ladle, perfect for serving curries and soups
- spatulas, I have a few silicone spatulas that I find are ideal for working with batters and protect the non-stick coating on frying pans
- potato masher, not just good for potatoes
- balloon whisk,
- and a sieve.
It may seem like a lot, but these are the key items that I use all the time, trust me when I say you can start to fill your kitchen up with a much wider range of tools and toys as you get more interested and excited by cooking.