Equipping a kitchen can seem daunting but it’s simple when you break the task into chunks. I’ve divided essential kitchen equipment into 6 categories to make outfitting your kitchen easier.
Before we dive into the categories, let’s start by looking at low cost ways to outfit your kitchen. It’s entirely possible that someone in your family has extra kitchen things they’d be happy to give you. Spring cleaning is just about here, so don’t be too shy to ask. Hitting up garage sales that start as the weather gets warmer is another great way to find some of these items for very little money. And stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls often have quality home goods in their kitchen sections. My advice is to stick closely to your list before purchasing things you won’t use as often and before you have a good basic kitchen foundation.
You will need a set of measuring cups and spoons. There really is a difference, and some recipes will be affected if liquid is measured in a dry measuring cup and vice versa. I recommend a 2-cup glass measuring cup. It is for measuring liquids such as oil and broth which should not be measured in dry measuring cups. You”ll also need dry measuring cups for measuring flour, sugar, rice among other things, and I recommend a set made of stainless steel. Finally, you’ll need a set of measuring spoons and again I recommend stainless steel for its durability.
Pots and Pans
For cooking on the stove, you will need a couple of different types of pots and pans. Do not make the mistake of cooking everything in just one type of pan. Some are better suited for certain kinds of cooking more than others. And generally I think it’s better to not buy a set of pans, but just those you need.
If possible get a 3-quart stainless steel sauce pan (it’s just the name, not necessarily what you cook with it), and a 10-inch stainless steel skillet. Buy the best version you can afford. You want heavy stainless steel. People wonder whether food will stick to the bottom a stainless steel pan, but with proper cooking methods it’s not a worry. Besides those bits that stick can be used to make an awesome pan sauce.
You may also want to have a 8 or 10”non-stick skillet for cooking eggs. Otherwise I don’t recommend non-stick cookware. Non-stick cookware doesn’t allow for great browning or the development of the golden bits in the bottom of the pan that can add flavor to a sauce.
A larger stock pot in stainless steel is nice for cooking spaghetti and other large quantities of food, like sauce and soup. A Dutch oven with lid is similar and it can serve many different functions. It’s not necessary to buy the top of the line, but good to have for roasting, braising, casseroles and more, though it may not be big enough for the volume cooking you want to do. Pick between a stock pot or Dutch oven.
A 12” cast-iron skillet is an investment that will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Beneficial for its ability to handle very high heat, it works well for frying and for steaks and may also be used as a baking dish. It’s very possible that a family member has grandma’s skillets and would be willing to share. If you find a 10” skillet that will work, too. Lodge makes a really good cast iron product and is not too expensive.
There are many options available for cooking utensils but the basics are spatulas, tongs and spoons. Four types of spatulas are helpful for different uses in the kitchen. A slotted stainless steel spatula is a foundational piece, along with a thin plastic or silicone spatula for use with non-stick cookware. Finally a very thin metal spatula is useful for delicate foods like fish or for baked goods. A pair of stainless steel tongs is very useful, too.
Consider buying 4 types of cooking spoons: slotted stainless steel, silicon, wooden, and pasta- server.
Knives are essential to food preparation and worth spending a bit more on, especially because you really only need two good knives: a chef’s knife and a paring knife. Most common are 8” chef’s knives, but if you have really small hands a shorter one may be best. Ideally you want to visit a kitchen store and actually pick up and hold a knife to find one you like. You’re going to invest in this important piece of equipment, so make sure you like the weight and feel of it in your hand. Next a paring knife is essential for smaller cutting jobs. Finally you may want to buy a vegetable peeler.
Just a word about knife safety before moving onto the next category. A sharp knife is a safe knife. When your knife is dull, you will put more pressure on whatever you are cutting and the possibility of the knife slipping and cutting you is greater. Keep knives in top shape with a knife sharpener or by taking them to be sharpened at a local kitchen store.
If you don’t have a set of mixing bowls then this is the next category to look into. A set of nesting glass bowls will serve you in food prep, go in the microwave, and can double as serving pieces. Another helpful type of bowl are small bowls for mise en place or prep work before cooking. They can also double for serving dips or condiments.
You’ll need two essential pieces of baking equipment for baking, roasting, and cooking in the oven. A rimmed, metal 13×18” baking sheet otherwise referred to as a half-sheet pan, and a 13×9” baking pan, metal or glass. You’ll also need oven mitts for removing hot pans from the oven to ensure you don’t get burned.
There you have it. My take on essential kitchen equipment. Once you have the basics, you can add other items that make cooking fun or more enjoyable. I’ve written about some of my favorites in this blog post Gifts For the Cook. What are your favorite things in the kitchen?