People are always asking me for advice on how to outfit their kitchens. We talked about it a lot on the last episode of the Notafoodie Podcast (subscribe here), but I wanted to put together a list of the things we discussed and some other items that I absolutely love. So… here we go.
The Simple Essentials
Pots and Pans
These are simple. I have a few of each of these in various sizes, but you NEED at least one of each:
– Nonstick Frying Pan: You can get away with cheap ones here since non-stick pans should be replaced every few years. Personally, I have a few 8″ pans and a few 10″ pans. They are my go-to for quick omelets and frittatas
-Straight Sided Saute Pans: Again, I have a few in various sizes. I’ve invested in good quality All-Clad, which I have used a few times a week for over a decade and they are still perfect.
-Pots: I would recommend having AT LEAST a 3-quart sauce pot, and a giant stock pot. The sauce pot can be used for boiling pasta, vegetables, or making a sauce. The stock pot is great for making larger meals and of course, making all different types of soups, stocks, and broths. Again, I’ve gone All-Clad here. I also love having a smaller sauce pot (maybe 1 quart) for convenience.
You can go as crazy as you need with knives, but in my opinion, you need three good quality knives:
– A GOOD 10″ chef knife. I have many of these, but really, I only use one and it is my Wusthof, 10″ chef knife. I’ve had it for a decade and with proper care and sharpening, it will last forever. This is my “utility player”. It does everything. I have one with a plastic handle for butchering, but the one I use for everyday cooking is the standard version.
– An offset serrated knife; perfect for sandwich making, tomato slicing, and giving you the option of having those “chainsaw like” teeth to get through almost anything.
– A small paring knife to deal with those smaller cuts. They are perfect for everything from peeling vegetables to detail cutting.
For all of my other knives, I usually go fairly cheap. I have a cleaver that I bought from a hog processing company for $10 that is heavy duty and as sharp as ever after 6 years of use. I have at least 5 cheap oyster knives (I may have a slight addiction to oysters). Maybe it is because I grew up a fisherman, but I have yet to find an expensive fillet knife that holds up to the $15 special at the local fish market or bait shop. Seriously. Don’t spend your money on an expensive fillet knife!
A Cast Iron / Enamel French Oven
This is an investment, but this type of cooker (I use a Le Creuset) can be used for deep frying, braising, making sauces, roasting, and a load of other things. A good quality one will last forever; we have one that is 10 years old and looks brand new. They are easy to clean and look rad.
A Carbon Steel Frying Pan
I use this pan almost every day. It makes fried eggs, extra crispy, and it sears just as good as cast iron. Once it is seasoned properly, it is as non-stick as Teflon. The beauty is, with a little care, the more you use this pan, the better it gets.
Mason Jars of All Shapes and Sizes
These little guys get a bad rap as being too “hipster”, but I use them for everything. The hold my BBQ rub, they serve as “to-go” cups for salads and overnight oatmeal, they go into my sous vide bath for desserts, they store salad dressings and sauces… basically, they are just the perfect utility player in the kitchen.
A Steamer Lid (preferably pig shaped)
This multipurpose lid can be placed directly over ingredients in a bowl to keep them warm, can be used to cover food and prevent splatters in the microwave, and can even be used as a jar opener. Plus, it is pig shaped and the steam comes out from the snout! OINK!
Three Types of Spatulas
I use a fish turner for anything I cook in my carbon pan. It lets you get the food without the grease. I use a silicone spatula for anything I cook in my non-stick pan. I use a heavy duty burger spatula for anything on the grill. I actually have two of those burger flippers because I am a lazy dishwasher and always want to have one on hand.
Lots and Lots and Lots of Kitchen Tongs
Use them for everything that you don’t use a spatula for. It seems like I never have enough of these and I have at least 6 sets.
The “Up Your Game” Items
An immersion circulator for sous-vide cooking.
Yeah, I know. You’re tired of hearing about sous vide from me. It really is a lifesaver. I use it to cook holiday roasts, poach batches of perfect eggs, make jars of custards and yogurts, infuse alcohol for cocktails and tinctures, make perfect fish and juicy chops, I even use it to wash my dog (that last one is a lie). Personally, I love my circulator from Anova, but there are a bunch on the market. GO GET ONE!
The Vitamix (or other professional blenders)
This is another one of those items that seem ridiculously overpriced at first, but then you use it and can see why. If you want a soup, just throw the ingredients in and blend. The high RPM motor will cause the cold ingredients to liquify and heat. Perfect for making sauces, grinding spices, and of course, making frozen blender drinks.
Why spend over $100 on a thermometer? This is THE tool that will make you a better cook. Cooking is a science; no real chef cooks by “feel”. A professional is constantly taking temperatures of food. The Thermapen will give you an instant read that is completely accurate every time. Most thermometers take 5-6 seconds to give you an accurate reading. This one takes less than a second. That is a big deal when opening an oven or grill. Plus, the tip is needle-thin. That means you can take temps in different parts of your food without poking big holes in it. I was a skeptic at first, but I can confidently tell you that this tool has upped my game tremendously. BONUS- They have amazing customer service. I have a very old model that was accidentally run through the dishwasher and started acting flakey. I called them up and had it repaired and sent back within DAYS.
The “Yeah, I don’t really need these, but they are awesome” Wishlist
Um… Who DOESN’T want a kitchen blowtorch attachment for melting cheese, caramelizing desserts, putting a crust on a steak, or just reheating pizza? Losers, that’s who!
A Pressure Cooker / Slow Cooker
I have an inexpensive pressure cooker and an old, but decent slow cooker. They work fine for me, but I’ve been getting envious reading the reviews for the InstaPot. It slow cooks, pressure cooks, makes rice, steams vegetables, and washes your dog (Again, that last bit is a lie. Do not put your dog in a pressure cooker… ever.) While I can’t vouch for the InstaPot, I can say that a slow cooker and a pressure cooker are great tools for quick weeknight meals. With one, you load up everything and it’s ready when you get home from work. With the other, you can make dishes that would normally take hours in a fraction of the time. I use my pressure cooker for quickly making taco meat, bone broths, and braises that would take another gadget 4-5 hours. I use my slow cooker for everything from mulled spiked cider to short ribs. I’m looking forward to the day that my slow cooker breaks so I can try out the InstaPot.