These are the very basic of tools you’ll need to cook. If you’ve just moved out of mom’s house and are building your kitchen cookware collection from scratch, or you’ve been using pots and pans where only God knows came from, these are the things to get. Everything else will just make your cooking life easier.
Even if you’re so frugal or simply don’t have the funds that you don’t buy anything else for your kitchen for the next year or two, you can still get by.
- Duth Oven
- Cast Iron Skillet
- Tongs w/ Silicone Heads
- Chefs or Santouku Knife
- In-Oven Probe Thermometer
Dutch Oven (the one pot you NEED)
The most versatile pot that you can ever have in your kitchen would be the Dutch oven. Not only can you do the obvious of stovetop braising, stewing, and boiling, but the Dutch oven’s weight and material are ideal for oven searing, frying, sautéing, and even oven braising and baking bread. Cast iron has the most efficient heat retention properties than any other pan material out there.
That means when it gets hot, it stays hot. You don’t have to worry much about the pot losing too much heat when you hit it with cold meat, or the temperature of the oil dropping too much when frying some chicken. If someone was to rob you of all your cooking equipment but lets you choose one pot to hold on to, you best choose the Dutch oven lest your life depend on it. It’s the one pot that you really need to survive. All others simply make life easier.
Compared to all your options, a Lodge brand Dutch oven is a real decent budget but that’ll do everything you need. My Lodge Dutch oven was the first pot I’ve owned and it’s treated me well. It has its own battle scars of wine stains from long braises and polymerized oil from splatters of deep fries. It’s got character.
If you want to go for the the real quality stuff, Le Creuset is the standard. It’s a little pricey if you’re on a budget, but it’ll last you multiple lifetimes. Think of your kids!
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Cast Iron Skillet
From the most versatile pot available to the most versatile pan, if you’re going to add another cooking cease to your arsenal, let it be a cast iron skillet. Made out of the same material as your Dutch oven, it simply has a wider cooking surface area and shorter sides, making it ideal for most of your “pan needed tasks” such as searing meats, shallow fries, and pan roasts. Additionally, you can make pizza, frittatas, quiches, pies, tear away breads…the possibilities are endless!
The only downsides are, like the Dutch oven, it’s heavy. You won’t be able to flip any pancakes by just the pan handle unless you’re Chuck Norris. Also, most budget priced cast iron skillets are raw, meaning they aren’t covered in enamel and need to be seasoned in order to be nonstick and avoid rusting. This can be an upside if you look at the glass half full.
Raw cast iron cookware require different treatment from your other pots and pans. You don’t want let it stay wet for too long or else it will rust. You’ll want to build layers of seasoning so it can be slick as a whistle. Once you get the hang of things, maintenance becomes second nature when handling cast iron.
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Tongs w/ Silicone Heads
The most useful utensil in the kitchen would have to be a pair of Tonga with silicone heads. Not only do they pick up hot food in hot vessels, you can also use then to scrape bits from the bottom of the pan while cooking without having wo worry about scratching or damaging your cookware.
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Chefs or Santoku Knife
Doing about 98% of your cutting, a reliable chef’s or santoku knife is almost the only kind you’ll need. Yes, the knife culture can be pretty obsessive, and thus, pricey. But don’t let that intimidate you from cooking. If you’re building your kitchen arsenal from scratch, don’t worry too much about getting a top of the line knife that cuts through everything from melons to countertops. Just get anything that looks decent on Amazon or at your local Target. Beware though of when they go dull. The cheaper knives (without surprise) lose their edge faster than the quality ones. Just make sure you at least get a cheap sharpener to go with it.
After you’ve been cooking for a while, you may feel compelled to return to the world of knives and upgrade to some good steel. You’ll swear you’re a samurai in search for the sword of your destiny. It becomes a real personal thing – is it the right balance, is it the right length, how comfortable does it feel in your hand? Especially if you get in to sharpening the edge by hand with a sharpening stone.
Rest assured though, once you move up to a quality knife, you’ll see the difference in the edge, the feel, and the fit as you slice up them onions.
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In-Oven Probe Thermometer
One of the greatest tools to ensure you have consistently good food coming out of your kitchen is to get a cooking thermometer. This is in no ways “cheating.” Professional kitchens deal with precise temperatures all the time. Gone are the days of forgetting to pull out the roast 20 minutes ago or second guessing whether or not your chicken is safe to eat.
There are a number of thermometer options out there from instant reads to lasers. My suggestion for starters is to get a good probe oven thermometer. With it you can get decent readings and can roast meat in the oven by setting it and forgetting it (until the thermometer alarm goes off at your target temperature).
One downside to these is that the wiring on the probe seems to come loose or disconnect after several months of use. I’ve tried several and the Polder has treated me well since I got the supplemental reinforced probe. After 2 years it’s still doing fine.
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