Cooking at home hasn’t been in vogue the way it is today since the 1950s, due in part to the proliferation of food shows on television, strong local food scenes, and the down-turned economy. Whether you’re an aspiring gourmet chef or a collegiate cook, these basic culinary tools will help you whip up a romantic dinner for two or a holiday feast for family and friends.
Colander: A footed colander can sit in the sink and drain without water gathering at the bottom. A sleek stainless version can also double as centerpiece for seasonal fruit.
Mixing bowls: A set in various sizes will come in handy for everything from tossing a salad to mixing brownie batter.
Baking sheet: Whether baking cookies or roasting vegetables, a nonstick baking sheet is indispensible.
Cast iron skillet: Use for baking frittatas or cornbread, as well as sautéing and cooking. It will become an heirloom if cared for properly — never soak the skillet, and oil it after each use.
Glass baking dish: A glass baking dish is ideal for cheesy au gratin potatoes, poaching salmon, or baking brownies or lasagna.
Nonstick skillets: For simple sautéing, no kitchen should be without easy-to-clean nonstick skillet sizes. Start with 8, 10 and 12 inch.
Soup/Stock pot: For cooking up a big batch of pasta, stew, chili, or soup, a large pot (5 to 7 quart) is a must. If you’re serious about cooking, invest in a high quality enameled cast iron French oven, such as Le Creuset or Staub.
Grater: A four-sided box grater is helpful for shredding cheese, potatoes and more.
Vegetable peeler: Save your hands by investing in a sturdy, well-made peeler for potatoes, other vegetables, and fruits.
Blender: Minimize kitchen tasks with a reliable blender.
Hand mixer: Whip up garlic-cheddar-bacon potatoes, cake batter, and frosting, or cookie dough.
Glass measuring cup: Indispensible for measuring liquids or melting butter in the microwave.
Measuring cups & spoons: Cooks comfortable in the kitchen know that they can “guess-timate” on many ingredients, but no kitchen is complete without a sturdy set of measuring spoons and cups.
Glass containers: When your meals are done, you’ll have some good leftovers. Store them in glass, BPA-free containers that work in the freezer, oven, or microwave.
Flexible spatulas: For scraping out the contents of jars or the last drop of batter from a mixing bowl, a set of flexible spatulas is useful.
Knives: An essential component of cooking, at the very minimum, keep on hand a good paring knife, chef’s knife, and serrated knife.
Tongs: For turning beef filets or tossing salads, a pair of tongs will do the trick.
Whisk: Whip your eggs, sauces, or salad dressings into shape, or even mix cake batter.
Wooden/bamboo spoons: Useful for mixing or stirring just about anything, these spoons are a must-have in the kitchen, especially with nonstick cookware.
OTHER USEFUL ITEMS
Chopper: If you frequently use diced or chopped ingredients in your meals, a chopper will save time.
Cutting boards: A large wooden or bamboo cutting board will allow you to carve a turkey or serve cheese, grapes and crackers. Smaller sizes are helpful as well.
Garlic press: What cook doesn’t use garlic to spice just about any dish? A sturdy press will make adding garlic much simpler.
Oven thermometer: Many city kitchens feature classic but unreliable stoves. Oven thermometers can provide a more accurate temperature reading than most oven knobs.
Instant-read thermometer: It’s essential to check the internal temperature of cooked meat and poultry, and a good instant-read thermometer is the way to go.