The journey to culinary competency requires some essential tools. It also requires learning how to use those tools. The list below is meant to be a non-exhaustive guide for those looking to equip their kitchen with some really great tools to help them produce memorable meals.
A large cast-iron pan
If you told me I could only have one pan to roast, grill, and cook with for the rest of my life, I would pick a 12 inch cast iron pan. Treated well, this pan will out last you, and maybe your children. You can grill steaks, deep fry donuts, roast a chicken or prime rib and saute your veggies. Holds heat well, easy to clean, the swiss army knife of pans.
For around $30, this is steal of a deal.
A good Chef’s knife
Much debate can be had about what kind of knife you should get and how much you should spend on that knife. Certainly, you can invest in a damascus steel Bob Kramer chef’s knife and be the envy of all your culinary friends, but spending 500+ on a knife is border absurd unless you’re a pro or a collector. More realistically, there are some great affordable options that will handle just about any job you throw at them for years:
The global is a little higher quality and something you can grow into more. Either knife, however, will serve you well.
A good Thermometer
While you’re learning to cook its best to have a tool to make sure your food is cooked through and safe to eat. I love this wireless thermometer from Oregon Scientific. It is accurate, reliable and has great range. Perfect if you want to grill and be able to go inside and check the score of a game on TV or change a diaper without worrying about burning something. It is also great for keeping a constant temperature on a roast in the oven while you’re laid back watching TV.
You want something thick and heavy that won’t move around when you are cutting. Don’t go plastic–it is ugly and actually less sanitary. This beautiful wood cutting board is built to last and is a great accent to any kitchen. Pick up some food safe mineral oil to keep the board looking brand new for years to come.
Salt and pepper are your friends. Fresh ground pepper is better than pepper that has been breathing the open air for years. Buy a good pepper grinder, nothing electronic, no gimmicks, good old gears and elbow grease.
Of all the things that can save a bad meal or transform something from good to great, salt is near the top of the list. Get some varieties, including classic kosher, and chunky hawaiian salt for meats and other salt-thirsty items. Always taste, and always salt your food before you serve it.
If you’re ever going to bake or do any sort of cooking that requires true precision, a scale, not measuring cups is the way to go. This scale is reliable and affordable. Buy it.
If you have any suggestions, or items you think are essential, comment below and I’ll update the list!