Kitchen Essentials

The first foray into the kitchen section of any large department store can be daunting for inexperienced cooks. Setting up a kitchen – one equipped so that you can prepare simple meals without borrowing pans from the neighbors – is easier than it seems when you’re armed with a shopping list and confidence.

While you can adjust as per your needs, don’t go overboard: too often the ice cream crocks and bread machines that seemed so convenient on store shelves sit dusty and idle in your basement not long after.

The basics:

  • Dutch oven with lid. For making pasta or soups. Make sure the lid seals tight to keep steam in.
  • Frying pan. You’ll want this for sauteeing veggies or frying egg rolls. In a pinch, it serves as a griddle for making pancakes. Nonstick frying pans minimize cleanup. Remember, though, if you buy nonstick, pick up nonstick spatulas and slotted spoons so you don’t scratch up your pots and pans.
  • Cookie tray. You can use it for more than cookies – if you’re broiling, you’ll need something to hold your food.
  • 9 x 9″ Pyrex pan. Everything from cakes to enchiladas will fit nicely in a pan this size.
  • Oven mitts. Gloves will prevent your fingers from burns.
  • Colander. Whether you’re making pasta or boiling green beans, you need a quick and easy way to drain water out.
  • Spatula. For scraping cookies off pans and turning over pancakes.
  • Slotted spoon. Great for letting oil and other liquid drain off food as it’s taken from the pan.
  • Wooden spoons (2). Meals involving more than one dish will inevitably require you to use multiple wooden spoons.
  • Wire whisk. For baking mixes that clump up as well as eggs.
  • Knives. Buy knives to suit your needs – many stores will sell a starter set of two or three that will fit most of your needs. Carnivores may want bigger, sharper knives for preparing meat.
  • Scissors. These will keep you from running back and forth to your desk every time you have to open a difficult package.
  • Vegetable peeler. Splurge and get a two-parter with a blade that moves as you use it. It will save you time as well as frustration.
  • Corkscrew. Bonus: if you’re serious about wine, invest in a plug for your wine bottles so you won’t have to jam corks back in.
  • Can opener. Makes kitchen life that much easier.
  • Mixing bowls (2). Why more than one? As with wooden spoons, if you’re ever preparing multiple dishes at once, you can multitask without adding washing to your list of tasks.
  • Measuring cups and spoons. They don’t have to be expensive – plastic does the job just as well as metal.
  • Measuring cup for liquids. Not only is it easy to pour, but it measures multiple cups of liquid – often with different forms of measurement on opposite sides.
  • Tongs. Necessary for picking up and flipping over things too hot to touch.
  • Bottle opener. For when you think you can open that beer, but you just … can’t … quite … get it.
  • Hand mixer. You can live without one, but you won’t want to, especially if you like to bake.
  • Blender. Everything from smoothies to purees can be made with this.
  • Ice cream scoop.
  • Lighter. Crucial for gas stoves and candlelight dinners.
  • Ice cube trays. No, the freezer doesn’t come with them.
  • An apron!

Some stores, such as Target or Wal-Mart, offer kitchen starter sets that include many of these items and often more, for around $60-75. However, not all items are of the best quality, and you may want to supplement such a set or replace some of the items.

With this list in hand, you now have everything you need to set up your first kitchen. Good luck, and happy cooking!

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