Before you tackle any cooking recipe, there are a few basic tools you should have on hand. Whether you’re outfitting your first kitchen or are just building a passion for cooking, you may find the kitchen aisle of your favorite department store bewildering (and stores devoted only to kitchen tools downright overwhelming). There are unquestionably a huge number of kitchen gadgets to choose from. But here’s what you really need to get started for basic cooking.
Pots and Pans
A decent set of pots and pans is a must before you start any cooking recipe. Begin with a 2 quart saucepan (for sauces and small batches of food), a 4 quart saucepan (for soups, steaming veggies, making rice, etc.), a 14 inch skillet (equally appropriate for frying eggs or cooking up steaks), and a stock pot (for large batches of stew, chili, soup, etc.).
The pieces should be heavy and have stay-cool handles – ideally not screwed into place, since screws tend to loosen. Stainless steel is a popular choice; it’s durable and easy to care for. To help conduct heat, it should have a layer of copper on the bottom.
Although it’s not mandatory, also consider a Dutch oven. Cast iron is the traditional material for this heavily employed piece of cookware. Use it to make stew, soup, and meat (including whole birds) on the stovetop or in the oven. If the Dutch oven isn’t pre-seasoned, before its initial use rub the inside with shortening and put it in a 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour. This makes the surface non-stick. After each use, give the inside a minimal rub with oil to maintain that non-stick coating.
Steamer and Colander
Even if you’re unfamiliar with steamed vegetables, a steamer is an excellent choice. They are inexpensive, don’t take up much cupboard space, and using them to cook vegetables produces far more flavorful and healthful results than boiling or frying. The ideal steamer is adjustable for several sizes of pots and folds away for easy storage.
In addition, a colander is the only good way to drain foods like vegetables or pasta. Purchase one that collapses for easy storage and has durable handles.
For many a cooking recipe, you’ll also want to have at least one baking dish on hand, too. For cooking lasagna and casseroles, choose a light colored dish measuring 8 x 11.5 in. Baking dishes come in several materials. Stoneware or ceramic is oven, freezer, and microwave safe, and holds up to sudden and drastic changes in temperature. (For example, you could remove a casserole from the freezer and stick it directly in the oven.) Glass baking dishes are easy to care for and can be used in the oven or microwave. They are not appropriate for freezing and don’t handle sudden changes in temperature well.