I am not going to list the obvious like, spoons, plates, etc.
The first items below, in my opinion, are essential time-savers, money-savers, and gastronomical boosters. Things you would need to try any random recipe you find on the internet or on this blog! The 2nd set of items are things that are super convenient and very nice luxuries for cooks with bigger budgets and more counter-space than the average NYC apartment...also things that I wish I had and/or are saving up to buy!
THINGS YOU NEED
- A Set of Tupperware-like Storage Containers: these babies are essential to any new cook or person who wants to spend more time in the kitchen. More often than not, recipes make more than a meal's worth and you don't want that all that food and love going to waste. Get a variety of sizes, I wish I had 2 to 3 "casserole" size dishes, perhaps 2 medium sized ones, and at least 4 "one-portion-sized" containers so that you can bring your leftovers to work with you!
- Metal Kitchen Tongs w/ Comfy Grip: Consider these your kitchen hands! You can handle anything, from sauteeing veggies to removing hot pasta from the boiling pot to taste-test. These tongs make the cooking process easy and mess-free.
- Zester Grater: This is a specific Grater with a very fine cut that is used specfically for Lemon/Lime Zest, Parmesan Cheese & Cocunut. Now, this may sound like a luxury, but I can't tell you how many times I use this one! It was given as a gift and it is such an invaluable tool. I would be sad without it. And, you know, the secret to great fresh Basil Pesto is to add some Lemon Zest...
- Food Processor: Speaking of Basil Pesto--another kitchen must-have is a Food Processor. You don't need a huge one but a good size to make these everyday favorites--for cheap! Pesto, Olive Tapenade, Hummus. It's as easy as combining the ingredients and pressing the button. Literally. This is a no-brainer.
- Stand-Up Cheese Grater: Speaking of saving money--grocery stores jack up prices of pre-shredded cheese for the convenience saved--but why not just shred your own? It really doesn't require much energy and will save you up to $2 per cheese unit you buy. Get the Stand-Up kind, so that the cheese collects on the inside, the flat ones tend to be messier.
- Nice Wine-Opener: This is definately a must, not just because you may like to drink wine but because wine is a key ingredient is flavorful cooking from all regions of the world. You don't need that fancy rabbit-stuff either (very expensive), just a conventional Opener that has a good grip, I have a Good-Grips model and it's smooth like butter.
- 2 Saucepans: When it comes to the stove-top you'll find yourself using about 3 things all the time. 2 of the 3 are Saucepans or just pans. You need a big one for boiling full bags of pasta and making large soups but also a medium-sized when cooking sauces or cooking for one. You can get a tiny one--but I've seriously never used one. There may be some fancy French sauce that requires such a tiny pan, but I haven't run across that yet. Although, I confess, I do have a set of 4 Copper-Bottom Pans, but I swear I only use 2 of them!
- Non-Stick Frying Pan: You need one of these babies to do everything from stir-fry to cooking eggs in the morning. Now, I say non-stick because, it's easy to clean! The only time you'd need a non-stick, metal (hard to clean) Frying Pan is when you are searing meats and want the brown bits to stick down on the pan so that you can de-glaze them with wine later to make a sauce or jus. I mean, in reality, non-stick large Frying Pan is the way to go. But if you want to have an extra, smaller version that is non-stick, go ahead!
- Grill Pan: Especially for those living in the city--invest in this! You can grill shrimp with a little EVOO & Lemon or make grilled Asparagus and Peppers or grill up some Skirt Steak. And burgers! Such a great addition to any kitchen, although can be a bit expensive. I have the Le Crueset Small Red one and it works great!
- Chef's Knife: Can you believe the fact that you really only need ONE knife. YES 1 KNIFE!!! I mean, they say you can always use a Paring Knife, but more on that later. Please invest in a good German or Japanese Chef's Knife. So worth it. And please buy a guard for it (or a wooden block if you have the counterspace). You can send them to the company for free sharpening (at least Shun knifes). Test them out before you purchase. Wait for a sale. These puppies are about $160, but I got mine for about $100.
- Bread Knife: Oops, I lied. I forgot you need a bread knife, that is long and serrated to cut fresh loafs--these are not expensive however, just great to have around.
- Slow Cooker: Now your tupperware will come in handy! You'll be freezing up a storm! There are 2 quart, 4 quart and 6 quart Slow Cookers. I reasoned with myself to buy the 4 quart so that it would be easy to cook and have lots of left-overs to freeze for a rainy day--remember making a meal is costly but making a lot of one meal and then saving is cost-efficient absolutely. Slow Cookers are also money-savers b/c the slow method of cooking is best on tougher cuts of meat that are always less expensive! No filets here. Lots of pork shoulder and Beef Brisket--these babies turn the meats into succulent, melt in your mouth morsels, all while you're at work! Plus you can find them for like $20. You only need one that has a low & high setting.
- 2 Cutting Boards: You need 2 cutting boards. 1 plastic one for meats (and smelly things like onion & garlic) and 1 wooden one for breads and veggies. Try not to mix the two--NEVER PUT MEAT ON THE WOOD. gross! And--use Lemon Halfs (after they've been juiced) to rub on the boards whenever you have them to really get down into the cracks and clean them naturally.
- Strainer: Buy a sturdy metal (fun-colored ones are popular, mine is teal) stainer. Pasta, veggies, greens. Etc. Also make sure the holes are tiny enough! Nothing's worse than dropping fresh cooked pasta into a dirty sink! Yuck.
- Wooden Spoons: Buy a sturdy set of wooden spoons. Treat them right. No dishwashers & don't leave them soaking with other dirty dishes! I basically only use wooden utensils to cook, they're light and just feel right. Also, it's sort of like Mascara I hear, you have to replace them every few months.
- Soup Ladle: Makes serving your dinner-guests (and yourself) easier.
- Whisk: Not just a cheap one, but a nice one. There are cool ones that are weighted, it might be a little bit of luxury but it's something you'll use all the time so why not make sure it's ergonomic.
- Spice Rack: I am still missing one of these! And let me tell you, it is SO annoying to dig through all your spices to find the right one as you're cooking. Get one that goes across your wall so that you can see what you've got at once. So helpful. And pretty.
- Sturdy Mixing Bowl: Make sure you have one (or two) of these babies. The ones with the rubber bottoms are great for not moving on you. Plus you can use them to serve popcorn.
- Juicer/Reamer: I think these are called Reamers...but you know, something to help you juice those citrus fruits. I have a pretty ceramic one that is a bowl so the juice is immediately collected, very helpful. There are also hand-held metal/plastic versions.
- Electric Tea Kettle/French Press Coffe-Pot: Now, coffee and tea are very personal things--I like tea so my Electric Tea Kettle is invaluable. But it also comes in handy with some recipes that require boiling water (like cous cous). Now my boyfriend drinks coffee, so I've been thinking of buying French Press to go along with the Tea Kettle and take up less coutner space. But your preferences may be different. Just make sure your kitchen is suited to your caffienated beverage needs.
THINGS I WISH I HAD
- Meat Thermometer: I usually grill or saute my meats so I'm not a big roaster (or oven-user really) but I suppose I'd like to have a Meat Thermometer to get my Roasted Turkey juuuuuust right.
- Salad Spinner: These things were info-mercial fads but they have turned out to be invalubable for someone who loves to make Basil Pesto! Water is the enemy of pesto, but basil leaves are also very, very dirty. So you have to cleanse them thoroughly but also get them as dry as you can. Paper towels only go so far. This thing would help me out, but I can't justify the buy for just that use!
- Rice Cooker: I happen to cook rice frequently and have not really had that much of a problem with it (the secret is to keep it covered on the lowest possible heat as you can to prevent sticking) but a lot of people swear by their rice-makers. If you have the space, why the hell not?
- Paring Knife: Now when you buy the Chef's Knife people swear it's the only knife you'll need--EXCEPT for the bread knife and a paring knife--if you are a person who envisions yourself cutting roses out of radishes, this is your guy. I have a smaller, cheaper knife that I use for any of those occassions.
- Blender: For food purposes, the Food Processor will pretty much cut it, but if you're a fan of margaritas and pina coladas, this might be a good investment too.
- Coffe Grinder: True coffee-snobs grind their own beans.
- Roasting Pan: Something I probably should have but don't. Instead, I bought a slow-cooker...
- Decorative Cutting Board/Plate: We got a small bamboo cutting board as an Xmas present but we didn't really need it--BUT I find it extremely useful in laying out a nice appetizer/antipasto spread when guests come over! A few have commented on it!