If you’ve reached your “cooking point” - i.e. the point at which you can no longer eat meals made by others (like your parents or in-laws) or bought from a store, and want to start enjoying food you yourself made, then we hope this blog post helps inspire and propel you to get cooking at home.
As a starting point, here is our list of the top 10 basic things you should probably arm yourself with in your kitchen. The idea is to go with the principle of “minimalism”, buying only the tools you know for sure you will need initially. Down the road, you could expand your cooking toolkit to complement your own approach and style in preparing and cooking food, and the types of food you enjoy making.
1. Chef’s Knife - A chef’s knife, in cooking, is a general/multi-purpose knife for slicing, mincing, dicing, chopping and disjointing food. In other words, this is the knife you would use the most. So do invest in a good, solid chef’s knife.
An example of a good quality chef’s knife is an 8” J.A. Henckels International Classic Chef knife. It feels solid, has a sharp blade, and definitely makes the task of slicing, chopping, or mincing much easier, ensuring the slices/chops/minces are done well.
2. Non-stick cooking pan
If you're a busy person who expect to use a frying pan often, and want something "low maintenance" (e.g. more resistant to burns, easy to clean) and lasts long, we would recommend the Heritage The Rock frying pans, made by Starfrit. They come in 8", 10" or 12" in diameter pans, or as a pack of two pans. For induction stovetops, make sure you get the ceramic type.
There are many different types of frying pans in the market, including non-stick aluminum pans, stainless steel pans, and non-stick steel woks. In our experience, non-stick aluminum pans eventually wear out their non-stick coating, which could get mixed in with the food during the cooking process. Stainless steel pans work great in searing meats, but need extra TLC if you want them to last, and last looking beautiful. One has to be careful not to burn them, otherwise extra time woul be needed to clean/scrub the burn stain. And it's best to hand dry these pans with a kitchen towel after washing them, instead of leaving them to air dry, to keep them looking nice (if you care about the appearance).
3. Pot with cover - You'd need a pot to cook soups, stews, sauces, potatoes, pasta, and so on. Like pans, there are varying sizes and types of pots out there. A medium sized (about 4 quarts) stainless steel or aluminum pot would be a good starting point, to give yourself the leeway to cook for 2 to 4 or so people. We also suggest considering a pot that comes with a colander (or a strainer) so that this combo can multi-task for you: i.e. rinse, steam, or strain vegetables, buns, pasta, etc.
4. Chopping boards - It would be pragmatic to have two chopping boards - one plastic, and one wood. Use the plastic board for raw meats and seafood, so that you can wash the board often (as you should) - either by hand or in the dishwasher. And use the wood board for everything else. Plastic chopping boards made of polyethylene are probably the better option because polyethylene is more environmentally-friendly than other types of plastics. [Side note: You could learn more about polyethylene here]. Go with the ones with grooved design around the edges to collect juices.
5. Spoon / Spatula / Ladle - A spatula, a long-handle spoon and a ladle would be handy to have to handle most of your cooking needs. A spatula is most useful for flipping or turning, a spoon is best for stirring, and a ladle is a must to transfer or serve soupy dishes from pot to bowl.
For the spatula and spoon, we prefer to use wood or wood-like material, such as bamboo, for use on any type of pan or pot, especially those with non-stick coating.
6. Peeler - Unless you are comfortable using a knife to peel your vegetables or potatoes, which is certainly doable, arm with yourself with a good peeler. “Good” is subjective, as it may take you some experimentation to find the one that works best for you in terms of grip and sharpness. OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler and a Hoffritz Stainless Steel Swivel Peeler, are two examples of peelers we like.
7. Strainer - A strainer is useful for draining off liquid. It can also be used to rinse food - raw or cooked. If your pot came with a strainer/colander, great! Otherwise, do get one and I'd suggest choosing something made of aluminum instead of plastic, so that you could safely use it even for boiling or simmering liquids. Check out our strainer/colander and bowl set.
8. Can opener - Need we say more? :) Check out our easy grip smooth edge can opener.
9. Mixing bowls - Mixing bowls are useful for soaking, washing and mixing food. We suggest you choose aluminum or stainless steel, instead of plastic. Supermarkets typically sell these. Smart buy tip: Find mixing bowls with lid, for whenever you need to cover the bowl, or to use them as food storage.
10. Measuring cup - You could probably use a regular bowl to measure ingredients, but a measuring cup would eliminate the guesswork. We prefer to choose a measuring cup made of glass for environmental friendliness.
That’s it! These are probably your bare essentials.
If you have comments, discoveries or experiences you would like to share, feel free to send us a note or post a comment here.