While there are a ton of different kitchen tools that you can buy, most are designed to make specific tasks easier. They are not strictly necessary for you to have. In fact, there are only a few essential things that everyone needs in their kitchen.
The following are the essential pieces of kitchen cookware and utensils that you should invest your money in. Once you have a high quality core set that you know how to use well, you can start looking at expanding your collection with other, specialized pieces.
Essential Kitchen Cookware: Skillets and Pans
Of course, when you’re talking about kitchen gear, you need to talk about pans. These are your primary cooking vehicles, and having high quality pans is essential to proper preparation of food.
One of the first things that you should buy is a skillet or frying pan. You can cook most everything in these, but you’ll want to use them for meats and veggies (or even for sauces, in a pinch!)
There are two types of skillets that you can choose from. Cast iron pans are heavyweight pans that provide even heating, but they require specific maintenance. You’ll have to season them through continued use of butter and oils to make them non-stick.
This means you need to clean your cast iron pan without soap, because soap will remove the seasoning. This means that food can become stuck on and can take a lot of effort to clean.
In comparison, you can choose to buy a ceramic non-stick pan. Ceramic cookware doesn’t have the same health risks as regular Teflon non-stick cookware, since it is made completely out of clay and organic materials – no chemicals. Discover more about ceramic nonstick pans here.
While a skillet is good for cooking one or two meals at once, depending on its size, you need something else for entertaining. You can use a roasting pan for turkeys, hams, and other large pieces of meat.
You can get roasting pans in all sorts of different materials, but more often than not aluminum is the way to go. While steel and cast iron pans are a bit more durable, they are harder to clean and heavier, which can make lifting them out of the oven harder.
Stay away from copper, which is significantly more expensive and takes quite a bit of work to keep clean. Stainless steel and other light metals also work.
Look for models that have a rack that you can use to collect the drippings from roasted meat to make gravy. You should also pay attention to the handles and weight (as already mentioned). A roasting pan is supposed to make cooking large amounts of food easier, not turn cooking into an upper body workout.
Stock pots are also ideal for cooking large amounts of food at once, but are better suited for soups, stews, or even pasta. You’ll want as large of a stock pot that you can fit into your kitchen, since it will be used to create a ton of food at once.
Look for dishwasher safe stock pots, since that will make cleanup much easier for you. You’ll also want large handles that you are able to pick up while wearing oven mitts or some other form of padding, since often the entire surface of your stock pot will become too hot to touch.
If you’re looking for a high quality stock pot, it may be worth considering a Dutch oven instead. Dutch ovens are heavy, lidded ceramic or cast iron pots that you can put on a stovetop or in an oven. They are simple to clean and often are better at providing heat evenly than thinner aluminum or stainless steel stock pots.
While not particularly dishware, it would be a mistake to not mention a proper cooking knife when talking about kitchen essentials. You don’t need a whole set of knives of various sizes designed for specific cuts. Instead, you can buy a general purpose chef’s knife that you can use for everything – as long as it is high enough quality.
There are a bunch of different manufacturers out there, and every chef will have their favorite. However, generally speaking, you’ll want to look for a knife made by an American, French, German, or Japanese firm.
Avoid stamped knives, which can lose their edge faster over time. Forged or folded metal knives are thicker, heavier duty, and can be sharpened more times as a result.
You should also always look for full-tang knives. The tang is the part of the blade that goes into the handle. A full tang means that the blade extends all the way back to the end of the handle, and the knife blade and handle cannot separate.
Choosing the Best Kitchen Cookware
Now that you know the top four things that you should prioritize when stocking your kitchen, you can begin the process of looking through reviews and comparing brands. However, you should still keep looking at other pieces as well. While these are the bare essentials, a properly stocked kitchen will have other pots, pans, and utensils.
For instance, while you can make sauces in a cast iron skillet, it’s much easier (and takes less cleaning) to do so in a proper saucepan. Further, having one knife is a good idea, but having two can be convenient if there are multiple people in your home who cook.
For more information about kitchen cookware, look through our food and drink and family life blogs.