Kitchen Gear


Cooking equipment

To cook well and with ease you really only need a handful of items (besides plates, cups and some silverware). In fact, the simpler your kitchen, the more inviting it is to cook in. Think of how much freer and more creative you can be amidst clean and uncluttered countertops and a refrigerator and cabinets containing only the most essential and frequently used items.
Below are suggestions for basic cooking gear coming in at about $200 - $350, in response to the question of “what ideal items would I buy if I had to equip a kitchen from scratch?” If however, you already own some version of an item, even if it’s not exactly the suggested material or size, please consider going easy on your wallet and the landfill by continuing to use the existing one (or asking relatives/friends if they have any spares they may be glad to part with) before rushing out to buy a new one. In fact, for all kitchen items that you might need - except knives - I would first check a second-hand store. That said, even I would not feel too bad about disposing of crappy plastic containers, a peeling Teflon pan, a cheap thin skillet that always burns things or a bad knife that no amount of sharpening will improve.
·       Sauce pans: 2-3 thick-bottomed stainless steel sauce pans with lids should do; the most versatile sizes are 3 quart/liter 8’’ diameter and 5 quart 10’’ diameter. The thick bottomed pans will cook your food more evenly without burning it and won’t warp over time. Try to find ones where the lids could also fit your frying pans.
·       Pressure cooker: These things are really amazing, but not required to get you started. Once you know that you’ll be cooking brown rice and beans on a regular basis, or if you live at high elevation, it’s well worth spending the $25-$50 (depending on what size and material you get) to cut your cooking times and energy use by 80-90%. It can also serve as another nice large saucepan. I don’t personally use a slow cooker because of how much energy these things eat up over 8-12 hours of continuous cooking.
·       Frying pans: 2-3 high-quality non-stick or cast iron frying pans with lids, a medium 9-10’’ and a large 12’’ are plenty if cooking for 2-4. A small inexpensive frying pan (ideally not Teflon) may also be handy if you plan to cook a lot of Indian dishes requiring seasoning with spices briefly fried in oil. If usually cooking for 1, consider just getting 8’’ & 10’’. Each of these, typically retailing for $50 or more for quality brands like Calphalon, can be found for $10-$25 at discount stores like TJMaxx or Home Goods and even less at Goodwill. If you make lots of stir fries you may be tempted to get a 14’’ wok[1], but I would only do so if you have a natural gas stove plus a gas ring to provide sufficiently high heat.
·       Knives: You can do all your cutting really well with just 3 sharp high-quality knives: a chef’s knife with a 6-8’’ blade, a 3’’ serrated or smooth paring knife (for tomatoes and other soft or small veggies), and a longer serrated bread/sandwich knife. Quality sharp knives are much safer, don’t cost too much, and will make a world of difference in how enjoyable your cooking process will be. It’s surprisingly more economical to acquire 3-4 good knives that will cut effortlessly for years than a growing army of poor-quality ones. Look for knives made in Solingen, Germany or Switzerland or Japan; e.g. Wusthof brand. Watch out for sleek-looking-ones labeled as German or Japanese design but on closer inspection made in China. Be sure to sharpen them regularly with a metal rod sharpener. Note that steel honing rods are usually finer grain than stone blocks or automatic sharpeners which can mangle good quality steel.[2]
·       2 bamboo, hardwood or non-porous plastic cutting boards; choose sizes that are easy to handle but large enough to work with several big veggies at a time. Designate one of these for strong smelling things like onions, garlic and cheeses.
·       Hardwood/bamboo spoon and spatula and for stirring & flipping (these heat and moisture-resistant materials won’t scratch your pots or melt & leach carcinogens while resting on the side of a hot pan)
·       ladle, preferably all stainless steel so it won’t absorb flavors or melt when resting in a hot saucepan
·       box grater for cheese/carrots/etc.; if you use lots of ginger or garlic, a ceramic grater-bowl is nice too
·       sharp vegetable peeler
·       can opener
·       large salad or mixing bowl(s), preferably all stainless steel (available at Asian and dollar stores)
·       large metal strainer (for rinsing grains, beans, herbs; can also serve as a colander for draining pasta)
·       measuring cup(s) and spoons, preferably all stainless steel
·       Pyrex or non-stick baking dish, about  9 X 13 X 2.5 inch; note that food bakes 10% faster in Pyrex (good for some things, but not so good for roasting seeds)
·       glass containers with lids for leftovers (glass won’t retain smells, stain from curries or warp in a microwave over time)
·       electric kettle with boiling auto shut off if you drink lots of tea; if you can splurge for an insulated one, even better
·       immersion (stick) blender for soups, sauces, beans; a regular blender is only really needed if you make lots of smoothies, pancake batter, etc.
·       food processor (only fully justifies its expense, storage space and clean-up if you cook for a small army or make lots of hummus, pickled cabbage, etc.)



[1] Woks made of carbon steel are quite inexpensive in Chinese stores; they come coated in sticky oil to prevent rusting which will need to be washed off with soap and water, and the pan seasoned well with oil, after which you should not wash your seasoned wok or cast iron pan with soap, only a bristle brush or sponge.
[2] How to hone a knife video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&v=dQ-65u3zZo4&NR=1

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The goal of this blog is to celebrate delicious food that's also practical. Contrary to certain foodie trends, we believe there is no reason for amazing food to be expensive or complicated or time consuming.

Our hope is to bridge the ethos of the slow and simplicity movements (cooking delectable traditional foods from scratch, connecting with others, minimizing waste and clutter) with the everyday needs and constraints of “the 99%”.

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