Monday, October 11, 2010

Kitchen Equipment:Part One

When it comes to setting up one's kitchen with all the gadgets, cookware and such needed to turn out some decent meals, we can really get overwhelmed! Believe me I know!  As a former buyer of all things for the cook, the amount of product in the marketplace can send your head spinning round- not to mention make a big dent in your wallet!

Don't despair! I am here to help! I have composed my list of what I call "essentials" and I thought I would share those with you along with a video from Jamie Oliver's new show, 30 Minute Meals (sadly only being broadcast in England!) where he shares his absolute essential list to get you "kitted out"!

It seems he and I are totally in agreement with what you really need to make it happen in your kitchen- and you  don't need to spend a ton of money either. While his video gives a quick run down, I will give you more details and some links to some of my recommended items. There are things I am absolutely adamant about too, and made sure my customers did not leave the store without- and I will make mention of those magical items in this and the next post, Kitchen Equipment: Part Two.

Remember: You can find great deals these days at outlet stores, flea markets and antique shops. In fact, I love using older gadgets as they were made so much better years ago! (I think one of my flour sifters is circa the 50's).

Let's start with the small appliances first (and remember you can build your "batterie de cuisine" over time).

1. Blender- comes in handy for pureeing soups and sauces- not to mention for smoothies and frozen cocktails! You can get a decent blender or "liquidator" as Jamie calls it, for less than $100 new, but make sure it can handle ice cubes- that is key! Kitchenaid's 5 speed blender is getting some high marks for it's ice crushing ability and it's right around that $100 price range too.

2. Food Processor- now this differs from the blender in that it has a shredding/grating blade and a dough blade offering more variety and deeming it a real "workhorse" in your kitchen. I prefer this to a blender for making homemade mayonnaise too. (Here is one of my must-haves! A food processor was the very first electric item I purchased when I got my first job out of college- it has never let me down!) I have a Cuisinart but Kitchenaid also makes a good one-and definitely get the larger one (either the 12 cup or the 14 cup) anything smaller, is just not worth it. You should expect to pay around $200 for either of these models if purchased new.

3. Hand Mixer- now Jamie didn't mention this item but I think at the least if you are a baker you need to have one of these.  Later, a stand mixer would be a great investment if you've been bitten by the baking and pastry bug-it will make your life a lot easier and quicker. Again Cuisinart and Kitchenaid make some really powerful hand mixers and they are easy to find. (check out the links to the ones I like)

4. Immersion Blender- this is a stick-like blender that you may have seen the chefs on Iron Chef use and it's great for quickly pureeing soups right in the pot you are cooking in! Again, not totally essential but a "nice to have" item.

5. Electric Water Kettle- Hands down the fastest way to boil water! No kidding. They are widely used in Europe and the UK and with good reason. We are not as used to them on this side of the pond, but they are gaining in popularity and demand. Cook's Illustrated loves this one. I myself have yet to get one of these in all habit of the kettle on the stove is hard to break!

As far as cookware is concerned: I don't recommend cookware sets- simply because they always seem to have the sizes or styles you don't want. Cherry picking your pieces will give you a more custom and personal collection of the pots and pans you really need. Not all material will give you the same results as you will see below.

1. Skillets- sometimes called a fry pan. Skillets will come in standard sizes of 8, 10, 12 and even 14 inch. These almost never come with lids (that's what you get a saute pan for.)
I would highly recommend having at least 2-3 skillets in various sizes.  One of them should be a good non-stick. This one is highly recommended for only $29.99!  Non-stick is great for doing eggs and/or fish and anything you don't want to stick. Another one of your skillets should be cast iron for searing a steak or meats. Lastly, I think stainless steel works really well, especially if it's triple ply. I adore and highly recommend this one by All-Clad- so worth the investment. It's a "french" skillet with the sides being higher than a standard fry pan and it's a sort of meet-in-the-middle kind of thing for me-I can use it almost like a saute pan when a lid isn't required.

2. Saucepans- again, totally necessary for anything from sauces to cooking rice, oatmeal and such. I highly recommend at least 2 sizes here but if you can do it- go for 3. Great sizes would be: 1, 2 and 3 quart. Get all your bases covered here. You really don't need to have non-stick either. Just some good ol' thick bottom stainless steel is just fine. Cuisinart, and/or All-Clad are my top picks here-they will last you a lifetime and then some so worth every penny. And did I mention that you can put stainless steel in the dishwasher? Easy clean up is always a plus for me. 

3. Specialty pans- here would be your dutch ovens, saute pans, grille pans (or griddle pan as Jamie calls it) and stock pots. A classic Dutch oven like Le Creuset is great if you are ready to invest the big bucks, but there are many other comparable ones now that would be a little easier on the pocketbook like Mario Batali's and Lodge Logic. At least a 5 quart and up is the best size to get so you can do roasts and stews and have plenty of room. As far as the grill pans go-I happen to have a great cast iron grille pan from Lodge and it's been with me for a long time-was inexpensive too. Saute pans differ from fry pans in that they have high straight sides and come with a cover. They are great for braising and for making larger quantities than you ordinary fry pan-again here I would try a tri-ply stainless for best results.  Stock pots I recommend would be stainless steel and do get at least an 8 quart so you can cook your pasta in plenty of water. If you plan on making stock or soups a lot, a 12 quart would be a great addition. This one has great features and an affordable price tag too!

4. Roasting/Baking pans- I say invest in a good roasting pan- especially if you plan to do the traditional holiday meals. I would recommend a stainless roaster, with substantial handles like this one recommended by Cook's Illustrated. And always have at least 2-3 "sheet pans" on hand. I like these. They are so great for not just cookies and baking, but I use my sheet pans to roast veggies and more.

Stayed tuned, because my on next post, we will go over knives, cutting boards, tools and various gadgets essential to making your kitchen hum like a well oiled machine!


  1. Great post, very useful for a beginner like me"

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