So you’ve decided to jump in and take the step up to the Nexxt Level and improve your cooking skills. If you’re like a lot of guys who never really dabbled in the world of cooking your kitchen is probably in one of two states. Either you’ve got nothing, maybe some cereal, milk, ketchup and a pack of hot dogs, or you’ve got a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs and cheap equipment that came in a set from Wal-Mart. Its okay, this is the state of most guys kitchens’ because buying culinary hardware is not something most of us know about.
Decking out a kitchen with even just the basics can be a daunting task. If you walk into any kitchen equipment store, like Williams & Sonoma, you’ll see TONS of specialty equipment or variations on the same equipment. For many men they simply do not know where to start, what to get, and how to avoid being ripped off. To this end most simply call it and get something conveniently prepackaged at the aforementioned megamart.
The problem with this convenience purchases is that you get what you pay for. There’s a reason your set of six pans or ten knives cost as much as one pan or one knife at a culinary supply store. A lot of guys also make the assumption that you need a lot of equipment to cook even the most basic of recipes, and that’s simply not true. What I’m hoping to do today is to decode a bit of the jargon and misconceptions most guys have about cooking equipment and help you build the strong, but simple, foundations for a well-functioning kitchen.
- A cast iron skillet
- A small saucepan
- A large saucepan
- A large stockpot
- A good chef knife
- A honing steel
- A bar or immersion blender
- A sturdy heavy-duty cutting board
- An omelet pan
- A heat resistant rubber spatula
- A balloon whisk
- A heavy wooden spoon
- A few sheet trays
- One Pyrex baking dish
- A stainless steel mixing bowl set
With all these items there is little the culinary world can throw at you that you will not be able to handle. Now let’s go down the list and break down some of these briefly. I plan on expanding on some of these in future articles.
-The Cast Iron Skillet
This is potentially the last pan you’ll ever buy. If you buy this and nothing else you’re already off to a really good start. The heavy solid construction of a cast iron makes it ideal for almost any culinary task. You can roast meat in them, flip them over to bake on the flat bottom, the heavy solid body provides great capacity for heat storage and distribution making them great for frying in, the list goes on.
While the name “saucepan” implies a specific use they’re great all around work horse pans that’ll do everything that the sides on the cast iron are to short for. The main feature of a saucepan is the “corner” where the bottom of the pan becomes the sides of the pan, has a gradual curve, rather than a sharp turn. This makes it very easy to get things like spatulas, whisks, and spoons in there to make sure nothing is sticking or hiding. The best example of this is stirring roux into a sauce, hence the name saucepan.
This is the beast for all your bulk cooking needs. While it is a bit specialized, its a very nice thing to have around if you ever plan on making a big batch of chili, soup, or anything else. While the initial size will make most go “I’m never gonna cook that much” the idea is not to fill it to the top, but to be able to put a gallon and a half of something in it and still have plenty of room so you don’t make a huge mess trying to stir or transport it.
-The Chef Knife and Steel
This is your rifle. There are many like it but this one is yours. A good chef knife is the culinary Alpha, It all starts here. This is the one item you should invest the most in, but don’t think you have to go drop a few hundred on one knife. I’ll cover chef knives much more in depth in a future post.
While I would recommend you get both, as they each have their strong and weak points, if you’re only going to get one get the bar blender, as a good deal of the applications (like making drinks) are a lot more feasible with it. Bar blenders tend to have higher RPMs and the conical shape helps feed things down into the blades, allowing the machine to more efficiently buzz down food items.
-The Cutting Board
When choosing a board heavy is the thing you’re looking for. While wood butcher block is king, it can be very pricey. I don’t recommend non-butcher block wood boards as they tend to warp pretty quickly as they’re used and washed. If you don’t want to spring for butcher block get a nice heavy plastic board.
-The Omelet Pan
This is the only specialized piece of equipment on the list, but even then thats only if you take the name literally. The omelet pan, or French skillet, is the best thing for cooking eggs in and if you ever plan on cooking breakfast buy one. Its great for grilled sandwiches as well, and the small size makes it ideal for cooking individual portions.
Everything else on the list is very general use kitchen equipment that you will use near constantly. I recommend getting at least two sizes, one large and one small, on all the stirring equipment as different tasks and meal sizes will be much easier with a different sized implement. Maker sure you look for the red handled heat resistant spatulas.
I hope this gives you a good starting position to begin stocking your kitchen with the proper tools to begin your adventure into the culinary world. There’s a lot to be learned but all of it is easy if you’re well prepared.
If you purchase anything using the Amazon links above a portion of the sale goes directly to myself, at no additional charge to you, which I will then re-invest back into you, the readers, by using it to help fund new experiments which I will in-turn bring back to you guys in the form of a tested CIJ approved recipe.