Stocking your home with basic kitchen equipment makes the difference between a functioning kitchen that allows you to prepare meals and just a room with a sink and some counters. Whether you plan to prepare elaborate haute cuisine meals, or just make a quick soup and salad lunch, the proper cooking tools and equipment make food preparation easier. Start with a few basics in each category, and grow your collection as you want to explore new cooking techniques.
Cookware and Bakeware
Pots and pans serve as the foundation for all of your cooking activities. You can get by on a few basics for most cooking activities. Four basic pans can handle most of your cooking needs: a medium-size frying pan and small, medium and large saucepans. If you like to cook multiple dishes for each meal, have multiple frying pans on hand to cook the dishes at the same time.
Choosing the material for your cookware can seem confusing with so many options available. Aluminum is an affordable, lightweight option that conducts heat well, but it's often not as durable and can stain easily. Cast iron, enameled cast iron and copper cookware costs more but offers a heavier duty option. Stainless steel is also durable and is nonreactive to food, but uncoated stainless steel can cause sticking and be difficult to clean.
If you plan to roast meat, bake cookies, or even just heat up a frozen pizza in the oven, you will also want one or two baking sheets. Rimmed baking sheets keep grease and other liquids from pouring into your oven. A deeper baking dish also comes in handy for casseroles, enchiladas and baked goods. Loaf pans, muffin tins and other specialty bakeware come in handy if you like to explore different cooking techniques.
Set of Knives
Whether chopping vegetables, carving a roast, or simply paring an apple, a good blade makes the job easier. A good chef's knife is essential, but the size you buy depends largely on the size of your hands. If you plan to cook any fish, poultry or meat, you'll also want a boning knife and another for filleting.
Buying a basic knife block with a variety of blades prepares you for different kitchen techniques. You'll want blades designed for peeling and paring. Crusty bread is easiest to cut with a serrated knife.
Mixing It Up
Mixing bowls come in handy for everything from basic to advanced cooking techniques, such as whipping up a souffle, a salad dressing or cookie dough. Choose a set of mixing bowls in various sizes to hold the amount of ingredients for different recipes. You'll also want kitchen tools including a wooden spoon, non-stick spatula and basic measuring cups and measuring spoons.
Miscellaneous Kitchen Tools
A few basics you might not think about, but whose absence will hinder you when trying to cook include a can opener, colander, oven mitts and cutting boards. Other less essential kitchen utensils you may want to consider, depending on what and how often you plan to cook include a bottle opener, corkscrew, thermometer, grater, whisk, tongs, rolling pin, slotted spoon and vegetable brush.
Small Kitchen Appliances
Assuming you already have the basic refrigerator and stove set-up covered, other small kitchen appliances you invest in depend on your tastes and what you eat. A toaster, blender, microwave and coffeemaker are common options. Some people prefer toaster ovens to cook crispy foods quickly. Specialty appliances to consider based on your preferences include a food processor, bread machine and rice cooker.