I saw off a wonderful friend just a short bit ago, and realized she's graduating university and venturing off into the real world. In honour of our wonderful friendship, I decided to make a post dedicated to the top five things you need in your kitchen in your new homes for epic chef-ery.
There's more, which I will detail at the end. But these are big deals. At least, I think so. And you're reading my blog, so I'd assume you trust my opinion somewhat at least.
... not even a little bit? Whatever. I'll write it anyways! As follows...
1. A high quality salt container with a lid, and a pepper mill. You want to put kosher or sea salt and whole peppercorns in these, as they have a much better tendency to grip to food and taste much better than the usual stuff. Not pricey either - a box of kosher salt is five bucks and has lasted me a year. And I'm addicted to the white stuff. You can get the salt mill at the dollar store, so long as the lid has a decent seal. The pepper one might be worth more expense, as they tend to fall apart/not work if you cheap out. Use your good judgement here, folks.
2. GOOD quality cookbooks. Yes, I realize these are essentially food porn, and some may be coffee table books with recipes. But don't skimp here. You can find great stuff online used or at book sales for really cheap, too.
- Jaime Oliver's stuff - make what you will of him, his recipes are solid and he has a really great writing style, along with simple, delicious recipes
- "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"(Julia Child)/"How to Cook Everything" (Mark Bittman)/"The Joy of Cooking" (Becker, Becker, and Rombauer) - any of these books are massive tomes, but give you insight into plenty of different styles of cooking and techniques. GREAT for beginners and pros. and I know you'll all be pros
- A crazy expensive book based on a style you love - in my case, the Au Pied de Cochon book, by Martin Picard. I wanted to find a french-canadian cookbook, and I found an idol. More on that in a later post.
3. One good, solid chef's knife. I used to wonder what the big deal was, as I used the ones in sets. Then I got my hands on this puppy. Sturdy, great grip and balance, and it's my go-to (and generally only) knife I use in the kitchen. I like mine a bit heavier, but yours is your call. Go to a store, and test-drive the suckers.
Two notes - store properly! I keep mine all in a drawer on a tea towel so they don't get knocked around.
Note the second - if you don't have a lot of cash (and I know most of us don't), here's a hint. A lot of fancy knife makers will charge you like crazy for beautiful handles. Save money! Go to a restaurant supply store, and get one with these horrendous handles that look like they're made out of a cutting board. They are far sturdier, far cheaper, and much better. I worked in kitchens before and that's all we use, and they are fabulous. A comparable knife would cost you a hundred dollars, not forty like what's listed.
4. Good, solid pots and pans. I have one big saute, one small, two medium pots, and one massive pot for stock/soups, all with lids. Again, quality is key here. Nonstick is useful for most purposes, too. Restaurant supply shops are again a good bet for these, but I knicked these on sale at a kitchen warehouse for about fifty, and they're holding up well. I have some really garbage ones lying around that I don't use, and have warped because they're a waste of time and money. These will last me a while.
5. Finally, speaking of lasting a while, you're looking at a fifty or sixty year old cast iron pan that used to cook my grandparents and father eggs and bacon, and has seen a LOT in its life. I'm going to straight up call this one necessary, as it handles high heat, can go on the barbecue, go in the oven, handle any cooktop (except flat-tops, which it will scratch up. thanks Veronica for the tip!), and is just absolutely-completely made of win. Either get one from your grandparents, attic, garage sale, or buy a new one (Lodge is a nice brand) and season the hell out of it. Mine is absolutely my favorite tool in the kitchen, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Do NOT drop it, as it will shatter and take out your floor (and inconvenient neighbor downstairs). Also, handle carefully with decent oven mitts, and don't wash with soap or I will be disappointed in you.
Now, for the rest!
That is a lot of nonsense that I have. But I experiment, and do this for a living! (I'm up to like, sixty cents on google adwords thanks to you guys. mwhaha). Really, you don't need all this crap, but you do need:
- an 11x13 deep baking tray (like a lasagna pan)
- a cookie sheet or two
- a muffin tin
- a dutch oven (don't laugh, goons)
- a good quality wire whisk (not plastic)
- a bread knife
- a paring knife
- wooden spoons!
- a ladle
- multiple cutting boards, as you just don't cut the salad on the same one you cut the chicken on
- aluminium foil
- parchment paper
- plastic wrap
- paper towels
- a rolling pin, to chase down mangiacakes
- an electric kettle
- a toaster oven (having two ovens is amazing)
- a casserole dish (with a lid is nice)
and a lot of stuff more. I'll try to specify any special equipment needed on here, but that all pretty much gets me by. I have a lot I don't use, which I regret, but it happens.
Thus concludes my longest blog post yet. Hope you enjoy, and please submit comments and feedback using the usual process.
For those of you graduating and going off to change the world, I will miss you all very much, but will see you sometime soon, I'm sure. Do good things!