Essential Kitchen Tools: A Roundup of Basics

The Kitchen Cure Spring 2009

One of the most common questions we get from readers goes something like this: I'm outfitting a new kitchen — what do I need? Or, similarly: I'm moving and I have to pare down! What do I get rid of, and what do I keep?

Essential kitchen equipment is a subjective question. It all depends on how and what you cook most frequently. But here's a first look at the most common basic tools we like to recommend, and some posts to help guide you to a well-equipped, decluttered kitchen.

First, the links! We've come back to this question frequently, especially during last year's Kitchen Cure. Here are some of the most useful posts on the subject of essential kitchen tools:

A New Kitchen
Good Question: Stocking a New Kitchen
Good Question: Tools for a New Kitchen

Pots and Pans
What's Worth Spending Money On In the Kitchen?
On the Pros and Cons of Grill Pans
Good Question: What Kind of Cookware Should I Buy?
Good Question: Stainless Steel vs. Non-Stick

Baking Tools
Five Essential Baking Tools: Pans
Five Essential Baking Tools: Prep
Good Question: Help Me Downsize My Kitchen Equipment!

OK, now that you have a lot of links to explore, let me sum up the basic advice that occurs throughout most of those posts. When you're thinking about a basic kitchen setup, here are the things we most frequently recommend:

• One good chef's knife
• A cast iron skillet or basic heavy skillet
• A large, solid wood cutting board
• Tongs
• A few wooden spoons
• At least one saucepan or pot
• For a large pot, double-up with a heavy Dutch oven; it can go in the oven.
• For baking and roasting, a 13x9" casserole dish is invaluable

After those things, kitchen equipment starts to be a matter of preference. Some people would never, ever use a huge stockpot or a big slow cooker. I use mine every week. I, on the other hand, almost never use a wok or an electric rice cooker; you may use each of those every day. You may love specialized bakeware and make room in your cupboards for plenty of bundt pans and mini cake pans; or you may be quite content with a 13x9" casserole dish and that's it.

Overall, the choices and mix of equipment in every kitchen become a unique expression of that kitchen's cook. How does that work out for you, and what pieces do you feel that you couldn't live without?

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