A bad workman blames his tools. It is very easy, when something goes wrong, to blame a person, the conditions, your equipment. That just isn’t good enough. In the kitchen, you need a few basic tools to prepare tasty and delicious meals. After these, you can add more elaborate equipment. However, if you’re working in a capsule kitchen or don’t have the finances to buy fancy equipment then the following list of items should be just enough.
Two Knifes – Chef’s Knife & Bread Knife
A chef’s knife is your friend for a multitude of tasks. From chopping vegetables for dinner or slicing apples for a cake, a chef’s knife is a must-have in any kitchen. Of equal importance is the bread knife. This one has a serrated edge (unlike the chef’s knife which has a straight edge) and it the ONLY knife you should use for cutting bread. It hurts my soul when I see people killing a good loaf of bread by using the wrong knife. Just don’t do it. Knifes are available at a variety of price points. I have a couple of kitchen knifes from Lidl and they are marvelous. Top tip for prolonging the lifetime of a knife – don’t put it in the dishwasher. They stay sharper for long if you hand wash them.
Use it for zesting oranges and lemons for a drizzle cake. Use if for grating cheese. Use it for making chocolate flakes. A box grater is cheap as chips and very versatile. You think you could live without one but then you realise zesting a lemon is very tricky without a grater/zester. Similar to the knifes, don’t put a grater in the dishwasher. The abrasiveness of the detergent will damage the sharpness of the grater and it may develop rust too. Hand wash. It’s not difficult.
A friend of mine. I use baking trays all the time. Ideally have 2-3 if you can afford as it makes life easier for you when batch cooking/baking. The best roasted veggies are made by cooking in a single layer on a baking tray. In terms of baking, scones are best baked on a baking tray and I bake scones most weekends. Again, very cheap to buy.
If you love homemade bread, you need a loaf tin. Of course, you can make round loaves on a baking tray but I find a 2lb loaf tin is the ideal shape and size for what I am looking for. The 2lb loaf tin is what I use for my Lemon Drizzle Cake, my Orange Chocolate Marble Cake and my Apricot Tea Bread. Similar to the baking trays, buy two if you can. That way you can bake two loaves at a time in the oven and that is very economical in my mind.
Non-Stick Frying Pan
Exactly what is says on the tin. A non-stick pan reduces the need for adding oil to the pan and this is especially important if you have been advised to monitor your calorie intake or your fat intake. I love my non-stick pan for making pancakes. I’m like a broken record but would you ever just not use the dishwasher and wash the pan by hand too? Use a soft sponge or cloth. Do not use a Brillo pad. They might be the best invention for getting rid of stubborn stuck-on food but they will strip off your non-stick. A non-stick pan without a non-stick is not what you need.
Two Saucepans – Large & Medium
When you think about cooking dinner, often you’ll have two saucepans on the go or one saucepan and one pan. I like to have a small/medium saucepan for heating milk or for cooking small portions of rice/pasta. The large saucepan is perfect for making soups, stews, curries, etc. Le Creuset is a premium French brand of cookware. It is definitely on the more expensive end of the scale but a single purchase will do you a lifetime if looked after properly (hand wash!).
Stick blenders are easily picked up for about €20 and are exactly what you need if you make a lot of soup. I don’t like chunky soup so I’d be lost without the stick blender. You could use a food processor but these are more expensive and take up a lot more space.
Electric Hand Mixer
You can make buns and cakes by hand but if you plan on make meringues or pavlova, an electric mixer is essential. Kenwood and Kitchen Aid sell lovely stand-alone mixers but that’s not an option for everyone due to the price point and the space required for storage. The hand mixer, similar to the stick blender, can be picked up for as little as €12 and is a tool I use weekly in the kitchen. Have you ever tried to whip cream by hand? No thank you.
Large Mixing Bowl
I don’t think this needs much of an explanation. To make any cakes or buns, you need a good big bowl to ensure you have the space to mix and combine ingredients. At the same time, a large mixing bowl is useful for tossing salads too.
If you have bought your non-stick pan and you’ve committed to not putting it in the dishwasher then please also commit to not using a metal spoon on it. A wooden spoon is much more gentle and is less likely to disrupt the non-stickiness. A wooden spoon is handy for creaming butter and sugar if you hand mixer gives up the ghost or for mixing up a bread dough.
I hate food waste. Hate it! Therefore, when I am baking, nothing gets wasted, I mean NOTHING. A bendy spatula is great for scraping out the dregs of cake batter from the large mixing bowl (previously mentioned) or for getting the last bits of sauce out of the pan when making a curry or stir-fry. I have a lovely pink spatula that I picked up in Dealz a couple of years ago for a neat €2.
Cooking and baking doesn’t need to be complicated. The kitchen doesn’t need to be cluttered. Get yourself a few staple pieces of equipment and you’ll be king or queen of the kitchen in no time.