Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cheap Healthy Good’s Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Equipment

(First, a huge "Hi there" to everybody coming over from Simple Dollar and Frugal for Life. Thanks, Trent and Dawn!)

One of the most popular, frequently-posted-on topics in all of cooking blogdom is Kitchen Equipment. Everybody (including me) wants to know: what should we buy? In what sizes? Why would anyone need a freezer thermometer, unless he’s trying to preserve a body? (Note to self: maybe cut back on Dexter a bit.)

The problem is, there are oodles of clashing opinions, because everybody comes from different culinary perspectives. In other words, equipment suggestions from a pro chef will be way out of step with a mom of 27, and her advice might be totally useless for a prison lunch lady (who, I assume, is big on gruel).

With that in mind, I took an all-encompassing approach to creating this CHG guide. First, I gathered nine different lists from wildly diverse sources. Then, I counted how many times a particular piece of gear was mentioned across the samplings, and finally, compiled the findings into one great big master list. My references consisted of:
The results are a bit surprising. I expected more folks (even the pros) to mention the slow cooker, and didn’t think quite so many would suggest keeping a rolling pin on hand. (I use mine in Halloween costumes, only.) All in all, though, this seems like a good, comprehensive lineup. When paired with the suggestions from CHG’s Pantry of the Gods post, it should create a solid beginner’s kitchen.

(Coming next week: Where can I get this stuff on the cheap, without sacrificing quality?)

THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
(MENTIONED SEVEN TIMES OR MORE)
Cake pans (8” or 9” round or square)
Can opener
Casserole dish (9x13 or 8x8)
Chef’s knife (8” or 10”)
Colander
Cookie sheet
Cutting board
Dutch oven, stock, or large pot (8+ quarts)
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Mixing bowl(s)
Pairing knife
Roasting pan (9x13 or larger)
Saucepan (medium – 2-4 quarts)
Saucepan (small 1-cup to 1.5 quarts)
Serrated knife
Skillet (10” and 12” mentioned most often)
Spatulas (Metal, Rubber, and Flipper-style)
Vegetable peeler
Whisk
Wooden spoon

HIGHLY USEFUL STUFF
(MENTIONED FIVE OR SIX TIMES)
Blender (Blender/food processor combo)
Box grater
Glass liquid measures (2+ cups)
Hand mixer
Kitchen shears
Microplane grater
Pie pan
Rolling pin
Tongs

NICE TO HAVE
(MENTIONED THREE OR FOUR TIMES)
Bottle opener
Cast iron skillet
Cooling rack
Knife sharpener
Ladle
Loaf pan
Mandoline
Meat thermometer
Muffin tin
Pastry brush
Pepper grinder
Salad spinner
Slotted spoon
Steamer
Timer

OCCASIONALLY CONVENIENT
(MENTIONED TWICE)
Bulb baster
Carving/slicing knife
Coffee/spice grinder
Coffeepot
Corkscrew
Juicer
Kettle
Masher
Melon baller
Microwave
Nutcracker
Pressure cooker
Rotary eggbeater
Sifter
Skimmer
Slow cooker
Spoons
Toaster or toaster oven

DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY
(MENTIONED ONCE OR NOT AT ALL)
Apple corer
Boning knife
Bread machine
Butcher knife (I took this to mean cleaver.)
Candy/frying thermometer
Citrus press
Cooking fork
Cotton flour-sack towels
Countertop convection oven
Custard cups
Double boiler
Fondue set (pretty, but useless)
Food scale
Freezer thermometer
Funnel
Garlic press
Griddle
Jar opener
Mortar and pestle
Oven thermometer
Pastry blender
Removable-bottom tart pan
Rice cooker
Ridged grill pan
Ruler
Skewers
Springform pan
Wok
Vegetable brush

(All photos courtesy of Flickr.)

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19 comments:

Milehimama said...

You are very right about the lists and where you are in your life.
I use my breadmaker 3-4x a week (in fact, I own TWO now and use them both!)
But I've used the springform pan once.

And really, why would you need a rolling pin if you don't own a cooling rack?

And the coffeepot is a "don't waste your money?" What's wrong with these people???

Then again, they don't own a can opener either, so there you go.

michele said...

dude - try and get between me and my garlic press. i'll cut you

Krista said...

Thanks for the list! Although, I own and use frequently most of the "Don't waste your money" and "Occasionally Convenient." My husband is a Chef and I cook like the fatty that I am, so that may be why?

Every so often I swear that I am going to get rid of my kitchen junk. When it comes down to it, I use it all, though. There is no hope for me.

Chocoholic said...

I think this list really depends on how much you cook. For me, a toaster oven, pastry blender and springform pan are necessities. How can I make my famous cheesecakes without a springform pan??? I use my pastry blender at least once a month. I don't think these people drink wine or beer either, without a corkscrew how am I supposed to open a bottle of wine? Yes, I am fairly frugal but come on, even the cheapest wines from Aldi's or Trader Joe's requires a corkscrew to open.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how this list came up, but a food scale is a must, especially for anyone who bakes.

Chocoholic: Alton Brown hates springform pans (see _I'm Just Here for More Food_)

Kris said...

Hi everybody! Thank you so much for commenting.

I'm wondering if I should have called the last category "SPECIALIZED EQUIPMENT" instead of "DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY." It seems quite a few folks find the stuff in there pretty useful.

Also, Anon - I'm the only one that suggested a food scale. Beyond the baking aspect, it's KEY for dieters to weigh their portions.

Meredith said...

A great list! I agree with all the "musts," though the other categories are a bit mixed for me.

Splash said...

I think it is more important to consider each purchase (cooking related or not), its relative cost, and how much you will actually use the purchase. A gym membership never used makes for one mighty expensive workout.

I use my $25 Williams-Sonoma garlic press 3-4 times a week. So that's worth it, to me. But if you hate garlic, that would be a ridiculous purchase.

In Recovery said...

Interesting. It's a good place to start, but so subjective. Cooking, that is.

For example, I've had my rice cooker almost 20 years, bought it in Hong Kong. We use it about once a week. Couldn't make good rice without it. And, I love my garlic press. I know the experts say to avoid them, but that's for restaurant cooking, where you do the prep ahead of time. It's the pith of the garlic that can make it bitter if not cooked right away. But at home, you press right into the pan, and you save the chopping. Easy peasy.

Great post, love your blog!

Anonymous said...

If you don't need to keep the fruit whole, a melon baller doubles as a great apple or pear corer - halve the fruit with a knife and use the melon baller to scoop out the core.

Karen said...

I keep a pretty bare bones kitchen and cook all the time. Here are the things I love and use all the time...

* Chef, serrated, & paring knives
* Box grater
* Stock pot w/ steamer insert
* 9x13 casserole dish
* Medium saucepans w/ lid
* 12-inch SS skillet with lid
* Jelly roll pan
* My favorite red silicon spatula
* SS measuring cups
* Pyrex liquid measuring cup
* Cheap rice cooker

Here are the things I can and do live without...

* microwave
* bread maker
* food processor
* slow cooker

Eliza said...

in recovery: Ditto on the rice cooker. If you're living somewhere without a usable kitchen (like, say, a college dorm) then being able to make everything from rice to veggies to fish to chicken to steamed scrambled eggs with one little machine is incredibly valuable.

I still make all my pasta and rice with the rice cooker, and I think frozen vegetables taste better warmed in the cooker than the microwave.

mizinformation said...

I'd like to advocate for the oven thermometer as essential for anyone who uses the oven at all, particularly for people who may move around and have to re-acquaint themselves with a new oven in each apartment. I don't think I've ever had an oven with an accurate thermostat which makes it really easy to ruin baked goods, casseroles, etc..

Kris said...

Inrecovery and Eliza: I never had a rice cooker before I moved in with The Boyfriend. He's had one for years, and we get a lot of use out of it. Who knew?

mizinformation: WORD. I've lived in seven apartments (oh, sweet NYC), and the ovens have been ridiculously varied in each of them. We found that unglazed tiles (in gas ovens) helped to regulate the temps, but yeah, an actual thermometer would have helped tons.

Jen said...

Yeah, that last list is leaving me ?????? --coffeepot?? And don't try to part me from my garlic press, rice cooker, or wok either!

The first list is a good beginning essentials compendium, though.

Laura said...

I'm wondering if some of the items on the last list weren't mentioned simply because people don't even think of them anymore. For example, I wouldn't really think to call my coffee pot kitchen equipment (it's more in the necessary for sustainable life category of things), but I surely use it everyday!

Joe Bartender said...

Nice article, but I couldn't survive without my rice cooker or my coffee pot.

If you eat rice on any kind of regular basis, you will feel like the rice cooker paid for itself right away. I cook rice and use the steaming tray for whatever kind of vegetables I'm in the mood for. Simple and awesome.

Rhea said...

This is an interesting list as I am thinking of going on a long RV/van trip next year. I need to figure out exactly what kitchen stuff I will need ahead of time.

Kaylah said...

Thanks for your guidance about kitchen equipments!!