Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Throwback: Cheap Healthy Good’s Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Equipment

Every Saturday, we post a piece from the CHG archives, which are coincidentally located in the same warehouse where Indiana Jones stashed the Ark of the Covenant. This articles comes from November 2007.

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?)

Cake pans (8” or 9” round or square)
Can opener
Casserole dish (9x13 or 8x8)
Chef’s knife (8” or 10”)
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
Wooden spoon

Blender (Blender/food processor combo)
Box grater
Glass liquid measures (2+ cups)
Hand mixer
Kitchen shears
Microplane grater
Pie pan
Rolling pin

Bottle opener
Cast iron skillet
Cooling rack
Knife sharpener
Loaf pan
Meat thermometer
Muffin tin
Pastry brush
Pepper grinder
Salad spinner
Slotted spoon

Bulb baster
Carving/slicing knife
Coffee/spice grinder
Melon baller
Pressure cooker
Rotary eggbeater
Slow cooker
Toaster or toaster oven

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
Garlic press
Jar opener
Mortar and pestle
Oven thermometer
Pastry blender
Removable-bottom tart pan
Rice cooker
Ridged grill pan
Springform pan
Vegetable brush

(All photos courtesy of Flickr.)

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Smiley Leslie said...

haha i have to disagree that a coffee pot is only occasionally convenient! its the only thing i can guarantee gets used every morning!

great list though!
i realized the other day i didn't have a potatoe masher when I wanted to mash potatoes... i used my whisk and a fork... it sort of kinda of worked...

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to not see "mesh strainer", at least in the "Highly Useful" category. Even as a once-in-a-while cook, I find that a small wire mesh strainer has many uses and a good one can save you money by serving multiple purposes, including citrus juicing (catches seeds), loose tea strainer, sifter for small amounts of dry items in baking, powder sugar/cocoa sifter, etc.

CJ said...

Absolute basics- I would leave out the cake pans and add in the cast iron skillet, coffee pot and glass measuring cup. For this one, those are essentials.

Diane said...

Interesting. I mostly agree with the first two lists (must have/highly useful). But the "don't waste your time" list contains some items I cannot live without.

The list seems very western-centric. I cook mainly Indian and Thai food, and while I could (and do) live without a cake pan, I could not live without some things on the "don't waste your money" list.

Cleaver: Very hard to do "big old third world stews" without hacking meat into smaller bits. I suppose I could ask the butcher to do it for me, but I use it a lot. Weekly at least. And I would never use my good chef's knife to hack through bone.

Mortar & Pestle: I have four of these and use them all. Impossible to do my curries without the big 40# granite one. I use the small marble one daily for pulverizing ginger or garlic, grinding pepper, grinding cumin, etc. And I have one just for making green papaya salad (OK, that's pretty darn esoteric). Anyhow, I absolutely could not live without the big one, if I had to pick just one. A food processor chops. It cannot make the well-integrated paste that you need for a curry. It just can't.

Wok: Again - I use mine almost every day. I have three - a small Indian karhai, a 14" standard-sized wok, and a big 16" one for parties. Skillets don't work as well for the kind of cooking I do.

And lastly - not Asian, but...
Springform pan: I use this as my cake pan & find it more convenient than a cake pan. But that's a matter of preference I suppose.

Ducks said...

Oh but I loooooove my apple corer. It's the simple kind that simply reams the core out of the fruit: it's wonderful for prepping apples and pears for my hubby to eat out of hand, as he otherwise leaves 70% of the fruit around the core for fear of biting into it. I recognize that not all people will find this necessary, but it sure makes him happy (and me too, as I hate to waste food.)

Cindy said...

Excellent list! thanks so much for the info. My daughter is moving into her first apartment so this info will really come in handy.

Marcia said...

You can take my bread machine, rice cooker, and garlic press when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands. For a full time working mom, they are necessities, not "don't waste your money".

Katie said...

I use quite a few European recipes and find that I use the scale more the measuring cups some weeks. So as far as scales go, it depends on your cooking.

Anonymous said...

A microwave is "occasionally convenient"? I'd agree with that, but I think many home cooks would see it as essential. I'm surprised that a food processor doesn't appear as a stand alone entry and that stand mixers aren't on the list. I'm also surprised that food mills and potato ricers don't appear on the list at all.

The absolute basics, highly useful stuff and about half of the nice to haves are essential in my kitchen.


That was a fun list - I have every item except a salad spinner. I even had one of those, but I found I could use my strainer first, and then pat dry with the flour-sack cloths that I simply love for rolling pastry out on.

I looked at the last category:

Apple corer - love mine; great for when you want to stuff baked apples or any fruit/vegetable.
Boning knife - very very helpful and best for cleaning fish.
Bread machine - If you're known for making bread as gifts, this comes in super handy.
Butcher knife (I took this to mean cleaver.)- I like it for huge cuts of meat and the back-side as a hammer to tenderize and flatten meat.
Candy/frying thermometer - a must have if you want to make perfect candy and fry at the proper temperature.
Citrus press - I confess, I don't use it as much as when the children were at home.
Cooking fork - I also don't use this as much as I did.
Cotton flour-sack towels - Use them every week!
Countertop convection oven - Mine is both a convection and microwave unit, and I use it as much as 3 times a day.
Custard cups - I use these as portion-control cooking and serving pieces.
Double boiler - Again, for making candy - a must!
Fondue set (pretty, but useless)- This is great for serving hot steamed vegetables and kabob foods - everyone gets their own fork. Looks nice on the table and handy on the picnic table.
Food scale - use this for my husband's diet.
Freezer thermometer - use this to be sure things are kept at the proper temperature.
Funnel - use this for canning.
Garlic press - I use this for when I only want the juice.
Griddle - Use this weekly; both inside and outside.
Jar opener - my old hands need it.
Mortar and pestle - love mine.
Oven thermometer - my old oven has to be 'monitored'.
Pastry blender - perfect for getting the best pie-crust.
Removable-bottom tart pan - also perfect for souffles and quiches.
Rice cooker - it's not just for rice - very handy.
Ridged grill pan - perfect for grilled sandwiches
Ruler - everyone has one of this around the house even if they don't cook/bake.
Skewers - I love mine.
Springform pan - I love mine.
Wok - I use this often.
Vegetable brush - I actually use a basting 'mop' and use the vegetable brush (dry) to whisk off the car seats.

christiems said...

No garlic press, huh? Hmmm...I love mine because I find it so cumbersome to mince it with a knife. Any tips for that?

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree about the oven thermometer. Most home ovens are not properly calibrated, meaning the actual temperature varies dramatically from what the markings on the knob indicate. If you're not getting your oven checked on a regular basis, an oven thermometer is almost a must.

CLAMCO said...

I agree. Oven thermometer is a must! My oven is off by 20 degrees and even though it beeps after the preheat, it's never up to temp.

Lizalopoli said...

I love my rice cooker! And I have to admit that I use both of my citrus presses (one for lime, one for lemon) a lot!

UlteriorHealth said...

A couple of suggestions for your list.

The cookware should be stainless or cast iron, and never aluminum.

As to Highly Useful, it is relative. Making our own junk food is an annual obsession. I can run a few hundred apples through my corer/slicer faster than I could slice them by hand. Then I dry them in a food dryer.

I too would ditch the cake pan but for my wife, it would be an essential piece of equipment.

Kris said...

Thanks for the responses, everyone. It's funny how things change in three years. I've gotten a ton of use out of skewers, a cooking fork, and my food scale. And life without a coffeemaker would be a futile existence indeed.

Oh, 2007. You were good times.