A couple of friends have asked me how they go about furnishing a kitchen. We’re at an age where maybe you’re getting serious about fleshing out your goods to cook with, or maybe you’re getting married and you are registering and realize you don’t know what you need – or you don’t know what to upgrade, and what to leave behind.
Until Jeff and I got married last year, we used IKEA plates. We still sometimes use them. They are fine, because I am the queen of dropping a stack of plates in our ceramic sink and breaking them in one fell swoop. (I have only broken one of the new plates, don’t worry.) We use wine glasses from various wineries we’ve been to in LA, and have a few fancy ones that George picked out.
But the items that do most of the heavy lifting in the kitchen? Those things I’ve had for years and will have for years to come. So here is a list of things that I use in my kitchen on the regular, and why I think you should have them. Total, this list is under $450, and well worth the cost. I’ve put them in the order that I think you should buy them in, too.
Cast Iron Skillet – I have an Emeril Cast Iron Skillet that my BFF got me some years ago after she stayed with us (completely unreasonable, but so very much appreciated.) I use this probably every day, but at least six days a week. I use it to make eggs in the morning, to make cobbler in for desserts, to make quesadilla and taco filling, pretty much for everything you can think of. Mine is 12 inches, and it’s given me quite the arm strength. This will be the only skillet you need in your kitchen if you get it. Cast iron is naturally non-stick (although you do need to add some oil/butter), cleans easily, and even adds a skotch of iron to your food. Cost: $25.17
Knives – Let me tell you a story. We were in Big Bear with our friends on vacation, and I forgot to bring my own knife (I pretty much bring my own knife everywhere I go if I’m cooking, even friends’ houses, so this was a big deal.) I was trying to cut shallots – NOT EVEN ONIONS, SHALLOTS – and we had about 10 people in the kitchen and slowly but surely they dropped like flies because the air was thick with shallot juices and everyone was crying. I just kept saying, “This is why you have sharp knives! Do you hear me?!” like an insane person. But it’s true, you guys. I am going to say something maybe scandalous – it doesn’t matter how amazing your knives are – just make sure they’re SHARP. Sharper they are, the less likely you are to cut yourself. Here’s the Knife Set that I have that I love. And here is a sharpener! Cost: $166.49
Cutting Board: This one seemed obvious to me, but you need cutting boards in your kitchen – and not cheap plastic one. If you want to only spend a little, get two – one with a juice edge like this one, and then one regular one. Cost: $24.95
Colander – I have several strainers – small ones for berries, a mesh one for rinsing grains, and a big one like this to drain pasta, veggies, etc. If you’re only going to invest in one, I suggest a good sized mesh one that can do it all – but it won’t be as pretty as the colored ones. You can also use your colander as a fruit bowl when it’s not being used, so remember that as an option to save cabinet space. Cost: $16.95
Image from Inspired by This
Mixing Bowls – These are helpful for a variety of things. Putting snacks out for a party, making baked goods, pureeing soups/stews/etc. I highly suggest these Baker Bowls from Crate and Barrel. They’re pretty, they wash easily, and they stack. They had these years ago (when they were called Parker Bowls) and they stopped making them for a couple years and Jeff called every Crate & Barrel within 100 miles to see if he could find one last set for me, that’s how much I loved them. They didn’t, but now they’re back, so get at them! Cost: $39.95
Basic Utensils – You can get by in the kitchen with some basic utensils. Might I suggest a whisk (or two, one tiny one large), some wooden spoons, a ladle, a slotted spoon, a good spatch, and some tongs. This will get you through most things the kitchen is going to throw at you. Corelyn and I took too long to invest in tongs, and we’ve cursed the years we wasted without them. I have two containers of utensils in my kitchen, and I use the same four or five pieces over and over again. Cost: $30-40
Cheese Grater – You can use your grater for a lot of things that aren’t cheese. I like to buy blocks of cheese because it’s cheaper than buying grated cheese and because they are less processed (ever think of how they get that cheese to stay separate?) but think bigger. You can use your cheese grater to grate nutmeg, ginger, or garlic into dishes. You can grate potatoes for hash brownies. You can grate veggies for breads or casseroles. You can zest citrus with your cheese grater! I have a Microplane zester, too, but you don’t even need that, truth be told – that trusty cheese grater can do the trick! Cost: $7.51
Dutch Oven – I have a Lodge Enamel Dutch Oven. I don’t even know how this one came into my hands – a present at some holiday years ago. I use this bad boy for soups, stews, searing meat and then popping it into the oven, deep frying things (I know, we’re bad!) and pretty much anything else that requires stove top time and in-oven time. Again, this transfers from one to the other, so you can’t go wrong – you can sear a piece of brisket then pop it in the oven to finish cooking, for example. Cost: $67.82
Immersion Blender – Immersion Blender to save you space, and time. This blender can do almost anything a regular one can, and it saves time and clean up. Cost: $33.20
There you have it – what I think you need in your kitchen. Foodies out there, what did I miss that’s an essential everyday item? Let me know!