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Kitchen Rules series: Part 2 “Kitchen Essentials – How Well Stocked is Your Kitchen?”

February 17, 2010

 

The first part of our “Kitchen Rules” series was about the importance of a good recipe and quality ingredients.  This segment will focus on another important aspect of baking: kitchen essentials. 

By essentials, we mean anything that you use to get the job done, from start to finish, whether you are cooking or baking.  It could include cookbooks (see our “Recommended Cookbooks” page for some suggestions, both baking and regular cooking), cookware, cook’s tools, electrics, bakeware, and even tabletop “must-haves.”  Below you will find a separate section for each of these categories with some helpful tips and suggestions for building the perfect kitchen repertoire! 

1) Cookbooks:  We cannot emphasize the importance of good recipes.  We are literally obsessed with recipes and cookbooks.  In our opinion, there is no such thing as too many cookbooks.  Between the two of us, we also subscribe to several cooking/baking magazines (Everyday Food, Food Network, Better Homes & Gardens, Cake Central, and Gourmet, just to name a few).  We’ve already told you about our obsession with cookbooks (see “Recommended Cookbooks”).  Bottom line?  Go forth and buy many cookbooks!  I am in the habit of buying at least one per month; since I created a Wishlist on Amazon.com for all things cooking and baking related, I just go there, pick one, and press “order”.  

2) Cookware (AKA pots and pans):  Good cookware is extremely important.  Many moons ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I went out to buy cookware and discovered how expensive it could be.  Due to budgetary constraints, I purchased cheap pots and pans; sooner than later I found myself back at the store buying the expensive ones.  Food stuck to my pans, they scorched easily, and I ruined many a good meal in those cheap ones.  Now I only buy certain brands.  We are not about to tell you specific brands to purchase but we are going to encourage you to pick from the good ones, depending on your needs:  All-Clad, Calphalon, Le Creuset, Mauviel, and Ruffoni.  (Note: some only specialized in certain items).  There are certainly more middle-of-the-road options that are not as hard on the wallet (Farberware), but just be sure to do your research before you put down a load of money on them.  Read customer reviews; fellow users are going to be brutally honest if they don’t like a particular brand.  Many of the big-name chefs from Food Network and the like have their own brands now too, which can be a good option since this is their area of expertise.  Like any other big, important purchase, just do your homework and don’t be cheap.  If you can’t afford it all at once, buy a starter set (saucepans and a skillet or two) and add to it as you go! 

3) Cook’s tools and utensils:  This part would be too long to include here so we are making it a separate segment of the “Kitchen Rules” series.  Look for “Part 3: Utensils” next week! 

4) Electrics: We are going under the assumption that at the very least, your kitchen has a stove/oven, microwave, toaster, and coffee maker (if not, then move!)  Beyond that, the following items are must-haves and can run a pretty penny, so save up and make room, because they are worth it!  (Tip:  ask for these as presents for birthdays or major holidays!)  The first on the list is a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.  We simply cannot live without ours!  They are heavy-duty and you can walk away to take care of other things while they do the work for you.  Next is the hand-mixer.  Yes, you still need one, for smaller jobs for which the stand mixer is just too much.  Good brands are Kitchen Aid and Cuisinart.  A heavy-duty blender and food processor are next.  Again, Kitchen Aid and Cuisinart make excellent ones.  It took me a while to convince my mother to get a food processor and now she wonders how she ever did without it!  If you have the money, then we also suggest a stick blender, kitchen scale, and electric meat thermometer.  Some things that are nice to have but not necessary are an ice cream maker, bread machine, waffle iron, coffee grinder, and electric juicer.  Some would say a pasta maker too, but you can always get the pasta attachment for your Kitchen Aid stand mixer. 

5) Bakeware:  Ah…our personal favorite!  As with cookware, bakeware comes in a variety of materials such as aluminum, nonstick and glass.  I have a variety for different purposes.  Most are heavy aluminum that resists sticking. I have both stone and glass pie plates.  Good bakeware will cost money and, like me, you will want to purchase pieces gradually.  The good news is it will last a lifetime with proper care.  Most people have a cookie sheet and maybe a brownie pan, but that is about it.  A good baker has all of the following, at the very least: round bake pans (at least two that are 8″ or 9″), springform pan, rectangular baking pan (9″x13″), square baking pan (8″x8″ or 9″x9″), loaf pan, flat baking sheet, baking sheet with rim, pie plate, and  muffin/cupcake tins (at least two).  Some splurges would be tart pans, jelly-roll pan, angel food cake pan, and Bundt pan.  Because I bake cakes so often, much of my bakeware happens to be Wilton brand, but another good company is Chicago Metallic.  Again, figure out what you need and do your research!

6) Table Top: Everyone appreciates a beautifully set table.  The key here is to pick a pattern or color scheme that you can easily add to over time.  I love bold bright colors, so I purchased dinnerware that was sturdy (remember, I have three kids) and colorful.  I have easily been able to add to it by getting pieces that match those colors without  needing to be a part of the original set.  Some people swear by all-white place settings because it is clean, classy, and goes with everything.  Go with whatever works for you.  A great place to get fun stuff is Home Goods, but anywhere that sells table top items works just as well.  Some basics to have (and in at least service for eight) are: salad plates, soup bowls, dinner plates, mugs, dessert plates, serving platters (oval and rectangular, medium and large), cloth napkins, tablecloths, placemats, wine glasses, flatware, and candle holders.  

Hope these tips help to get you on the road to a well-equipped kitchen.  Now get out there and shop!  

Need a place to start?  A variety of retailers offer the equipment listed above.  For the best prices, try local discount or department stores.  For the best selection, turn to local kitchen stores or mail order retailers like Chef’s Catalog at www.chefscatalog.com/ or (800) 884-2433 and Williams-Sonoma at www.williams-sonoma.com/ or (800) 541-0015.  

Next in the series:  “Part 3: Utensils”.

Happy baking! 

Christina and Meghan

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 3:25 PM

    Don’t know what I’d do without my pistachio Kitchen Aid and my Cream HUGE Le Creuset!!!!

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