These days, walking into a kitchen store or a kitchenware department can make even experienced cooks feel a bit underprepared. With the proliferation of kitchen gadgets, high-priced luxury cookware, and professional equipment at professional prices, the prospect of preparing a home-cooked meal can seem positively daunting. Any good cook, however, will caution against worrying about not having some appliance or gadget; instead, by focusing on core essentials, anyone can prepare delicious meals at home without breaking the bank.
Those starting a kitchen from scratch will do well to focus on the foundational elements of a well-stocked toolkit. A chef’s knife, paring knife, and bread knife will provide all the cutting power necessary in the kitchen; everything else is just filling up space in a giant knife block. While you may drool over the expensive all-clad skillets, a far cheaper cast-iron option will offer fantastic results with just a bit of care. A medium-sized, all-purpose pot is another essential investment, as is a good wooden spoon. Add in a cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl, and a baking pan, and anyone can make excellent food without any trouble.
Of course, this kind of minimalist cooking set-up can be supplemented with a few useful appliances. Many people will enjoy having a blender or hand-blender, while a slow cooker can deliver incredible flavor with very little effort. Many experts also recommend picking up a digital thermometer to prepare meat perfectly, a microplane or zester to add delicious flavor to foods, and an inexpensive scale to precisely measure ingredients for baking. After you’ve set up these elements, it’s easy to add other tools as necessary, such as larger roasting pans or pie dishes for holiday cooking, or a fine stand mixer for baking enthusiasts. When you’re just getting started, however, you should begin with the basics, and if you’re sure to purchase quality products, you may very well be cooking with these simple tools for many years to come.