My motto is “learn to love real food”, and the only way you are going to get that is by making it yourself. The good news is: It’s not hard and you won’t need much. Chances are you already have everything you need to cook. Now, if you had never, ever in your life made any food before and your kitchen is completely bare, here’s what you should get:
- A good quality knife
If you are only going to have one knife – and I assure you that one is sufficient – spend a bit of money on that. Cheap knives will soon go blunt and only give you grief.
- A chopping board
I have a wooden board, but then I never cut meat. If you do, then a glass board might be your best option as it is the most hygienic. Make sure your board is a good size, large enough to chop a bunch of kale.
- A medium-sized frying pan with a lid
If you have a heavy, cast-iron pan with a lid it can even serve as a wok or saucepan if its sides come up a little higher. You can use it to fry, steam and boil.
- A vegetable peeler
A peeler isn’t just handy for peeling vegetables, but also to slice them into thin strips. You can make courgette, carrot, parsnip and squash noodles that way.
- A bowl
If you are only going to get one bowl, choose one that can be used to mix and hold things such as pancake batter, granola mix or bread dough, but that is pretty enough to sit on your table as a salad bowl. Glass or metal bowls are best for this.
- A wooden spoon
To stir anything, hot or cold.
- An empty jam jar with a lid
This is the best tool to make salad dressings. Just throw in the ingredients, screw the lid on and shake.
- A saucepan
Your frying pan might be able to serve as a saucepan to cook soup, for instance, however if it’s cast iron it might be a little unwieldy. A saucepan is good to have, if you don’t have a kettle to boil water in or heat up some milk.
- A colander or large sieve
You can use it to drain the salad leaves you’ve just washed, to drain pasta, and – if the mesh is fine enough – to sieve your flour. If you do not have a salad spinner, here’s another method to dry your leaves, - but you do need an outdoor space: Drain your salad leaves, put them into a clean cotton bag, close the bag securely with a tie and then, holding the bag’s handles in one hand, rotate your arm as fast as you can to spin it. That’s why you need the outdoor space … (It might be worth getting a salad spinner though. See below.)
- A roasting dish
This is to make roasted vegetables, roasted potatoes, pasta bakes, or lasagne. You can also use it to make bread or cook fish.
I am guessing you already have cutlery, a glass, a mug or cup, a plate and a bowl. If not do get them, not just to eat off, but also because they are useful for measuring things.
Speaking of measuring, if you live in the UK (and not North America) it would probably be a good idea to get some
- Kitchen scales
Most recipes in European cookbooks use weight (metric or imperial: grams, kilograms, ounces) rather than volume (litres, cups) to measure out solids such as butter, sugar, vegetables etc.
A little luxury?
Above is (what I consider) the bare minimum, with which you can do a lot. Here is a list of more useful kitchen things if you can splash out a little more:
- A salad spinner
This is a very inexpensive, but extremely useful item to dry dripping wet salad leaves. If your leaves are properly dried, your salad will take up the dressing more easily and last longer if you put it back in the fridge (undressed, of course).
- A kettle
Yes, you can use a saucepan to heat up water, but the kettle is infinitely faster. Just make sure to only ever boil as much as you need to conserve energy.
- A spatula
This is probably even more useful than a kettle. You’ll need one to flip your pancakes and burgers and get fried eggs out of the pan.
- A whisk
This is required to stir things together that don’t like to mix (oil and vinegar) or to beat something together, such as eggs and butter in baking. You’ll also need one to beat up egg whites. All of this is of course easier with a food processor, but they are a little more expensive.
- A steamer basket
You could just steam your veg by putting them into your frying pan (with lid) with a small amount of water, but a steamer basket is super cheap and very handy. The fold-out ones can be adjusted to fit different size saucepans.
- A cake tin
If you are going to bake cake, you are going to need a cake tin. The shape has no effect on the taste of your cake, so pick your favourite. Most recipes are for small cakes that fit a 20 cm round tin or a 9”x5” rectangular one.
- A cookie sheet
Not just for cookies or biscuits, also for pizza, homemade chips, roasted vegetables, baked falafel …
- A microplane
Now I am getting almost fancy, but I do use mine a lot. It can grate ginger and garlic, zest lemons and oranges, even grate parmesan very finely.
- A tin opener
Maybe this is a little low down in the list, but as you are now making your own food, you won’t need to buy many more tins and when you do, they might have a ring pull. But then they might not, so I guess it’s best to have one of these in your drawer.
All tins are lined with plastic, which has its drawbacks as undesirable substances can leach into the food from plastic, especially when the tins contain acidic food such as tomatoes. Consider getting passata – available in glass jars – instead. Beans and pulses are much cheaper if bought dry, then cooked and frozen. That leaves very few tins to buy, maybe anchovies or other fish.
Are you missing the garlic crusher? It’s not a mistake, I don’t think they are a requirement. I usually just chop my garlic with my lovely big kitchen knife. If it goes into a salad dressing, I might grate it using the microplane. No garlic crusher has cluttered up my kitchen drawer for years.