What pieces of kitchen equipment are absolutely necessary? I’ve been working on the pantry and equipment chapter of ‘The Feast of the Dove,’ and I have counsel to share on the topic.
Over the years, I have set up a home kitchen from scratch on more than a dozen occasions. Some have been temporary, as when the movers haven’t yet delivered my belongings; others have been established because a new start required it. Some have been kitchens that I helped someone else set up. These are the pieces of kitchen equipment I consider essential to be able to feed myself and others well.
Perhaps you’re helping a younger person set up their own first kitchen. You can provide them with what they need to make a good start as they begin their cooking journey.
Kitchen equipment you can buy used
If your budget is tight, look for these two pieces in thrift shops and second-hand stores. If a cast iron piece looks rusty or worn, you can restore it without too much trouble. Care for cast iron properly and it will last for generations.
The first thing I look for is a heavy 10-inch skillet, with a lid if possible. I’ll choose cast iron over nonstick for its durability and utility. Properly seasoned and cared for, a cast iron skillet is virtually nonstick anyway. I want this for sautéing and for preparing one-pot meals such as hashes, something-with-rice, and even small batches of stew-y things, perhaps to serve over biscuits.
The next piece of kitchen equipment I seek is a large, heavy pot. Stainless steel, enamel-over-steel, and cast iron are all good choices. Choose wisely, so that its lid will also fit your skillet. It can double as a Dutch oven if it’s heavy enough. Its size will depend on the size of your family; for a single person, a three- to five-quart pot is perfect for soups and stews. Logically, larger families will need larger sizes.
Saucepans, sieves and colanders, and other specialty kitchen equipment can wait, however. With just these two pieces, you or your favorite beginning cook can prepare an incredible range of good, satisfying food.
Buy some things new
Your kitchen equipment arsenal should also include a few utensils. Buy these new, because they’re inexpensive and you can choose higher quality. I know I’ll need a wooden spoon and a pancake turner, a good chef’s knife and a paring knife. The knives are often be available in sets, and that’s helpful. I like this set from Fiskars for high quality at a good price.
You’ll need some dish towels. I buy bar towels by the dozen, rather than decorator towels. In my own kitchen, I use these, folded into quarters, instead of potholders.
The paring knife will stand in for a vegetable peeler. Other gizmos — garlic crushers, jar openers, cooking timers, for example — can come later, if ever. Minimalism and multiple-function tools go hand-in-hand when it comes to kitchen essentials.
That’s it, really.
It’s a nice touch, if you’re helping someone else to set up a new kitchen, to provide a little homemade cookbook of their favorites that includes recipes suited to these pieces of kitchen equipment. I still have — and use — the file of 3-by-5 cards that my late sister made for me when she helped me get my first kitchen up and running. It’s a near-daily reminder of the powerful influence she had in my life. It’s also the one piece of my kitchen equipment that I consider absolutely essential.