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Thoughts on equipping a bachelor's kitchen


Malkavian
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So I'm finally getting an apartment to myself (Thank GOODNESS) and i've been going over in my head what i have and what i need to be at least comfortably equipped to cook for 2-3 at the most. I'm operating on what may be considered a small budget initially, but I intend to do this a few items at a time so I'd like to get the best quality I can reasonably afford.

Not necessarily looking for brands or anything that specific, but at least ideas of things that i may be overlooking, some general direction. Also, I'm going by memory on my admittedly scanty equipment so apologies if this is a bit vague.

I have:

Block of harris teeter knives (badly wanting replacing, my last roommates abused these and I don't think they were that great to start)

A few odd, worn pots along the lines of 4 cups, 12 cups, 12 quarts capacity, all coated aluminum i think

Roasting pan w/ rack & lid

granite mortar & pestle

baking/pizza stone

crock pot

digital probe thermometer

The way I see it, I need:

an oven-safe skillet, and dutch oven (cast iron?)

a few high quality knives (sizes?)

digital kitchen scale

assorted gadgets (microplane, grater, can opener, etc)

glass or metal casserole/baking pans in a few sizes

and am considering:

an additional smaller frypan

a straight sided saucepan to replace/supplement the smaller pots

a proper stockpot (need one of these for brewing anyway :D)

Now, I'm in the process of wading through the course on stovetop cookware, but that is, to me, a rather intimidating amount of info to assimilate all in one go, between the course and the Q&A, so I'm hoping to process that alongside suggestions in hopes that it all gels for me.

I think i have a pretty good handle on materials and so forth, but I'm accustomed to making do with just a bare few things, so the variety of sizes, styles, etc is a bit bewildering.

I'll edit/update this as I go through those eG courses and come up with more questions, but in the meantime feedback is as always appreciated :)

Edited by Malkavian (log)
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I built up my kitchen in little bits, based on what I was cooking. When I started working on stews I realized my lack of a dutch oven was a problem. Until that point, I got along fine without one. So you could try just taking it as it comes..

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I would look at garage sales for old cast iron that can he had for pennies on the dollar and be re-seasoned. Restaurant supply for the rest, I just bought a heavy 12x18" end grain wooden chopping block for $28+tax at my local supply.

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It looks like you've got a pretty good handle on the pots and pans side, as stated above start small and add items as you see the need. I'd buy a middle of the road line such as the basic Caphalon lines that are sold in many stores.

As for knives I'd start with an 8" chef's knife, paring knife and a bread knife and a minimum, you may want to add a 6" chef's knife as well. Also by a sharpening device of some type (whatever type you're comfortable with) and a good wood cutting board (preferably end grain). For these I'd buy a pretty good grade of knife because if properly taken care of they will last a long time.

Another device you'll probably want to consider fairly early on is a Kitchenaid mixer, this will function not only as a mixer but it also has many attachments available. See other threads regarding these mixers.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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I'd echo Nibor: take it slowly. Most of my regrettable kitchen-equipment purchases were made when I tried to buy a lot of stuff all at once.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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DON'T buy sets of cookware or knives. Buy open stock and get what you want and will use. Sets always include duds that take up valuable space and are not what you need. Even though sets may look cheaper, trust me, open stock is the way to go.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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I recently went through the same challenges. life after college and then moving to Japan and then again several times within the country. There are two things that I think are really important.

Separate need from want. Can you use something you already have to do the job well enough? In my case this means one pasta capable pot, one fry pan, a wok, and saucepan. The number of times I stood in the le cruset aisle and tried to rationalize to myself why I needed one... Turns out that every time I only wanted one. Don't buy something If you don't have a recipe that needs it. If you must buy something buy the best you can afford. Shop at restaurant supply stores as much as you can.

Simplify. Get rid of everything you can possibly do without. A lean kitchen is an efficient kitchen. You will know each piece of equipment inside and out. What it can do and what it can't. This goes for pantry, serving wear, and especially "gadgets". When you move you will be thankful you only have a few things. Along with this I would say collect things that are "tools". multi-taskers. Yes, invest in a digital scale, thermometer, wok (the leatherman of pans), a good chefs knife, a paring knife, and tools you use at least once a month. Good tools that are sharp, calibrated, and clean prevent waste and promote safety. Think of the home kitchens of south east Asia.

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I'll echo the go slow comments. One thing I didn't see on your list was a set of metal mixing bowls.

I'd also echo the advice about going to restaurant supplies stores (online or brick ones). You will save a ton of money.

Buy a good chef knife. It doesn't have to be the most expensive. There are several threads in this forum that have numerous recommendations.

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This may seem more of a want than a need, but I use it so often that it's almost become a necessity.

One thing I bought when I first got my apartment is the Cuisinart griddler. Think George Foreman grill meets panini maker. Basically, as long as it's not liquidy, you can cook it on this thing. It opens up flat as a griddle also, but I've never really used it that way. The plates are removable non-stick and dishwasher safe. I should really be a spokesperson for Cuisinart.

:biggrin:

Anyways, I can just toss a chunk of protein in the thing and work on some vegetables on the stove, and by the time I'm done, the meat's done too. Combine them on a plate and you've got dinner in under 15 mins. Awesome for 1-2 people.

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You mentioned brewing and dutch oven so I would recommend you get one of those coated steel pots. You know, the speckled things.

Cheap for the capacity, fairly durable, and would serve as brew pot, dutch oven and stock pot. And oven safe.

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I wouldn't even advise that you take advice (except mine, to go slow), because different people have really different usage habits.

When I am away for long periods of time I rent my house out, furnished. And in turn I live in a furnished home or apartment elsewhere. I consider my kitchen well stocked, but each new renter wonders why I don't have X (X in one case was lots of little saucepans, another apparently couldn't live without a non-stick bundt pan).

And similarly, I find myself living in places that lack something I use all the time at home. One apartment did not have a mixing bowl. Another didn't come with a casserole dish or anything you could put in the oven except a huge roasting pan.

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What fun, an excuse to buy kitchen equipment!

Don't forget cutting boards, measuring cups and spoons, spatulas, whisks, sieves, collanders, etc. You don't necessarily need more than one of each, but when you need these things there are no substitutes. Someone mentioned mixing bowls, a great suggestion. You can get inexpensive sets of nested glass mixing bowls of many sizes, and these can be good for serving as well as mixing. Some small bowls for prep are also helpful.

Restaurant supply stores are great resources if you have one nearby. Good quality bakeware, if you like to bake, can be expensive but is much less so at a restaurant supply store. Yard sales are great placed to find cast iron skillets.

You might want to wait before purchasing large equipment such as a KitchenAid mixer or food processor until you know you'll really use them. They're expensive and take up space. My 15 year-old food processor gets a weekly work out, but the KitchenAid mixer I wanted for so long rarely gets used.

As others have said, simplicity is key. I love all my kitchen stuff, but it's the same few things--my chef's knife, a good skillet, mid-size pot, le Crueset casserole, a couple of baking pans--that I reach for again and again.


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Our #3 Son just bought his first house last month, and for Christmas he's getting a "Starter Set" of the RADA knives we all love so much---eight of the most useful ones in a case, plus the handy-dandy cutting board and the sharpener in his stocking.

Also Carte Blanche (within reason) to raid Rachel's pantry shelves for whatever pots, pans, bakeware, gadgets he needs to fill in his arsenal. He's had an apartment for several years, but only recently has cared to cook at home. I knew the yen would kick in sooner or later---he's the only one of the seven who kept fish sticks and Stouffer's mac and cheese in his freezer.

Edited by racheld (log)
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For multi function bowls I would recommend a nesting set of plastic storage containers. When we were first married that I what made the most sense to us. Light, durable and went from prep bowl to leftover container with a quick wash.

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Don't forget tongs! I love mine for all sorts of flipping, mixing, even reaching those high cabinet shelves, that otherwise I'd have to drag over a chair and stand on it to reach ( my sense of balance sucks.) :raz:

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I have a few dirt cheap steel "restaurant' sautee pans. About $35 or so at Amazon. They are slicker than teflon when seasoned properly and live forever.

Lodge has a new line of enameled cast iron, just like Le Creuset at about a 1/4 the price. Amazon has that too.

Amazon also has a discount section for cookwear that has some really great bargains.

eBay sells dig. scales for next to nothing e.g $12 for a 500g model. Be sure to check what the weight range is.

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A while ago there was a thread about this line of pots/pans that Target carries, can't remember the name. I have a few of them, they are heavy-bottomed and dirt cheap.

I'll echo the kitchenaid, you'll also need a cuisinart. You will rule your world with those two things.

For cutlery, don't go crazy at first. I get the most usage out of my chef knife and my offset handle serrated ("z") knife. Buy quality now if you can afford it and build your collection slowly.

Check out Craigslist for cheap/free stuff, I've picked up some great things from that site.

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assorted gadgets (microplane, grater, can opener, etc)

glass or metal casserole/baking pans in a few sizes

The glass casseroles which can go on the cooktop (Corning?) as well as oven and freezer are multi-purposed, especially if they can be fitted w/ a tight plastic lid for storing food. Larger round ones can be used for mixing bowls, souffle dish, and cake pan.

The small tool I miss the most when renting furnished apartments is a strainer or colander.

and am considering:

an additional smaller frypan

a straight sided saucepan to replace/supplement the smaller pots

a proper stockpot (need one of these for brewing anyway :D)

a smaller frypan for "two eggs", or a deeper saute pan of small diameter can also be used for small quantities of braising, or for quick-cooking vegetables.

would the stockpot be a duplication of the 12 cup saucepan? or 12 quart pot?

Depending upon your space and budget situation, I would recommend avoiding appliances such as food processors or stand mixers, unless you already have had a need for such things. Much can be accomplished for 2 or 4 people using a good knife (oh yes, a few lightweight, small 8x6?, cutting boards are handy if you often cook with company). A good quality hand-held mixer takes much less space than a stand mixer, and can look after basic baking needs.

When heading off to cook in an unfamiliar or unequipped kitchen, I carry my tools and equipment in three medium rubbermaid tote boxes. That's all.

Go slowly

Buy tools when you need them for a specific recipe, and only if they can be multi-purposed.

Look for oven-safe handles on cookware.

Dishwasher safe, even if you don't have a dishwasher now.

Karen Dar Woon

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Thanks for all the input guys :D

Karen- the stockpot would be on the order of 24 quarts (for brewing I prefer at least a 24 qt capacity to avoid the possibility of boilover--and that gives me the option of making stock in bulk)

Doodad- I've brewed with that kind of pot in the past and it worked well in that application, was thinking it wouldn't be so hot for cooking because of a) thinness of the metal and b) apparent fragility of the coating BUT at the price it's worth a shot for sure :)

I don't know that I'd use a stand mixer, but a food processor and/or blender would def. get frequent use, so that's on the list.

As I'd often be cooking just for myself, I see a small sauté pan for the above mentioned single portion braising (among other things) being useful as well.

Knives--I discovered i have some small, no-brand paring knives and a 4"ish santoku style blade that are reasonably sharp; reckon I can use those at least till they dull as utility knives, leaving me needing a bread knife and a chef's knife. The bread knife I currently have is serviceable, but it has coarse teeth which makes a horrible mess when cutting crustier loaves--I'd replace it if there was an alternative that wasn't so crumb-y.

I'm accustomed to using what I think of as a "traditional" chef's knife, but def. open to suggestions there as far as shape and whatnot, as I have a small fascination with knives and doubtless will accumulate those more than any other kitchen collectable

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My suggestions:

Ditto on the tongs suggestions. I couldn't function without at least 2.

Consider a couple of half sheet pans. If you purchase them at a restaurant supply shop, they won't cost much. I use them for everything. They can go in the oven under a pot or pie that might boil over. When I'm processing a stewed chicken -- separating the meat from the rest - the half sheet is extremely valuable. I can spread the various pieces out on it so that they cool more quickly, and there's still room to make a pile of bones and skin. Since the pan has sides, juices don't escape. When I add parchment, they become cookie sheets. And when I'm frying or sauteeing something, they cover 2 of my 4 burners to make cleanup easier. In this mode, they also create space for spoons, prep bowls, etc., right next to what you're cooking. They're a godsend in a small kitchen.

I suggest you tape a piece of paper and a pencil on a string inside one of your cabinet doors. When you have those little moments of frustration because you need something you don't have, jot it down. You may not remember those things later.

Don't rule out the Kitchen Aid mixer. It accepts attachments for grinding meat and working with pasta, etc. But it might appropriately be at the bottom of your list.

Definitely with the food processor and blender, purchase the best you can afford.

Consider a potato ricer. It can double as a food mill. Or let a food mill double as a potato ricer. You don't have to peel potatoes to have mashed potatoes; the skins won't go through the little holes. Just dig them out with a fork.

An immersion blender might be a good idea.

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One thing I bought for my friend who uses it all the time and I wish I had myself was a stick/imersion blender that came with the small processor attachment. You just pop off the end of the stick blender and clip it on the processor. It does a great job and is really small, great for 1 or 2 peoples worth of blending. I would get glass mixing bowls personally because the metal ones can react with acidic ingredients if you want to use them to marinade something in.

"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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