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Helping your non-foodie friends set up a kitchen


Dakki
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So a friend from another forum asked for help in setting up his kitchen after we convinced him cooking for himself is cheaper, tastier and healthier than eating things that come in a box with a clown on it. This is a copy-paste from the post I made there, I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts and suggestions on what you really need to get started.

Particularly interested in cookbooks. I'm thinking you can't fail with JoC, but I'd really like to point him to something that covers ingredients and techniques for utter novices. I have an old copy of Charles Delmar's "The Essential Cook" that helped me a lot when I was starting out but the nutritional information is hilariously outdated (replace butter with margarine whenever you can for health reasons? Seriously?) and some of the vocabulary is, well, who the heck calls a spatula a "pancake turner"?

Well, Matt said he'd start cooking once he got back to the US. I think he was feeling left out. And I said he could set up a sweet kitchen with a couple hundred bux. Let's see!

Start with knives

Chef's, bread and paring. Forschner's (Victorinox) are universally considered to have the best performance/price.

10" Chef's

http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Cutlery10-Inch-Chefs-Fibrox-Handle/dp/B0000CF8YO/ref=pd_sim_k_28

Bread

http://www.amazon.com/Forschner-Victorinox-Bread-Fibrox-Handle/dp/B000Q9EICG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265098827&sr=1-4

Paring

http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Cutlery-3-25-Inch-Paring-Polypropylene/dp/B0019WXPQY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265098669&sr=1-2

No discussion of knives is complete without cutting boards. Wood > plastic. Remember to use one exclusively for poultry.

http://www.amazon.com/Farberware-3-Piece-Wood-Cutting-Board/dp/B00005JRI8/ref=pd_sim_k_14

Stovetop

This is actually exactly what I have and I'm very happy with it.

Skillet. Cast iron. Big. It just makes you say AMERICA: HELL YEAH.

http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Logic-Pre-Seasoned-Cast-Iron-Skillet/dp/B00063RWUM/ref=pd_sim_k_16

The Internet thinks Calphalon is overpriced. I agree it's overpriced at retail, but who the hell pays retail?

http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Commercial-9-Piece-Hard-Anodized-Cookware/dp/B0007KQZ3O/ref=pd_sim_k_8

That set plus the skillet takes care of everything except a large shallow pan with a lid, to make sauces etc with.

http://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Commercial-Hard-Anodized-12-Inch-Everyday/dp/B00006FX83/ref=pd_sim_k_3

Into the oven

Pyrex does everything and this set is pretty complete, plus it has lids so you can use it for storing your awesome homemade foods in the fridge. Much nicer than Tupperware, let me tell you.

http://www.amazon.com/Pyrex-Bakeware-19-Piece-Baking-Clear/dp/B0002T1G3Y/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265099335&sr=1-5

Weights and Measures

Coe says you don't need a kitchen scale but Coe is wrong. It's the only way to accurately measure solids.

This one is digital, which is much more accurate than spring-type and much less fiddly than bar-type. The tare feature is awesome, as are metric/imperial conversions. Also, you can pick a color. HINT: CHOOSE BLACK.

http://www.amazon.com/Escali-Primo-Digital-Multifunctional-Scale/dp/B0007GAWNW/ref=sr_1_28?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265099908&sr=1-28

You'll need measuring spoons and a clear cup for liquids.

http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-International-19-Piece-Measuring-Set/dp/B0014Y4X3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265100069&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Frieling-USA-2206050096-Perfect-Beaker/dp/B001BDLWE8/ref=sr_1_55?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265100671&sr=1-55

Thermometers. Yes, you will need them. Both of them. The meat thermometer tells you when you can eat the chicken without dying and the oven thermometer keeps things from burning because the oven's thermostat is broken. The oven thermostat is ALWAYS broken.

http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Classic-Style-Meat-Thermometer/dp/B00004XSC0/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&s=kitchen&qid=1265100859&sr=1-15

http://www.amazon.com/MIU-90069-Commercial-Oven-Thermometer/dp/B000JO0AHU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265101008&sr=1-1

Random tools and stuff

(I wouldn't actually buy this stuff from Amazon, just go to the supermarket or something and pick something that looks good)

Metal scratches, nylon melts. HOW DO I SOLVE THIS CONUNDRUM?!

http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Chen-Burnished-5-Piece-Utensil/dp/B0009XYW4I/ref=pd_sim_k_96

Whisk.

http://www.amazon.com/NorPro-Norpro-2365-Whip-Set/dp/B0017GZDSK/ref=sr_1_63?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1265101689&sr=1-63

Peeler.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0012GZA9M/ref=s9_simi_gw_p79_t1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1T6YEVRK1RWJF678ARQ4&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846

11.44 for a can opener?! You gotta be shittin' me. Just get one at the supermarket. Can't be over 3 bucks.

http://www.amazon.com/Amco-Swing-107RD-Compact-Opener/dp/B001CD9DES/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=home-garden&qid=1265102712&sr=1-4

Electric gadgets

Food processors and mixers/beaters are nice but you really only need a blender and a toaster.

This one has a faucet and, hey, eighteen bucks. I think the faucet is pretty useless but that's just me.

http://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-54614-Wavestation-Dispensing/dp/B000SAS5B8/ref=sr_1_53?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=home-garden&qid=1265102320&sr=1-53

A toaster. It toasts bread. It also defrosts bread you froze. Pretty essential if you ask me.

http://www.amazon.com/Maxi-Matic-Cuisine-2-Slice-Variable-Temperature/dp/B0006A0GP8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&s=home-garden&qid=1265102535&sr=1-2

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Considering how much peeling most people do, that peeler is whack.

Send them to "Bed Bath and Beyond My Means" for an Oxo -- and show them that the peeler works on both the up and down stroke. I only recently learned this. Now I can peel a 10-pound bag of potatoes in a matter of minutes.

Bamboo scrapers and spatchula? I don't like them one bit. I'd send them in search of silicone -- it won't melt, or scratch, and it's a hell of a lot easier to make an omelette with one. Also, bamboo tongs don't have the grabbing power to grab what needs to be grabbed. I'd rather have a good metal set of tongs for manipulating heavy items (especially when a quart of hot fat is involved).

Your friend will need a sharpening stone and a steel for the knives. Here is a nice, inexpensive one.

Oven mitts! Here's one area where Alton and I are in complete agreement -- buy them at the hardware store, in the welding supply section. It's only $5 to $10 that way. I'll put my $10 welding gloves against anything sold in kitchen supply stores for a lot more money.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Sounds like a reasonable list (and well done to the guy for being willing to try. Another foodie may yet be born ...).

We found a good book a while back which covers basic techniques like scrambling eggs and allows the user to build up to some quite sophisticated stuff. This one, I think - Amazon USA doesn't seem to have it but the UK does.

A strainer/sieve/chinois? Or is that too advanced at this stage?

One possible modification to the electric section. I've recently (well, last couple of years) become particularly fond of my stick blender. It's a Braun, decent power (can't remember - 600 watts?) and came as a set with the usual blending stick plus whisk, ice crusher and a couple of mini food processors the power handle plugs into. Extremely versatile, and takes up much less room than a 'normal' blender. Just watch out for the processor blades when you reach into the drawer it lives in ...

And thank you, thank you, thank you for insisting he has some kitchen scales!

Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

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I am a very serious home cook and I didn't have scales or thermometer for a very long time, and neither did any of the people I grew up watching cook. To me, these are advanced nice-to-haves (one exception: if our newbie wants to spend his weekends snuggled up with Rose Levy Beranbaum. Which I doubt.)

I too would replace the blender with a stick blender. I haven't dragged out a regular blender in over five years.

Cookbook I give to friends who are beginners: Bittman, How to Cook Everything. Runner-up: something from the Cook's Illustrated series, suppers or dinners or whatever theme applies to the recipient's taste/style.

Equipment addendum: one cookie sheet. Not just for cookies, but for roasting many things, putting under other things in the oven that might boil over, using as a surface for refrigerating things, etc.

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There is a book, Will Cook for Sex, which has some basic menus and techniques. It's also fun :)

As for tools...

"reasonable" knives

peeler

fine mesh and medium mesh strainers

bowls of various sizes

a couple of good saucepans, and a good skillet

2nd hand stores can be a reasonable source of kitchen gear.

Karen Dar Woon

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If you're willing to be patient, you can accumulate a great set of stuff for astonishingly cheap but if you want to get everything all in one go, expect to pay a 100 - 200% premium.

Knives:

They seemed to have sadly stopped selling them but the Kai Wasabi Gyuto is a ridiculous bargain at $30 which is only $2 more than your Victorinox. Don't bother spending amazon prices for bread/paring knives. I've picked them up for $3 at a restaurant supply store.

I owned the Faberware set and they all split within a year. Go with bamboo instead, it's slightly less cheap but far better made. There's a set at Costco that I think was $20 for 2 that are still going strong.

Pans:

Your suggestion seems very skillet heavy to me. That's fine if you do a lot of sauteeing but I would probably supplement that with a cheap, SS pasta pot instead of the wide pan.

Oven:

Pyrex is good for casseroles etc but I like hotel pans + silpats for things like roast potatoes etc. I would say get 1 or 2 pyrex pieces and 4 or 5 different Steel pans.

Weights & Measures:

If you have a scale, there's no way you need that many measuring cups. I have a single 2 cup pyrex measuring beaker and that's all I need. I suppose if you're a beginner cook, tsp/tbsp measures might be helpful but I've always eyeballed them.

Thermometers:

Digital only please. I have a digital probe thermometer & a digital instant read thermometer, both by CDN. Oven thermometers can be analog but stick with digital for the rest.

Tools:

I am devoted to the OXO Good Grips line. I have a peeler, can opener, tongs & whisk that I wouldn't part with for the world. I wouldn't even consider any other brand for these. As much as I love microplanes, a cheap grater has worked fine for me all these years. Bamboo spoon over silicone is a definite for me but I understand most foodies are switching to silicone now. You didn't suggest ladles & spatulas but, IMO, these are also essential.

Gadgets:

A cheap hand blender is an easier investment than a blender and if you find you do need a blender, it makes sense to invest in a decent one. Get a hand blender with a mini-prep attachment. It's a great compromise over a full food processer. Microwave is a must, Spice grinder is a nice-to-have and only $20. A hand mixer is also.

My advice: Go to a restaurant supply store and buy anything that you want as cheap as possible. Then supplement that with amazon purchases for where quality matters.

PS: I am a guy.

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For beginning cooks, using American recipes, it's helpful to have a range of measuring cups and spoons, plus the clear one for liquids. Pyrex is also good for heating small amounts of food, melting butter, etc., in the microwave. I have the Norpro set of cups and spoons. It was $10.

11.44 for a can opener?! You gotta be shittin' me. Just get one at the supermarket. Can't be over 3 bucks.

I truly appreciate my high-end can opener. It's the best "righty/lefty-friendly" model I've tried.

oh, and ditto MIG's cookie sheet recommendation.

If your friend is willing to spend a little more money at some point, then a countertop convection oven/toaster oven (about $150), is very handy for cooking for 1 or 2. I've roasted chickens and vegetables, baked cookies, baked a loaf of bread...

Karen Dar Woon

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ScoopKW: I fully agree with your suggestions about the stone and steel, but I think my friend already has sharpening equipment. I use hardwood spoons and spatulas and I think they're much nicer than silicone - which is probably much nicer than bamboo, so I'll change my suggestion. Welding gloves is a great idea and something I need to get for myself- I make do with old-fashioned cloth potholders.

jk1002: Thanks for the book suggestions.

lesliec: A fine-mesh strainer at least is a definite must. I don't know how that slipped my mind!

lesliec & mig: You're probably right about the stick blender. I don't own one myself but I know they're very handy.

mig: The scale has made a big difference in my success rate since I got it so I'm loathe to take it out. I agree you -can- do without but why would someone want to? Cookie sheets are definitely in. Any objections to aluminum half-sheets from a restaurant supply place?

KarenDW: That book looks interesting and fun, will suggest it. Do you have any objections to my knife/tool/pan choices? Don't come down on me too hard for the can opener, I've used the one on my swiss army knife since the last one rusted several years ago. The toaster/convection oven idea seems very reasonable but we're starting from scratch. This guy will find his way here if he ever advances beyond the basics of home cooking.

Shalmanese: Agreed with the prices, but I can't really say to the guy, "hunt down a rusted out cast iron skillet for $1 at a garage sale." My skillet-heavy pan suggestions are probably a reflection of how I cook, (I'll add a SS stockpot and steaming insert) and I'm definitely not good enough to eyeball teaspoons and tablespoons, so this guy probably isn't, either. I'll definitely pass your suggestions along.

Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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i just don't agree that weighing ingredients is that tremendously key to good beginning cooking. baking, yes. cooking, no. teach people what a cup of flour is. that way they can cook when they don't have a scale.

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i just don't agree that weighing ingredients is that tremendously key to good beginning cooking. baking, yes. cooking, no. teach people what a cup of flour is. that way they can cook when they don't have a scale.

Except that your cup of flour and my cup of flour are two different things. Or - more to the point - my cup of flour and the cup of flour in the recipe I'm reading are two different things.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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You must not have realized that you linked to a miniature whisk set -- the largest one is only about 4 inches long, including the handle, with the actual whisk part being about 1.5 inches.

Here's a real set, if you think your friend needs more than one:

Norpro whisk set of three

or a single if he only needs one:

Oxo whisk

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For a cookbook I'd recommend Pam Anderson's How To Cook Without a Book. Ironically, it's a book that lives permanently in my kitchen. She teaches you how to make easy, tasty weeknight dinners and then shows you how youc an take the basic formulas and expand on them. She's got a foolproof way to make tasty vegetables, pork tenderloin filets, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and my favorite, an easy orzo that tastes like risotto.

I love Joy of Cooking but if I were starting it might be overwhelming.

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P.S. The issue with baking and weighing is that most American recipes call for ingredients by measure, as has been discussed elsewhere around here. I started baking cookies out of the Joy of Cooking almost 40 years ago, and have done all my baking my measure since with good results. I would suggest that we're trying to get this person to cook - so let him see that for the most part it is easy to get good results. Then if he wants to learn more and get more particular, awesome. Meanwhile, he's getting some tasty, cheaper, healthier food!

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I got about 6 can openers at wedding showers etc...tried em', tossed em', bought a Swing Away...unless you have hand issues and need a chunkier handle this is the best damn can opener out there

Definately needs more pots

T

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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I love having a scale and use it all the time when baking, but never for cooking. If your friend is just starting out, I'd be worried about overwhelming him with too many gadgets and fears of measuring things exactly.

I have a friend who wants to learn to cook (at age 45), but he finds it all so daunting – he's so afraid he'll screw it up and ruin everything. I'm trying to get him to start off with one-pot meals so he doesn't have to worry about timing and can just deal with mise en place and then following basic directions (he's terrified of the timing issue). Once he has a few edible meals under his belt, I think he'll be feeling more confident and willing to experiment more. So to start with, he just needs the basics. No scale, no specific tools. Just basics that he can get by with. Pots, pans, a couple good knives, a cutting board, a couple wooden spoons/spatulas, peeler, can opener. Once he's more comfortable in the kitchen, he can branch out and get some whisks and specific tools based on what he wants to try.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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mig: I see your point but I'm trying to get him started on the right foot, in baking as well as general cooking. The scale has made a huge difference in my success rate with baked goods, and I think I might have gotten into it earlier if my initial attempts hadn't been so discouraging. What would you add in the scale's place?

JAZ: You're right, I didn't. In my defense, I directed him to buying minor gadgets and utensils at the supermarket instead of online...

NadyaCat and Fantastic Mr. Fox: Thanks for the book suggestions, I'll look them up.

rooftop1000: I'm adding a stainless stockpot and a steaming insert. Is there anything else you think I should add in pots?

emmalish: I don't think the guy is intimidated by cooking, he's just never been exposed to people who love food and cooking before.

Maybe I should get one of those swing away things for myself...

Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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A few more thoughts:

Books: If your friend is cooking only or primarily for himself, keep in mind that all the recipes in How to Cook Without a Book are for four to six servings. I'd definitely have him check it out online before purchasing it -- it's a bit idiosyncratic (I'm not a fan, but it gets decent reveiws). If he is going to be cooking for one, he might like Solo Suppers by Joyce Goldstein better. And if he's a complete novice, he might find Now You're Cooking helpful.

You seem to be missing some essential gadgets -- mixing bowls, for one.

That Pyrex set seems to be overkill to me, especially if storage space is an issue.

Finally, I know lots of people like the Swing-a-way can openers, but I find that the newer safety openers (Zyliss, Oxo or Rosle) are a vast improvement. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're safer and more hygenic. If your friend is going to open more than a can a week, the upgrade is worth it.

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D'oh! I should have thought of this sooner.

We (JAZ and I) teach a three-day/once-a-quarter class for beginning cooks. In the first few rounds, we got lots of questions about equipment. Based on our experience, supplemented with lots of information gathered from eG Forums, we came up with the following:

The Minimalist Kitchen

Pots and pans

1-qt clad s/s saucier or saucepan; no lid required

2-1/2 to 3-qt clad s/s saucepan with lid

3- to 4-qt clad s/s sauté pan with lid

1/4 or 1/2 aluminum sheetpan with rack

Optional:

For egg/fish lovers: 8- to 9-inch nonstick skillet

For pasta lovers: 12-qt. stock pot or multicooker

For soups, stews or braises: 4- to 6-qt Dutch oven

For baking, lasagna, roasting, gratinees: 8” x 10” or 9” x 13” Pyrex baking dish

Gadgets

2 or 3 bowls, stainless or glass, 1-qt and 4-qt. If you opt for three, add a 2-qt.

Optional: a set of graduated, nesting glass bowls

Grater, box (Cuisipro-style) or flat (Zyliss-style)

Can opener, safety-style (Zyliss or Rösle)

2 narrow whisks, one small, one medium

3 wooden spoons (look for inexpensive sets made from bamboo)

1 long handled slotted spoon or spider

Medium silicone scraping spatula

Metal or plastic flat turning spatula

Collapsible steamer basket

Large strainer or colander

Small strainer

9-inch locking tongs

Digital probe thermometer (0 – 392 F)

Bench scraper, metal or plastic

1-inch pastry brush

Lemon-sized citrus press

1/4-cup stainless steel ladle

Waiter’s corkscrew with bottle opener

Measuring cups, liquid: 1-, 2- and 4-cup, glass or clear plastic (Oxo are great)

Measuring cups, solid: set of 1/8 to 1-cup, stainless steel

Measuring spoons, set of ¼ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon, stainless steel

Pepper mill with adjustable grind

Knives

Chef’s knife, 6 to 10 inches, according to your comfort level

Utility knife, 4 to 6 inches

Bread knife, 8 inches or tomato knife, 4 to 6 inches

Cutting board: the largest you have room for. If you buy a plastic or Epicurean board, make sure it will fit in your dishwasher. Consider flexible cutting mats as an option to cover wooden boards.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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As Dave's list says....2.5 to 3qt pot is what I find myself using the most my husband and I merged almost identical sets and now have

2- 1qt used for tea or cocoa water...nearly useless

1- 2qt used for rice

1- 2.5 rice or small batches of pasta

1- 3qt small batch pasta

A small non-stick pan for whipping up some eggs might be usefull too, no one want scrambled eggs to be an adventure

t

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

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For cookbooks, I have a totally different approach. A lot of the books mentioned here are very good for less-experienced cooks, but I think they still assume a general foodie-level of interest, and I got the impression for the original post that this guy is very basic, never-cooked-more-than-pasta type. I would actually suggest Rachael Ray or Alton Brown if he is someone who likes the theory, albeit presented in a fun way. Thinking back to how I cooked when I first got out of college and on my own, I started with stuff like frozen stir-fry kits and experimenting with different flavors added to boxed macaroni and cheese, then as I gained more confidence and watched more food network (including Rachael Ray, Alton Brown, Ina Garten and Mario Batali) I started expanding my repertoire bit by bit. Now, 15 years later I cook entirely from scratch, love to cook Indian and Thai, and bake bread and sweets, but it took time to build up to that.

I also have friends who are impressed by the simplist things I do, like using dried beans instead of canned, and they are more accomplished cooks. I think throwing people into the deep end by going from all take-out and pre-packaged to saying "here is all you need - go forth and cook" is to present a very overwhelming picture.

YMMV

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mig: The scale has made a big difference in my success rate since I got it so I'm loathe to take it out. I agree you -can- do without but why would someone want to? Cookie sheets are definitely in. Any objections to aluminum half-sheets from a restaurant supply place?

The restaurant-supply shop half-sheet pans are great for cookies and a lot of baking tasks. If there is a restaurant supply place in his area he can shop in, there a great place to pick up all kinds of handy tools for cheap.

I would definitely encourage him to get a scale. I use mine pretty much every day.

And Bittman's how to cook everything is a good book for someone starting out. Good, basic recipes for just about everything. Might also look at a book like Peterson's Cooking that has a lot of demonstration photos.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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