When we got married, Rick had a lot of the kitchen basics covered, or so I thought. When my mom offered to buy us cook ware or dishes I declined. I’m the practical type. I figured his dishes and pots and pans were working and that was good enough for me. I didn’t realize the value of good quality kitchen items and that this was the one big opportunity to get these big-ticket items given to us! Instead, I registered for pillowcases and a shower curtain. A SHOWER CURTAIN!?
Fast forward eight and a half years. Rick’s pathetic cheap-o non-stick pans are long gone. I’ve inherited my grandpa’s awesome cast iron, and I’m slowly building up my collection of stainless steel to replace the mid-range non-stick stuff I bought, oh, seven years back. And Rick and I know what we’ll buy our kids when they leave the house or get married, even if they think whatever they have is “just fine.” There are just some things that every kitchen should have.
Here are my top five items that are truly essential to a kitchen:
1. A sharp knife. Ideally, you need a good chef’s knife and a sharp paring knife at minimum. More is better. If you could only have one, though I’d go with the chef’s knife. At least that way you can chop an onion, which is the base for nearly everything else you’d need a knife for.
2. Cast iron skillet. It can brown up meat perfectly, bake corn bread or cobbler, fry an egg or make a frittata. It’s not hard to clean at all (despite the rumors you’ve heard). I honestly can’t think of a pan I use more unless it’s my dutch oven.
3. A sizable dutch oven or a heavy, oven-proof stock pot with a lid. Soups and stews, braising, roasting, chili or mac and cheese. This is a kitchen work horse. My dutch oven is enamel-coated cast iron and can roast a chicken just as beautifully as it fries one on the stove top. It makes one-pot meals far tastier than any crock pot. Soups it can do in its sleep. In a pinch, your stock pot can do most of these things too. I never look at wedding registries any more. This and a dutch oven one-pot meal cookbook is my go-to gift.
4. A wooden spoon. Ok, I know this seems simple, but try managing a meal without one. I’ve been in kitchens with no good cooking utensils and found myself wishing desperately for a plain ole wooden spoon. They don’t scratch any surfaces, are strong and sturdy and generally can’t be beat by anything plastic or metal.
5. A stainless steel saucepan. With a lid. Besides the obvious (sauce), you can boil noodles, steam veggies, make popcorn or no-bake cookies in it. And it’s easy to clean.
I almost added a garlic press to the list. I can’t believe how much we use ours, though a good chef’s knife can do a comparable job.
What about you? Can you not live without your funnel or food processor? A good baking sheet or pizza stone? What are your kitchen essentials?