Equipment Basics

Appears in

Love Your Leftovers

Love Your Leftovers

By Nick Evans

Published 2014

  • About
I do not recommend visiting your local kitchen equipment store and buying all this stuff in one trip. Start with the basics, and as you try new recipes, you can slowly add on to your kitchen equipment if needed. This equipment list is roughly in order of what I consider to be most important.
  1. Dutch oven–A large cast-iron enameled dutch oven is an invaluable kitchen tool. You can use it on the stovetop or in the oven and make a wide variety of things (including bread) with it. I recommend at least a 5-quart variety. I would advise getting a dutch oven before you get a large (4-quart) pot.
  2. Cast-iron skillet–As your first piece of cooking equipment, I usually advise the purchase of a dutch oven and a cast-iron skillet. They are just universally useful. Start with a 12-inch skillet.
  3. Chef’s knife–I prefer a 10-inch chef’s knife. Get the nicest knife you can afford, since you’ll be using it a lot if you begin cooking more frequently. Invest in a honing steel as well to keep it sharp.
  4. Paring knife–There’s no need for anything fancy here. I usually grab a $15 variety and trade it out every year or two.
  5. Various pots–You don’t need a huge line of pots. I have three different pots that I use for everything: 4-quart, 2½-quart, and ½-quart sizes.
  6. Metal mixing bowls–These come in a variety of sizes, and you can usually pick up a sturdy set for $30 to $40. I use mine every day.
  7. Glass storage containers–I like really sturdy containers for leftovers to keep food as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Glass makes it easy to reheat in the microwave, if needed, and is also really easy to clean. They are a bit more expensive but worth the investment.
  8. Sheet pans–I use baking sheets almost daily. Depending on your oven size, you can get the half sheet (13 x 18-inch) or the quarter sheet (9 x 13-inch) size.
  9. Wok or large skillet–If you make a lot of stir-fries, it might be worth it to invest in a nice wok, but a large skillet can get the job done in most cases.
  10. Baking dishes–A wide variety is nice, but at a minimum I recommend a 9 × 13-inch and an 8 × 8-inch dish. A few mid-range casserole dishes like a 2½-quart dish are helpful.
  11. Thermometers–I always recommend that people have two types of thermometers in their kitchens: meat thermometers and deep-fry thermometers. Both are invaluable and cost just a few bucks. An oven thermometer also helps if you are grilling a lot, to make sure your grill is the right temperature.
  12. Tongs–This might be the thing I use the most in the kitchen. They’re perfect for flipping meat and grabbing pasta. I think a 12-inch length is just fine.
  13. Spice grinder–Buying ground spices is more convenient, but they charge you for that convenience. Whole spices are cheaper and keep for years. Make the switch to grinding your own if you can. Personally, I like to use a mortar and pestle for small batches of spices.
  14. Potato masher–I use mine for more than just potatoes. I also use it to speed up a tomato sauce, for example, as it cooks down.
  15. Microplane grater–Used for zesting fruit and also for grating superfine Parmesan cheese and other hard cheeses. For a few bucks, it’s a great kitchen tool.
  16. Wire mesh strainer–It has much smaller holes than a colander and works great to drain and rinse a can of beans or strain your ice cream custard so it’s silky smooth.
  17. Blender–Important for smoothies, sauces, and the occasional milkshake. An immersion blender makes soup preparation a breeze.
  18. Serrated bread knife–If you start making homemade bread a lot, you’ll want a good serrated knife to slice it and not make a mess of your pretty loaf. This knife is also good for slicing tomatoes and sandwiches.
  19. Roasting pan–Used for roasting chickens and bones for homemade stocks. I like a sturdy metal one with high walls. If you’re working on acquiring kitchen equipment, you can almost always just use a 9 × 13-inch baking dish for this in a pinch.
  20. Muffin tin–Muffins are the obvious choice, but I also use mine for lots of savory dishes and freeze stuff in them for easy portion control.
  21. Ramekins–A few ramekins of various sizes are always helpful. I like to have four 7-ounce ramekins on hand for easy desserts. If you don’t have ramekins, however, you can also adapt most recipes for use with a muffin tin.
  22. Food processor–This is solidly in the would-be-nice category. I survived without one for years and years, but I appreciate it now that I have it.
  23. Grill or grill pan–Grilling food is a healthy way to prepare it. It’s great to have one in your preparation arsenal.
  24. Loaf pan–This is perfect for meatloaf or sandwich bread. You’ll find lots of uses once you have it handy. A 9 × 5-inch size is standard.
  25. Pie pan–Pie pans work for more than just pies. I often use mine for frittatas and quiches.
  26. 12-quart stockpot–If you get into the habit of making a lot of homemade stocks, which is a fairly awesome habit to get into, you’ll want a sturdy, large stockpot.
  27. Pizza stone and peel–If you make pizza more than a few times a year (and you should be doing this), it’s probably worth it to invest in a decent stone that you can heat in the oven and a peel so you can slide your pizza (or calzones) right onto the hot stone.
  28. Ice cream maker–This is far from an essential piece of kitchen gear, unless you happen to love ice cream. Then you need one!
  29. Slow cooker–If you’re a busy person–and who isn’t–a slow cooker is your best friend. Many recipes that require long cook times can be easily adapted for the slow cooker, so you can make them while you are at work!
  30. Miscellaneous gear–One good flat spatula, a dough scraper, wooden spoons, a cheese grater, ice cream scooper, slotted spoon, colander, whisk, ladle, parchment paper, butcher twine, and aluminum foil are all things I keep handy in the kitchen.