Archive for January, 2007

Kitchen Basics

What do you really need to outfit a kitchen? Here is a list of the basics. Once you have the basics covered, you can start adding on more specialized tools & equipment as you determine the need. I believe in buying only what you truly love and the best that you can afford. It will cost you less in the long run.

Remember that if you spend $25 on a pan you don’t really like but it is cheap and then you end up repeating this process a few more times but still don’t end up with the pan you truly want, you probably could have purchased the pan you really liked for the same amount you ended up spending on pans that were cheap and you didn’t really like. On the other hand, just because it is expensive does not always mean that it is the best.

When outfitting your kitchen, you should think long term. Most of the things that you buy will still be functional 15 – 20+ years from now… So, you should probably stick to the classics when it comes to color when choosing appliances, etc. and pick up the trendy colors in your towels, napkins and other inexpensive accessories. (Remember the harvest gold and avocado green appliances from the 1970’s? White is always in style…)

Toaster: If you have room in your kitchen, I like the Dualit 2+2 toaster. It is a classic and offers slots for grill sandwiches as well as slots for toast. It is a large toaster and has a large price tag to match. If you have a smaller kitchen (like mine) I really like the KitchenAid toaster. It is reasonably priced too.

Hand mixer: I like the KitchenAid hand mixer. I have a 7 speed version in black… it is a workhorse. In fact, I liked it so much that I bought a KitchenAid immersion blender

and counter top stand mixer to match. If you are just getting your kitchen set up, start with the hand mixer and determine if you really need the other types of mixers.

Coffee maker & grinder: I have always purchased Krups coffee makers. I have had really good results with Krups. I like the programmable timer option which is really nice for those early mornings. My Krups grinder is still going strong after 12 years of daily use. I would recommend Krups in a heartbeat. Now if you are a real coffee aficionado, you might be interested in the Technivorm Moccamaster (the only consumer grade coffee maker to gain the coffee association seal of approval) and the Baratza Burr grinder. Bother are quite expensive (about $200 each) but are the top of the line as far as the quality they produce.

Blender: Again, I have a Kitchen Aid blend that I really like. However, there are others to choose from.

Tea kettle: I really like the Alessi Bertaa and Il Conico kettles…

they are both expensive and hard to find. I also like this one Bodum® Osiris Tea Kettle, it is reasonably priced too.

Cutting board: I like using wood or bamboo boards for bread. I also have a glass board that is very easy to clean but hard on my knives. I really like the cutting boards that have grip feet to help hold them in place on the counter. High density plastic cutting boards are easy to clean and a great choice.

10×13 and 8×8 baking pans: I like Emile Henry pans but the glass ones work well too.

9” round cake pans (2): I have been very happy with the Calphalon cakes pans that I have.

Loaf pan: I have a Calphalon loaf pan that works well.

Cookie sheets & cooling racks: I have a set of All Clad cookie sheets that bake very nicely. They were expensive but they cook so much better than the inexpensive set that I used to have. Calphalon cookie sheets bake nicely too and are less expensive than All Clad.

I have a set of these Cooling Grids that work just as well for cakes as they do for cookies.

Cookie cutters: I have a small assortment of Cookie Cutters …. If you do not bake cookies, you can forgo these.

Cookie press /icing press: I have a Kuhn Rikon cookie press that has an assortment of tips that I can use to make cookies and to decorate cakes.

Ice cream scoop: I actually have 2, a simple Ice Cream Scoop and an ice cream/dough scoop that doubles for ice cream or making drop cookies.

Pie plate: I have an Emile Henry pie plate that I am very happy with. The glass pie plates work well too.

Rolling pin: I still use my grandmother’s old wooden rolling pin. It must at least 50 years old and still works well. If I were to buy a new one today, I would consider one of the silicone models.

Spring form pan: I have a Calphalon spring form pan that works very well.

Muffin tin: I like the Calphalon muffin tins that I have.

Pastry brush: I have one of the silicone pastry brushes and think it works just as well as the regular pastry brushs

Ramekins: I have a set of Emile Henry ramekins that I really like.

Colander and strainers: I have a few strainers, a coarse mesh and a fine mesh strainer from Rosle and I have a large colander from Calphalon that I have been very happy with. I really like this colander from All Clad.

Garlic press: This press from Oxo is a work horse. I use a lot of garlic and have discovered that although it is not a necessity, these rubber garlic peelers really work.

Box grater & rasp grater: I love my Micro plane rasp graters… They easy to se and clean up (they can go in the dishwasher). I have an assortment of them, a nutmeg grater, zester (great for citrus zest and hard cheeses), and a coarse grater for soft cheese. I never use my box grater since I purchased the Micro plane.

Whisks: I have an assortment of whisks. I would recommend that you have at least one 10” whisk. I like my Rosle whisk.

Scissors: Every kitchen needs a pair of kitchen shears. Scissors that are dedicated for food related use. I have a pair of Henckels that fit into my knife block. They are very handy.

Openers: My favorite is this can opener from Rosle. But I have a Kuhn Rikon can opener that is very nice. I would recommend only buying a can opener that leaves the edges of the can smooth…

You will also want a bottle opener. I like the old style openers that can be used to open cans of juice too.

If you have difficulty opening jars, you may find that a jar opener is useful. I usually just use my regular bottle opener to pull the edge of the jar lid away from the jar just enough to loosen the seal.

Peeler: I have a Kuhn Rikon peeler that is easy to use.

Measuring cups & spoons: You will want a larger glass or plastic 2 – 4 cup measuring cup for liquids. You should have a set of measuring cups and spoons. I have these oval stainless steel measuring cups and spoons from Acco. I really like them.

Mixing bowls: I have a set of clear glass Pyrex bowls that are very versatile. I can put them in the microwave or over a pan of hot water to create a double boiler. I can even use them as serving bowls. If I did have a glass set, I would consider buying a set of stainless steel bowls like from All Clad.

Timer: I prefer digital timers. A timer is a great reminder of when to take something out of the over… Ever put something on the stove and not set a timer and then get timed up doing something (like talking on the phone) and loose track of time…only to be reminded of the pot on the stove when your smoke detector starts beeping?

Wooden spoons, ladle & spatulas: You will need at least one wooden spoon. If you want you might want to try an olive wood spoon. If you get 2, they can be used as salad servers.

Every kitchen also needs a ladle. You will also want a large slotted and large spoon. I prefer plastic/rubber over metal because it does not scratch my pans.

Also you need a spatula like have a few but this one is a nice choice.

Thermometer: I recommend that you have a thermometer for your oven. Even temperatures in brand new ovens can vary by as much as 25 degrees! You should also have a meat thermometer.

Corkscrew: I love my Screwpull but keep a small pocket size too.

Potato masher: I prefer a potato masher over a ricer for making mashed potatoes. I tried using a ricer but found that transferring the potatoes to the ricer was a pain.

Baster:This one comes with a cleaning brush.

Roasting pan & rack: This one from Calphalon is a good buy. It comes with a removable rack.

Pots & Pans: Should you buy a whole set or piece by piece? Usually, you are better off buying separate pieces. Often times the sets come with pieces that you will never use, so you are better off choosing the pieces you like. I like All Clad cookware but there are other quality brands. Look for quality heavy duty stainless steel with a copper core. Here are the basics you will want to start with:

2 sauce pans 3 & 5
2 Frying pans 8” & 10”
Every day pan with lid 12”
Stock pot 8 - 12 qt

Covered casserole: This one from Emile Henry is nice.

Knives: Knives like pans should usually be purchased one at a time rather than in sets. I have Henckels Four Star knives that work very well. The most important piece of advice about knives, is keep them sharp. Here is what you will want to start with:

Paring knife
Chef knife 8 - 10”
Bread knife
Serrated utility knife (good for tomatoes)
knife storage
Sharpening Stone

Salt & pepper shakers: I prefer a pepper mill/grinder like this. (A standard pepper shaker works just as well if you prefer pre-ground pepper). If you like to use more exotic salts, you might consider a salt cellar or even a salt mill.

Sugar Bowl: Pick one that you like and that fits with you décor. If everything in your house is casual, you probably don’t want a fine china sugar bowl. I prefer a sugar bowl with a lid.

Towels/pot holders: Here is how you can bring some color into your kitchen. Towels & pot holders are inexpensive so you can go all out in terms of color… pick anything you like that works with your house and tastes. If you decide you do not like the color in 6 months, it isn’t a big deal to replace the towels or pot holders. I really like flour sack towels. As far as pot holders, you may decide that you do not need them… I have a friend who prefers to use dish towels as pot holders. Another friend really likes the Silicone Pot Holder

I have a set of the silicone holders but find that I reach for the regular ones more often (although they do make nice trivets).

Dishes & Flatware: I would recommend that you have enough place settings for 8 (Depending on how big your family is and how often you will entertain… you might be able to get away with service for 4). I do not believe that you need a set of everyday dishes and a set of formal dishes. I believe that you should be able to use what you have and not relegated things that you will use just one or two times a year to a cupboard to collect dust. So that said, pick a pattern that you love and use it. If you are undecided, you might choose a basic white set. Food always looks appetizing on white plates and white never goes out of style. For flatware, stainless is the easiest to care for. Solid Stainless tends to hold up the best (black or gold trim has a tendency to wear off).

Plate set: dinner plates, salad plates and bowls
Flatware: dinner fork, knife, tea spoon, soup spoon, salad/dessert fork, steak knives
Serving dishes: You should start with a Large serving platter and Large serving bowl (large enough to hold a salad), Med. Size serving bowl, Serving Spoon (you might want 2), and Serving Fork.

Coffee mugs & glassware: I never use the small coffee/tea cups that come bundled with many dish sets; they are too small for my taste. Give me a real coffee mug (12- 16 ounces) for my morning coffee or afternoon tea. Again, you probably should start with service for 8. You will need glasses too. I recommend that you stick to clear glass. I have 2 sizes of glasses in my cupboard, a tall tumbler and shorter on-the rocks size tumbler. I’d also recommend that you have a few all purpose wine glasses on hand.

Placemats & napkins: Placemats & napkins are a little like kitchen towels… you can use them to add some color and interest to your table and they can be an inexpensive way to update your table. My number one rule about placemats and napkins is that they must be easy to clean. I like using fabric napkins for a few reasons, but mainly, I think that they are a little nicer that paper and make your meal a little more special. You probably want to avoid anything that needs to be dry-cleaned or cannot be washed easily.