There are essentially two main categories of must have staples for the well equipped kitchen. The first is the equipment and the second is something to prepare. You shouldn’t need to run out and purchase a lot of kitchen equipment or stock up on cartloads of groceries if you do a little planning.
In addition to the essentials, a sink with hot and cold water, oven and stove top burners, and a refrigerator, you will need an assortment of cookware, something to drink from, utensils to cook with and table service. First the cookware.
Cookware comes in a wide variety of materials and finishes. There are many schools of thought on what is the best so much of the choice is a matter of preference as most all cookware will do the job. I personally prefer stainless steel and I have some favorite cast iron pans, but I also have glass or Pyrex that I use often. You should look for some basic sizes in any set you purchase.
- 10 fry pan for sauté, making sauces, frying and one dish meals
- 2 and 4 quart sauce pot for heating vegetables or cooking grains like rice, re-heating canned foods like soups, and boiling small quantities of foods like a few eggs.
- 8 or 10 quart pot for boiling pasta, potatoes, and making soups and stews.
- Small fry pan used for things like cooking eggs.
- And of course lids.
Most cookware sets will come with at least these pieces, some will have more. If you choose a non-stick coated set, remember that you will need to replace it as soon as it shows signs of wear. Ingesting the coating that has flaked off in the food is not healthy.
Small appliances like a coffee pot, a teapot, and a hand mixer are the basics. You may choose to get an electric can opener and a small food processor but these are not necessities. You can chop food with a good knife and use a manual opener if need be.
You will need cooking utensils. I would recommend a couple of each of the following
- Spatula and pan cake turner – the Teflon ones are a good choice, however at least one metal one is helpful for turning meats and the thinner edge makes flipping pancakes or eggs a little easier.
- Whisk. This is used in making gravy, beating eggs and egg whites, whipping puddings and other tasks. You should have at least one even if you plan on using an electric mixer most of the time.
- Several wooden spoons in different sizes
- Several large metal spoons. These are not tableware, but the larger spoons used in cooking
- A ladle is useful, but you can use a large spoon in its place
- A couple of large, two-pronged forks for meats
- A grater
- Can opener AND a church key. A church key is the kind used to open bottles and pierce cans. You may find an all-in-one that works well.
You will also need
- A kitchen timer. This is indispensable if you plan on baking anything
- Salt and pepper shakers or a pepper mill and salt shaker
- Bowls in several sizes
- A colander
- Measuring cups for dry and wet ingredients and measuring spoons
- At least one but preferable two cookie sheets, the kind without sides
- A set of cake pans
- A rectangular shaped pan with about a 2 inch side
- A square pan with 2 or 3 inch sides
- A pie pan
- Storage containers for dry goods and leftovers
And of course no kitchen will work without a good set of knives. Be sure to look for a knife sharpener as well. More cooks are injured with dull knives than with sharp ones because of the additional effort required to cut or slice through foods. You will need
- A small paring knife
- A large carving knife
- A serrated bread knife
- A meat cleaver
There are many other gadgets and equipment you can get to stock your kitchen but these are the basics. With this equipment you should be able to create delicious meals for your family.
At the grocery store you will want to be sure to add these basics to your list. If you are just starting out it may mean a larger bill at first, but once you have purchased the basics it is easy to keep a list and pick up replacements as you see you are about to run out. These are the staples, not the regular foods you will purchase to make your meals with. You should keep on hand in your pantry:
- Sugar, brown sugar, and confectioners sugar
- Syrup for pancakes, waffles, and desserts
- All purpose flour
- Corn starch
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Spices, especially garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Chili powder, cumin, oregano, dried parsley, and sage are also good additions to the spice cabinet.
- Pickles and olives and Capers if you like them.
- Flavoring extracts, especially vanilla and almond
- Coco powder
- Quick cooking oats (oatmeal)
- Dried beans
- Dried potatoes as in mashed potato flakes
- Cans of Tomato sauce and tomato paste, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, evaporated milk and tuna
- Vinegar – white,apple cider and balsamic are good choices to begin with
- Soy, and Worcestershire sauces
- Oil for frying
- Solid shortening
- Cereals especially those that can double as bread crumbs such as corn flakes
- Canned vegetables as a backup. I like to keep a few cans of peas, corn, green beans, spinach, asparagus,,mixed vegetables, canned small potatoes, and artichoke hearts on hand
- Canned fruit. Pineapple, peaches, and perhaps a jar of applesauce
- Jams and jellies
- Powdered milk
- Peanut butter unless of course there are allergies in your family
- Salad dressings
- Condiments such as ketchup, salsa, mayonnaise and mustard
- Coffee and tea
There are other items you may wish to add or you may make some adjustments but this is a good basis from which to start.
In the fridge and freezer you should have at least
- a pound of butter
- Sour cream
- Cream cheese
- Assorted hard cheeses
- Assorted nuts
- Pie crusts ( the frozen variety)
- Whipped topping
- Maraschino cherries
- Vanilla ice-cream
- Pork neck bones for flavoring beans and soups
Don’t forget plates, bowls, mugs, and cutlery to serve on. A couple of large platters are nice to have, but you can always serve directly from the stove.
With these items you have all the basics you need to feed your family delicious meals that are properly cooked and served. You can add additional items to the list as you begin to feel more confident in your cooking or when you find that wonderful gadget that you just know will make your life in the kitchen so much easier. Cooking is not a chore unless you make it one. Being the cook of the family is a big responsibility, but it is also an honor and a way to show your family how much you love them. Remember, the most important thing to have in the kitchen at all times is LOVE. It will make every meal something special.