Stocking a kitchen is a lifelong endeavor, one that evolves as your cooking style does. If you're starting out or further into your culinary journey, here are the essentials to put you on the right path or keep you on it.
Measure, Cut, Sift, and Drain
Measuring cups are specified for liquid or dry measure. Buy the sturdiest and most durable you can.
Liquid measures are glass or plastic with volumes delineated on the side. These containers usually start at one cup and go up to a quart.
Dry measures are sold most often in nests, beginning at ¼ cup and increasing to one cup. They are designed for flour, sugar -- anything that can be spooned into a cup and leveled with the sweep of a knife.
Quality knives are better investments than Blue Chip stocks. Price is a good indication of quality (inexpensive knives will never get or hold a sharp edge). After price, how the knive feels in your hand should be your guide.
Mesh seives and sifters are crucial for straining sauces and sifting dry ingredients. Colanders are essential for draining pasta and washing fruits and vegetables. Buy at least one fine-mesh seive and invest in a large colander made of metal or thick plastic.
Mix, Blend, Stir, Whisk
Stainless steel bowls are the workhorses of the modern kitchen. A nest of various sizes is a good investment. Many cooks also like ceramic, glass, or sturdy plastic bowls.
Invest in several different sized, well constructed wire whisks -- make sure they can reach the bottom of your mixing bowls. Wooden spoons are great for stirring hot food - the handles stay cool and they never bend or break.
A heavy-duty standing mixer, a food processor, and a blender are basic to a well-stocked kitchen.
Saute, Simmer, Roast, Bake
Eager, inexperienced cooks frequently make the mistake of buying a single line of cookware, often because it "looks nice." Buy pots one or two at a time, and with their function in mind.
Inexpensive, poorly made pans will warp and dent. This is as true for bakeware as for cookware.
Aluminum heats rapidly. Copper heats quickly and distributes evenly (some cooks feel it's the preferred cooking metal). Cast iron heats slowly, withstands high temperatures and holds the heat. Stainless steel does not react with acidic ingredients (like aluminum and cast iron) but holds heat inefficiently.
Many cookware manufactures offer alloys. Stainless steel with a layered alloyed-aluminum and aluminum core is durable and useful. Anodized aluminum that has been treated to make it denser and resistant to corrosion is a great choice, as are copper pans with stainless steel interiors and aluminum cores. Enameled cast iron pans are functional and handsome.
Make sure you have several glass or ceramic baking dishes. You will also need a Dutch oven or covered casserole.
Every kitchen needs cooking spoons, long-handled forks and tongs, pancake turners, a good cheese grater, an instant-read thermometer, cutting boards, pot holders, and dishtowels.
Other items -- from potato mashers and cherry pitters to bread machines and waffle irons -- should be purchased as your culinary skills and interests form and change.