The Essentials

The Essentials

Jamie, the author of the My Life with Redheads Blog, is about to build a new house and is in the process of making some decisions about her kitchen.  She recently asked me for “suggestions on what a passionate cook cannot live without?” This is the first installment (assuming that more come to mind) of what I consider essentials for the kitchen and cooking.

  1. A good knife set is essential to all precision cooking and most attractive plating.  It is a worthwhile investment that will yield years long, if not life long, dividends.  That being said:
    1. The most important knives are your Chef’s knife, a carving knife, and a pairing knife – in that order.
    2. Investing more than $250 in knives is wasted money for all but the most serious of home cooks.
    3. Purchasing an inexpensive knife set and splurging on the chef’s knife is the most practical way to proceed.
  2. A slow cooker might provide the most culinary bang for the buck around.
  3. Rivaling the slow cooker for the most bang for the culinary buck is the mandoline.
  4. The immersion blender is solidly in third place – especially the 10 speed 300 watt model that is currently making my socks roll up and down.
  5. I would rather invest my money in a double oven and a six burner stove than any other major kitchen appliances.
  6. Warming trays are nice to have but will not be used that frequently.
  7. When designing, or evaluating a kitchen, besides the aforementioned stove issues, the usability and ease of access to storage, and counter space are the most important factors.
  8. Towards that end, there are few design elements more valuable than a center island.
  9. Never underestimate the universal functionality of a microwave.
  10. Whatever can be hung from a ceiling or mounted on a wall should be.
  11. For more specific design instructions, I found this website to be very accurate and helpful.
  12. The hanger steak is the most flavorful cut of beef around – especially when you consider that it costs $10/pound at WholeFoods versus the Tenderloin which sets you back $25/pound.
  13. Just as two will always shorten whatever road you travel; two will always shorten the cooking time of any dish.
  14. Cooking without music and wine is like swimming without water.
  15. Only the lazy cook makes throw-away salads.
  16. Margarine and butter are not interchangeable no matter what anyone tells you.
  17. Cast iron and Copper pots have no peers.
  18. Attempting to recreate restaurant dishes is somewhat akin to comparing yourself to the models on the magazine covers… which is not to suggest that it shouldn’t be attempted.
  19. I cook for the soul, the palate, and the eye – in that order… not saying that you should too, but I doubt it could ever hurt.

6 Responses to “The Essentials”

  1. I have to agree with yoru list! My knife, slow cooker, mandoline are critical to my meals. I do use my Kitchen aid mixer and my “cuise” often as well.

    For me it is typicall NPR on the radio and a La Cruseet on the stove.

    Wine is optional but recommended.

  2. Im planning on a commercial range with 2 ovens and 8 buners, and an additional wall oven. Big center island (9.5 x 5), 2 big deep sinks- Kohler Stages, one in each size. Knives, Cast iron and copper galore, as I’m a bit obsessed with both. Im most definitely a kitchen supply-store addict. I have a problem. Are there meetings for this?
    2 dishwashers are also planned, as we enetertain a lot. How do you feel about undercounter refrigerator drawers and wine refrigeration? What’s a throw away salad?

  3. I love my santoku. Love it. That is all.

  4. i bake – a lot – and would probably grab my kitchen-aid stand mixer (along with my children, of course) should my home ever catch fire. i have triple stocks of whisks, measuring cups/spoons, spatulas as well. can’t ever have enough of those – i hate having to stop in the middle of something to wash off a spatula when it’s so convenient to have three or four in a crock on the counter.

  5. bettyjoan Says:

    Ditto on the Kitchen-Aid mixer, though I definitely appreciate the merit of a good slow-cooker. In colder months, there is nothing better than piling ingredients in the Crock-pot, turning that sucker on, and then coming home to a yummy meal and a good-smellin’ house.

  6. I totally agree with your list! Can I nominate a rice cooker as another essential piece of equipment? My husband and I eat quite a lot of rice…all kinds…white, brown, sushi, jasmine, basmati, converted, etc. We bought a rice cooker about 2 years ago and can’t praise it high enough. It’s cooks perfect rice every single time. It does kick-ass risotto too! We bought this one:

    With respect to your list, I can vouch for most of it. I love my slow cooker and use it frequently. We also remodeled our kitchen 7 years ago with a 6 burner gas dacor cooktop, Jenn-air double ovens and a 3.5′ by 8′ island. Best decisions we ever made! We didn’t have enough room for a walk-in pantry (which I desperately wanted), so I created mini pantries by putting 42″w x 12″d cabinets at each end of the island. It’s worked out great. One end holds all my baking supplies and the other end holds the cooking staples.

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