When I renovated my apartment, I donated almost everything except for my clothes to a church. I’d had most of my things since my days in Boston so I wanted everything new. I headed to Crate & Barrel for all of my kitchen needs and I ended up also buying a few pieces of furniture. Picking out dishes, cutlery and glassware was so much fun, but I was at a total loss when it came to cookware. It had been so long since I had cooked that I couldn’t even remember what I needed. The helpful sales assistant suggested the basics: large and small non-stick frying pans, cutting board, mixing bowl set, salad spinner, a medium sized non-stick pot with a lid, a toaster, a Pyrex dish, and plastic mixing spoons that won’t scratch my non-stick pots and pans. I served pasta at my first dinner party so I added a pasta cooker to my collection a few weeks later.
I thought that would be it for my cookware shopping – then I took a few cooking classes and started to actually cook on a regular basis. As my cooking repertoire has expanded, so has my cookware collection. Since I have limited storage space, I’m very selective about what I buy. So in addition to the basics I initially bought from Crate & Barrel, here are a few more items I consider to be essentials for the kitchen.
Good quality knives – I recommend the Wusthof brand which can be a bit of an investment, but good quality knives are a must because they make chopping, cutting and dicing so much easier – and safer. Ofelia and Jeff bought me my first 8″ Wusthof Chef’s knife as a house warming gift. I then added the 6″ Chef’s and Paring knives. If you only want to invest in one knife, go for the Chef’s – choose the size that feels most comfortable in your hand. Don’t be intimidated by the larger knives – they’re actually safer because they provide a larger surface for you to work with.
Knife blade covers - If you plan to store your knives with your other cutlery, blade covers are not just a must for safety – they will also keep your blades from scratching and dulling against the other pieces. You can also choose to store your knives in a wooden block or against a magnetic strip.
Sharpening steel - To keep your blades sharp, you need to regularly use a sharpening steel – and you need to know how to use it correctly. If you live in NYC, I highly recommend the Knife Skills class with Brendan McDermott at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Food processor - I have the small Cusinart Mini-Prep Processor which I use when I need to finely chop herbs or vegetables or to mix ingredients together for something like a quiche. This is a huge time saver.
Dutch oven - I recommend the Le Creuset brand which is to dutch ovens what Louis Vuitton is to handbags. Lots of recipes call for dutch ovens so when I saw Le Creuset Dutch Ovens featured in a Williams Sonoma catalogue, I ordered one online. I had no idea what a dutch oven was and I had never heard of Le Creuset before then. I was surprised at the price tag but drawn in by the bold colors. When my doorman handed me the package, I almost fell over backwards, not expecting such a heavy box. I was sure there had been a mistake – all I had ordered was a pot. But there was no mistake – the heaviness of the dutch oven is the whole point as it locks in the heat evenly. It can be used on the stove and in the oven, and it’s ideal for braising, stews, soups, and chili. If you only want one pot, get this one in the size that best suits your needs (and storage space).
Indoor grill - For fast, healthy cooking, nothing beats a grill. Karen bought me the Breville Panini Press as a house warming gift and I love it. I’m not much of a panini eater, but I use it to grill meat, fish and vegetables. You can use it for pretty much anything.
Hand grater - This is great for adding finely minced seasonings such as garlic, ginger, nutmeg or citrus zest to a dish. This is one of the top 5 tips I learned from Rachael Ray.
Citrus juicer - I used this at a cooking class and I immediately went out and bought one for myself. I love salad dressing with freshly squeezed lemon juice and lots of Persian dishes require lime juice. The citrus juicer keeps the seeds from falling into your dish and helps you squeeze every drop of juice – all without getting your hands dirty.
Salt bowl - This little orange bowl from Jonathan Adler is one of the few things I keep on my kitchen counter. It’s filled with salt and since all dishes require salt for flavor, I keep this handy for seasoning.
Pastry cutter - I don’t bake but the pastry cutter is a great tool for transporting whatever I’ve chopped from the cutting board to a pot or bowl. Unfortunately, I forgot to include it in the picture.
2 cutting boards - use one for herbs and vegetables and dedicate the other one to poultry and beef.