Cooking – The Basic Equipment

If you’re just starting out on your culinary journey, you may find the array of kitchenware available on the market a bit baffling, so here’s a quick guide to the must-haves for the first-time cook.

Pots and Pans – A student or single person may get away with one frying pan and a couple of saucepans, but a keen cook or a family would certainly need more. Ideally, I would recommend a small (20 cm) frying pan and a large one (24-28cm), preferably non-stick or very well-seasoned stainless steel. In addition, at least three stainless steel saucepans between 16 and 24 cm plus a large (24cm) and small (18cm) non-stick. The stainless steel ones will be fine for boiling eggs, rice, pasta, potatoes and vegetables and the non-stick ones for sauces or frying off meat and onions for chilli or a casserole. Buy the best quality you can afford, but avoid cast iron, which is just too heavy to be lifted by a single handle, especially if it’s full of boiling water and potatoes.

Oven Dishes – Casserole dishes of varying sizes are useful. I like Le Creuset cast iron because you can use it on top of the stove to seal meat and prepare your dish, put it in the oven to cook, then put it on the table to serve, thus saving on the washing up! Because they have two handles, the weight isn’t such a problem. A baking dish is also a must if you’re going to make lasagne, cannelloni or pies of any kind topped with sliced or mashed potato – earthenware, glass or cast iron is fine. If you want to make pies topped with pastry, then a proper pie dish is almost essential and the same goes for quiche – it really needs the right dish for the job.

Bakeware – If you’re going to try your hand at baking cakes, try to choose an all purpose cake tin that you can use over again. The type with a loose bottom or spring-loaded sides make getting the cake out of the tin much easier. For bread, a loaf tin is a must, but you can also use this for meat loaf or paté. A couple of flat baking trays are handy for meringues, biscuits (cookies), sausage rolls and similar items. For individual cakes, buns, tarts, mince pies or Yorkshire puddings a twelve hole tin is a must, preferably non-stick.

Utensils – A selection of wooden spoons is essential. For all other utensils, it’s safest to choose acrylic as they won’t damage non-stick pans. You will need a slice, a spatula, ladle, slotted spoon and masher.

Knives – Buy the best knives you can possibly afford, but at least get one really good, all-purpose cooks’ knife and a decent steel to sharpen it. When selecting knives, ask to hold them and weigh them up in your hand. A good cooks’ knife should feel comfortable to use and should be quite heavy. The handle should give you a good grip – you don’t want it slipping out of your hand and spearing you in the foot. When you find the right knife, you will know!

Chopping Boards – I prefer acrylic because they can go in the dishwasher for a really good, hot, clean. Some people like to adhere to proper kitchen hygiene rules and keep separate boards for raw chicken, raw meat, cooked meat and vegetables. Others like a nice solid wooden block. It’s all down to personal taste.

Miscellaneous Bits. As well as the above, a selection of glass or plastic bowls in different sizes is useful for mixing and plastic boxes for fridge storage are a real boon. Other oddments may include a rolling pin, garlic press and potato peeler, although you can survive without these.

That just about covers the basics. In our next article we’re going to look at some labour saving devices.

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