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Oct 27, 2004 03:48 PM

First Kitchen

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moderators: I was not sure if I should post this in ‘not about food’ or here. Since I am looking for both food items and preperation items, I assumed this forum would be better. Please tell me if I am wrong.

Anywayz, I will be moving out of my parents house (and college living) soon and getting my own place for the first time. I am curious what can a chowhound NOT live without. I am talking about tools, utensils, spices, pantry items, canned items, frozen thiss’ and thats’, etc. Basically things that one would need to buy when starting out. I'm not a good cook, but am hoping to learn as I go.

Any websites where these items can be purchased would be helpful.


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  1. Penzey's spices sells "crates" of herbs and spices - they have a "Spice Replacement Set" for about $90 that should include all the basics...just what you need to start out! They have smaller packages too. Go to and look under Gift Boxes.

    I would say you also need (at the very least!):

    -a good 10" nonstick pan (for eggs, etc.
    -a good 12" sautee or frying pan (I recommend All Clad - worth the price...)

    - a large saucepan (one with straight sides) for making tomato sauce, curries, etc. (Again, I rec. all clad)

    - a small, med and large pot for boiling/cooking various amounts of water, soup, oatmeal, etc.

    - some wooden spoons, a plastic spatula for the nonstick, and a set of sturdy metal utensils.

    a set of metal or glass mixing bowls (Crate and Barrel has a nice set of glass ones for about $30)

    - if you do not have an outdoor grill, a grill pan (I like the Calphalon - NOT the nonstick b/c it is hard to clean) I guess a Foreman grill would be a good alternative if you are cooking for 1, but I am kinda anti-gadgets in this case...

    If you don't want to plunge into All Clad, Cooks Illustrated just did a test of celebrity chef-branded frying pans. DONT get the Martha stuff! They recommended the Jamie Oliver brand and the Wolfgang Puck, I think... There is also Revereware and the like, whichh is durable and probably what your mom (and mine) still has in the kitchen@!!

    4 Replies
    1. re: folklaur70

      I agree with all of the above and also would reccomend a good vegetable peeler(oxo makes a good one), a pair of metal tongs and a stick blender(helps with so many different things from whipped cream to soups, etc...)

      1. re: folklaur70

        You should also factor in the probable size of your new kitchen. I live in a teeny NYC studio with one drawer and very little counterspace. I would DIE to have a Kitchenaid Mixer and would use it frequently, but there is literally no place for it to live. Luckily, it was one of the things I waited to buy. I did buy a microwave (the smallest one I could find) before I moved in and it was also too big to fit on the counters, so it lives in my parents' garage. That said, I think you should invest in a few good, high-quality pots and pans like Le Creuset, All Clad, Calphalon Hard Anondized, etc. They will last you a long time and be worth it. I know how hard it is! I moved in and it was weird to have to stock the kitched with everything from plates to flour. Good luck!

        1. re: folklaur70

          I'm assuming you'll be on a fairly strict budget. Stock up on basic pantry items like canned tomatoes and pasta. These are very versatile.

          Also, you can buy bulk dried spices in health food stores and also in drug stores much, much cheaper than in the supermarket.

          1. re: folklaur70

            I can second the recommendation on the Wolfgang Puck cookware (I've got the Cafe Collection set, which cost me about $100, and covers pretty much everything I need in the pan department.) For utensils, I don't know if they have one right now, but when I stocked my first apartment kitchen, Costco had a nice 6-piece OXO set which covered most of the basics (can opener, peeler, pizza cutter, even a microplane grater) and they also have nice sets of things like mixing bowls and canisters that are a little more expensive than some alternatives, but are quite nice.

            Being single and cooking for myself, my biggest challenge in the kitchen is trying to keep spoilage to a minimum, since I'm the only one I'm cooking for the vast majority of the time. A year and a half after moving into my own place, I'm still working on this. I'm trying to buy more of my food as needed, and trying to stockpile less perishable items as well.

          2. Hi. I just graduated from my-first-kitchen mode. For me it was as follows:

            Useful food items to keep stocked:
            Olive oil
            Frying oil (i.e., canola, etc.)
            Vinegar (various; I use apple cider mostly)
            Worcestershire sauce
            Mayonnaise (condiments are good for adding to sauces, salad dressings, etc. Mustard is always handy in the kitchen even if you don't like it on a hot dog)
            White cooking wine (magnum of cheap sauv. blanc is most handy, while cheap chards do not do well in food--too sweet, oaky; keep in fridge)
            White onions
            Spices (previous rec on Penzey's is a good one, or you can buy as you need. Ex. dried oregano on a frozen pizza pre-cooking elevates it.)
            Frozen peas
            Frozen corn
            Frozen spinach
            Canned tomato paste
            Canned chicken stock
            Stale white bread for bread crumbs (or you can collect the heels!)
            Martini olives (helpful in martinis, which are helpful while experiencing cooking stress)
            Mixers (speaking of, friends stop by an awful lot when you're out of mixers)
            Box of cornbread mix (Jiffy Mix)
            Eggs (these keep forever but you can check them by seeing if they float in water: float=bad.)

            Things if you cook a LOT will make their way into your fridge often but not good to stock otherwise as will go bad:
            Fresh herbs (you will eventually get a feel for those you use most often)
            Sour Cream

            You'll eventually know what you use a lot of.

            Re. the kitchen:

            One large pasta-boiler-type saucepan
            One medium saucepan
            One small saucepan with a tight-fitting lid
            One large skillet
            One small skillet
            One pan that can go into the oven (cookie sheet or pyrex casserole)
            Steamer basket (can double as colander in a pinch)
            Silicone spatulas (le creuset or williams-sonoma--can be used for any number of things and have high heat resistance so can be used for sauteeing as well as scraping bowls)
            One metal spatula for removing crispy/stuck/large things from cookie sheets and oven racks
            One large chef's knife (8- or 9-inch)
            One small paring/utility knife (3- or 4-inch)
            Foil (foil packets keep the scrubbing of oven items down to a minimum)
            Small zip-lock bags (cheese ends, half onions, etc)
            One large pyrex measuring cup (4-cup with grater top is quite useful)
            Can opener
            Wooden chopping board (plastic dulls your knives)
            Blender (for drinks, soups, sauces, pate)
            Oven mitt

            Happy first home-ing!

            One final thought: I keep all of my vegetable ends and herb stems in a large (gallon) ziplock bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, I simmer it in water for a couple of hours (you need to replace the water as it reduces) and freeze the strained liquid in small deli containers. Useful for cooking rice in, adding to simmering meats, making soups. Replaces chicken stock in some recipes, though it can be strong. It is a sort of thrifty, homey thing to do and can make you feel like quite the Betty Crocker.

            ALSO, speaking of boiling things to make things homey, in the winter months, when your apartment feels like not-quite-home and it's the holidays, simmer a cinnamon stick, cut up orange, lemon peel, cloves, etc., and it will smell like instant holiday cheer. Also has the added benefit of serving as a humidifier. Check the water level. Do not re-use the detritus. Incidentally, to cement the booze-hound angle, these items are what you put in cheap red wine to make a good wassail.


            4 Replies
            1. re: Sallie

              Thanks, This is an awesome list. What would some spices you'd recommend. I am not a good cooker, but I am willing to learn to cook anything. Thanks.

              1. re: Keely

                here's my basic list of dried herbs & spices:

                oregano(greek & mexican)
                caraway seeds
                curry powder
                red pepper flakes/arbol chiles
                paprika(hungarian sweet)
                white pepper
                bay leaf

                i buy small packets from latino & middle eastern markets($.79-$1.50 each) & just refill little glass jars as needed.

                1. re: petradish

                  This is a good list. I would add:

                  Chinese five-spice powder
                  celery seeds
                  Old Bay

                2. re: Keely

                  I couldn't live without thyme, oregano, white peppercorns, bay
                  laurel, cinnamon, and soy sauce (I use it for lots of things, not
                  just Asian food). I've got a pretty good spice collection, but don't
                  have several on the list above--sage, multiple oreganos, caraway
                  (don't like), curry (don't like), mint. You might try just buying
                  a handful of basics and then acquiring more as you need them. (Oh,
                  dry mustard is a necessity too.) I use Spice Islands for most
                  things as I like them to match :) and an extra $4 or so added to a
                  grocery trip is probably doable ...

              2. I'd stay away from the fancy appliances (blenders, mixers, etc.) until you need them- I thought I had to have a hand mixer and didn't use it for almost a year.

                second the high-heat le crueset or william sonoma spatulas- they are my #1 most useful item.

                I'd go with a largish dutch oven instead of the medium saucepan- you can do everything in it that you would do in a sauce pan and it can go into the oven as well (make casseroles or soups or stews or chicken pieces or braises or . . . )

                And lots of large bowels- good for both mixing and serving!

                1. since it is your first kitchen and you'll have lots to get, (aside from the one or two items that you are dying to buy) i'd stay away from the high end items since they can add hundreds to your bill.

                  not sure where you live but in new york, i go to broadway panhandler and i've purchased the wear-ever professional line. it's a good quality frying pan (the come in regular and non-stick) and at a fraction of the price of the higher end stuff. tops can be purchased for the pans to make them more useful.

                  you can go to the website at

                  1. In addition to the suggestions, before you move out, watch carefully what you eat and what you cook at your parents' home and get stuff needed for that.

                    And, get an annodized steel 8" or 9" saute pan. Great for making two eggs over easy or an omelette, and lasts long > hard to ruin. You should be able to find a new one for less that $20.

                    I suggest a cutting board that is flexible, doubles as a funnel, as needed. I saw a pack of four flexible cutting board at Target for $4.99 or something like that.

                    Other posters have made lists to choose from. Did someone mention a can opener? Two kinds. One for opening cans and one for bottle tops and making spouts in juice cans, etc.