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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.

Thanks.

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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 www.penzeys.com 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
            Mustard
            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)
            Butter
            Rice
            White onions
            Shallots
            Garlic
            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)
            Bacon
            Milk
            Cream
            Yoghurt
            Sour Cream
            Cheese
            Parsley
            Celery

            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
            Scissors

            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.

            Cheers!

            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:

                thyme
                sage
                oregano(greek & mexican)
                cumin
                caraway seeds
                curry powder
                cinnamon
                nutmeg
                mint
                red pepper flakes/arbol chiles
                cayenne
                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
                  rosemary
                  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 broadwaypanhandler.com

                  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.

                    1. First, pick up a copy of Clueless in the Kitchen by Evelyn Raab. It's supposedly for teens, but has lots of information for setting up your first kitchen, basic supplies and equipment, and instructions on how to do nasty but essential things like defrost a freezer and unplug a drain. There are also lots of good basic recipes for simple scratch meals.

                      I'm assuming you're on a tight budget. Who isn't? So I'd suggest you shop garage sales and second hand stores. I find some of the most awesome stuff when I hunt through the kitchen bins at these things. People get all sorts of really excellent equipment - maybe wedding gifts - and never use them until they finally give them away or have a garage sale. I've bought first class cast iron cookware, almost-new electric appliances (waffle iron, sandwich press, etc.) and every kind of spice jar and rack you can imagine. Fill the jars from a good bulk spice supplier and you've got a cheap spice cabinet. I've even found a beautiful old chef's knife at a sale, which has become my favourite.

                      Don't fall into the trap of feeling you have to get EVERYTHING right at the beginning. You'll soon figure out what you need and what you don't. And be patient. You can roll out a pastry crust using an old wine bottle (if necessary) until you find a beautiful old rolling pin at the Salvation Army.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Nyleve

                        I would definitely second this rec. I've found wonderful things--such as Le Creuset skillets--at thrift stores!

                        And also, I used a wine bottle for a rolling pin for seven years.

                        1. re: Nyleve

                          I buy items for my kids' "hope chests" that I'll give them when they marry. Clueless in the Kitchen is tops. It has great stuff for new cooks.

                          I got several great pieces of Le Creuset at a garage sale for a couple of dollars 20ish years ago. They are still my favorite pieces of daily cookware.

                        2. First of all, let me applaude you for wanting to do this right! Lots of people would just order pizza for as long as they could get away with it. A few things I always have on hand pantry-wise are canned chicken broth (I suggest the fat free low sodium kind because it doesn't have MSG in it), canned tomatoes (easy to whip up a quick delish pasta sauce, or add to stews, beans, etc.) and canned beans and chickpeas (rice and beans, add to soups, add to veg sautes and stews and salads). Also various pastas (keep them in jars on counter if you have space), rice, maybe some rice mixes for easy variety. You have got a lot of good suggestions already, so I won't repeat them. I would say tho, don't buy expensive cookware right now, but do get a non-reactive pan of some sort to make tomato based dishes...something enameled is good. I wouldn't bother with any electric gadgets yet, I think it's too soon for that. Best of luck, I hope you have lots and lots of fun learning to cook. Ask us lots of questions, we like to help. Let us know how you make out!

                          1. Congratulations on your first kitchen! Think about what you will really want to cook/eat starting out.

                            For me that was pasta, salad and omelettes - great things to cook quickly and on the cheap when I ws working long hours for low money.

                            An 8 or 9 inch omelette pan can also be used for a burger, chicken breast or reheating some singapore chow mei fun. I found a great one at Marshall's.

                            Non stick flexible spatula is terrific.

                            Pasta pot, a hand held seive makes a great strainer for one or two pasta servings.

                            OXO salad spinner is amazing.

                            Whisk and a pair of tongs.

                            When you can afford it get a good dutch oven, they are wonderful. If you think you will make casseroles and such you can get some corelle covered dishes (cheap at retail even cheaper at a tag sale).

                            1. Get a nice chef's knife too. You do NOT need to buy a whole set of knives. Just one nice quality knife that feels comfortable to your hand. Something like a 7" chefs knife is usually a good one to start with. I recommend Global. A good one will set you back about $80 but will be your knife for years.

                              If you want a set, add a paring knife and a serrated knife.

                              Save your money and do not buy one of those multi-kife sets.

                              1. For knives, you need all of *three* in your kitchen. An eight inch chef's knife, a serrated bread knife, and a paring knife. Forschner (part of Victorinox, the makers of Swiss Army knives) makes some excellent knives at rock bottom prices; I just picked up a chef's knife for all of thirty dollars.

                                1. My minimalist's kitchen would include a 10 inch chef's knife, a serrated bread knife, a stock pot with steamer (doubles as a collander), a 3-quart, oven-proof chef's pan w/lid, an 8 inch non-stick skillet, and a 10 inch cast iron pan. Also wooden spoons, high-temp plastic spatula and ladle, a decent cutting board, and a nested set of mixing bowls.

                                  Get fewer, good quality pieces - particularly knives. Get the right stuff and take care of it and it will last forever.

                                  1. Let me add my voice to the chorus recommending tongs--I'd get a couple of pair, they're not expensive (at a restaurant supply house) and I find them absolutely indispensable. What you want are the spring-loaded kind that default to "open" which function as an extendable, heat proof thumb and fingers to pick things up, turn them over, lift the edge of a cutlet or a crepe to see if it's done etc. When I started watching professional chefs (on the old "Great Chefs--Great Cities" show on PBS) I noticed one thing they ALL had in common was that they used these wonderful gizmos.

                                    1. Along with all the prior recommendations, make sure you pick up a kitchen fire extinguisher. No kitchen should be without one.

                                      Here's hoping you never have to use it.

                                        1. Don't think anyone has yet mentioned basic stainless steel measuring cups and measuring spoons, and a Pyrex measuring cup (one that holds two cups). When I first moved out on my own, a friend gave me these plus a few wooden spoons and spatulas--I still use them all to this day (10 yrs later)!

                                          Agree that you don't need to invest in high-end pots and pans right off the bat, especially as you say you are not a big cook (yet!). Get a cheap Dutch oven, a nonstick saute pan, a couple of pots with lids. See what you use the most frequently, what foods you cook the most. Then you can splurge on the "real" stuff as you can afford it. A good knife (which can be used to peel if you don't have money for a peeler). The aforementioned oven mitts (so useful). A couple of inexpensive dish cloths so you don't hemorrage paper towels.

                                          And eggs are the perfect food for a budget--they're cheap and so satisfying.

                                          1. How about a pair, or six, of large bamboo chopsticks in the utensil holder for cooking tools, and smallers ones for eating with? With the exception of roasts, you can use chopsticks to handle most foods and the bamboo is gentle on the more fragile cooking surfaces.

                                            1. Be sure to get a pair of kitchen shears. I didn't have a pair for years and years, and now I can't figure out how I ever did without them. One good use for them is to cut up meat for stews and things, so meat juices don't end up getting on my cutting board.

                                              1. One possibility to save money is to root around in your Mom's kitchen and see what you might find that's good but she never uses; cast iron skillets and/or big pots might be found this way, and you should have one or more. You should have some cast iron anyway--it's cheap and cooks very well, but you have to take care of it.

                                                The advice to hunt around in cheapo stores is good--Tuesday morning is a possibility. How about Big Lots? These, and thrift stores, sometimes yield treasures, but be careful, especially with electrical items, which seldom are good at such places. In general, don't buy things that were cheaply made to start with--they are not a bargain!

                                                If you have access to a real restaurant supply store, go. Their cookware is cheap and good, but the usual caveats apply--buy things that are heavy and well made. Professional knives are also cheap and good. Generally you can do very well this way. The popular yuppie brands such as All-Clad, Caphalon, etc. are OK but you can do much better for much less; I just stay away from fancy stores that carry that type of thing. Obviously you can go on-line, and eBay is worth looking through once you know what you want.

                                                Buy one or two things in any category to start and see how it works out. Add later. Avoid "sets" of anything, pots, knives, you name it.

                                                If you plan to do any roasting, a quality thermometer is essential--the probe type that clicks into a readout unit that stays outside the oven is best.

                                                1. If you have a Sam's club nearby their generic Clad set is about $100 it's not all-clad but for the price it's darn close. It comes with just about everything you need except a good non stick which you can also pick up @ Sam's cheap. While you are there grab a set of tongs and high heat spatula, and a package of bullion spoons to use in tasting while you are cooking. I would also get a good pepper grinder.

                                                  Spices are harder you need what you like, for instance if you like Italian then get Oregano, Thyme, Crushed red pepper, Garlic powder. Obviously a few staples are not a bad idea, but don't go nuts purchasing spices, you don't want a bunch of old spices hanging around, you are better off buying fresh when you need them.

                                                  Some basics that have a decent shelf life
                                                  Kosher Salt
                                                  Dried Mustard
                                                  Peppercorns
                                                  Crushed Red Pepper
                                                  Cayenne
                                                  Chili Powder
                                                  Garlic Powder
                                                  Chinese five-spice

                                                  Also stock some amount of Olive Oil and cooking oil, again not to much of either since they do go bad.

                                                  In your pantry I would at least keep some chicken stock, tuna, pasta, and tomato product all though again not to much do to spoilage.

                                                  In the fridge at minimum keep onion, garlic, potato.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: irodguy

                                                    I agree on the Sam's Club Maker's Mark cookware set. I just bought it last week. http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navi...
                                                    Seems to be very good cookware at a very good price, and if you are just starting out, you will appreciate the utensils and measuring cups. I will also add a non-stick pan... a number of them available at Sam's or try one rated highly by Cook's Illustrated.

                                                    Definitely, I recommend checking out the Cook's Illustrated website (click on "Equipment") for recommendations on everything from rolling pins to paring knives to bakeware to cooking sprays. You can check it out for free for 14 days. I find their recommendations really clear and helpful and I think they could save you money and the annoyance of buying a bunch of stuff that doesn't work.
                                                    http://www.cooksillustrated.com/

                                                    1. re: wookyluvr

                                                      Sam's Club "Member's Mark" I mean. :) Tis the season, I guess. :)

                                                  2. I think as a general rule you shouldn't buy "sets" of anything - pots, spices, whatever - because the odds are high you're going to get several things it turns out you won't use.

                                                    Somebody up above suggested you get Spice Island spices because all the bottles match. With all due respect, this is not a good idea (to put it very mildly indeed) because the price of herbs and spices in the grocerystore bottles is astronomical, and you never know how long these things have been on the shelf.

                                                    If you have a Whole Foods or similar market anywhere near you, go there to the bulk spice department and you can buy a tablespoon each of whatever you want to start off with for VERY little money, and they're likely to be quite fresh.

                                                    With a little experience, you'll know which ones you use more of, and can restock in greater quantities; maybe move up to Pennzey's locally or on the internet. (Hey, order their catalog anyway- it's a great resource to learn about herbs and spices.)

                                                    Forschner's knives are of excellent quality and very reasonably priced. Start with them. Get something to keep them sharp, and they'll get you a long way.

                                                    As somebody says... "Hoppy cookeeng!"

                                                    Mike

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: MikeLM

                                                      Yeah, and if you really require your spice bottles to match you can go to the antique store and get a bunch of nice little glass bottles for not much money, and then use a removable sticker on the bottom of the bottle to identify the particular spice. I had my mom on the lookout for years for these little bottles every place she went.

                                                      1. re: MikeLM

                                                        Correction: I did not suggest anyone else buy Spice Islands (although Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis do--they recommend Spice Islands thyme by name in the Southern cookbook they cowrote). I stated that *I* buy Spice Islands because I prefer that my spice bottles match. I have found their quality, over many years now, to be good. I do have vintage spice containers in my kitchen, but they serve a decorative purpose. I'm not sure I have the years and the motivation to assemble a matching set of vintage spice bottles ... but I think it's great that you did :)

                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                          The ridiculous thing about it is that I don't have a spice rack any more, and now I have all these nifty little matching bottles stuffed in a drawer...My husband keeps saying he's going to build me a spice rack, but it doesn't seem to happen.

                                                          1. re: foiegras

                                                            MY spice bottles match, too - because I bought a bunch of them at Penzey's, very reasonably. They come with a sheet of stick-on labels.

                                                            Really, matching shouldn't matter, except for storage efficiency, beacuse you should keep all the spices in a drawer or cabinet- away from the light.

                                                            Mike

                                                            1. re: MikeLM

                                                              I do keep them behind closed doors--but they match when I slide that little door open--and that matters to me :) Not really sure why--my cookware doesn't all match. Perhaps because my mother's spices were such a mishmash. We all have our little preferences, and this is one of mine :)

                                                        2. MikeLM's advice is excellent. No point in buying all kinds of stuff you probably won't use. You have to go by what you know you would eat. You don't need a griddle if you never pan fry anything. You dont need steak knives if you don't eat steak. you get the picture. so figure out what you like to eat and then figure out what you need in order to make it easily and cheaply.

                                                          Here are the absolute cookware basics everyone needs: a chef's knife, a 2 qt saucepan, and a nonstick fry pan. Once you get these, then start branching out.

                                                          Also, since you're going to college you should get things that save you time like a microwave, hot pot (i used one in college for all kinds of things like heating water for tea and coffee, making mac and cheese, etc)

                                                          1. You need only three really good knifes. A Chef's knife(10” or 12" depending on your preference), a utility knife (5") and a paring knife. You can accomplish just about anything with those. Find some low end Forschner. They're sharp, durable and will last a long while.

                                                            Cook with gas. Use real butter.

                                                            Buy open stock cookware. Stay away from fancy-schmancy department store cookware and anything that has someone’s name on it. The best tip I can offer is to find a restaurant supply store. They stuff in there won't win any points for style, but it will put food on the table and it is inexpensive.

                                                            Use the best ingredients you can afford. Better one or two killer dishes than a bland 5-course meal. Use real butter.

                                                            Get a good cookbook. Something very basic like the Joy of Cooking. Subscribe to Cook's Illustrated. It'll teach you the whys, not just give you recipes.

                                                            Have fun. Experiment. Don't be afraid to laugh at your mistakes. Revel in your successes. Share them with you friends.

                                                            And last but not least, use real butter.

                                                            1. Some great advice that I picked up from an unlikely source (the special features from One Upon a Time in Mexico - learning to cook cochinita pibil) is to pick a couple dishes you really like and master them. You'll find that it'll take less time to make when you're really comfortable with the recipe, and you won't need to worry about looking in books or at the recipe anymore. And the added bonus is that once your comfortable with some basics, you can start playing with them to discover more about what you like.

                                                              If only I'd follow my own advice now!! :)

                                                              I'm also setting up my first kitchen that's truly mine. I'd recommend the Forschner knives, as bkhuna said. They were cheap and they feel great! I've talked to some friends of mine who have been through culinary school and have the gamut of knives and they find themselves using the forschners more than others. Having a great knife is going to make everything else easier. I've got the 8 inch chef's knife, and I can't imagine going bigger than that, though I know lots of people like to. Just hold a few knives and see how they feel to you.

                                                              I'd also get a wok or a big skillet. I found that when I first started cooking the easiest and healthiest things to do were stir-fries. I mean, you can just cut up a bunch of veggies, maybe some meat or tofu, quick cook it and add soy sauce or whatever sauces you like. You'll usually have leftovers, which is always a good thing for me. I have a small wok now, and I'm in the process of looking for a big skillet (12 inch). I find I really miss it, and my other skillets just aren't cutting it. If you live near any chinatown, or asian grocery stores you can usually find cheap carbon steel woks to get started on.

                                                              Speaking of leftovers, no one has mentioned tupperware yet! Get some plastic containers to keep food in. You can buy big sets with all manner of sizes at grocery stores, target, sam's or costco. You'll invariably lose some lids, but it's great to have.

                                                              Make sure you get things like wooden spoons (both regular and slotted), a spatula, a pizza cutter, and a soup ladle. these can be found really cheap, and are just totally useful. Also, you can never have enough potholders and kitchen towels!!

                                                              I've also found it really useful to have two sets of measuring utensils (cups and spoons) and a variety of liquid measures. At least get yourself one set of each with the most amount of measurements. Oxo has plastic measuring spoons that have all the sizes you'd want for something like $4. You can't go wrong with the classic pyrex liquid measuring cup or one of the plastic cone shaped ones.

                                                              You may want to get some mixing bowls too. Check stores for sales and great deals, I found a set of Wolfgang Puck stainless mixing bowls at costco that just happened to be the size and shapes I was looking for (I was seeing a lot that were wide and shallow, these are a little deeper) and they came with lids and a set of measuring cups. I think it was probably $20 to $30 for the set. I love them and they make my mom jealous. :)

                                                              You should get a couple cutting boards, you're probably ok starting out with some plastic ones, you can get them in inexpensive sets.

                                                              Oh, and baking sheets! They're useful for a whole ton of stuff. I'd stay away from the non-stick coated ones or the insulated ones. Just get something simple, though make sure it's not super-lightweight.

                                                              Another thing I've found really useful is a universal lid. It'll go on any of your pots or skillets. Plus it's cheap. In a similar vein, having a microwave plate cover will help a lot with cleanup and it helps food heat evenly.

                                                              A last bit of advice... Get a kitchen fire extinguisher and keep it in a cabinet near the stove. I've never had to use one but I've appreciated it being there. I did once have a toaster start flaming but it died out before we needed to use the extinguisher.

                                                              1. I love the silicone spoonulas and scrapers, and have them in a variety of sizes. I can never get enough spoonulas. I like my bamboo cutting board, but the plastic ones can go in the dishwasher--big advantage. You probably want two kinds of potholders--the mitten kind, and the kind (forget what it's called, has a name) that are oval with two pockets on the back. The reason for the mitten ones is when you have to hold something hot for an extended period, like the cookie sheet when you're removing the cookies. I have two mittens and three of the others, and that works well (occasionally one has to be laundered).

                                                                Btw, I like jelly roll pans instead of baking sheets as nothing can slide off unexpectedly. This is how my mother did it and so do I :)

                                                                If you start baking a lot, parchment paper cut to the size you use frequently is a lifesaver (you can mail order from baking supply companies for relatively cheap).

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: foiegras

                                                                  i just bought a silicone spoontula for $2 and oh man it's awesome. you stir and then scrape out food and you don't have to worry about stuff sliding off of it. thanks to dommy for her passionate recommendation of the spoontula.

                                                                  you can buy parchment paper off amazon too if you're buying stuff from them anyway.

                                                                  1. re: choctastic

                                                                    I generally buy Volrath Spoontulas at restaurant supply places but pay more than $2 (they are heavy and good tho). Where did you get yours for $2?

                                                                    Several folks have mentioned Forschner knives. They're fine, but so are Dexter-Russell which I prefer because they just seem a bit heaver and more business-like to me (F have black handles while DR have white handles). Both are typically sold, side-by-side, in restaurant supply places.

                                                                    1. re: johnb

                                                                      i got mine discounted at ross dress for less. it's a small one by pyrex, prob not as nice as yours but works great!

                                                                2. For kitchen knives, my favorite is the Ginsu brand. I guess it is the same as the ones I have had for years, stays sharp by itself, was advertized on TV long ago. I have the long skinny one, serrateded, with a divided tip, and four steak knives that are all so sharp you have to be very careful with or you could end up needing stitches in a finger.
                                                                  For potato peeler, the Pampered Chef's.
                                                                  An antique glass orange/lemon squeezer (or whatever you call it, the one with a saucer/moat below the part you put the orange half on).
                                                                  If you buy stainless steel pots and pans, for use on top of the stove, do not get the thin, light-weight ones or you will end up burning everything you cook til you throw them out and get the heavy weight ones or ones that have a much thicker bottom part or copper clad or aluminum bottoms.
                                                                  I like the Cephalon frying pan, not as heavy as the cast iron, but it probably will not last forever like cast iron will.
                                                                  I like the enamel coated cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens especially for slow cooking.
                                                                  I love any of the Corning Ware items (not available new anymore but some at thrift stores).

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: pralinepatty

                                                                    You made me feel old for a second there so I had to go check it out, as I bought my Corningware new ;) You can get it at overstock.com and other discounters. The only issue I have with glass for baking is, it seems to be much easier to clean by hand than in the dishwasher--and I want the dishwasher to take care of it :) If you don't have a dishwasher, though, glass is great--and it's also good if you want to go oven to table to fridge.

                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                      Thanks, I hate to be wrong, but had rather know about it so I do not do it again. Somewhere way back someone told me that they had stopped making it because of a law suit I believe a about a coffee pot. But I am happy to see it from time to time in a thrift store and a lot of the time it looks brand new. Quess it was. I had thought it was a case of ancient, but not used. Someone told me "no one cooks in Florida," and I really find it hard to find a suitable first cold day for my first pot of vegetable soup of the winter. I am going to try to be quiet and just read and cook more. Thanks again.