Most important Kitchen Equipment
What are, say, your top 3 most important kitchen accessories? The stuff it's worth spending extra on because it will get the use, or because it's worth it for the extra quality? Here's my list.
1. Decent Chefs Knife. Rather than get a set of knives, I plan on spending most of the budget on the knife I'll use the most.
2. Decent frying pan. You can go 2 ways with this, cast iron or non stick. What with gas prices, I see the cast iron being a bit wasteful. I'd go for a flat-bottomed non-stick aluminium with a copper base and stainless steel handle. That orders the heat transferrence to the places you want it, and the metal handle means you can place the pan in the oven.
3. Decent chopping board. Not that it needs to cost loads, but a nice wooden one helps you protect your knife.
4. Ceramic casserole dish. Don't really see any alternative for this.
4. Stock pot. Again, in a slightly different way, if you want to make some fantastic dishes, you can't do it without a huge 10 litre pot.
6. Steel. Keep your knife in shape
7. Pestle and Mortar. For spice mixes or seeds, you can do things with this you couldn't even get in a blender.
That's about all I have.
A lot of this depends on the type of cooking you are going to be doing - hence why these topics come up often and get a lot of debate.
I'd agree with most but not all of the initial posters items, but lets be realistic for most cooks:
1) Most buy a nice knife but don't know who to use it, or knife skills
2) A skillet, of course.. I agree but Non-stick? - fine for most home cooks, but a teflon coating is horrible if you want high heat, and I don't know if I'd stick a teflon coating in the oven. Maybe anodized aluminum handles better. I just use my non-stick for stick egg-type stuff. If you wanted something you could cook with that could go into the oven, I'd pick up a cheap dutch oven from Target and use it for dual purposes.
3) Yes, the biggest cutting board you can get. You might need to find a polypro one if you are cutting meat though.. not a good idea to do all the stuff on one board. I have 3 biggies, and one is a huge meat-only board.
4) Ceramic casserole - nice, but get the ubiquitous Pyrex 9x13..
5) Stock pot - I concur. In the classic cookbook "French Cooking in 10 minutes" the first step is ALWAYS boil a pot of water
6) Steel - I agree, but then again, most people have a steel and never use it.. its the handle that is never pulled in the knife block.
7) Pestle and Mortar - nice, but griding one's own spices isn't exactly basic, especially if you can buy small amounts at a local spice stores, store them away from light and heat, and use them quickly. The biggest step most people could do to improve their cooking, initially spice-wise, is grinding their own pepper, and for that I'd recommend a good pepper grinder, like a Unicorn..
On the second poster, I LOVE a nice stand mixer, but for a newer chef, they can make due with a hand mixer and/or a food processor. Its just a lot of cabbage and you end up with a big, heavy monument in your kitchen. So yes, great to have, but buy it when you appreciate why its great, not before (unless you are getting married - then register for it and use it for 30 years of married bliss).
With regard to number 4, I won't buy pyrex for the oven anymore. I just had a pyrex pan explode in my oven a few months ago and it was not for any of the usual reasons (i.e. pan did not go from fridge into oven, etc.) I know that even ceramic can crack in the oven, but I don't believe it will explode like pyrex.
I agree with many of yours, hers is my list:
1) A good chefs knife & knife sharpener
2) A gas stove
3) a quality stock pot
3a) quality pots and pans
4) a quality, large cutting board
5) a food processor
6) mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons
honorable mention: a deck with a smoker.
I thought of pots and pans, but the way I see it, they're not worth shelling as much out on; generally speaking, a pan would be full of something quite liquid, and so the heat will spread fairly evenly through the pan. with a frying pan, I envisage things like eggs, omelettes or steaks, where the efficient heat transferrence becomes more critical
most of my pans are all hand me sowns from my parents kitchen, the only things I have purchased were the above mentioned stock pots.
So I agree with you, no need to go out and break the bank on a new set of pans if you have access to quality hand me downs(I think the pans made back in theday are of better quality than the ones made in China and elsewhere today anyway).
The assumption is that you use (i.e. waste) a lot of heat getting that monster hot. For quick things like fried eggs, that's probably a pretty good assumption. Since the pan will stay hot for a long time, and needs only medium-low heat to maintain, cast iron becomes more efficient as cooking times increase.
I agree with grant.cook -- stand mixers are expensive space hogs. Unless you do lots of baking, it is hard to justify. You can even eschew a hand mixer if you don't mind hand whisking (builds up muscles, ya know!)
Personally not a big fan of food processors -- for the occasional salsa, I have a chopper that fits on my Osterizer base. Otherwise, a good sharp knife and a box grater take care of business.