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Must-haves for a grad student's kitchen? Here's what I've gathered so far...

I'm headed to grad school in the fall and because I lived with my parents through college to save money, this will be my first kitchen of my own.

I've been trying to round up extra/older kitchen tools and gadgets at home that no one is using, but for the items I do spend money on, I want them to be of good quality. I'm willing to spend a little extra if I know that something might be able to last me for a long time.

So far, I've been able collect these items from some parent-approved home scavenging:
4 Cup Cuisinart food processor
Liquid Measuring Cup
Dry Measuring Cups
Handheld Grater
Pastry Brush
Handheld Mixer
Vegetable Peeler
Mortar and Pestle
Flour Sifter
Two Steak Knives
Cooling Rack
6 qt. Le Crueset Dutch Oven (broken knob)

I was also able to buy a Wusthof Classic set on sale for $220. I set included: 8" Bread Knife, 8" Chef's Knife, 5" Santoku Knife, 5" Serrated Utility Knife, 3.5" Paring Knife, Kitchen Sheers and a sharpener. I've been reading more and more how I only need a paring, chef's and serrated knife and that anything else is just superfluous, but I still feel good about my purchase.

I also bought a 12" Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillet. I got a 6" skillet too since I'll be making breakfast for one quite a bit, but I'm debating on whether to return it for an 8" or 10" skillet.

I'm seriously considering purchasing a Tramontina cookware set from Walmart. America's Test Kitchen said it was a best buy at $200 and it includes: 10'' saute pan, 12" saute pan, 2-qt. covered sauce pan, 4-qt. covered sauce pan, 5-qt. covered Dutch oven, 12-qt. covered stock pot.

Here's what I figure I still need to get:
Electric Kettle (I drink a lot of tea)
2 heavy duty Cookie/Jelly Roll Sheets
Roaster/Casserole Pan
Cake Pan
Mixing Bowls
Cutting Board
Dry Measuring Spoon Set
Spoons (Metal/Wood and Slotted/Unslotted)
Towels and Mitts

Any thoughts or suggestions? Am I including something silly or forgetting something important? And are there any brands that you all would consider best buys for someone in my situation?

And my parents are encouraging me to get a crock pot so I can make meals while in class... I've never used a crock pot before really and I'm uncertain as to whether I'd really use one if I got it. Anybody care to share their crock pot experiences?


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  1. Electronic scale; bench scraper(s)--the plastic ones with a curved side and a straight side are indispensible; flour shaker; parchment paper;

    1. First, I would replace the LC knob. You can get a stainless steel one at Williams Sonoma for $10.

      I think a 6" is a perfect breakfast size. I have a 10" and it's either too big or too small.

      $200 isn't a lot of money for the amount in that set, but I think you'll have a lot of redundant pieces (which is a concern if you are short on storage). For example, I don't think you need two saute pans, and you certainly don't need their dutch oven if you have the LC.

      You have collected A LOT of stuff. I am going to assume you bake heavily, otherwise you have amassed quite a bit. That is, a sieve sifts flour. A roaster is great for a turkey, but will you be roasting a turkey often? You can roast veggies on the cookie sheets. If you get a large enough oven-safe saute pan, you can use that for roasting meat as well. If, indeed, you bake enough to warrant a flour sifter and cake pan, don't forget the rolling pin and angled spatula to spread icing. Whisks: one large and one small. I *might* add a set of pyrex or stoneware casseroles (as opposed to a roasting pan) that can be used for baking and food presentation.

      The rest depends upon what you like to cook (and eat). Do you want chopsticks? A crepe pan?

      1. Wow--you've amassed quite an array of stuff! Regarding your crockpot question, I went through grad school without one and I never missed it. And I threw dinner parties (a coterie of us had an informal dinner club, too).

        One thing I would suggest is looking at your storage space. How large is the apartment you'll be living in. You want space not only for cookware, dishes, utensils, but also food! Will you have enough room to set up a small pantry? Also, are you living by yourself or with roommates? Roommates may have stuff that needs storage, too. I'd look into your available storage space before getting more stuff.

        1. I take everything back. If you are going to graduate school and your name "lobLaw" is any indication, the only think you'll really need to do is to set up a cocktail bar.

          1. An inexpensive coffee grinder. The cuisinart is overkill when you need like 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts for pad thai or a quicker grinding of spices than the mortar and pestle would take.

            I'd also pick up an entry level toaster or toaster oven. Good for stretching another day's use out of bread that's starting to get old, and the toaster overn is good for reheating leftover pizza.

            1. Thanks for all the responses so far!

              To everyone who says that I have a lot of stuff... You're probably right. I grew up in a very well equipped kitchen that had its share of specialized gadgetry, so I'm kind of prone to being over-prepared and redundant with things like this... And I know it looks like I'm taking everything but the kitchen sink out of my parents home, but my mother is a bit of an impulse shopper/hoarder. We're the type of household that has three waffle makers, an unopened panini grill, and a hodgepodge of cookware that range from the ancient and rusty to the best of the best. I'm only taking what won't be missed, but even then it's easy to go overboard. I appreciate people who can keep me in check.

              Mnosyne, thanks for reminding me about electronic scales. That's definitely on my list.

              Anyway, E_M, you're totally right. I went ahead and put the flour sifter back. And with the LC and skillets, I suppose I just need a saute pan, a sauce pan and a stock pot. Still, at WalMart those three pans would come to about $180 -- only twenty dollars less than the set with six pans. And thanks for the direction on the roaster/casserole/cake pan stuff. I probably just need a pyrex casserole pan and cookie sheets.

              Nufunlatter, I'll be living alone in an apartment that thankfully has quite a bit of storage, so no worries there. And your dinner club sounds lovely! I've been involved in weekly potlucks where I live and it's so easy and nice.

              Beachmouse, I've never owned a toaster oven but whenever I get a chance to use one, I'm always so impressed with how nice they are! I'm putting in on my "someday when I have more money!" list.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bob.loblaw

                Bob, go to Williams Sonoma, Sur la Table, Fantes, whatever, and look at the 3 pans you need (saute, sauce, and stock.) Figure out the ideal sizes, materials, and finally, brands. THEN take that list to Tuesday Morning, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, whatever, and buy them there. You *may* spend $200 on 3 items as opposed to 6, BUT, I know this first-hand: there is an emotional cost to having too much stuff.

                Besides...the better quality will likely last you longer.

                1. re: bob.loblaw

                  Take the unused panini grill. We use ours for breakfast,lunch and dinner. In addition to sandwiches, we frequently brush sourdough with garlic infused olive oil and grill. You can cut into slices for just plain eating or cubes for croutons.

                2. Bob,

                  You have way more than I had when I were in graduate school. Seriously. I alot more. I would able just get a few cookware into your first graduate school apartment. As time goes, then you will know what you need the most, and what you don't really need. Only real time wil tell you what you need. I will say that, as a graduate student, you will very unlikely to do a lot of slow cooking in Le Creuset Dutch Oven. You will spend a lot of time in the lab. I will honesty tell you that I work more as a graduate student than in my real life job.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    While I agree that as a 40+ year old returning grad student I've never worked as hard as I've worked in the past year and a half. That said, one still has to eat...and while I"m an old and married fart that lives out in the suburbs, the younger folks in my cohort are always planning dinners together. It might be a late dinner after an evening in the lab but they are regularly putting some great and interesting meals together. I suspect for them, there's going to be some fond memories of these years coming from those dinners.

                    OP you have a pretty complete list there. More than you need really but if you have the space and the budget(or mom is willingly letting you take some of her stuff) - enjoy! The toaster oven is on your "someday" list...that's the one thing I"d keep an eye open for a good deal on. Lower energy costs and given the smaller capacity faster heating times...both good things in a student's life. I use mine everyday, more than my large oven. Do you have a microwave? If not, maybe look into one of less expensive micro/convection ovens and kill two birds with one stone.

                    I've never used a crock pot myself but they certainly have their value....I often put in 12+ hour days at school...can a crock pot produce good results over that long time(I know 6-8 is typical, but longer?) A pressure cooker would be another option if you like soups, stews adn braises but don't have a lot of time in your life. Particularly useful for beans which can really stretch a student grocery budget!

                    If you'll be living alone with space, like to cook, and have an equipped kitchen - and assuming you like company - expect to find yourself with a houseful regularly. Stock up on cheap cheap dinnerware, glassware, flatware....get more than a setting for 4. (or make people bring their own!)

                    (3 wafflemakes? I love waffle makers, i'd definitely be stealing one of those if I didn't ahve one already!)

                    I know the blenders of my cohort get a lot of us - for cocktails and cooking.

                    1. re: ziggylu

                      I am not saying that graduate students do not cook. In fact, graduate students cook a lot. Nothing motivates a person to cook more if he (1) lacks money and (2) do not have time (I believe cooking at home saves time compare to eating out -- assuming one plans ahead).

                      I were saying that a lot of those fancy 15+ ingredients 6 hours slow cooking Le Cresuet meals do not fit in a graduate student schedule, whereas fast and hot pan frying fish fillet and butter saute green beans work well. I probably did not make it clear, but I wanted the original poster to focus more on fast cookware like a fry pan or saute pan.

                  2. I recommend flour sack towels for their versatility. A steel for your knives, you said you had a sharpener but the steel will see more use and reserve actual sharpening for when they really need it. Hot handle holders for your cast iron, tough to write or type with a burned hand. You might be able to find most of the items at a restaurant supply place and save some money.

                    1. America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated is the Consumer Reports for kitchenware, and they usually provide both a best and a best buy. You can register at Cooks Illustrated, get their two weeks' free trial period, and save all the equipment reports and taste tests for what you're going to buy.


                      You can also save money on good quality stuff if you buy from a restaurant supply store. They don't sell cookware in sets, but then, I'm not a fan of buying pots or knives in sets. You're likely to wind up with stuff you never use, and they don't always include everything you would use if you had it. So unless I had unlimited money and unlimited space, if I already had 12". and 6" skillets, I'd put off buying the 10" and/or 12" sauté pan until I was sure I needed them as well.

                      Looks like you don't have bread making in mind - no loaf or muffin pans. Makes sense to me; I enjoy making bread as a recreation, as I have the time for it, but not to save money or try to improve on what I can get at local stores.

                      As for the slow cooker, I had one of the original Crock Pots and occasionally used it for long-simmering stuff like goulasch and meat sauce for spaghetti. But then it stayed in a closet for several years, and when I moved, I got rid of it. Recently the idea has floated back into my mind, but without any particular uses in mind, I've floated it right back out.

                      1. When you say handheld grater, do you mean a microplane grater? If not,please include one. It's a must-have. I also use my box grater a lot.

                        1. Sounds like you're going to have the best equipped grad student kitchen on the block! and then some!

                          From looking over your list, I would heartily suggest that you forget about the electric kettle and go with a nice counter-top microwave. And I'm assuming you plan on living off campus, because all of the grad student apartments I've ever been in would not hold all of the stuff you're taking! And you don't even mention dishes and silverware! Anyway, tea is so much better when you make it one cup at a time, and for company, I have been known to put my teapot in the microwave to heat the water. It's so much easier. Well, unless you're doing a Japanese tea ceremony.... Think about the microwave. You cannot make popcorn in an electric tea kettle! Well, maybe you could, but it's such a mess to clean up!

                          Looking over your list, I would suggest you just relax and buy things as you need them. It's surprising how much all of the research and writing you'll be doing will nudge you toward quick and simple. But wait a minute! Are you taking an advanced degree in culinary arts? All of the grad students I have known were not studying culinary arts, and they all did a whole lot of ramen after the library closed... Sounds like you've got everything well covered. Good luck!

                          1. One hundred pounds of pinto beans. Four bushels of chile peppers, just like I did.

                            1. I think a crockpot/slow cooker is a good idea, especially if you plan on having friends over once in a while. If nothing else, it will provide a great place to put a one-dish something (chili, stew) & keep it warm over the course of a whole afternoon without continual monitoring. They are so inexpensive, that I would opt for one of the "fancier" types that have 2 high and 2 low settings, but also the automatic bump down to warm. Then go to this website and see all of the great stuff you can make to feed your academic soul. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

                              I might also add:
                              some glass/Pyrex-type pans, like an 8 x 8 and a 9 x 13;
                              assorted plastic containers to store left-overs;
                              a plastic or glass cutting board for meats;
                              an apron;
                              a log-handled scrubby brush to help you clean cups, glasses & etc.;
                              and perhaps a small rice cooker.

                              How about if you also ask your friends/family to write up some of their favorite recpies too?

                              1. I'll weigh in on the electric tea kettle. I love love love my electric tea kettle. Especially for black tea, where you want your water right at boiling, a tea kettle is great. It seems like whenever I try to get tea to boil in the microwave, it spills over.

                                You say you drink a lot of tea and you don't have a super tight budget - definitely get the tea kettle.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: megmosa

                                  My daughter did her student teaching in Wimboldon, England. The teachers' "lounge" had multiple electric kettles, as did the house where she was staying. She became hooked & gave me one, which I keep in my office at work. I would not be without it. Much faster & more efficient than any other method of heating water for a cuppa whatever.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      What's the science there? I believe you. ACtually I just went induction a few months ago and am shocked at how fast water boils. CHs are so anal, aren't we?

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        No science. I were only half serious when I wrote the above statement. I am going to put a smiley face on it.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Thanks, Oliver.

                                            Another story: I am glad the induction cooktop is working out for you. Yes, induction provides near instant heating.

                                2. Somebody mentioned pyrex baking pans. If they still make them and you find you are joining other students for potlucks a lot-get a pyrex pan in the carrier that you can add a hot or cold pack to. I would wait and see on this however since you have so many basics already and do not know how much and what kind of cooking you will be doing once school starts. Ditto on the slow cooker. Like everyone, I amazed that you have so much storage-keep that place!