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Getting My First Apartment, Total Foodie--What Is Absolutely Necessary to Buy?

So I am moving out on my own, getting my first apartment. I love to cook, and want to not only cook a lot on my own, but also improve my cooking. So, what should I have? Types of pots, pans, utensils...anything you feel I need. Thank you for your help!!!

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  1. Well, instead of giving you tons of items, I will start of the most basics of all.

    You will need at least one cookware for small volume high heat fast cooking and one for bulk slow cooking. For fast cooking, you will need either a frying pan, a saute pan, a country frying pan, a skilet of a wok. Pick what you like the most. For slow cooking, you will need a stock pot, a Dutch Oven, a large sauce pan, a pressure cooker or an electric slow cooker. Your pick. Finally, you will probably need a medium saucepan. As for utensils, very simple things you will need like a can opener, a turner/spatula, a spoon, strainer and a pair of tongers.

    Milkyway, where are you moving to?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Agree with Wonder. A decent Chef's knife can a hufe difference. You don't need the most expensive one, but you must use one above and beyond those faberware knives from supermarkets. If you are looking for the standard, goes for Wusthof and Henckel Twins (not the Henckel International). If you want to spend less, try Dexter-Russell, Victorinox. If you want get more of a Japanese favor, then there are tons to choose from: Shun, Global, Tojiro, Fujiwara, Kanetsune ....

      In term of styles, there are several types of Chef's knife. The most common ones in US are the German Chef's knife

      , but there are the French Chef's knife. Many people use Santoku as their Chef's knife. Gyuto, Nakiri, Chinese Chef's (aka Chinese cleaver) are all good alternatives.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Oh my! I haven't been able to log on, and I have 45 responses!! That is fantastic!! :)

        But, I am actually just moving to an apartment in my college town in a rural part of the state.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Thank you! That is well within a budget for a poor college student :)

      2. invest in a good 8-inch chef's knife. with proper care it will last a life time.

        same with an 8-inch and 10-inch cast iron skillet. not very expensive; i've had mine for almost 40 years.

        3-4 wooden spoons and rubber spatulas (oxo).

        a vegetable peeler (oxo).

        i use my spring-loaded tongs (oxo) every day.

        i also find a stainless steel dough blender (oxo) with blades very useful for chopping eggs and making mashed potatos for one.

        1 big strainer (more useful than a colander), 1 small

        an immersion blender with whisk attachment can be useful as a starter blender, food processor, hand mixer. kitchen-aid is worth the extra money.

        you'll need a big pot for pasta. as for saucepans, since i've acquired a rag-tag collection of calphalon over the years, so i'll let others weigh in on that.

        of course, measuring cups and spoons, plus a couple of mixing bowls.

        4 Replies
        1. re: wonderwoman

          Thank you for these fantastic ideas! I am definitely hoping to find a decent yet affordable chef's knife. Any suggestions for a good one that is more affordable?

          1. re: milkyway4679

            Victorinox all the way. ChemKin linked their 8" chef's knife a few posts up. While you're at it, get their paring knife and bread knife.

            This 4 knife set for $70 is pretty much all you need: http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...

            1. re: BigE

              I've had one of these for about 6 years now and I love it! (I have a 10" though. I also have an 8" knife, but I find myself using the 10" the vast majoirty of the time.)

              1. re: flourgirl

                Excellent! I am definitely going to look into the Victorinox cause of everyone's recs. The one on amazon looks perfect, and fits right into my poor college student budget!

        2. A stock pot with a pasta insert and cover, not only pasta but can be used for steaming. A paring knife and a 6" cook's/utility knife(great for improving knife skills). A fish turner spatula.

          6 Replies
          1. re: SanityRemoved

            Now that is something I never would have thought of: a fish turner spatula! I do love fish and will definitely be eating it a lot. Thank you!

            1. re: milkyway4679

              If you've watched Jacques Pepin on TV, he always uses a fish turner (the long narrow kind) for almost everything, like flipping hamburgers, instead of a normal wide spatula. I haven't seen him do pancakes, and of course he never uses nonstick cookware that the metal fish turner might scratch.

              1. re: armagnac

                I have a plastic fish turner. Can't remember where I got it but it was really cheap.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Oo I will have to look for one of those...maybe somewhere online? Let me know if you remember!

                  1. re: milkyway4679


                    This looks pretty much like what I have but I bought it in a store. I DO remember that. Old age sucks :)

                2. re: armagnac

                  Well that would be perfect since I absolutely love hamburgers! I rarely watch Jacques, but I will have to see if I could find some episodes online to see what else he uses it for. Thanks for the ideas!

            2. Need? Well, then, I am one of those who says you can get by with just a cast iron pan. Seriously, save up for the really nice copper saute pan, but for now? Become master of a 9 inch Lodge pan (or an heirloom piece of cast iron, if you're lucky enough), and don't look back. Beyond that, silicone spatula, whip, a decent chef's knife that actually fits your hand, one really good paring knife, instant read thermometer, sturdy mixing bowls with steep sides, a 8x8 inch pan (pyrex or stoneware), a stock pot, a small pot, as as many kitchen towels as you can cram in a drawer. Heavy jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with sides). A silpat or its equivalent. A colander.

              If you're me, your burn treatment of choice (I like a local MSM cream).

              And as soon as you can, a kitchen aid mixer with a larger than average bowl.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Vetter

                I am going to look at the garage sales in my area for a good cast iron....I am hoping for an estate sale with an elderly woman who loved to cook! Well-seasoned, already good to go!

                In regards to the mixing bowls...do you use glass/pyrex or something else? I see a lot of pyrex bowls in stores and wonder how sturdy they actually are!

                I won't need the burn cream haha, but I will need a big tube of neosporin and some bandaids! I always drop glasses, and cut myself cleaning up the mess!

                Ahh, a kitchen aid mixer. I have been drooling over the kitchen aid 5qt artisan stand mixer in red for quite some time, but that is definitely a wait-a-little-while purchase.

                Thanks for all the suggestions!

                1. re: milkyway4679

                  I found my KA stand mixer a few years ago on Amazon. It was "refurbished" but came with a full factory warranty and, if my poor memory serves me this time. it was about $170. It's white but so is flour :)

              2. Mortar and pestle. Grinding your own spices is a simple, inexpensive way to significantly improve your cooking.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Condimentality

                  Actually, I routinely grind my own spices and find that an inexpensive coffee mill does a better job than a m&p - you get more control and a better fine grind when needed. I have both gadgets btw and use the mill way more than the m and p.

                  1. re: Rasam

                    I will have to try both, since it seems like both options are inexpensive and I think my parents have an old coffee mill lying around the house that they never use. Thanks for the advice!

                2. I'll answer this a different way. What have I used the most often this week?

                  Cutting board. (groove on one side for meat)
                  Vegetable cleaver (CCK.)
                  Veg recycle bin + garbage (Ikea twin-unit under the sink)
                  Bread knife (Shun)
                  Fillet knife (Shun)
                  Peeler (Zyliss)
                  Cutlery, 18-10 stainless (Oneida??)
                  Steak knifes (not serrated)
                  Copper pans (Baumalu)
                  Cheap Chinese steel woks
                  Timer + probe Thermometer (Taylor)
                  Stainless steel mixing bowls (good quality nest of them )
                  Dough scraper - use it every day (Martha Stewart)
                  Silicon spatulas and large spoons
                  Wooden spoons / slices
                  Stainless spatula
                  Stainless strainers (decent ones)
                  Stock pot
                  Empty yoghurt pots to keep stuff in the freezer (s'ok if they fall and break)
                  Electric Kettle - 5 times a day,
                  Coffee-spice grinder (Capresso coffee grinder)
                  Food processor (Cuisinart 14 cup)
                  Slotted spoon
                  Sharpening water stone (I don't use a steel)
                  $1 orange shamwow things (dollar store, made in Germany)
                  Tea towels (Dollar store)
                  Bone china cups (made in England)
                  Corelle plates and bowls
                  White ramekin-style bowls (Dollar store)
                  Chinese dipping sauce bowls (Asian supermarket)
                  Pepper mill + salt mill (Peugeot)
                  Collapsible silicon stainer - doubles as a steamer
                  Small teflon frying pan (Tefal)
                  Medium grater (Microplane)
                  Electronic scales
                  Oven gloves (Ikea)
                  Aluminium half-sheet baking tray
                  Heavy duty aluminium full size cookie sheet
                  Pizza stone (permanently in the oven)
                  Container (Rubbermain and Ikea)
                  Compartmentalised spice tray (Bamboo & glass)
                  Multi-tool (cheap version of a Leatherman)
                  Laptop computer (the kitchen-living is open plan)
                  Cast iron griddle (Permanently in oven)
                  Mason Jars and a filling funnel

                  The above list is empirical.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: Paulustrious

                    Most "often-used" kitchen item...a good corkscrew Go with a good waiters style ... not the old "angel wing" style.
                    Congrats and enjoy the new life.

                      1. re: katidyd

                        I have only ever used the old angel wing style, so I will have to learn how to use the waiter's style! Where do you buy those?

                        1. re: milkyway4679

                          I was doing wine tastings quite frequently, and I found a realy good one, made in Italy, at World Market that is my favorite corkscrew.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics


                          - YouTube to show me how to do things.
                          - Lists of ingredients. (bread, baking, pancakes etc)
                          - Reverse menu lookups. (search for a recipe using fridge contents.
                          - Check what's on the TV

                          And if you use keep pressing Ctrl-+ you can make the font size readable across the room.

                          Forgot to mention the phone in my previous list

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            OMG, I never knew about Ctrl-+! I LOVE YOU. I have my mini-computer in the kitchen regularly. This is HUGE (pun intended).

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I alwasy have my laptop in the kitchen when I'm cooking for two reason.
                            #1 - Music such as Pet Shop Boys
                            #2 - and http://www.online-stopwatch.com/
                            I use the online count down timer for my rice and other goodies that you need to remember what time you started cooking them.

                          3. re: Paulustrious

                            Man, I can tell you eat a lot of fish because you use a fillet knife and didn't mention a boning knife.

                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                Took me awhile to get that. I thought you meant it is political correct to eat more fish, but now I think you meant the knife names. Ha :)

                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              i, too, use yogurt containers to store food in the freezer, but for the fridge, i've found because it's non-reactive, food stored in glass jars stays fresh much longer. i've had some parsley that's lasted over a month; strawberries will last for weeks..

                              i have a few i bought new from ikea, but most are empties i' ve saved from tahini, pasta sauce and better than bullion.

                              i've also seen empty glass jars in goodwill/salvation army stores.

                                1. re: wonderwoman

                                  Never knew that about glass jars! I will have to start saving them through the summer! Thanks for the great tip! :)

                                  1. re: milkyway4679

                                    You can find some great glass containers at Dollar Tree and 99 Cent Only stores.

                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                      Maybe I am too skeptical and selective but I would not use any stuff from Dollar Tree or 99 Cent stores for food related. IMO, those stores are full of made in China junks whose safty/health hazard no one knows about. Especially storing food long time, I would be more conservative.

                                2. re: Paulustrious

                                  Wow! This is an excellent list!! It has many things that I would never have thought of but will definitely need (like oven gloves and the spice tray!). Thank you so much!

                                3. From Mark Bittman: “What kitchen equipment should I buy?”

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: monku

                                    Thank you! Very informative article...I am going to print out a copy!

                                  2. Based on what I know, here are a list of items I would buy and wished I had never purchased.

                                    (Ultimate) Buy List
                                    Stand Mixer (own)
                                    Cordless/Rechargeable Immersion Blender (want)
                                    Vitamix (want)
                                    Bamboo Utensils (own)
                                    Stainless Steel Utensils (own)
                                    4Qt & 8Qt Le Creuset (want)
                                    Lodge Chicken Fryer Combo (own)
                                    Select Sitram and Demeyere pieces (want) [conical sauteuse, fryer, sauce pot, rondeau, stockpot] (want)
                                    Rice-cooker (want)
                                    Multiple-size strainers (own)
                                    Quality Knives (want)
                                    Quality Cutting boards (want)
                                    Accessories: measuring spoons/cup, veggie/fruit peeler, mandoline

                                    Bought but regret
                                    Hand Mixer
                                    Cheap useless gadgets from Bed Bath Beyond, WS & Ikea
                                    Microwave (now prefer convection oven)
                                    Cookware set (especially non-stick pieces)
                                    Cheap plastic cutting boards (damaged easily and environmental hazard)
                                    Steamer bags

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: cityhopper

                                      That is an interesting point:

                                      "Bought but regret

                                      Microwave (now prefer convection oven)"

                                      Never thought of those two as competitors, but I guess they can be.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        I really just do not use microwaves anymore. Now that I do not purchase processed food and/or frozen dinners, I virtually have no need for microwaves. However, there have been times where I would have preferred to have had a smaller convection oven rather than heating up the big oven to warm/cook/broil a few items.

                                        1. re: cityhopper

                                          I don't use processed food or frozen dinners much. However, I do cook in bulk. That is to say, I usually cook for more than 1 or 2 meals, more llike 3-6 meals, so my cooked food last from an entire day to three days. As such, they will go into the refrigerator and I need to wam them up before eating them.

                                          Don't you have left over meals?

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            The last time I used a microwave was to warm corn muffins or fresh pretzels. Typically I reheat via stove or oven; this is part of the reason I would like a small convection oven. IMHO, the quality/taste of food suffers when using the microwave versus the stove/oven.

                                            1. re: cityhopper

                                              The two things you mention, corn muffins and fresh pretzels, would be about the last things I'd reheat in a MW. That aside, are you aware that there are MW/convection ovens?

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                When I say reheat (muffins or pretzels), I mean less than 10 to 15 seconds if made same day; if not, then it'll go in the oven.

                                                Yes, I am aware of the MW/convection oven combos. I prefer a broiler/convection oven combination. I suppose the only thing I would lack with not having a microwave would be popcorn and even that could be popped on a stove top.

                                                This is all just my preference. I am just not very microwave friendly anymore.

                                                1. re: cityhopper

                                                  Count me in as one of those who doesn't really use her MW much anymore. But there are a few things I use it for every week - including heating milk in this great tall glass pitcher I have that is perfect for using my aerolatte in. I think I'll always have a small MW for the few convenience things I use it for. But I use my toaster oven and range top much more often to re-heat things. I think the food tastes better too.

                                              2. re: cityhopper

                                                I think some foods suffer, especially foods which are meant to have a crispy texture. For example, ovens will do a better job reheating French fries, taco, and grill fish. However, microwave can do a better job for reheating soft texture and liquid food, like reheating a bowl of rice or a bowl of soup.

                                                Nonetheless, what you said is very interesting. Maybe I should consider to have a small convection oven to reheat certain foods. Well, after I get my own place (still renting)

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  For foods with softer texture, I'll reheat on the stove top occasionally. Of course, it can be done a lot quicker in a microwave.

                                                  Perhaps I am becoming extremely old fashion and more and more like my grandmother. She uses a little toaster oven to this day. :-)

                                                  1. re: cityhopper

                                                    What is wrong with toaster oven? I like toaster oven.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Definitely. It's one of the big energy savers in my kitchen. That and the MW :)

                                        2. re: cityhopper

                                          I wish I could have a convection oven, alas I am stuck with a microwave... But, I forgot about the rice cooker, so that goes on my list. I have a good friend who has taught me how to cook many authentic Puerto Rican dishes, and I love a good bowl of rice with bean sauce :)

                                          1. re: Emmmily

                                            I liked the advice of marking down everything you cook with during the course of a week or two and making sure you get those items or the equivalent early on.

                                            1. re: amokscience

                                              That's a great tip!!!!

                                              Perhaps this is also good in regards to what ingredients you should keep in stock versus purchase when needed.

                                              1. re: amokscience

                                                Agreed - a good idea. Applying it to the items identified here and items I've used this week, I'd add:

                                                1. French vegetable steamer. We use this 2-3 times a week to steam vegetables. I note that some posters have instead suggested a pasta pot with draining insert. We've never owned one and don't miss that. We use the steamer for vegetables, cook pasta in a tall 6 qt stock pot, and drain in a good size colander.

                                                2. Manual potato masher. In addition to using to smash potatoes, which we eat frequently, it's great for making cranberry sauce, apple sauce, etc.

                                              2. re: Emmmily

                                                Thank you! I will have to read through those as well :)

                                              3. Love my microplane...use it for lots of stuff...

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: tochowchick

                                                  love my too. completely forgot it when i made my list.

                                                  1. re: wonderwoman

                                                    If the OP listened to everyone, he'd have enough to outfit 5 kitchens... 1st apartment... I imagine he's on a very tight budget... I'd change the list to "What essential kitchen items should I get with my $100 budget". I'm presuming a single person.

                                                    1. 8" non-stick saute/omelette/burger pan $10
                                                    2. 12" Cast iron fry pan $15-25
                                                    3. 10" Chef knife, paring knife (Ikea $18)
                                                    4. 2qt sauce pan (boil eggs, sauces, boil water for coffee) $10-20
                                                    5. French Coffee Press Ikea $14
                                                    6. Silicone spatula, wood spoons, SS spatula or flipping burgers/steaks/eggs, heavy duty SS tongs (don't bother with the cheap ones), veggie peeler - all found at Ikea again
                                                    7. Set of cheap Tupperware plastic storage set - Ikea again
                                                    8. Big stock pot for soups/pastas
                                                    9-10. Add a wok and rice cooker if you plan to cook a lot of Asian dishes

                                                    These are just a beginning but the above items on my list, you can cook a lot of dishes with my bare minimum list

                                                    1. re: darrelll

                                                      I wouldn't make your assumption that OP has that limited a budget.

                                                      Has any/everyone mentioned cutting board(s)?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        The budget version is known as a plank.

                                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                                          If I were starting out, I'd probably get a bunch of those flexible plastic ones. But I have about a dozen wood "planks" including a pig-shaped one our daughter made years ago in shop.

                                                      2. re: darrelll

                                                        the op specifically said they were looking to improve their cooking, and asked for anything we thought would help. when i made my list, and additions, i thought about the things i use everyday.

                                                        a microplane is relatively inexpensive --$10-12 -- and can be used for many purposes. i used mine to grate cheese, lemon zest -- even nutmeg.

                                                        1. re: darrelll

                                                          Even if OP is on a limited budget, this list seems a bit constrained. I'm thinking back to my husband's first kitchen when he was in grad school, and living in a tiny study in WGV in NYC -- i.e., space constraints were even more severe than budget -- and would add:

                                                          1. If one is going to use a French Coffee Press in lieu of an drip electric coffee maker, then I'd invest in an inexpensive tea kettle. Pouring boiling water out the side of a 2 qt sauce pan is inconvenient, at best, and if you are in a hurry, can lead to spills and burns.

                                                          2. One sauce pan is insufficient for anyone aspiring to be a "foodie," -- or even just someone who wants to cook simple, wholesome meals on a regular basis. At a minimum, I'd own one 2 qt and one 3 qt saucepan. We've never owned a rice cooker (eat lots of rice, but not Asian dishes in particular). On any given day, the 2 qt pot is in use for the rice, and the 3qt for steaming vegetables. If budget and/or space are constraints, the 3qt pot is far more versatile then the rice cooker. Ideally, even for a starter kitchen, I'd own a two 2 qt, one 3 qt, and one 4 or 5 qt pot, in addition to the stock pot & frying pans. It depends upon what you are likely to make but, for example, if you are going to make pasta, with a homemade sauce, you probably need the 4 or 5 qt pot for the sauce, if the stock pot is in use for the pasta.

                                                          3. As noted in my other post, I'd invest in both a French vegetable steamer and potato masher. Both inexpensive and take up no space. Ditto on recommendations by others for cutting boards and microplane.

                                                          4. Also a box or flat grater for coarser grating, depending upon food you are likely to cook -- e.g., to grate potatoes or cheese.

                                                          5. In addition to utensils mentioned in item 6, I'd buy a soup ladel and slotted spoon.

                                                          1. re: darrelll

                                                            This is a great list for the basics ( mortar & pestle and a fish turner...basic? Who are these people?)
                                                            I disagree with the coffee press only because my husband has every coffee gadget imagineable and, yes, you do need to make coffee, but the method, I have found, is extremely to personal taste.
                                                            I have a rice cooker and I bought one for a friend both at yard sales. Total cost for 2: $15. Mine makes 3 cups and I've never needed a bigger one. Who eats that much rice? So buy small and used.
                                                            Cooks Illustrated consistently and routinely discourages the use of a wok. Western stoves aren't designed to heat the tall sides of the pan. A good nonstick frying pan is more appropriate.

                                                            1. re: blackpippi

                                                              Yes, Western stoves are not designed for a wok and one will get better performance using a more enclosed stove. Nevertheless, that is not the same as saying a frying pan on modern stovetop can do the same as a wok on Western stovetop, especially if you want to stir-fry with tossing. It simply means a wok on a Western stove is not the best setting. There are many things a wok on a Western stove can do better than a frying pan. Fried rice comes to my mind. Moreover, I disagree that a nonstick frying pan is appropriate substitution. The food won't even come out right at the lower heat limit of nonstick pans.

                                                              Cooks Illustrated has stated many silly things like the way they tested some kitchen knives with sandpapers.

                                                        1. OK, here is something that is extremely cheap and that I find so useful that I actually brought one with me to Cairo. That is, a wire cake tester. Not only do I use it for cakes, but I use it all the time to test the doneness of things like baked or boiled potatoes or beets or any vegetable that you want to be tender. What I like about it is that, in the case of boiled potatoes, for instance, it doesn't make a large hole which I find can make the potatoes get waterlogged. ANd in the case of other vegetables like artichokes, the hole is invisible. I love my cake tester!!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                            What an extremely Chow-ish idea. I'm definitely getting one of those. Thanks.

                                                          2. Wow! Thank you for all the fantastic suggestions, links, etc. I have read through all of them, and made a list. :) To clear a few things up: I am young and somewhat limited budget wise, but figure about $500 is where I would set a limit that I can afford. That seems quite logical to me to outfit a kitchen for the time being. I have a few months yet (will be moving out in August), and will not be far from family/friends. I also have my boyfriend's house within walking distance, and if necessary, can store larger items in his larger kitchen! (Sadly, our space is ridiculously limited...and the stove/oven is TINY! I am quite jealous of his full kitchen :) )

                                                            But again, I appreciate everyone's help and excellent suggestions!

                                                            1. I would suggest a subscription to Fine Cooking, or get their compilation issues, such as Fresh, Quick & Delicious, Grilling, etc.


                                                              And I would pay a little extra and get a knife from Global instead of Victorinox. It's a good knife that you'll find many real chefs use.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: faddyarbuckle

                                                                Good luck to you Milkyway. Don't wish for that big kitchen quite yet, I am sure many of us look back at our first apartments with their virtually non-existent kitchens fondly and remember how they made us more efficient cooks. My first grown up kitchen was super tiny and disgusting BTW, but I made it work. I now have a professional kitchen which I designed myself....which I love cooking in...but I am not sure it has made me a better cook.

                                                                I agree with several posters above that tell you really don't need that much when you are starting out. A good pan or two, a good pot or two, 2 sheet pans and a brownie/cake/muffin pan if you are a baker, a great knife, a decent surface to cut on, a wood spoon, a rubber spatula,tongs, oven gloves, and you're good to go!

                                                                All the other things will come in time. A zester is great, but you can mince it yourself while improving your knife skills. A mortar and pestle is also great, I use mine everyday, but you can use the bottom of a heavy pot on a cutting board if you don't have one. A juicer is great but you can use a fork and a glass, A strainer is great but you can use the lid of your pan, and on and on.

                                                                When I go on vacation I always take my ceramic cutting knife, a wine opener, a wood spoon and a spatula. Even if the pans are terrible, I can function if I have these 4 things.

                                                                So pick up the bare minimum, which you will easily fit into your budget, and enjoy!