How would you suggest I divide my shopping budget?
I'm a recent college graduate and I'll be moving into my own apartment soon. Currently, I've been using my flatmates' pots, pans, knives, etc. so I'll need to stock my kitchen when I move. I do have some plates, bowls, and a slow cooker but little else.
Over the past few years, I've set aside around $4-500 for my kitchen. How would you recommend I divide up this money? I don't need much advice on what specifically to buy, but I would like to hear your recommendations on how much I spend on pots/pans, how much on knives, etc.
If it helps, I'm a vegetarian, so most of my meals are heavy in legumes.
After years of dealing with cheap, warped, light and frustrating saucepans, and then finally buying (over the course of a decade) a complete set of All Clad stainless, I would have to say that investing in one or two GOOD saucepans/sauciers/etc. would be my highest priority....right up there with a good knife or two.
There's just no substitute for quality, in these items. Personally, I couldn't cook without either a food processor or mixer, or a blender, either. (well, I *could*....but I'd be cranky. ;-)
My advice would be to stock your kitchen slowly, as your cooking is likely to evolve a lot over the next few years. Borrow or buy second-hand if you can, then replace with quality where *you* find it will benefit you and as you recognise and find good deals.
Interesting that nobody mentioned a pressure cooker. I'd definitely put one of those on the list - you'll save plenty cooking your own legumes rather than buying canned. Where I live they're hard to come by second hand (and old ones are a bit scary with their valves and whistles), so I'd suggest you put up the cash for this up front.
Remember you will also need to establish your "pantry": spices, oils, vinegars, a few canned items, etc. (Having recently had to start over food-wise as a result of international relocation, I know the cost of this can mount up!) You might like to set aside a budget for that.
That's a good chunk of change to get you started. Here's what I'd do - just my take on it.
LeCrueset makes a good enameled porcelain steel 6 qt pot, that you can use for soups, pasta, and stews. If you have an erratic coil burner, I think you can get a flame tamer which will regulate the hot spots a bit. That will solve the problem with less expensive pans. Cuisinart makes a tri-ply brand that is fairly inexpensive, I have a couple pcs and they work just fine - almost a match for my All Clad. Get a 12" carbon steel fry pan and you'll have it for life. They are that good, and that size will handle everything from meats, to fish, to omelets, to grilled cheese. Try to avoid teflon or the like, if you can. Utensils are pretty basic, a flipper or two, a spatula, a couple tongs. The rest will come, in time. Knives: here's where you may schooch your budget up just a bit. Get a very good quality chef's knife, a paring knife, kitchen shears, and a boning knife. When you're ready, check out Lamson Sharp online. They make excellent bread knives, and all those other odd knives you'll want down the road. Check out their website for discontinued pcs. Measuring cups and spoons - you can pick them up at your local hardware store. Speaking of hardware stores - excellent source for enamelware. Get yourself a 12 x 16 enamelware roasting pan. You'll have it forever and it will cost all of maybe $15 - 18.00. Easy to clean. I STILL use mine from way back when to do our hefty turkey during the holidays, as well as a mean lasagna. While you're there, get small needlenose pliers - good for picking bones out of salmon. Baking sheets - get the commercial versions offered by Chicago Metallic or similar. Fairly inexpensive and they won't warp. Don't bother with Silpat. Get cheap parchment from your local grocers, and your cookies and fish and scones and lions and tigers and bears won't stick. Or burn, honest. Unless you take a nap. Which is why you may not want to do a lot of baking if you're so inclined.
Use the web. I've found more bargains and great prices than ever. I would say always buy the best quality you can. And, if all else fails, ask for gift cards to Williams-Sonoma, or whatever store is near you. This has been a God-send for my family members that are gift-impaired.
I know that maybe all of this combined be over your limit, but I think some of this will work for you. Good luck!
Admittedly I've not tried the Victorinox knives, but I would consider a more expensive, forged chef's knife, for the weight and durability. I do agree with the rest that the knife is probably the most important purchase.
If you're considering appliances, there's a food processor. It depends how much you cook, but I use mine almost every day.
I tend to economize a little on the cookware side, since I'm not as demanding for high-end items there.
I have tried the Victorinox knives - it's the extra chefs knife I keep around in my kitchen to give to anyone I don't trust with my other knives.
It compares very well with a lot of more expensive knives, especially of the German variety - better than henckels or wusthofs offerings until you get to their premium/expensive lines. Nice out-of-the box sharpness, comfortable, better geometry than most Western style knives, sharpens easily. 'Forged' doesn't really mean anything significant anymore when discussing most chefs knives - there are awful and excellent forged knives just as there are equally awful and excellent stamped knives.
For the money, I haven't really seen the victorinox/forschner equaled. There are some excellent knives to be had for $60-$80 if you know what you're looking for...
...but it would also be easy to spend more money and wind up with something worse than the victorinox/forschner
Being able to sharpen regularly, iMO, is probably more important than having a good knife in the first place. If the OP is at all inclined, learning to use a whetstone is the best and most economical way to maintain a truly useful edge and preserve your knives. There are numerous cheap 2-sided stones that should produce a better edge than you'll get out of most professional sharpening jobs once you get the hang of it. I recommend Japanese synthetic waterstones, but even dirt-cheap oilstones (carborundum stones) can do a great job. Here's the first waterstone I used.
For reasons I don't fully understand, many/most dismiss the idea of learning to use a whetstone out of hand. Sigh, whatever. For those, there is professional sharpening, expensive options like the chef's choice electric sharpener (ehhhh.... lots of other people like it), the edgepro (great, even more expensive), and dozens of cheap gizmos. Of the gizmos, the carbide/shearing sharpeners create the sharpest (albeit weak) edge at the expense of removing a lot of metal. And the carbides don't last long.
Buying an expensive knife (or even medium priced one) without a plan on how to sharpen it is, IMO, silly.
There is always a plan. Now, here is a "plan", scroll to 6:58 min and listen to what she said after "When my knives become dull, I just ....." I know it is an infomercial, but it is still very funny.
In some way, I wish I have the ability to say something like that, but I don't.
Very little money ($1-$5 each) on wooden spoons, a spider, tongs, towels, oven mitts, can opener, bottle opener, slotted spoon, silicone spatula, etc. from a restaurant supply store.
A little more money on organizing things ($50) for a spice rack (I like the clear containers with magnets), oil dispenser, pot lid holder, and inexpensive pot rack (which could be a DIY item). This category is not essential, but will make your life much easier. And neater.
The same amount of money on bakeware and servingware such as a half sheet pan; baking dishes (the enameled stoneware is lovely); clear bowls for prep & storage; and measuring cups and spoons. (TJ Maxx and the like have all this for rock bottom prices.)
More money on knives ($75-$100) for a chef's knife, paring knife, sharpener, and cutting board.
The same amount of money for cutlery, tableware, drinkware (and wineglasses!) for 4, preferably 8.
With the remainder of your budget for pots and pans.
I think you can buy the cheap dishes and flatware because those have next to no impact on your foods, though if you expect company and want to impress your girlfriend, then you may be you want to invest more. For yourself, you shouldn't need to spend more than $30 for a few flatware and plates and bowls.
I would spend about
$25-50 on utensils like spatula, spoon, skimmer, can opener, ice cream scoop, oil dispenser....
$50 for a single main knife
$10 for a paring knife
$250 for cookware. (1) A fry pan or a skillet. (2) a saucepan. (3) a stock pot or Dutch Oven (optional).
$75 for a toaster oven or a microwave if you don't have one.
I don't think you need a toaster oven, but that's my $0.02. I also would get the Forchner Fibrox Chef's Knife for about $30, and use the savings towards cookware. Get yourself a couple half sheet pans, and some cooling racks, and a couple of basic baking pans, too.
Get yourself good measuring cups (dry and liquid), and measuring spoons. They are things you'll use over and over and over, especially for measuring spices, etc.
An immersion blender is great for soups, etc.
I think you are correct. I think it really depends if the original poster like to do some real baking. If so, bakeware is very important and two half sheet pans are must. However, if Rick is not into baking, then a small toaster oven can be useful for making toasts or baking small quantity foods.
I think your suggestion for a Victorinox Chef's knife for $20-30 is an excellent choice.
For cookware, Tramontina is known to make quality stainless steel cookware at a very low price.
*I am not advocating a cookware set. This is just an example*
I just realize that I forgot to mention a cutting board, so there is another $20-30 for a decent cutting board.
I also agree with the knife suggestion. i frequently give that particular chef's knife as a gift to help stock a new kitchen. They are very functional and will hold up well until you are ready to spring for the fancy ones. And the butchers where I shop use nothing but Forschner.
I would also but $10-15 into a comfortable pair of tongs. I use them all the time to toss, grapple, flip, etc. They go into my "tools to travel with" kit.
Something to consider, since you mentioned legumes, is an induction "burner". I really like it for cooking bean, it's energy efficient, and can be used with cast iron, which is another favorite for the starter kitchen.