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Feb 26, 2011 07:57 AM

Cooking For One... After 25+ Years

Headline says it all. Not used to this, am looking forward to finding recipes here that'll keep my belly full and happy.

But! I'm living in a converted basement, with limited cooking facilities. Am planning on buying a toaster oven, a double burner and possibly a small electric griddle. Just got a two-person crockpot, a mini Foreman grill and a small coffee maker. What other appliances/tools would most people consider essential? (I have my can opener and measuring cups, and some good knives, FWIW.)

My space is limited, so I don't want tons of things. Do I really want or need a rice cooker, for example?

With a small fridge, how easy will it be to keep my menus healthy and fresh? I imagine the turnaround will be fast, but obviously I'm looking forward to having more than sandwiches and salads, ramen and Lean Cuisine.

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  1. I'd get an electric skillet rather than a griddle. So much you can do in the skillet. Cooking-wise, I'd do stews, soups, small casseroles (once you get toaster oven). I love leftovers for a least one more dinner. Nice to just warm up when you get home from work and appropriate for winter.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gail

      I felt the same - a friend insists she can't live without her electric griddle, but I can make pancakes in a skillet - try making a casserole on a griddle, right?!?! She makes me laugh. I'm really excited at getting to cook small, it's just not wanting to overkill on those adorable little appliances. :)

    2. Do you have any freezer space? That affects a lot of other choices. If you have a freezer and a microwave, you can make batches of all kinds of things and then freeze in single-serve containers.

      Lacking the freezer, my next step would be to think of good recipes deriving in part from pantry items. Can you suggest any type of cuisine that you like (standard American, Asian, Mexi, etc.)?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bada Bing

        I have very minimal freezer space at this point, and as a student, am not big on having a zillion containers of stuff to fix. I love standard American, Asian, Mexican (have you been peeking?), Italian and exploring other cuisines. Being an improv chef (living off of what's in the pantry) has fed my former family of five, but when space is limited, I don't wan the drag of eating the same thing five times a week, just because I'm used to cooking that big, y'knowwhatImean?

      2. I would suggest a portable burner that runs on Butane canisters instead of electric burners.
        just check the BTUs-closest thing to a stovetop gas burner.
        Either that or spring for an induction, like the Iportable viking $$$$$

        Do you eat a lot of rice? We have a fancy Japanese rice cooker that is great because it keeps rice warm for 2-3 days (before it eventually dries out)-basically warm rice on call. They also work as steamers which might be a bonus for you.
        Good luck!

        9 Replies
        1. re: AdamD

          Until I worked at a homeless shelter over a decade ago, I'd never even heard of rice cookers - and I was never sure just what they were needed for. I do love rice, oh yeah, but I wasn't sure if one would really be a good idea. Might be worth the effort, so I can make stuff to put on top of it in the crockpot... ;) Om nom nom...

          1. re: Kezzabou

            You can also use your rice cooker to cook oatmeal, lentils, barley, quinoa, and other grains. There are whole cookbooks out there devoted to cooking in a rice cooker. They are very cheap to run and will turn themselves off rather than burn food... great for the not totally attentive cook. Cay you tell I really love mine?

            1. re: Ferdzy

              Thanks for letting me know - my mom was a WW2 cook, we just did it in a pan like everybody else we knew. I'm getting hungry!

          2. re: AdamD

            You can get a basic induction burner for $100 or less, including on Target's web site. Not high powered as induction goes, but considerably better than those cheap coil burners. I can do anything on it I can on my stove, essentially. It is exactly what I'd recommend to someone in the OP's position.

            1. re: AdamD

              I would not use a portable butane burner. Much better would be to buy a portable induction cooker. I bought a Salton one from Costco. It's much more powerful when you need power, doesn't kick out any heat itself and on low, it can simmer really low. Added to that no need to buy butane. No fire and it has a failsafe if it ever overheats, it turns itself off. Even if you remove the pot, it turns itself off.

              Another great purchase would be a stainless steel pressure cooker (make sure the bottom is usable on induction. You can use this as a large pot and or a pressure cooker for speed cooking.

                1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                  Totall agree with LUV_TO_EAT regarding hte induction burner. You can also find good ones on eBay. The induction is not hot to the touch either.

                  Test your cookware on the bottom with a magnet to determine if it is induction ready. If the magnet sticks, it is a go for induction cooking.

                  1. re: LUV_TO_EAT

                    I was only suggesting the portable butane burner because of the cost. They are cheap and work great.

                    1. re: AdamD

                      And you don't need a plug to use it. I love my butane burner..tabletop seared steak bites...straight into my mouth while it's burning hot! Mmm. In the summer I can also take it outside for a fry party.

                2. You don't need a rice cooker. Just cook the rice (or oatmeal, lentils, barley, quinoa, and other grains) in a saucepan.

                  Do you have a good chopping board? You're going to need that.

                  You don't need an electric griddle. A frying pan (skillet) can do the same jobs and many more, and since you'll have the two burners it doesn't need to be electric. With limited space you want your tools to be versatile as possible.

                  My advice is to get as few appliances as possible and live with them for a little while. If you need anything else you'll figure it out pretty soon.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Euonymous

                    The lady I'm renting from isn't totally sure I'll be able to have the burners; if not, I'll be considering the rice cooker. Definitely looking at the chopping boards this coming week and figure I'll fill out the kitchen as I go along. Thanks for the advice!

                    1. re: Euonymous

                      >Do you have a good chopping board? You're going to need that.<

                      It would be nice if you had a chopping board that's big enough to fit over your sink in one direction or the other. Like having another counter.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        That is an excellent suggestion, one that many can make use of.

                    2. As far as hardware, a small electric non stick skillet will be great. a 10 inch stainless steel pan would be nice. A 1 qt saucepan will be needed. A microwave would be nice for thawing and heating up left overs.

                      As I suspect you are aware by now, the biggest problem is wanting to bother to cook... just for yourself. When you do cook, cook enough for leftovers so you only have to heat it up the second and third time. With that in mind a few plastic containers with lids would be good. A cupboard to act as a pantry would be very nice.

                      In a small space things will have to do double and triple duty. That cupboard I was talking about should have wheels and a counter top to put the microwave on a drawer in the top... maybe some knife slots....

                      You are living in a basement, so somebody must live upstairs. If you are or can become a decent cook, you might be able to make some arrangements where you cook for them their kitchen... with their food.... with a seat at the table for you...Yay!

                      Oh... try to buy most of this stuff at garage sales. There is no need in buying a new microwave when every garage sale has one. The electric skillet... buy it new.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                        Oh, I tend to love cooking for myself - I've had over a decade of cooking for picky eaters, so exploration is going to be very enjoyable. I'm fortunate that I have lots of space in my cupboards for appliances, food and the like. Considering getting a magnetic strip for the wall for my knives. Got a great shelved microwave cart (one that folds up like a TV tray) that also has a towel rack. It's got a butcher block top, which I don't plan on scuffing up.

                        I like your idea of cooking for my neighbor a lot - hmmm! And yeah, I'm a pretty decent cook. :) Already get my lunches for free at the care center where I volunteer, so more free food is always a plus.