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Starting from Scratch-- Must haves!!

As of today I have not one pot, pan, knife, blender, etc.... As I am relocating I am also disgaurding my college years half off dollar store pots/pans etc.!!!!

Now, where to start? I am in my mid 20's and as I do cook, I am not in the kitchen every day. I am looking for the "must haves" for any starter kitchen... Is it worth buying a pre packaged bundle or piece by piece.? Any suggestions

This post can cover anything from kitchen appliances , gidgets, pots, dishes etc. as long as it is practical and you love it!!!

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  1. Piece by piece. Start with a good knife.

    16 Replies
    1. re: wattacetti

      Any suggestions on what kind brand?

      E_M hahaha as long as my roomates or G/f doesnt touch anythign I will ok with out it

      1. re: Augie6

        You have to shop for the knife that's best for you. The most common suggestions are the 8" chef's or a santoku (as mentioned already by LovinSpoonful), neither of which I own but that's personal preference.

        The fire extinguisher is a good idea just in case some of the cooking ideas go awry (or you can spray your flatmates).

        1. re: wattacetti

          "neither of which I own "

          What do you have Wattacetti?

        2. re: Augie6

          Augie6, I am going to break from the crowd here and recommend a non-chef's knife. Here's why. You are building a collection, I understand, and you want to buy only those pieces that will still be treasured when the collection is done. The reason many recommend a chef's knife is that it is thought to be the jack-of-all-trades, good at many tasks. But, once you have six or eight knives, you will find yourself more and more selecting the tool that is specific to the task, and the jack-of-all-trades knife will less and less be used.

          Now, let me take the other side of the argument I just made. I use about nine knives specific to the task (some more, some less, than others, obviously), and my spouse could choose any of those knives (I do not protect them or hog them) for the same kinds of tasks that I choose them for; but my spouse uses one knife, the same knife, for everything except cutting large melons and large squashes; for 90-95 percent of the time a knife is needed, a 6' utility knife is the one my spouse chooses.

          And that is not irrational: a 6" utility knife (sometimes called a "petty knife") is just right for tomato and small vegetable slicing, and for dicing garlic and onions; it can even substitute for a paring knife. Peeling apples or oranges? You don't want the weight or broad blade of a chef's knife then. And even when you have collected your full complement of knives, you will reach for the 6" utility knife when you peel an apple.

          Your first keep-it-for-life knife? One that can do many tasks now, but which evolves to be a specialty task knife as you add more knives alongside it. This is the one I would recommend: http://cgi.ebay.com/Solicut-Stainless... (Solicut used to be called Eberhard Schaaf; you may find some reviews of the knife under the Eberhard Schaaf name.) The balance is unmatched, and it takes an excellent edge.

          1. re: Politeness

            Re: Politeness' opinion, I am lucky that my spouse, too, prefers a "utility" blade. I consider it lucky, because it guarantees that she keeps her hands off of the knives that I actually use. If she were to break, chip or lose the utility knife, I would be sad, because it would mean I would have to buy her another knife that is IMO about 95% worthless.

            Start with a chef, a parer and a bread knife and you will not be sorry. Start with a "utility" knife, and the (later) day you buy a good chef's knife, you'll wonder: Why did I bother with this useless thing?

            1. re: kaleokahu

              "I would be sad, because it would mean I would have to buy her another knife that is IMO about 95% worthless."

              Kaleo. You cannot think like that. The utility knife protects the rest of your other knives. It is your first line of defense. It is like a fainting goat:


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Chem: That's a great point. I've always considered that profile to be more like a knife decoy, or an inflatable tank used to fool satellites.

                That is a funny vid, but I'm not getting the connection between knives and narcolepsy. I had a frat brother who was (is?) narcoleptic, and he was basically immunized from any discipline. Funny and very convenient!

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  I am sorry about your frat brother.

                  As for the fainting goat, legend has it that the fainting goats was raised to protect other farm stocks during wolves attack. When wolves attack the herd, a few fainting goats will just drop while other animals run for safety. All the wolves will just focus on the fainting goats. If there is no fainting goat, then all the animals will run and the wolves may diverge the attacks and kill many more animals -- since there is not an obviously weak one.


                  Is the legend real? Some disagree, but it is certain a wide spread legend. Therefore, your utility knife is a fainting goat -- protecting your other knives.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Chem: Thanks for the explanation. I took too many classes away from genetics to know much about it, but I seem to remember that the genes for narcolepsy can be selected; I had a Psych professor who is a sleep scientist, and he bred poodles for this very trait. So the legend may make some sense.

                    Are you saying my utility knife should be left out, in front of the block?

                    My frat brother was a hoot; most of the manifestations of his narcolepsy were hilarious. One quarter I roomed with him *and* another student who suffered from elaborate-dream sleepwalking. I would sometimes return to our room finding the latter screaming about "Run for your life, I'm defusing this BOMB!" and the former out cold (sober). I miss college sometimes!

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      kaleo. I missed college too, but I don't remember mine was so crazy. ha.

              2. re: kaleokahu

                Chef, paring, and bread knives are those I have and use. In fact, I don't own any others. I do like to have several paring knives. I use them for pill splitting, hulling strawberries, chopping scallions, cheese, etc. I frequently want a fresh one for the next task. I have one paring knife with what I think is called a bird's beak blade ... it's particularly good for slicing scallions on a cutting board and not sending the little discs flying.

              3. re: Politeness

                Politeness, what is your wife's rationale for reaching for the utility knife (e.g., to pare an apple) most of the time when she has other more specialized knife (e.g., a paring knife) at her disposal? I.e., how would she counter your perspective re: having different knives for different purposes -- does she think it's more convenient just to use the same knife, or does she think the utility knife does the best job 90% of the time? Or for some other reason altogether?


                1. re: iyc_nyc

                  iyc_nyc: "... what is your wife's rationale ..."

                  You assume that my spouse is a wife and that I am her husband. Consider the possibility that my spouse is my husband and I am his wife.

                  My spouse is very, very comfortable with that knife. (It is a full-bolster forged, but never was especially expensive, knife made in Brazil. The blade is not super hard, but takes a wicked edge and responds well to a steel.) My spouse believes that there is no cause or reason to reach for another knife when the utility knife is so well suited to the tasks it is asked to perform.

                  There is no knife in our collection that I find equally bonded to, so I use a long chef's knife for some tasks, a slender long filleting knife for another, a short rather sturdy Edgecraft (with very hard steel) chef's knife for another, an Eberhard Schaaf 7" Kullenschliff knife for another, a small Henkels paring knife for another, etc. But I must admit that my favorite knife among all of those -- the one knife of the collection that I reach for most often -- is the 7" Eberhard Schaaf Goldhamster that is the one knife that is closest in size and shape to the Brazilian knife that my spouse favors.

                  1. re: Politeness

                    Ahh, thanks. And have no idea why I assumed you were the husband -- truly sorry about that. :-)

                    1. re: Politeness

                      That's okay. Mine actually reaches for the steak knives when he has to cut something. If I put it in front of him, he will use a six inch serrated utility knife -- which is basically a better steak knife. Maybe my supersharp big knives are intimidating, who knows. Go figure.

              4. re: wattacetti

                Agree with Wattacetti. An average to above average cutting board is good too.

                1. re: E_M

                  LMAO. That is the funniest thing I have seen here ever I think :D

                  1. re: LovinSpoonful

                    I doubt that E_M was intending that to be a joke. I certainly have one in my kitchen.

                2. I would actually consider a smaller set. One that comes with a frying pan, a saute pan, a stock pot, and a sauce pan, and a few lids.

                  This actually looks like a really good candidate. I have heard good stuff about this line and you can't go wrong with this price:

                  I would add the following:
                  8" chef's knife or santoku
                  cheap paring knife
                  short and medium Edlund tongs
                  assortment of wooden spoons
                  slotted spoon
                  plastic spatula
                  cheap baking sheet.
                  cheap roasting pan

                  I think that would be a good base to work from. I'm trying to think of the 80/20 rule...that 80% of your cooking is done with 20% of your tools.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LovinSpoonful

                    I'd probably get the tramntina set based on th cooks illustrated must have list. It's online at walmart. I love le creuset silicone tools and recommend them.

                    1. re: LovinSpoonful

                      If you can afford it I would replace the plastic spatula in this list with a heatproof silicon spatula. If you eat eggs you won't be able to live without it.

                    2. Get a decent cutting board/block and a few of the flexible cutting sheets so that you can keep meat and chicken cross contamination to a minimum.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KatoK

                        Do a search for "Mark Bittman' NYT He has a great video on kitchen essentials.

                      2. I'd suggest to buy individual knives and pans, avoid the sets as they generally have items that you'll seldom use. Some examples; get a good saute pan, santoku knife and a roasting pan with a v-rack.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cstr

                          I have a 2nd home, so needed to start from scratch too. The All-Clad 10 piece sets pretty much have the exact set of pots I have bought 1 by 1 over time in my first house... It really depends on what you cook. And how much you want to spend up front.

                          1. re: firecooked

                            We have a second home also and will do a complete tear-down, gut of the kitchen and dining area. I'll be replacing a dreadful electric coil cooktop with induction. The Circulon set that I got at Costco for the first induction suits me to a tee (with some cast iron pieces also) so I'll be buying another set. I don't "get" knife sets but nowadays it seems like cookware is hitting the right notes.
                            BTW, my set only cost $200!

                        2. I think I would invest in a good chef's knife, a serrated edge knife and a paring knife. The chef's knife should be the best qualitly you can afford. You will have to handle a variety of those before you know the one you want. The other knives can be lesser quality for now. The chef's knife is must though. Get a good one.

                          Yes to a good cutting board. Not too big for your kitchen, or too small to be useful. A board that will fit over your kitchen sink is a good idea. Choose a couple of mixing bowls and some measuring vessels. You don't have to have the most expensive of these.

                          Choose 2 pans to buy that should be the best you can afford. These may be a frypan or a saute pan, and possibly a saucepan. The saucepan I use every day is small. The 2 you decide to buy should be the best. Buy other moderate quality pans, and as you see the need, upgrade.

                          If you love coffee, try to buy a good, reliable coffee maker or small espresso, or decide if you want to go stovetop. Good coffee in the morning is a must for me!

                          You will want decent roasters and baking pans. Personally, I think you can buy these at discount or on sale. You might even get lucky on some of these at estate sales.

                          What you invest the most money on will the vessels or tools that you think you will use the most. Everything else can be cheaper for the time being. As you gain experience, and as you want to expand your skills, you will know what you want to buy next.

                          There is more availability of more items at all price points than ever. It sounds as if you are approaching this process as a bit of an adventure. Have fun!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sueatmo

                            It is slowly becomming an adventrue hahhaha. Thank For Everyone's advice so far.. I am at a advantage that I can start from ground up and have some time to build up... I rather start spending the money on items I will use and will be quality rather than having everything I wont use.

                            1. re: Augie6

                              Augie - Look for an email from me. I can help you out with this. And maybe some of the neighborhood stuff, too.

                            1. re: cutipie721

                              :) I don't us mine often, but when I do, it is very helpful.

                            2. i have been using alton browns book gear for your kitchen as a good guide

                              but i also go for quality products that will last...
                              like i splurged on a kitchenaid stand mixer...
                              and i agree good knives are a good investment..at least the chefs knife ...and some good steak knives
                              i also went with calphalon for good cookware and have some tfal for the everyday and throw the pan into the dishwasher stuff (calphalon gets handwashed with a dobie)
                              i also inherited an old oster model 7 from my aunt that still works...and i can still find parts for
                              i also have a le crueset that i found for 99$
                              and some cast iron...

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: srsone

                                +1 on this -- avoiding unitaskers is definitely important -- it leaves you money and cabinet space for other stuff!

                                He's pretty no-nonsense, and is particularly notable for NOT always recommending the most expensive thing.

                                Cooks Illustrated is also pretty no-bull about *most* of their equipment reviews: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/equip...

                                (and I know I'm going to get flamed for this -- but I couldn't live without my set of Pyrex measuring cups -- 1 cup and 2 cup -- a Pyrex pie plate, 8"x 8" Pyrex baking pan and a 13" x 9" Pyrex baking pan. I have duplicates of the pie plate and oblong in metal, because I do make things like candy that can't be put into Pyrex...but I use them for everything, all the time.


                                I started out with the "student set" from Walmart or Target or some such...as stuff wore out, I replaced it with the best I could afford at the time (or when I found a good sale!)...and when I'd clean out my cupboards, I'd get rid of stuff I didn't use...over time, this worked well, because the stuff I used regularly got upgraded on a regular basis, and the chaff got sent to Goodwill (hello, electric wok and electric skillet -- both wedding presents)

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  i agree with pyrex measuring cups...
                                  i forgot about those...i also have a few of those and the oxo ones with the measurements at an angle on the inside...

                                  1. re: srsone

                                    ah yes -- I have one of those, too -- all three of them get regular workouts.

                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                    Speaking of Cooks Illustrated, awhile back they did an ideal cookware set. It's pricey, but pretty fantastic (although I would add a copper windsor pan).

                                    Here's an amazon list with all the products: http://www.amazon.com/Cooks-Illustrat...

                                2. I did this recently, although I still have a few pieces to go. I wouldn't recommend getting a set, since it always contains stuff you don't want (and it never has everything you want).

                                  All you really need to start out is a good knife and a cast iron skillet. Next, I'd add a stainless sauté pan, 2 or 3 stainless saucepans, a copper windsor pan, a stock pot, and an enameled cast iron dutch oven. A paring knife is necessary and cheap, as are wooden spoons, nice spatulas, a whisk, tongs, and a meat thermometer. People will tell you that you need a teflon pan for eggs, but my cast-iron is so well seasoned that I find teflon unnecessary.

                                  For baking, you'll probably want a pie pan, some cookie sheets, and maybe some ramekins.

                                  The only gadget I find that I really need is my immersion blender. My stand mixer is fantastic, but a luxury.

                                  Get everything on an as-needed basis. If it's something you anticipate using a lot, invest in quality. Depending on the types of foods you cook, you may consider something to be essential that someone else may think is completely unnecessary. I find I have absolutely no need for a wok, but I couldn't live without my assortment of souffle dishes. Your mileage will clearly vary based on your tastes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: caseyjo

                                    as far as gadgets i have a mandolin slicer --mainly for making my grandmothers cucumber salad..the slices need to be almost paper thin
                                    an immersion blender..
                                    and a mini hand chopper..(not the vince shlomee one)
                                    and a crockpot

                                  2. Augie, I was in your position a few years ago, and I will tell you what I believe are the best steps (Skip to bottom for a quick recap):

                                    (Quick preface, I barely knew how to poor a bowl of cereal, and now I cook everything I can get my hands on)
                                    - The debate is: Set vs Piecemeal.

                                    I went with a set that was on sale at Macy's. The set had a Stockpot, Large Straight sided Saute pan, Large Frying Pan (sloped sides), small Frying pan, large Sauce pan and a small sauce pan. This was the Cuisinart Stainless Steel set that has disk bottoms (NOT fully clad). It cost, IIRC, about $120. They are not the best, because they ar not fully clad. And that was just fine by me, especially since I ended up damaging one of them. If I had gone piece by piece it would have cost much more.

                                    However, if you do go piece by piece, keep going to HomeGoods/TJ-Maxx/Ross/etc. They will have Calphalon, Cuisinart and some other brands. It will still be more expensive, if you looked to get each piece that might be in a set, or you can simply get what you need at the time.

                                    Knives: Cook's Illustrated keeps coming back to the Forschner/Victorinox Chefs Knife that costs less than $30. For that price, it is hard to argue with. I ultimately splurges on a Shun Chef's Knife (I love it).

                                    Dutch Oven (enameled): I got a cheap Dutch Oven from Target for $39.99. It is not great. The lid does not fit very well and the interior has stained quite a bit. However, it held me over for more than 3 years so I could save for something like a Enameled Lodge/Staub/LeCreuset Oven.

                                    Cutting Board: Get 2. One that is inexpensive that is dishwasher safe. This is for poultry and other things that may contaminate other things. The other one should be wood or a composite (this comes down to personal feel) and should also be relatively inexpensive. Less than $30. Why? Because we are new, young and dumb. It will warp. After you throw it away and get better at maintaining a board, you will not be hating yourself for investing too much in the first one.

                                    Cast Iron (for Eggs, and, well, everything else): Cast Iron is Rocky Balboa. The Blue Collar Champ that will not go away. These things could survive nuclear blasts, I am sure. They are inexpensive and pretty easy to maintain. If you ever need any instructions, simply search for any entry on Chowhound by a a user named ThreeGigs.

                                    Here are, IMO, the absolute beginner, inexpensive, safe essentials:

                                    - Large Saute Pan (with Straight sides): It can do, basically, everything (you can even make a small batch of stock in this guy).
                                    - Small Frying pan: If you are single, most of your everyday cooking will be in this.
                                    - Cast Iron Pan (for eggs and other non-stick cooking): The size will depend on how many eggs you want to cook.
                                    - Chef's Knife: Forschner Victorinox or maybe Calphalon. You can spend under 30 on these. Every 6 months get it sharpened.
                                    - Honing Steel: This is not a sharpening Steel, even though they are often called that. Simply hone the knife before each meal preparation. It takes 3 seconds.
                                    - 2 cutting boards. One for contaminating foods, one for everything else
                                    - Paring Knife: My all time favorite paring knife cost $5 at HomeGoods (I will have to see what brand it was)
                                    Large Saucepan and/or Stock-Pot and/or Enameled Dutch Oven: Make this your last initial purchase. In other words, hold off until you need one. The more time you have to decide, the more you think about which would best suit your needs/budget. If it is an enameled Dutch Oven, go for one that costs less than $50 and work it till death. It will take you a while and you can save money (and research) for a nicer one.

                                    THAT IS IT!

                                    Everything else comes in the second round:
                                    Meat Thermometers, Bread Knives (you can get away with Chef's Knives and cheap steak knives in the mean time), Processors/Blenders (Processors are better IMO, and, unfortunately, more expensive), Bench Scrapers, Rolling Pins (dead cheap), etc. etc.

                                    And, again, if you do go with a set, like I did, go for a Cuisinart/Calphalon/Tramontina/etc. Stainless steel set with steel handles (so that it can go in the oven) with Disk Bottoms. They are not as good as fully clad options, but much cheaper and they will be great to learn on. I am 5 years down the road and still using mine. Since then, I have found fully clad stuff on sale. The full 10 piece set (those sets count lids as part of the total number) should not cost you more than 170, IMO.

                                    Later on we can fill in all the details about things like Bar Keepers Friend to clean the cookware, steel wool, etc.

                                    (I will let everyone else deal with things like spoons and spatulas)

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: DougRisk

                                      *good* wooden spoons -- not the 99-cent cheap imported crap that's full of splinters -- $3-4, pretty much anywhere.

                                      Spatulas? Silicone, baby -- heat resistant and won't stain, even if you leave them in a pot of spaghetti sauce (my sister didn't believe that they were stain-proof when they first came out...so I bet her dinner that they were, and threw my silicone spatula into a pot of spaghetti sauce -- 5 years later, it's still snow-white and exactly the same shape as it was when I bought it...$6-7 tops -- but you'll never buy another one.

                                      Vegetable peeler -- the Oxo one. Period. $10 and another one you won't have to replace for a long, long time.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Cooking tools are valuable. Relationships are more valuable. If you have any question in your mind about whether or not your girlfriend/roommate can be trusted around your tools, don't buy expensive ones that will break your heart when they're ruined, and break your friendships when you yell at the ruiners. For that, you wait until you live alone or with a partner who can be appropriately warned (perhaps with a 10 inch Chef's knife) against messing with your stuff.

                                        Get a Forschner knife or two and a couple of good, basic, inexpensive pots and pans. Fill in with the assorted tools others have suggested above.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          sunshine842: "Vegetable peeler -- the Oxo one. Period."

                                          Ain't no flies on Oxo peeler.


                                          We got a creamic blade (Kyocera, in our case) peeler a couple of years back, and there's no looking back. It will spoil you for anything else -- including Oxo.

                                        2. re: DougRisk

                                          However, if you do go piece by piece, keep going to HomeGoods/TJ-Maxx/Ross/etc. They will have Calphalon, Cuisinart and some other brands. It will still be more expensive, if you looked to get each piece that might be in a set, or you can simply get what you need at the time.

                                          This is how I have bought many, many items for my kitchen. Also, check out Tuesday Morning. I prefer Home Goods or Marshall's in general, though.

                                          We see fairly often, recs to buy at restaurant supply places. This is not practical for me, but if it is for you, I'd investigate that option as well.

                                          As you can tell there are many methods of acquiring kitchen tools. In a way I envy you, because of all the possibilities that abound.

                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            What's not practical for you about buying from restaurant supply stores?

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Most likely it is because there isn't such a store nearby.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                This is correct. There isn't one even close to my far suburban location. It just isn't feasible to be able to pop in and check stuff. I can do this at a nearby Home Goods store, and that is what I do.

                                            2. re: sueatmo

                                              I understand that restaurant supply stores aren't everywhere, but you might have similar luck at Asian markets, which seem to supply restaurant supply type stuff to local restaurants.

                                              1. re: caseyjo

                                                If i locate an Asian market, I will be sure to have a look. We have a really nice international food store, but I have only seen misc. items such as teapots or woks there. It isn't terribly convenient to visit either.

                                          2. I'm going to second everyone that said to buy the best chef's knife that you can afford. I don't believe in knife sets (well, I believe they exist, I just also believe they aren't necessarily the best choice) and think that knife selection is best made by using it. I got a great deal through a local kitchen store in which they offered a knife-skills class - students got the opportunity to try out the entire gamut of the store's offerings and then buy their favorite using a GC that came with the purchase of the class. The whole thing was really just a way to sell knives, but it was great to get the chance to use a selection of knives on real food before purchasing. The knife I thought I'd wanted turned out to feel all wrong in my hand. I was glad to be able to try things out.

                                            Also, do not underestimate the usefulness of your local restaurant supply. I've been able to pick up decent-quality baking sheets and steel mixing bowls at mine at prices that don't make me cry if one gets wrecked.

                                            1. Aside from knives and other things that have been discussed, I recommend a spice/coffee grinder for many uses (i.e. grinding spices, small batches of nuts, etc.). I would have a very difficult time without my mortar and pestle for making sauces, pestos, grinding things...

                                              Also second the microplane suggestion for grating nutmeg, cheese, ginger, zesting citrus and so on.

                                              A good pastry blender is another multi-tasker.

                                              If you get into cooking meat to temperature a meat thermometer is invaluable.

                                              Cast iron skillet(s) - very inexpensive and workhorses in the kitchen for all kinds of tasks from searing to roasting.

                                                1. If you have thrift stores, Salvation Army, and Goodwill Stores in your area it's likely worth the effort to make a habit to stop in weekly and see what they have. While most of the knives are worse than junk I have found several Wustofs including a classic 8" chefs and 9" slicier, a gourmet 9" chefs, and a couple paring knives. Full retail on all of them is over $400 and I paid less than $10 for ALL of them combined. I also found a Tramontina full-clad SS 5qt. saute pan for $20. Also various gadgets including most of the OXO line. I've stopped buying the OXO vegetable peelers. I don't even buy them to give them away anymore. I bought a little used $30 laminate Epicurean cutting board for .49¢. Like I said, it can be worth the effort to shop the thrift stores for kitchen items. You won't find me in any other part of the stores however. I just don't see myself wearing another man's pants.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    There use to be a website, forget the name, that would rank the quality of certain thrift stores. .. basicly came down to area... higher end areas had higher end products .. there was always a rumor that certain goodwills would have Ralph Lauren and Pradas previous seasons clothing ... (exagerated but principle made sense)

                                                    1. re: Augie6

                                                      I have noticed that. One of the stores I shop is near some more affluent suburbs and that's where I found the chefs knives. The other Wustofs came from an inner-city store. Maybe merchandise is moved ftom store to store. There is one store that I mostly skip even when I happen to be driving right by because they never have anything worth the effort.

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        I bought all but two of my Wusthofs (and I have a block full) at Ross, TJ Maxx, or Marshall's -- for less than $10 each.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Congratulation's on your finds. I had an interest thought after reading your post. If I had to find good deals on knives by regularly going into the stores you mentioned, I could never get the good deals as I dislike shopping in general. Not to mention that we don't have any Ross stores and while I must have driven by a TJ Maxx store I've actually been inside one.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            In the city where I used to live, there was a TJ Maxx and a Ross in one shopping center, and the Marshalls was in a center across the street....so when I was in that neighborhood, it didn't take much time to pop in and go scrounge through their kitchen clearance and the racks where the cutlery was hanging/laying -- then I was outta there.

                                                            Tuesday Morning and Home Goods also can hide some great deals.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              ...like a $300 Mauviel copper saute pan for $10.

                                                              1. re: E_M

                                                                By the by, you can also find OUTRAGEOUSLY good deals on crystal wine glasses at these places -- I replaced all my crappy college glasses with crystal a few years ago and bought 6-piece sets of lead crystal at Ross for less than I would have paid for cheap stuff at the department stores.

                                                                Target carries Riedel, by the way....but don't get too carried away to begin with. A red wine glass, a white wine glass, and a Champagne flute are all you really need to begin with...and if you're not a big wine drinker, it's okay -- you can use the same glass for reds and whites. You still need flutes, though, if you serve Champagne. I use my crystal for us and for smaller dinner parties, but when we've got a house full, I pull out the Ikea entry-level -- I've gotten to a point that I really can't stand to drink wine out of plastic glasses, so we use inexpensive, easy to replace glasses for parties...they don't end up in a landfill, and they're just nicer.

                                                                Don't overlook Ikea on the dishes and glassware...cheap, replaceable (because the downside of buying 6-piece sets is that you end up with 5-piece sets more often than not) - and while not really fashion-forward, won't get you laughed at, either.

                                                                You don't have to spend a month's salary, but don't buy cheap-ass flatware, either -- it bends too easily, and it rusts if you look at sideways. Get a decent set of Oneida or similar, and it will serve you well. (mine's going on 15 years and is still okay enough to use when we have company).

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  We recently bought some 'everyday' wine glasses from Ikea. By that I mean that they're short enough to go in the DW. Got 6 for $5, I believe.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    Just a thought on buying flatware. I started a thread in January about this, and got a lot of recs from helpful Chowhounds. In doing research I discovered that Oneida no longer makes flatware for the home consumer. The name Oneida has been bought by a Chinese company. While I am sure that Oneida flatware has been made in China for awhile, there is no longer an American Oneida making flatware for the consumer.

                                                                    There is all sorts of info about stainless flatware in this thread.


                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                      I got my first crystal at TJ Maxx and broke it out for a party ... literally, as it turned out. Apparently they were seconds, because a stem immediately snapped off in the hand of a guest, leaving us both very embarrassed. Another broke shortly after in a similar "seconds" manner. I still have 4 survivors ... I never bought glassware from a place like that again.

                                                                      I do have a lot of vintage glassware ... the only breakage there has been my fault. One thing I like about vintage (in addition to its being green, and greater selection and quality for price in many cases) is that by definition you are getting the survivors right up front.

                                                                    2. re: E_M

                                                                      Or a fabulous chef's knife for $50, normally priced at about $90. My kids have kitchen knives I bought for them at Tuesday Morning and Home Goods(Marshalls). The fabulous chef's knife was for me, though!

                                                                    3. re: sunshine842

                                                                      i second checking tuesday morning...
                                                                      got a le creuset from them for only 99$

                                                                    4. re: John E.

                                                                      What do you call it when you stop in the thrift store on a regular basis? ;)

                                                                        1. re: ellabee

                                                                          Actually it's more like hunting. I'm not an avid shopper of regular retail. I wait until I need something and then go buy it. The last time I bought shoes was last winter. I needed shoes, i went to a full-service shoe store. Saw a pair of Rockports thay I liked. They brought out a pair in my size, they felt comfortable and I bought them. I was in and out in ten minutes. The thrist stores have stuff for pennies on the dollar so I'm willing to look a little longer. As a general rule, I don't buy clothing at them. However the other day I drove by a little thrift store that was run by a couple of older women with a non-profit as the benefactor (food bank I think) anyway, I stopped in and ibought a book and a Tommy Bahama shirt that goes for $110 at Macy's for $16. I was in that store for less than ten minutes. I guess I just don't like mall-type shopping.

                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                Hi, John E.: Great bargains. I love thrift stores for some kitchen shopping, but unlike you, I have been utterly luckless when it comes to finding decent knives there.

                                                                Where I *have* had some knife luck is at garage and estate sales.

                                                              3. If I were starting from scratch, trying to minimize expense and pieces of equipment while maximizing quality and longevity, here's the order in which I'd buy things and the materials I'd be looking for:

                                                                A - Victorinox Forschner 8" chef's knife ($30), bamboo cutting board, safe storage for the knife (blade cover, magnetic rack, block, etc.), and flexible plastic cutting board sheets if you cook with meat. [This will be fine to start with; try out knives in your friends' kitchens and kitchen stores to see what's most comfortable and effective for you in the way of an investment knife; when you finally get that knife, buy a honing steel that will suit it.]

                                                                1 - 10" or 12" skillet (depending on size of stove burners available to you), tri-ply or other fully clad stainless, with lid; wooden or melamine blunt-edged spoon, stainless locking 9" tongs.

                                                                2- 5-qt or more soup pot with lid, wider than tall, stainless with aluminum disk base or fully clad; colander or mesh strainer with base, slotted spoon (stainless or melamine).

                                                                3- 2-qt fully clad or disk-base saucepan with lid; stainless whisk, silicon spoonula, mixing bowls.

                                                                4- aluminum baking sheets with grid baking/cooling racks that fit the pans (half sheets or quarter sheets depending on oven size available); metal slotted cooking spatula.

                                                                5- 2-qt enameled cast iron casserole; measuring cups and spoons, oven thermometer.

                                                                With a bread knife, peeler, swingaway can opener, scissors, pyrex rectangular baker, and pie pan ... there isn't much you won't be able to prepare.

                                                                Next tier: 3-qt saucepan, disk-based or clad stainless; enamel cast iron Dutch oven, 5-7 quart; cast iron skillet, 8-12" depending on burner size and what you'll most often use it for -- cornbread for two or chops/steaks for a group; 3.5-5-qt saute pan w/lid, disk-based stainless.

                                                                After that, the direction you go depends on what you like to cook. Wok, bamboo steamers, spider strainer // Baking equipment: ramekins, souffle dish, gratins, loaf pans, tart pans, springform pans, etc. // Rounded, clad saucier for bechamel, caramel, polenta, risotto, etc. // Roasting pan for large fowl and cuts of meat // Machinery: stick blender, coffee grinder, blender, food processor, stand mixer // Major conveniences: salad spinner, garlic press, pastry cutter, eggbeater, pizza wheel, poaching pods, prep bowls, citrus press... again, highly dependent on what you cook -- buy as need arises.

                                                                Have fun shopping and cooking!

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                                  Ellabee, a very thoughtful list, as I read it I thought you did a fine job of catching the basics. Having suffered with, but survived, cheap revereware cookware for 30 years before finally replacing them this year, I pitch for the long-term investment of $500 or so in All-Clad MC2 irregulars: 8 and/or 12" skillets, a 12" covered saute pan, a 3 qt saucier, a 2 qt sauce pan and an 8 qt. stockpot. I've since added their 3.5 qt. casserole and a steamer, but the long-handled 3.5 saucepan would do, too. Original poster can probably save some by doing this over time. You can get cheaper, lighter tri-ply that might do, too, but the heat distribution of these heavy aluminum items is a wonder to behold. The Forschner chef's knife is a good starting point on blades, too, but cutting is a curious thing: some [like me] use an 8" plus chef's knife for most everything; my wife uses a utility/petty knife the same way, even though I have block full of old Chicago Cutlery stamped SS knives which I struggle to keep sharp. That problem will soon be solved with a 210mm Gyuto and 150mm Petty, on their way from Japan. I expect those knives [with a Chicago Cutlery bread knife, paring knives, and fillet knives in reserve] will fully cover our cutlery needs. On your suggestion of an oven thermo, a Polder digital is a good way to go.

                                                                2. For a first knife I think a thin-bladed cleaver is much more practical than a pricey chef's knife; it is the knife that sees about 90% of the use in my kitchen and If I was buying just one to start with it would be the cleaver. Mine can cut through pork bones or thin-slice a tomato and anything in between. The broad surface also makes a good impromptu spatula for scooping chopped food from cutting board to pan. You can buy a good stainless steel cleaver at the Asian supermarket for less than $10, and keep it sharp with a cheap $4 waterstone from Wal Mart.

                                                                  Later, if you decide to get more knives, the cheap cleaver can still perform well in a specialist role of breaking bones, chopping up chickens, and other tasks you don't want to subject you more expensive knives to.

                                                                  1. Augie6, Take a look at CIA Masters collection 50pc. set. I know I know what the heck ? Hey it has almost every thing you need to start (or finish) in the kitchen. Check it out at Metro Kitchen and Chefs Resource.com. Have fun Augie6!

                                                                    1. Hello Everyone, I just wanted to give a progress report. I end up purchasing a Cuisinart 14pc SS set, I am sure I could of upgraded some , but could not pass up the price. Getting use to the heat distrubution makes for some fun experiemnts.. Need to go on the hunt for some knives soon! Tax Refund here I come!

                                                                      Once again thanks for all the feedback this is a great reference page for me

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Augie6

                                                                        Congrats on the purchase of the cookware and plans to acquire good knives. A small set of pyrex custard cups can be helpful for holding premeasured ingredients for recipes and can also be used for actually be used for baking custard or holding small amounts of leftovers; a good box grater and garlic press will also come in handy,.

                                                                        1. re: Jengland

                                                                          I love the little Pyrex bowls and even have some teeny-tiny ones. Great for mise en place.

                                                                          1. re: Jengland

                                                                            I use mine all the time, often as fruit bowls, or for vitamins, or a snack-size serving of anything ... definitely useful, and pretty much indestructible too.

                                                                          2. re: Augie6

                                                                            Thanks for the update A6. I didn't read your reply until tonight. Use your cookware in good health and good appetite.

                                                                          3. Everything that I would recommend has already been mentioned. But I would say resist the urge to buy too many gadgets. So often I 'll buy something I think looks useful, use it once and it winds up in the back of the drawer taking up space.

                                                                            On the other hand I do use my microplane several times a week. And I use my salad-spinner every time I make a salad or when I need to dry my basil after rinsing (for fresh pesto).

                                                                            You can't go wrong with Pyrex with almost everything. And I, too, use the custard cups for everything. (Except custard!!)

                                                                            With the exception of heat resistant silicone, steer clear of most plastic. It's cheaper to start with but then it melts, warps, discolors and you end up having to replace it eventually anyway.

                                                                            OH! One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is a decent pepper mill. They're not too expensive and once you taste freshly grated pepper in your cooking, you'll never go back to the pre-ground stuff.

                                                                            Good luck and have fun!!!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Ritcheyd

                                                                              I really appreciate mise en place bowls of various sizes; use them all the time. Same for multiple pyrex pitchers (2 cups big) and the oxo fat skimming pitcher with the plug. And my thermopen miracle thermometer.

                                                                              Just a couple of things I really like that few have mentioned.

                                                                              Garlic press also saves gobs of time if you don't want to slice up a clove....

                                                                              And I love a good, densely 'woven' emulsifying whisk.... Such as: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000... great for salad dressings ....

                                                                              Ok, these might not be essentials, but I use them very often. So for me, things I'd like if starting out. Perhaps not the thermometer b/c expensive, but the rest are good bang for buck -- if you cook/make things that make them useful.