First House! What equipment do we need?
My two best friends and I just signed the lease on our first house. We love to cook and we're trying to come up with a list of essentials so that we can split them up and buy what we need.
We're college students, so we're required to have a dining plan. Two of us eat in co-ops, where we can take ingredients home with us if we like (mostly basics). All this is to say that we'll be doing a moderate amount of cooking. We looooove to cook and two of us have had jobs cooking.
Right now we have:
Knives (santoku, bread, pairing, tomato, and some cheapies).
Cutting boards (plastic and bamboo)
A stick blender
pop corn popper
3 minifridges (we'll probably sell 2, keep one as a beer fridge, and use the money from the other two to reinvest in other equipment)
spoons and other stirrers
Right now we want:
A food mill, and probably a microwave.
We can just kind of accumulate stuff as we need it, but our college is in the middle of no where so it'll be walmart stuff mostly unless we plan ahead and buy things over the summer.
I'll give you the go ahead on the food mill. Pricey for a good one and there may be a fight over it later on if the cost is split initially. But if you have experience with it and will use it on a regular basis then why not. For some people it's one of those items where they say, "Why didn't I get one of these years ago?" and others say, "Why did I get this?".
Middle of nowhere usually means rural where you may have access to roadside stands for fresh produce so I can see where the food mill could come in handy.
A pot or a saucepan could be nice for you. A microwave is a definite yes for me. What about a toaster oven? Do you think you may need one?
Ultimately though, you will figure out as you go. You will be surprised that Walmart does provide some good products. Yes, Walmart usually does not provide top of top cookware, but their products certainly are sufficient for college students. For example, you can definitely get a reasonable microwave and toast oven there. Of course, if you grab the cheapest microwave, then it will not be the best quality, but you can also buy a Sharp Convection microwave if you desire:
You are off to a very good start. Buy stuff that you NEED to have. As you do more and more cooking, you'll figure out what you are missing. My suggestions include:
A good knife sharpener. I'd recommend the DMT Aligner Deluxe. It give you 3 diamond stones, course, fine and x-fine. You can easily get a razor edge on all but your cheapest knives with this. For $40, it's a very good deal and will last for many years.
A Taylor $10 digital thermometer. I've had mine for years now and use it constantly. Only just now do I finally need to replace the battery.
A used copy of "the best recipe". Not only will you get lots of fantastic recipes, but it details how they experimented to come up with their techniques, many of which are designed for SIMPLICITY to achieve an excellent end result.
A steamer basket. This one is very nice as it has a long shaft to grab onto, instead of the usual short staff.
I also have an electric oster digital steamer that I use about 3 times a week - to maintain the healthy stuff in my veggies instead of using the microwave. And I also have a set of stainless steamer baskets but to start with if you have just ONE decent big pot (16 quart or so is about right) and the steamer basket above - which is only $10 - then you can do nearly anything. There are good deals on sets of 3 pots on amazon.
I do love my food processor but I don't know that I'd recommend that you folks go out and blow like $140 for a decent one unless you NEED to have it. I got by for years without one. It became a must have for us once we started making our own protein bars (egg protein, dates, almonds and/or walnuts, almond milk, a bit of cocoa powder, 2 egg whites as a binder, and some honey for sweetening).
Anyway, bear in mind that you already have a good amount of essentials. If you have creativity and enthusiasm, you can accomplish much with that. Having loads of gear won't necessarily help. The cook is the key, not the gear.
First, you will need the necessities: a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, a few bags of frozen peas, and renters' insurance. Then make sure that the smoke alarm works. Once you have all this....
* A way to hone your knives
* Tools: 2 pairs of tongs, several wooden spoons including one with a long handle, something suitable to scrape up fond from a pan like a flat wooden spoon, a turner (spatula, fish turner, etc.), at least one multi-purpose whisk, a colander, hand held sifters (that can double as steamers), a large pyrex measuring cup (this does everything from cook rice in the m/w to hold pan drippings to being a batter bowl), and some sort of ramekins (which serve as dishes for mise en place, ice cream dishes, custard dishes, lava cakes, and on and on).
* You're in college. Get a few wine and cocktail glasses and learn how to make a terrific martini and decant a red.
* Oven mitts, towels, and trivets (the cork ones from IKEA are versatile.)
Have a read of this:
I think it covers most of the essentials, and while some of the gadgets he says not to buy are useful to have in certain cases, they are definitely not the first thing you should focus on acquiring.
For the most part, I would wait and see what kind of things you find yourself needing, or wanting to replace (i.e., this pot doesn't distribute heat well or isn't big enough, so I'll get something similar but better). If the stuff you have is doing the job, then no need to replace it.
Wal-Mart does have a few good things - Lodge cast iron, as well as the Tramontina tri-ply line. They don't carry all of these products in most locations, but they will ship it to your local Wal-Mart for free. I would spend a bit more for the Tramontina tri-ply line if you're going to go the Wal-Mart route.
Also, Food Service Warehouse is having a free shipping deal with no minimum order right now, so that's one way to get some good, durable stuff at a reasonable price if there isn't a kitchen supply store close by you. Some good things to get from there... tongs, metal mixing bowls in various sizes (I like the heavy duty Browne Halco ones, as well as Polar Ware), measuring spoons / cups, sheet pans, colanders or strainers, pots / pans, etc.
You don't mention what pans you have or how many people you're usually cooking for, but I think a large (4-6 qt) sauté pan with tall straight or rounded sides, a 10" stainless steel skillet (with aluminum core or sandwich / disk bottom), small and large saucepans (2 qt and 3.5-4 qt), a large stockpot, and a 10" or 12" cast iron or carbon steel skillet (don't spend more than $25) would be the most important pans to have, in rough order of importance. Possibly a nonstick skillet if you want -- I'd get a heavy-duty commercial kitchen one with the toughest coating possible, probably Ceramiguard II.
If you eat a lot of rice, especially brown rice, quinoa, or other grains, you may want to look into a rice cooker.
A good non-stick or cast iron skillet, a deep soup pot or Dutch oven, measuring cups and spoons, electric mixer, one or two casseroles or pyrex dishes (9"x9"" or 9"x 13") for meals or for baking, colander, slotted spoons, spatulas, ladle, vegetable peeler, tongs, pasta "spork", can opener. Also oven mitts/potholders, trivet for hot stuff, big salad bowl. you can probably pick up a bunch of this stuff at garage sales or for cheap...check out freecycle.
One more: toaster oven. Makes toast, can cook chicken/burger/entrees -- very versatile and it'll save you on energy vs. heating the whole stove for a frozen pizza. And don't worry, you don't have to spend a lot, more of them are crappy so go for the lowest price, least amount of options as it won't last more than 5 years.
you can also wait on the popcorn popper. don't waste your money on items that only do one thing. you can cook delicious popcorn on the stove or ok popcorn in the microwave.
don't waste money on sets of pots and pans. buy a big pot, like for pasta and soup and mid-size saucepan. a nonstick skillet for eggs and pancakes.
rather than a "salad bowl", get a set of nested glass bowls. various sizes can be used for mixing, serving and storage.
instead of a mini-food pro, buy a box grater.
i don't like storing food in plastic of any kind, so use glass containers with fitted lids.
eta: woops! i see you already have the popper. i manage just fine without a microwave.
my suggestions to start off with:
1)regular size frig w/ freezer on bottom/ no icemaker
3) mini cuisinart (cheese , nuts, small puree jobs)
-heavy metal measuring cups
-rubber and pancake spatulas
-lots of plastic containers - Sterilite is best brand for the money. Use these reusable containers and you'll spend almost no money on saran or foil.
- heavy duty metal pot scrubber (looks like much larger, sturdier, thicker ribboned-brillo pad)
- thick pot holders (go to restnt supply store for these and above)
- 9" square ceramic bake pan
9 x 13" ceramic or no stick heavier baking pan(brownies, chicken, lasagna etc.)
10" pie pan- glass (quiche, pies, casseroles)
Homegoods/Marshalls often has alot of these things.
forget the food mill. you can get that way later.