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Finally Renovated My Kitchen -- What are the Essentials?

After nearly thirty years of living in my Philadelphia row home, I now have a well-organized kitchen with up-to-date appliances, more-than-adequate story space, and pleasing design. (Love my copper counters and built-in cutting board!)

As I move things in, I am becoming acutely aware I want cooking tools that are going to be used frequently rather than clutter. I firmly believe one cannot organize clutter.

So far I have my cast iron small fry pan, large fry pan, Dutch oven; stainless steel stock pot, sauce pans, large fry pan. Recently bought a Cuisinart blender highly rated for making smoothies that I love and a set of five glass prep bowls. Still holding onto a Black and Decker toaster oven that works well.

What do you think is essential to have in a kitchen for someone who enjoys cooking from scratch? (A friend has called me a "natural cook." I understand the basics and can improvise, too.)

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  1. My favorite newest tool is a power blender/wisk. Bought one for my son when he was visiting and used it at my house. Its small, very versatile and most important to me, easy to clean. Got one for myself and love it - they're fairly inexpensive as well.

    1. A stand-up mixer and a food processor. Fantastic usages for both.

      1. Hoo boy, I went through THAT process myself a few years ago, with a major kitchen reno. The thing is, we went from more storage to a bit less due to our new kitchen design (if you click on my profile you can see the pictures). Meaning everything has its place and if I bring something IN to the kitchen, something HAS to leave. I had to sort/sift everything out, and yes, I do everything from scratch. So to answer your question, this is what I distilled down:
        1. Cookware -- 1 great set of cookware with a lid for every pot, 2 non-stick frypans. Knife block with great (not exceptional) knives. Thats it, that's all.
        2. Appliances -- toaster, large kitchenaid, bosch concept 7 mixer with attachments, microwave, Kitchenaid hand blender, small electric hand mixer.
        3. Coffee! Bean grinder, rancilio espresso machine.
        That's pretty much it. Of course, assorted wooden spoons spatulas etc.
        The only items on my counter are the toaster, the knife block and the coffee stuff, and there's a special shelf for the (rarely used) microwave.
        Check out my pics! And post yours! I love seeing kitchen renos!

        1. Williams Sonoma 10 piece nesting bowl set. I used to give these as wedding shower presents back when all my friends were getting married. Throughout the years, I've had comments on how often they get used. There's a bowl for every need and they match everything. I broke the biggest bowl in my set which sucks because they no longer sell the huge bowl. (I should steal one from one of my friends. lol.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: mtoo

            I have this. Received it 15 years ago, and loved it fiercely.i only have the big bowl left

            1. re: sunangelmb

              Mine are at least 10 years old. The bowls on the website look a little different than mine and according to the reviews, they are using a new manufacturer. I love my nesting bowls. Probably the thing I use the most in my kitchen. (Well, maybe I use my wine glasses a little bit more.)

              eta: a little google search shows that Crate and Barrel carries the same thing for $10 less.

            2. re: mtoo

              I LOVE these bowls and use them all the time. It's really helpful to have the smaller prep bowls too...it keeps things much more organized when you're working on cooking.

            3. An immersion blender. Perfect for pureeing soups quickly and without the added clean-up that comes from using a blender.

              1 Reply
              1. re: CindyJ

                +1. I got mine two years ago and really cannot remember what I did without it. Someone in this house uses it every single day, either for smoothies, blend soups, or the mini fp attachment to chop herbs and onions quickly.

              2. freia mentioned a grinder for coffee, but an additional one for seeds & spices is a great investment of about $20.

                sounds like you've covered the appliances/electrics, so let's tackle utensils. i have several microplanes of varying lengths/widths, and i use them all the time. the other thing i love (and i can't believe i resisted buying one for so long) is a citrus press - it's a huge timesaver if you use a lot of fresh lemons & lime juice.

                and how are you fixed for knives?

                2 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Thanks for asking. I do need to get better knives. Putting that on the list...Recommendations?

                  1. re: Seeker19104

                    ooh, it's a polarizing topic :) i'm quite partial to Japanese knives since i discovered them, but a lot of people will tell you German is the way to go. it partially depends on what your budget looks like - really good ones can cost you a pretty penny. but the most important & useful thing you can do is to go to a place that has a good selection and *hold* them. you have to be comfortable with the way a knife feels in your hand, otherwise it doesn't make much difference how "good" it is. the weight, the shape of the grip, the contours, the balance & length...all make a difference. now, having said all that, you really only need a few essential knives to cover everything you're probably going to do in the kitchen. start with a chef's knife (or santoku or nakiri), a paring knife, a boning knife, and perhaps a serrated knife (oh, and a honing steel if you don't already have one, but learn how to use it *properly* so you don't ruin your beautiful new knives). you're usually better off buying open stock pieces, because sets require you to buy/pay for elements you won't use, and you can always pick up others down the road if you decide you need them.

                    we have many Hounds whose knife expertise far outweighs mine, so here are some informative threads to get you started:

                2. Magnetic spice tins. I love them. Might now techncally be the best way to store them, but they look cool and make access very easy. ( don't keep all my spices in the tins, just the ones I use frequently.) I keep them on my fridge.

                  Speaking of magnets, I love my magnetic knife bar. We mounted it on the side of a cabinet. Doesn't take up counter space like a block and I can hang my microplane on there as well.

                  1. If you get a food processor, I cannot recommend highly enough the book Abby Mandels Cuisinart Classroom. It is excellent and applicable to any brand processor. She was a food editor for Bon Appitite but has since passed on. The book can be found on eBay. I have found it to be one of the more comprehensive books and frequently give them as gifts.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: dcrb

                      I used Abby Mandel's books and BA columns sometime after I got my Cuisinart. Excellent.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        An overlooked classic. Right now there is a like new condition on eBAY. (DISCLAIMER: I only buy, never sell).

                    2. Fairly lint free kitchen towels. I have used my citrus reamer for a variety of things. Love my heavy duty garlic press. A one liter ceramic beer stein holds spatulas, chopsticks, tongs, etc.

                      1. Indianriver is right, IMO. Throw out or donate every old potholder, kitchen towel, hot mat, and get functional colorful, coordinated stuff. They don't have to match, but these things that look good together will be a pleasure to use in your new kitchen.

                        What major purchases you make should depend on how you cook, or what you want to cook. I'd want a Dutch oven, new bakeware, a couple of good non-stick skillets, a really good saute pan, a grill pan, a good coffee maker, blender (which you have), and food processor. I value my KA mixer, but I think you should take your time choosing a new mixer. Read reviews. You don't have to buy a KA, and some of the new ones might be better appliances.

                        I think my strategy would be to buy the things as I realized I need them, but be open to a good buy for something I might need or want later. So the question for you might be, what task do you want to be able to do next? Do you need a purchase to do that?

                        1. Thanks to everyone for all the great ideas! PS I will post some photos, although I didn't take any "befores." Dreadful would cover it.

                          1. Something I found essential long before I had every last knife and all the cookware of my dreams was a pasta machine.