“Like cookbooks, kitchen equipment is a talisman; people believe that buying the right kind will make them good cooks.” ~ Mark Bittman, New York Times, May 9
But do you need to splurge on it? That’s the question Mark Bittman of The New York Times explored yesterday. His theory: You can adequately stock a kitchen for $300. He accomplished that by shopping mostly at restaurant supply stores. Ah, restaurant supply stores. In my culinary school days in Houston, I frequented these places quite a bit. I could spend hours there. The great thing is they’re inexpensive and you can buy good quality items. Maybe they don’t come branded with celebrity chef names, and maybe they donï¿½t look as pretty, but they do the job well. The truth is, when it comes to kitchen equipment, I think little of what I buy in addition to my basics is the result of legitimate need. So Bittman has a point.
Iï¿½ve had to cook in poorly stocked kitchens. Don’t get me wrong, mine is very humble. By poorly stocked, I mean no kitchen knife (only those serrated steak knives), no colander, only one pot … The colander I can do without. Thereï¿½s always turning the pot over the sink with the lid still on. My best friend is a master at that. But what in my kitchen canï¿½t I live without (aside from pots and pans)?
Absolutely can’t do without:
– A knife. One that actually cuts. And for that, you don’t need to spend $100. Bittman paid $10. I paid $9 for an Ikea knife, which works very well. It’s light and the right size for me (the knife I have from culinary school is great, but it’s almost the size of my forearm, which doesn’t help my still-in-need-of-perfecting knife skills).
– Tongs. OK, they might not be a must, or maybe they are, but they are by far one of my favorite kitchen utensils.
– Colander. Even if I can do the pot trick, I need one.
– Cutting board. The absolute need for this one is debatable, but cutting on a counter or plate is annoying.
– Measuring cups
– Can opener. Not that I care much for canned goods, but you just need this one.
– Grater. I find that I use graters mainly for cheese, so I love hand graters.
Can survive without if needed, but would rather not:
– Kitchen scissors. My mom uses them to cut chives to sprinkle on salads. I know a knife will do, but they’re a pretty handy tool.
– Strainer. This one might seem really necessary, but I did without one for a while and survived. Keep in mind that I cook simple dishes.
– Measuring spoons
– Some sort of spoon. Whether slotted or not, you need spoons.
There are obviously other items, aside from the pots and pans, which are nice to have or you’ll eventually need. From Bittman’s shopping list, I could forgo the mandolin, the food processor, the coffee grinder. Things I’ve done without, but really should buy from his list: a salad spinner and a loaf pan (so I don’t have to make zucchini bread into muffins.)