Q. My granddaughter just got engaged and will be moving into her first house. What kind of things should she get to set up her kitchen? Is it necessary to have a lot of different size pots and pans? Do they all pretty much do the same thing? Thanks
A. When you go about selecting a basic set of kitchen equipment I have always split them into three categories.
First are your kitchen knives.
Your Knives are your most important tool in preparing food. It's easy to choose a good knife, some can be very expensive, but good ones are still affordable. You'll need a few good knives even if you don't cook that much.
Look for a "Chef's Knife" or "French Knife". This is the standard knife in modern day kitchens. This is a wide knife that tapers to a fine tip and can be used for cutting, chopping, and slicing. Select a Chef's knife with an 8-10 inch blade.
Longer knives are easier to work with because there is more blade to work with, look for a chef's knife with a stainless-steel blade. The entire length of the blade should be sharp.
Next you should select a 6-inch utility knife and a 3-4 inch paring knife; almost all your kitchen tasks can be done with these basic knives.
To augment your basic set you should add a serrated knife for cutting breads and fruit and a honing steel to keep your knives sharp. Sharpness matters! Sharp knives are safer and easier to use than dull ones. Even good knives need to be sharpened from time to time.
Avoid serrated knives that are said to last forever and never need sharpening. They work by sawing through food and not cutting cleanly. Expect to pay $20 dollars for least expensive knives and up to $500 for fine forged steel cutlery.
Next is selecting your pots and pans.
Start with a five quart pot and an eight quart pot with lids. You can accomplish most recipes with these. Add a two quart pot and a twelve quart stock pot.
Look for pots with sturdy handles, and riveted handles. Try to get stainless steel pots as they will not react to acidic food like aluminum and iron will. Look for thick heavy bottom pots as they will disperse the heat evenly.
For your baking pans your recipes are normally specific in which pan you should use. You should choose sturdy bake ware that's made of steel or aluminum and doesn't bend easily. Again thicker bake ware distributes heat more evenly.
Purchase three pans to start with. A cookie sheet, a sheet pan, and a deep baking pan. Most baked goods can be made with these three pans. Later you may want to purchase specialty pans like spring-form, muffin and round cake pans.
Third are your kitchen utensils.
Some of the basics are a wire whisk, a slotted spoon, serving spoons, a spatula, tongs, wooden spoons, and a vegetable peeler. To make your life easier you may want to consider mixing bowls, a cheese grater, and a ceramic casserole dish.
Remember advanced cookware generally performs better than cheaper cookware because of the quality of its materials and construction is better. With proper care cookware can last for generations.
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