One of the most common misconceptions a novice cook has is that you must purchase an entire set of cookware from the same brand and of the same material. However, we're here to break all the rules and assure you that you are better off selecting individual pieces that are appropriate for specific tasks and build from there. The right tool for the right job done well, what a novel idea!
From beginner, to seasoned home cook, we've selected some pared down essentials to help you get started on the right foot. Taking the time to learn about the benefits and limitations of each material as well as vessel shape will help you make an educated purchase. Cookware should last you a lifetime, both in terms of functionality and style.
One of the most all-around workhorses in the kitchen will be your heavy bottom pot or dutch oven. This one is from UK-based CRANE cookware. The hefty, weighted, enameled cast iron cookware retains and distributes heat beautifully, so they're ideal for stewing and braising, keeping the temperature constant and allowing for rich flavors to develop. Ours churn out many wonderful one pot meals for the entire family to enjoy. These pots come in various heights and dimensions depending on your preference. We love the timeless aesthetic.
The second type of cookware you will need is a fry pan or skillet. What you should look for in these are low or sloped sides that allow for rapid evaporation of moisture to promote browning and searing like these De Buyer carbon steel frying pans. Even distribution of heat is key here since you’ll be cooking for a shorter time period when frying and you’ll want more control over your temperature. These pans are lighter than cast iron cookware, and disperse heat exceptionally well. The best part is that once seasoned fully, carbon steel pans develop a lovely dark patina and non-stick surface that is appropriate for high heat cooking and is a breeze to clean.
Next, we have our basic saucepan. You’ll want this one to be lightweight so that you can easily transfer and drain out any liquids. This enameled steel saucepan is coated in a slick non-toxic porcelain making it suitable for any type of food and a breeze to clean. The entire pan is made of steel which heats up faster than stainless steel cutting down on wait time and energy, making this the more sustainable choice. The wooden handles also eliminates the need for oven mitts.
For tools, you’ll want to make sure you have several wooden utensils to choose from. We love wooden spoons and spatulas because they’re easy to use, non-toxic, they don’t scratch your cookware. There’s a certain warmth about them that just makes us happy. It's a fact that when grandma makes her special spaghetti sauce with her old wooden spoon, it just tastes better.
Being organized in the kitchen will make things run much more smoothly. Make sure you have prep bowls of various sizes so that you can clear your cutting board and keep moving systematically. We love these stoneware nesting bowls from Yuko Nishikawa and spouted mixing bowl for easy pouring from Sheldon Ceramics. Not only are they great for holding your ingredients, and mixing, but they also are great as serve bowls and decorative accessories.
This is where you’ll want to spend as much as your budget will allow. There are so many specialty knives out there, but the two essentials are a good chef’s knife and a utility or paring knife for the smaller more detailed tasks. A sharp, well balanced knife will allow for precision cutting and minimize any injuries in the kitchen. Choose a high quality blade that will hold its edge so that sharpening is a breeze. The above are a Kettle & Brine favorite because they combine the care and attention of a hand-forged blade with an Italian lucite handle that will endure a run in the dishwasher if your best friend accidentally drops it in during a communal cooking session. Made of high carbon content stainless steel the Berti knife is refined enough for a precision cut while substantial in weight to make going from delicate greens to hearty root veggies seamless.
To keep your knives in tip top condition, we prefer a Japanese whetstone. They’re easy to use, and more gentle on your blade which will extend the life of your knives. This Japanese Ceramic Sharpening Stone is a double sided. The coarse side will re-align the burr or edge of your knife and take out any nicks. The finer grit side will polish and sharpen your blade. These stones go up to very fine grits, but we find that for the average household this one does the best job. See a quick video tutorial of how to use a whetstone here.
If you enjoyed this kitchen essentials roundup, stay tuned for our "Anatomy Of" series as we deconstruct the everyday object that we live by, guiding you through the ins and outs of product design considerations.