Setting Up Your First Kitchen

Whether you are just getting your first place on your own, getting married, or starting over (been there) setting up your kitchen can seem like a daunting task. You want to be well equipped but space and budgets eventually run out. Here is my list of minimal “must have” items in any home kitchen:

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Cast Iron Skillet. These are very versatile and can be used on the stove, in the oven, even on the grill. Be sure to get a pre-seasoned skillet.

Non-Stick Cookware$. If you plan to do even basic cooking you will need a couple of non-stick frying pans and sauce pans. Amazon’s new Basics line has an incredible deal for an 8 piece set that includes 2 frying pans, 2 sauce pans with lids and a large casserole pan with lid (great for soups and pasta).

Baking sheets$. These aren’t just for cookies. If you plan to make garlic bread, frozen french fries, pizza, roasted vegetables – the list goes on and on. I use one of these pans pretty much every day for something. Get the kind that has a short wall around it, not the flat cookie sheets.

Glass Baking Pans$. You can get by with just two pans. A small square one and a larger rectangular pan should do it. Brownies, cakes, even enchiladas – you need these to bake at home. They are also used frequently for non-baking recipes (try my Marshmallow Madness or Grandma’s no bake cheesecake recipes). Trust me, you want these around.

Oven Mitt and Hot Pads$. Now that you have some pots and pans you will need a good oven mitt and some hot pads. Don’t burn yourself or ruin your kitchen counters with a pan right off the stove or out of the oven.

Kitchen Utensils. There are number of basic utensils that you need to have around. Bare minimum items are measuring spoons/cups, large spoon, spatula, whisk, tongs, ladle, vegetable peeler, pizza cutter, and a can opener. I found a HomeHero set that gives you all that plus a potato masher, bottle opener and a grater/slicer (that is a real deal). You want nylon or silicone so they don’t scratch your non-stick pots and pans.

Kitchen Knives. A big block full of kitchen knives is great to have, but you can get by with just a few decent knives. I recommend a good chef’s knife, a santoku, a paring knife, and a serated utility knife. Cuisinart offers a nice set on Amazon that also includes a bread knife and a slicing knife. You could easily spend a large sum on just a good chef’s knife, so that set is a real deal. If you have a little more room in your budget, Pampered Chef has some incredible forged German steel knives that are worth the money.

Cutting Boards. Don’t dull those new knifes by cutting on plates, or ruin your counters by cutting on them either. I like to have at least two so I can use one for meat, one for veggies, bread, etc. to avoid cross-contamination. For just a few more dollars you can upgrade to the Pampered Chef flexible cutting mats that also have handy kitchen tips printed on them.

Glass Measuring Cups. I have a large 8 cup (it’s really more of a bowl with a handle and spout) a 4 Cup, a 2 Cup and a 1 Cup size. I use the 8 Cup and 4 Cup very often, but the two smaller ones come in handy. These are not only handy for measuring, I use the large one as a mixing bowl and the 4 Cup size for heating things like soup in the microwave. Pyrex is currently offering a great deal to get all four for one low price.

Colander/Strainer$. You can’t even make boxed mac and cheese without a colander. A must for making any pasta, and very helpful for washing veggies and many other kitchen tasks.

Meat Thermometer. You won’t use this every single day, but under-cooked poultry or pork is a serious health hazard. Skip one latte and buy one of these.

If your budget and space allow, I have a few recommendations for things that will make your life in the kitchen easier, but are not absolutely essential.

Measure-All® Cup. Measure liquids and solids up to 2 cups. A unique adjustable plunger design cleanly ejects solid ingredients. Includes standard and metric measures. Flip it over to measure liquid ingredients.

One-year guarantee for noncommercial use.

Electric Mixer. Sure, you can use a spoon or a hand whisk for most recipes, but have you ever whipped cream by hand? I can’t say it is essential, but man is it handy. If your budget has some room, consider a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I love mine and use it all the time. A factory refurbished model will set you back around two hundred dollars.

Garlic Press. If you plan to do any amount of home cooking, these are great. Garlic is in so many recipes and cutting it by hand leaves a noticeable smell on your hands that can linger for a long time. These works on fresh ginger too.

Pastry Blender. You don’t have to be a pastry chef to find one of these very handy. If you plan to do any baking at all it is a small investment that will save you a lot of time.

Ninja Blender / Food Processor Combo. This is another of those you won’t use it every day (unless you love smoothies) items, but man when you need one. Milkshakes, cocktails, salsa, Falafel, you get the idea.

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