Intro to Cooking – Kitchen Tools

In my very first blog post over a year ago, I said “if I can do it, you can do it”. I stand by that statement. There is no magic. Yes it takes a little practice, but we learn far more from our mistakes than our successes. Be bold. You got this.

Lets start with some basics. What equipment/tools do you really need? I’ll go over the basics, and offer my thoughts on a starter kit and where to buy things at the end.

Common Pots and Pans
  1. Skillet or Frying Pan – these come in many sizes from tiny to quite large. They have sloped sides and a large, flat bottom. They may or may not have a lid. As the name implies, they are perfect for frying a variety of things from eggs to hamburgers.
  2. Sauce Pan – These are small to medium sized high walled pans. They typically have a long handle, and usually have a lid. Ideal for cooking sauces or boiling water for small batches of pasta, potatoes, eggs, etc.
  3. Saute Pan – Very similar to a frying pan, but with straight walls instead of sloped. These usually have a lid. The advantage of this style is that they hold more and can handle more volume with the higher walls. The down side is less maneuverability with utensils due to the high walls. You can certainly fry in a saute pan, don’t let the name fool you.
  4. Stock Pot – This is a much deeper, high walled pot. Perfect for making soups and boiling water for large needs like corn on the cob, long spaghetti noodles, or large quantities of just about anything.
Common Kitchen Utensils
  1. Masher – This admittedly isn’t the best pic of a masher. Usually a circle or square head with large holes on a long handle. Perfect for mashing potatoes or other soft items.
  2. Peeler – As the name implies, designed for peeling thick skinned vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, etc.
  3. Pasta Spoon – The large tines and open center allow excess liquid to drain while holding onto long noodles or odd shaped pasta.
  4. Grater – These come in a variety of sizes and styles. The small holes are designed for grating hard cheese, vegetables, spices, etc. I personally prefer the four sided pyramid type grater that offers a variety sizes on the multiple sides.
  5. Slotted spoon – designed for stirring pots of liquid or serving foods where you want the liquid to drain off.
  6. Pizza Cutter – don’t let the name fool you, these are handy for more than cutting pizza into slices. I use mine for cutting noodles, pastry dough, etc.
  7. Straining Spoon – Designed for skimming items out of liquids or oils. Handy when frying small items in deep oil, or lifting smaller items out of boiling water.
  8. Whisk – Designed for mixing liquids and batters. You can beat eggs or mix pancake batter. Especially helpful if you are trying to add air into a batter.
  9. Ladle – Really just a modified spoon that holds more liquid. Ideal for serving soups or gravy, or moving liquids quickly into or out of a pot.
  10. Cooking Spoon – Perfect for stirring or serving almost anything
  11. Spatula – these come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes. With slots, without slots, wide, thin, long, you get the idea. Used to flip over items being cooked from fried eggs to pancakes.
  12. Tongs – Designed for holding/moving items too large or unwieldy for a spoon like corn on the cob, whole potatoes, large pieces of meat, etc.
Common Baking Pans
  1. Cupcake/Muffin Tin – As the name implies, designed for baking small individual muffins or cupcakes. Typically used with paper liners.
  2. Round Cake Pan – Can be used for baking cakes or tortes
  3. Square/Rectangular Cake Pan – ideal for larger cakes, brownies or even casseroles.
  4. Loaf Pan – these come in a variety of sizes from mini to giant. Typically used for breads, but can be used for other recipes like meat loaf, etc.
  5. Spring Form Pan – Similar to a round cake pan, but has a release mechanism so the side can be easily removed from delicate items like cheesecakes, sponge cakes, etc.
  6. Pie Pan/Plate – A shallow pan with sloped sides for baking pies, quiches, etc.
Common Tools for Kitchen Prep
  1. Measuring Spoons – These come in increments of teaspoons and tablespoons. A good set will have both.
  2. Dry Measuring Cups – for measuring dry ingredients like sugar and flour.
  3. Mixing bowls – For preparing and mixing ingredients, batter, dough, etc. Lids are a real bonus when items need refrigerated.
  4. Strainer – These come in a variety of sizes and materials. Designed for draining water off of pasta, boiled potatoes, etc. Also good for washing/rinsing fruits and vegetables. I personally prefer plastic as they don’t conduct the heat from hot liquids.
  5. Cutting Board – Protects your counter from scratches when cutting meat and vegetables. They can be wood, glass, plastics or other materials. I prefer flexible plastic boards.
  6. Liquid Measuring Cups – for measuring liquids in cups or ounces, with a spout to aid in pouring.
  7. Canisters – for storing ingredients like flour, sugar, etc.
Common Kitchen Knives
  • Chefs Knife – These come in a variety of sizes. Used for slicing, chopping and dicing meats and vegetables.
  • Bread Knife – Designed with a serrated edge for cutting through crusty bread cleanly.
  • Slicing/Carving Knife – For slicing large pieces of cooked meat.
  • Utility Knife – all purpose knife for cutting smaller items, string, etc.
  • Paring knife – for peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables.

There are many more pots, pans, utensils and tools out there. We’ll save those for another day. The items above cover the basics and those you are most likely to see mentioned in a recipe. They come in a variety of materials from cast iron to glass, and may or not be non-stick coated.

So what do you really need to get started? You don’t need everything pictured above. If you are starting from scratch, I put together a post that outlines the essentials and how to get them all for about $200.

Obviously, everything pictured on this page is useful, and you don’t have to limit yourself to just the top items in my “setting up your kitchen” post. The goal here is to show the real essentials to start with if you have nothing. The good news is, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started. If $200 is still over your budget go to garage sales, estate auctions and thrift shops. I have bought items off of buy/sell apps like LetGo, Craig’s List and Facebook. Used kitchen utensils are abundant and cheap. Look for clean, un-damaged items. A good utensil will last more than one lifetime.

Ready for more cooking basics? Check out my Cooking 101 page for cooking skills, tips and basic recipes.

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