When you have the right tools, cooking at home comes easily. Stock your kitchen with the following and you’ll be prepared to make your next meal at home.
POTS AND PANS
You don’t have to buy a whole set of matching cookware. You can pick and choose the best pan for the job from a variety of brands and types. Buy fewer, but buy the best you can afford. Quality really counts, so choose sturdy pots and pans. Thin, cheap metals will warp, dent, and may burn both you and your food. Good pans can last for a lifetime of cooking.
Here are some recommendations to get started:
- 8-quart pot with lid. For boiling pasta, steaming vegetables (with an insert) and making soups and stews. Be sure to pick one that you can comfortably carry when it’s full of liquid.
- 4-quart saucepan with lid. Does what the 8-quart does on a smaller scale. Good to have around when other pans are in use or when you are preparing a smaller amount of food.
- 2-quart saucepan with lid. For cooking rice or other grains, making sauces, heating up canned goods and leftovers.
- 12-inch nonstick skillet. For sautéing meats and vegetables. If you get a deep one with rounded sides it can work well for stir-fries, too.
- 8-inch nonstick skillet. Perfect for omelets, eggs, or that grilled sandwich for lunch.
- Steamer insert. A collapsible one will fit into a variety of pan sizes.
A good knife cuts food easier, quicker, neater, and with less chance of injury. Most professional grade knives are high-carbon stainless steel; they don’t rust or deteriorate. Quality knives will have the metal continuing up through the handle. Like good pots and pans, they can last a lifetime.
- Chef’s knife. 8 or 10-inch
- Paring knife. 4 or 6-inch
- Serrated knife. 8-inch, great for slicing bread and tomatoes.
- Cutting board. Buy two: a plastic one for raw meat and a wooden one for breads, fruit and vegetables. Make it a habit to thoroughly wash and dry anything that has touched raw meat before using it again to reduce risk of foodborne illness.
- Box grater. It’s the most versatile kind of grater, usually with six different grating sizes. For just zesting, it’s hard to beat a microplane.
- Vegetable peeler. Get a nice one with a comfortable handle.
- Can opener. The smooth-cut kind opens the can from the outside edge, so the lid won’t fall in.
- Kitchen shears. Useful for trimming everything from fat from meat to the tips of green beans or snow peas.
MIXING AND LIFTING
You don’t have to keep all your utensils in a drawer. Find an interesting straight-sided, wide-mouthed container to hold your utensils within easy reach on the countertop. Do not use metal utensils on non-stick cookware because they can damage the surface.
- Wooden spoons. They’re both versatile and inexpensive, so get several.
- Slotted spoon. Stainless steel, wood or plastic, for stirring and dipping into hot and cold liquids.
- Ladle. For serving soups and stews. A standard size ladle holds ½ cup or 1 cup, for easy portion measuring.
- Spatula. Get a non-metal one that won’t damage your nonstick cookware.
- Rubber scraper spatula. For getting out that last little bit. Silicon ones can be used for hot stuff.
- Whisk. Great for salad dressing and sauces. Also useful for combining dry ingredients in baking.
- Tongs. Like having hands that don’t burn or freeze. Get a spring-loaded one.
OTHER GOOD STUFF
These tools will make cooking at home a breeze. No need to get the best of the best here, any brand or variety will get the job done!
- Mixing bowls. For easy storage, get nesting bowls in at least three sizes.
- Measuring cups. Get nesting ones for dry ingredients and a 2-cup spouted glass one for liquids.
- Measuring spoons. With 1 tablespoon through one-eighth teaspoon sizes.
- Timer. Yes, there’s one on your stove, but what if you’re cooking more than one thing at time? It’s helpful to have a portable timer if you step out of the kitchen while something is cooking.
- Colander. For straining and draining. A wire mesh one can double as a sifter.
- Instant-read thermometer. For perfectly cooked meats and food safety.
- Oven mitts or pot holders, kitchen towels, apron.
Article copyright © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.
Last reviewed 1/2015