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Stock Your Kitchen: 12 Must Haves and 6 Nice to Haves

Whether your building your wedding registry, starting to cook for the first time, or maybe you're down sizing your kitchen and you're trying to decide what to keep... these are the top 12 items I use in the kitchen every week and then a couple items I use a lot, but if push came to shove, I don't really need them.  Without further adieu, the dozen things you need in your kitchen in no particular order are...

A large pot... whether it's a dutch oven, a stock pot, or a basic copper pot like mine, you need something large enough for soups and stews, for boiling noodles, and cooking large items in... but you can also use it for making sauces or even in place of a pan if you have to.  You could even use it for canning if you get that far.  Look for a pot that comes with a lid and does not have plastic handles.

copper pot copper pot stainless steel bowl salt & pepper grinder
Stainless Steel Bowl... you'll need to mix things together on occasion (like every single day you're in the kitchen), so you need a mixing bowl.  This does double duty though, you can use it as a double boiler for melting things slowly (in a pot of simmering water).  You can also cook things in it since it is all metal and can go in the oven.  

Salt & Pepper Grinders... salt and pepper are used to flavor everything... salt is even in nearly every dessert recipe I've ever seen.  With your very own set of grinders, you have a lot more options when it comes to salt and pepper... and you can definitely taste the difference.  Use pink himalayan salt if you like things salty but are trying to cut back on sodium.

Cutting Board... chances are, you're going to have to cut something in the kitchen.  This condensed wood board is pretty awesome for most things.  I like to use plastic boards when working with heat or meat because I think it cleans better (and handles really hot water better when cleaning).  Wood and plastic cutting boards are also best for your knife so it doesn't get dull.  Remember to change out your cutting boards after a while... those grooves from your knife eventually trap in bacteria no matter have tough you scrub it.
cutting board
spatula stainless steel pan
Spatula... the one in the picture came in a Target kitchen set I used in college.  All of the pots, pans, and other utensils have bid their farewell years ago, but this trusty spatula is my fave.  Sometimes the best things can also be the cheapest.  But yeah, you'll need this to flip and move things around and to get food on to your plate.

Pan... yep, you'll need one of these too.  I love my stainless steel copper bottom pan so much I have two of the exact same one.  Its the perfect size, can go right in the oven, and I don't have to worry about any teflon coating.  This guy also came from Target and is pretty inexpensive.  Look for a pan that has a metal handle so you can use it in the oven (but be careful not to burn your hand taking it out!).

Tongs... this one just made the list, but as you can see from the bent ends, this baby gets used quite a bit and there really isn't anything else that can do the job.  You can use them for grilling, for flipping things over, for pulling large things out of deep pots, or grabbing something small.  You could even use them as salad tongs in a pinch.  

Box Grater... I used to buy those individual graters for specialized grate sizing, but found I kept coming back to my trusty box grater.  From grating blocks of cheese to carrots and potatoes, I love this thing.  And it is four of those silly specialized graters in one (and half the cost of just one of them!)

tongs  box shredder
chef knife plastic spoon
A good, sharp chef's knife... you don't have to spend a lot of money on one of these, but the more you spend, the more use you will get out of it.  I have several knives that I loved to use and were inexpensive, but they dulled quickly.  It is actually more dangerous to cut food with a dull knife than a sharp one because of the amount of work that goes into using a dull blade.  If you're spending a little money on your kitchen supplies, spend it here.

Plastic Spoon... I have lots of wooden spoons, but I looove my plastic one.  I can use it for everything... cooking meat or vegetables, stirring soups, I can even strain (slowly) with this spoon.  You're going to need something to push those veggies around in your pan, might as well get a spoon that winks while it works.  ;)

Potato Masher... everyone loves mashed potatoes, right?  They taste so much better hand mashed!  But that's not all this baby is capable of... I use it to mash canned tomatoes when making sauces, smashing things up in stews, and anything that requires a little smooshing, but you still want it a little chunky... this guy is your tool.

potato masher potato masher
garlic press garlic press 
Garlic Press... this must-have is one I found most recently and it has changed my cooking life completely.  I use garlic in so many things.  Mincing garlic is kind of painstaking and it is never really that well minced.  Using a press means you don't have to worry about removing all of the garlic skin, you just squish out the good stuff, and you're ready to go.  I don't know how I lived without it!

And now some nice-to-haves... these are gadgets that if you have space or the budget, they make cooking easier, faster... but there are basic alternative to them that get the job done (just not as nicely).  Besides, the more gadgets you have, the more professional you feel... that cooking confidence usually bodes well in flavor.  :)

Hand Grater... the handheld version of the box grater.  Typically used for parmesan cheese, I've also used it for chocolate, ginger, and carrots.  Just plop a serving size into the box area, close the handle tightly, and spin the grater around while watching everything get finely grated.

cheese shredder cheese shredder
pastry brush whisk
Pastry Brush... this guy doesn't make an appearance often, but there is no alternative when it comes to egg wash or a "light" coating of melted butter before something gets dipped into cinnamon sugar... mmm... cinnamon sugar...  Okay, my love for everything with a cinnamon sugar coating is the reason the pastry brush made the nice-to-have list!

Whisk... because you need scrambled eggs on weekends and hand-whipped cream on desserts.  There are a lot of things a whisk is good for, but most of them you can also do with a fork, which is why it got demoted from the must-have list.

Pizza Cutter... I love this thing, mostly because it was my grandma's, so it reminds me of her when I use it.  But it is also very useful for cutting both cooked and uncooked dough.  We make a lot of pizza, calzones, and braids so this is getting used every week... but if I had to... I could use my knife.

Oil Sprayer... you could use dear old Pam for cooking spray, but I like to try different oils.  Olive oil, truffle oil, grapeseed oil, infused oils.  Yum!  You get a nice fine mist (and a bit of a work out from pumping the lid for suction in the canister) which is great for spraying muffin pans and using less oil while you're cooking.

pizza cutter oil sprayer
steamer steamer
Steamer... last but not least!  Technically you could simmer your veggies to cook them too, but steaming them helps retain more nutrients.  You can also rehydrate things in a steamer like dried mushrooms and other dry-packed foods.  Plus I love how it folds out like a blooming flower.  :)


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