So today I got a very nice email from a Newark Academy alumnus who saw one of my blog posts. In addition to sharing really nice details from their life, the student urged me to consider posting a number of very “basic” recipes that would meet the needs of young graduates. This made a tremendous amount of sense to me, and I thought that I would take some time to offer some “survival” basics for my past students. I am quite excited by this as a challenge! What kinds of recipes meet the needs of 20-somethings?

It occurred to me, however, that I should probably start with detailing what I consider to be basic cooking equipment. What would you need to have in your apartment? I am planning to publish this, but I will probably panic in a few days, realizing that I left something essential off of the list. If you happen to think of something I have omitted, let me know. This is just a first stab.

Kitchen Basics

Chef’s Knife: The single most important purchase you can make, a chef’s knife will allow you to do an almost limitless number of kitchen tasks. The longer the knife (ideally 10 inches, although 8 will do) the better. To my mind (and several people disagree with me), a great starter point of entry for kitchen knives is the Victorinox 8 Inch Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife. My parents gave this knife as a gift to me about 5 years back, and it has crept into usage as a daily constant, rivaling some of my more expensive knives. It is definitely a no-frills blade; it has plainly been stamped out of a sheet, and it does need frequent upkeep. If you are interested in investing in a long-term blade, I really enjoy Wustoff and Global knives. Maybe one day I will win the Bob Kramer lottery, and be able to purchase one of his amazing custom knives.

Knife Sharpener: The single most dangerous kitchen implement is a dull chef’s knife. Sharp knives cut cleanly, and predictably. If you do cut yourself with a sharp knife, the cut heals better because it is clean. Dull knives glance off food and tear skin. Sharpen your knives.

Cutting Boards: For starting cooks, I strongly recommend getting dishwasher safe cutting boards.

Bread Knife: Pre-sliced bread is an abomination. Really. If you can avoid purchasing it, you will be a happy person. Accordingly, you will want a long bread knife to help you get through the beautiful loaves you are purchasing fresh from local bakeries. Again, I think Victorinox makes a very acceptable product.

Mixing Bowls: You will want glass measuring bowls. Metal bowls can be terrific, but they are usually reactive to acids or other foods. Glass is utterly neutral. You will want Pyrex brand, however, as they are more durable.

Measuring Cups: You will want a set of measuring spoons, and dry, as well as liquid measuring cups.    

A cast-iron skillet: Lodge makes the most iconic skillet ever. It will last your lifetime so long as you treat it well.

Roasting Pan: Cuisinart makes a very acceptable roasting pan.

Stock Pot: While you may well want to purchase some sauce pans, a good stock pot is large enough to handle almost everything. In general, the heavier the pot, the less likely it is to scorch food. In an ideal world, we would all be cooking out of steel lined copper for everything. The pot linked above, however, is good enough to do most of the work you want it to do.

Baking Sheet / Cooling Rack: While I have never purchased the following combination, you need both of these things and it seems to me that it is a good idea to get both simultaneously.

Cake Pan: I am a huge fan of Fat Daddio’s pans. I am linking an 8-inch pan, but you may feel a different size is better for you. I’d recommend getting 3 8-inch pans.

Silicon Spatulas: There are many makers of spatulas, but I am simply linking here and here a couple of sets that appear, on first blush, to be quite good.

Added Later:

Colander: Although 20-somethings are fairly suspicious of carbohydrates, there are times when nothing will do except a big bowl of pasta. Colanders are hugely helpful and should have been on the original list.

Poultry Shears: There are some kinds of chicken or turkey prep that are very hard to do without poultry shears.

Microplane Grater: Microplane produces some of the best zesters and graters on the market.  These are pretty essential.

ThermoWorks Thermapen: I have no idea why I forgot to include this thermometer on the original list; it would seem so fundamental that I should include it that its exclusion has me quite thrown. Usually I try to link to thinks on Amazon; here I did not because I could not find this brand and manufacturer there. I know that ThermoWorks Thermapen works consistently and accurately; I would purchase this thermometer even if it costs more.


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