How little can one pack and still have a fully-functional chef´s kitchen? I was borrowing stuff to get by for a few months, and thought my packing list might be useful to other people. :)
- 1 chef's knife
- 1 paring knife
- 1 cutting board
- 1 cast-iron wok w/ flat bottom (or other largish pot also suitable for frying)
- 1 2qt saucepan with lid
- 2 mugs
- 2 bowls
- 2 large plates
- 2 small plates
- 2 sets of silverware
- 1 wooden spoon
- 1 spatula
- 1 serving spoon
- 1 salad spinner (salad-spinner, colander, mixing/washing bowl all in one!)
- a few Pyrex with lids (for baking and storage)
- 2 dish towels
Note: This is for a 1-person kitchen. If you have a 4-person household, you'll need more dishes/silverware and might want to upgrade the saucepan to a 4qt pot.
Note: If you bake, you will want some additional equipment, such as measuring cups/spoons, cookie sheet or bread pan etc., and possibly a mixer.
- dishwashing soap
- dishwashing sponge
- paper towels
- plastic bags for trash
- paper pags for recycling (and to hold the trash bag)
- baking soda (as scouring powder)
- white vinegar (as all-purpose cleaner / mild disinfectant)
Wrt edible items, unless you're baking, you really only need salt and cooking oil, and then whatever you're actually cooking. Pretty much everything else shelf-stable is optional for making food and can be bought as needed. Wrt unstable basics, I also tend to keep onions, garlic, ginger, and lemons on hand, and butter is nice.
If you are buying these things quality, not quantity, is what counts. Good kitchen equipment will last a lifetime and then some, and is therefore worth investing in. (You don't even have to invest that much, just don't be a cheapskate.) Here are my recommendations (price estimates in USD according to the 2014 US market, ymmv).
- chef´s knife
- This is the single most important tool you'll buy. I recommend spending around $30, but spend at least $12. If the blade is serrated, it's not worth the metal it's stamped on. Try again. Old, dull, quality knives are still good: you can get them professionally sharpened for $5. A properly sharpened knife will slice through a soft tomato with ease.
- paring knife
- As above, if the blade is serrated, it's not worth the metal it's stamped on. Find one you like. I recommend the Kuhn Rikon paring knife, which comes with a sheath and is ~$10.
- cutting board
- Do not get glass. It will dull your knives. Other than that, anything'll do. I recommend the Epicurean, which is dishwasher-safe, not too expensive, and good for just about everything.
- Don't buy Teflon. It has its uses (potstickers, mainly), but for general cooking non-Teflon is better: lasts forever, doesn't chip, and is therefore safer and a better deal. I've never had a problem cleaning stainless steel cookware. (If you have, try a using a better sponge and better detergent?) Cast iron is good and is also quite cheap, but a bit trickier to maintain.
- salad spinner
- You want the OXO Good Grips® Salad Spinner. Period.
- Get a pack of sponges with a non-scratch scrubbing surface. (I'm a fan of Scotch-brite, but other brands'll do.) It will clean most things. (If you still have trouble cleaning a thing, use baking soda to scour. Or soak it overnight.) Zap a wet sponge in the microwave for 2 minutes to disinfect it.
- dishwashing detergent
- Ecover Dishwashing Liquid is my favorite. Only one brand (Dawn) had it beat for degreasing when Consumer Reports ran its tests, and Ecover is not only eco-friendly, it is, in my personal experience, much less destructive on hands than the average dishwashing detergent. Try something good (Dawn, Ecover, Palmolive, etc.) so you know what that's like, and then downgrade if you feel the need to be cheaper.
On the topic of minimums, the Minimum Viable Skillset for cooking is:
- Using a knife.
- Mixing things.
- Adding the right amount of salt.
- Cooking things enough and not too much.
Everything else is optional. But the last two are more difficult than they sound.