Every chef needs his or her tools. If you listen to the cooks and chefs on Food Network, you might believe that you need an arsenal to boil an egg, but that’s hardly true.
I make every meal with the tools listed below and nothing more. It’s not the tools that make the cook; it’s how the cook uses what they have available. My kitchen is not the most advanced. In fact, my kitchen is downright horrible. But over the last few years I’ve collected a bunch of reliable tools that I’ve “MacGyver-ed” into awesomeness.
Here’s what I’ve got and what I use them for:
Balloon whisk – Mixing and whipping
Chef knife – General cutting and threatening roommates who don’t wash the dishes
Paring knife – Peeling, cutting and shanking roommates who didn’t take the first warning seriously
Cutting board – Cutting and other food prep
Tongs – Picking up hot stuff and pretending I’m a crab
Flipper – Flipping, obviously
Rubber spatula – Scraping, mixing and cooking
Skillet – Cooking almost everything and reinforcing what the paring knife didn’t
Dutch oven – Frying and cooking almost everything that requires higher sides than my skillet
Sheet tray – Baking stuff
Stainless steel bowl – General food prep
Of course I have more things in my kitchen, but these are the things I actually use. I can’t tell you the last time I used my $300 KitchenAid stand mixer or my zester, which should tell you something.
No matter how you choose to furnish your kitchen, just make sure to get quality products. Materials like stainless steel and silicone are your best bet to ensure you don’t have to replace your tools midway through the semester. Stay away from cheap non-stick pans, as they usually chip quickly. Even if you splurge a bit, you’ll be able to get all this stuff at Target or Walmart for less than $100.
If you’re living in a dorm you probably won’t need pans, but the utensils are still very important. Moving in and out of dorms is enough work without having to buy everything again each year. Plus, think about all the memories you’ll build. How cool would it be to celebrate landing your first post-graduation job with a meal you made using the same tools that got you through all those nights in your dorm?
If, like most people, you don’t know how to spot quality equipment, then try checking out a store that sells to restaurants. These places generally have great prices on tools and utensils that are built to last. Sure, they may not be pretty but if color coordination is what you care about, you’re reading the wrong column. That’s a lie—I color coordinated everything in my kitchen. It just so happens that I prefer stainless steel, so it was easy.