Devices of the Delicious
A Minimalist Guide to Home Cooking Gear
Hopefully by now you’ve seared a steak, or splattered the back splash of your stove with tomato sauce, maybe flung a few strands of spaghetti on the cabinets to make sure they stick. If you have no idea what I’m talking about you can read all about it in my last post here.
One my main goals from day one has been to assure you that solid cooking is within your grasp without having to dump a significant amount of hard earned money into the endeavor. This doesn’t mean my recommendations will always be the cheapest, but as I’ve discussed, and will continue to, like most things in life good cooking will be about balance.
These items can all be sourced easily from Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Costco, Target or Amazon.
Let’s get started.
Two heavy bottomed stock pots. This is where a Sam’s club membership is going to come in handy. They stock a solid selection of restaurant grade equipment. Anytime you can purchase something restaurant grade I would suggest it. Often times it’s going to be on par with similar products rated for home use, it might even be cheaper. The heavy bottom will allow for even heat distribution. If you can find a cast iron dutch oven with a lid, and a stock pot even better. I’m recommending two. Much like steak and spaghetti, you may need to pull together a long simmering sauce and then a pasta or a quick blanche of vegetables.
Non-stick sauté pan. If you can find a restaurant grade non stick pan in multiple sizes, a smaller eight inch pan for eggs, and a larger ten inch pan for everything else you’ll be good to go in the pan department. (Rules for a non stick pan — a.) don’t wash it in the dishwasher, always wash by hand. b.) Don’t use metal utensils c.)avoid preheating the pan, the notable exception here is eggs. the material expands as it heats and it will help things cook evenly, as well as extend the life of the pan.)
Cast iron skillet. This is where the thrift store comes in handy. Generations of Americans grew up robbed of character and unable to properly care for a good cast iron pan. My next post will be about properly seasoning and caring for cast iron pan. If you don’t want to wait that long you can absolutely buy a new pan from Lodge and follow the instructions on the label. They come pre-seasoned and if properly taken care of it will out live you, and your children. A good cast iron pan is workhorse item, meaning it’s equally as useful for roasting a turkey as it is for searing a steak. Of all the items on this list to invest in this would be my recommendation.
Chef’s knife. Oof, I have a friend who’s going to skip right over this section, he’s the same friend that calls my cooking art. He’s heard me rant, rave and rail against knife sets on more than one occasion and he’s more than capable at this point of repeating, verbatim, my feelings on the subject. For those of you new to my opinions on knives in the amateur kitchen, prepare to live. It’s no secret we live in a culture of consumers. You’re reading a post right now where I’m advising you what to buy. The greatest lie ever told to consumers who want nothing more than to be able to prepare their family a meal, has been the absolute need for a SET of knives. Every few weeks I get an invitation to join a Facebook group for chefs, or home cooks, or whatever it may be. I used to gladly accept membership, in the hopes surrounding myself in the digital space with like minded individuals. I always regret it. The level of idiocy permeating across the world wide web is perhaps no more entrenched than in groups having anything to do with food, cooking or chefs. Discussion of knives is low grade FOMO porn for people wielding Shun and Global knife collections, all the while being ignorant to the proper care and use of such implements. Picture investing buying a Ferrari and being unable to drive it because you can’t operate anything other than a manual transmission. Here’s what you need. ONE solidly built chef’s knife. Full tine, meaning the metal the blade is composed of runs from the tip through the handle. The curvature in the blade enables the user to rock back in for all manner if dicing, mincing and chopping. Winco and Mercer both make excellent industrial grade chef’s knives, that will exceed expectations of use. Get a whet stone and some mineral oil and employ a YouTube video to teach you how to sharpen your knife. Sharpen until you can shave the hair on your arm. When the hair grows back, it’s time to sharpen again.
A cutting board. You want a cutting board with enough surface area to hold three onions worth of usable product, and refuse, providing ample space to work without having to worry about slicing your fingers off because you’re working in a crowded mess. Choice of material is up to you. Plastic will be easier to clean and maintain. Before investing serious money, remember it’s purpose. It’s not a display piece.
Kitchen Towels. This is the easiest ask on the list. Solid colored, cotton kitchen towels are worth their weight in gold in a professional kitchen. They’re valued for their versatility. When dry they ensure that you won’t sear the inside of your palm, grabbing that cast iron skillet you just caught on fire. Conversely, a damp towel slid underneath your cutting board will help hold it in place, adding another layer of security in your quest to NOT slice your fingers off with that razor sharp knife you’ll be taking excellent care of.
A stainless steel mixing bowl. I feel like this is self explanatory. You want something large enough to hold a salad to feed 6 people.
Avoid the temptation to spend more than you NEED on these items. Figure out what your own line between investment in solidly made products, and frivolity. It’s about balance. Are we noticing a theme yet?
A little housekeeping before you go. Keep your eyes peeled for my first annual Thanksgiving-palooza. I’ve partnered with some really fantastic home cooks as well as chefs to bring you everything you’ll need to supply your family with a lovingly cooked, relatively stress free meal. Starting Friday, November 20, with the release of my “title TBD” podcast. Chef Jereme Nemeth and I will be talking all things turkey. I’ll be following up the launch with FOUR, that’s right FOUR blog posts in FOUR days (everything from shopping lists to sides), to have your home kitchen stocked and ready to go by Wednesday the 25th, because NO ONE needs to be shopping the day before Thanksgiving during a global pandemic.
Lastly, the holidays are stressful. If you don’t feel like you can muster a fully scratch cooked Thanksgiving dinner, don’t put undue stress on yourself. Fill in the gaps where you can, and remember to focus on your family, who, news flash, will love you whether your mashed potatoes are instant or otherwise.