When you start to cook, you may be confused by the large amount equipment available. Here is a list of what I use.
If you're going to eat, then you need a plate, knife, fork and spoon. A bowl is also useful for sloppy stuff. You also need washing up equipment, and a kitchen bin.
You need something to cook on. The minimum is a single cooking ring.
You will also need a saucepan. There are various types and sizes of saucepan. Start with a big one. Make sure it has a lid, as this stops the kitchen getting too steamed up. Try picking the saucepan up. Some are extremely heavy, even when empty. The principle is that they don't develop hot spots on the bottom in use as the metal spreads the heat evenly. I prefer a saucepan that I can lift with one hand when full! Pouring hot food over yourself is a typical kitchen accident, so get a saucepan that you can hold comfortably. Some saucepans have metal handles. They can be used in the oven as well as on a cooking ring. Unfortunately, the metal handles become extremely hot. I prefer a plastic handle, even if it means that I have to transfer food to a casserole dish for oven cooking. There are aluminium pans and stainless steel pans. The aluminium ones are lighter and cheaper, the stainless steel ones are more robust. The final choice is whether you want non-stick or not. At least one non-stick saucepan is useful.
You will need something to stir with. Wooden spoons or spatulas are cheap, don't get hot and don't make a scrapping noise against the pan. I use a spatula (flat edge) as it means that you can scrap into the corner of the pan.
If you are doing more than just heating food up, then you will need to cut up food. This means that you need a chopping knife. I use mine for bread as well (after washing it, of course). When choosing a knife, try holding it to see if if feels comfortable for you. Be careful when using a sharp knife. Cut away from yourself, and make sure that the other hand won't be in the way if the knife slips. Cuts are another common kitchen accident.
You need a board to chop on. If you use the normal kitchen surface or table, it is hard to clean, and the knife will damage it. Some people have several boards for different uses, meat, vegetables, bread, etc.
This website really assumes that you have a cooker rather than a single cooking ring. This means several rings, a grill and an oven. There are electric cookers and gas cookers. Gas rings are easier than electric ones, as they are quicker and more adjustable. But electric ovens and grills are more even than gas ones. It is very useful to have two ovens, where the grill doubles as a top oven, since you can cook two oven dishes at different temperatures. A fan oven gives a more even temperature and cooks quicker.
Some ovens are marked in centigrade, some in fahrenheit and some old British gas cookers use gas Regulo marks. On this website, you can select which type of temperature that you use, and the recipes will then specify temperatures like that. The website should remember to do this as you go from one recipe to another.
Once you have a cooker, you will need more pans. A frying pan is useful. You can fry in a saucepan, but a frying pan has a bigger surface, so more gets cooked faster. You will probably find you need more saucepans as well. You can buy them as you need them. There is no need for matching saucepans!
For stews or casseroles, you will need an oven-proof dish. There are different types, of different shapes or materials. I don't like the very heavy ones, as I can imagine dropping a full one on my toe! Some types of dish will get hot quicker than others. I suggest getting one with a lid, as you often need to cover the dish while cooking. Sizes are quite important. If you are cooking a small amount of food, then a large dish will dry out the food too much, while large amounts of food just won't fit in a small dish!
An oven tray is useful. With any luck, one will come with the cooker.
You need to store food before cooking and eating it, so you will need a fridge (or need to shop often). A freezer extends what you can buy and store, whether it is separate or a combined fridge/freezer. But this will probably depend how much room you have (or money!)
Once you have a fridge, then cling film is useful, to wrap food, or spread over the top of a container. You can buy plastic storage bags of various types. Foil can be used for wrapping as well as in cooking.
You may find the need for storage containers. Plastic boxes with lids help you with left-overs, or when packets of stuff split. You may find it easier to have containers for sugar or coffee or rice, but that's up to you.
I find kitchen scissors almost essential. You can open all those impossible plastic wrappings that they inflict on us nowadays. They can often cut food a lot easier than a knife, as well.
You can't open tins without a tin opener! Don't despise tins. Tinned tomatoes and tinned beans (and not just baked beans) keep a long time and are useful ingredients.
If you eat potatoes, then you will need a potato peeler or waste money buying already peeled potatoes. You can use the peeler for peeling fruit as well.
You can do a lot of food preparation with a single, big knife. However, a small, sharp knife will help with some fiddly jobs.
You need a sieve to drain boiled or steamed food. Buy a metal one, and you can use it to purée fruit if you want.
Quite a lot of cooking can be done 'by eye'. If you want to know how many potatoes to use, for example, then imagine them cut into chunks, see how many would be reasonable for one person, and multiply it up. You can also buy the correct weight of food from a butcher or greengrocer, and use all of it.
Some types of cooking need careful measurement. Baking requires the correct proportions. In Britain, cooks who bake will use scales for weighing. America tends to use measuring cups instead. Since one measures weight and the other volume, you need to know what you are measuring before you can convert a recipe. Scales are more useful if you can slide the scale back to zero or reset the scale, so you can measure multiple amounts of food in the same bowl. It also helps if you can use any bowl on the scales rather than just the one provided.
British cooks do use measuring jugs as well. For casual use, a coffee mug can be about half a pint, although it might be best to check! Take one coffee cup, fill it with water and empty it into a pint or 2 pint milk container. Count how many cups to fill it, and you then know what volume that cup is.
British recipes also specify small amounts as spoons, teaspoons (5ml), dessert spoons (10ml) and table spoons (15ml). You are supposed to use your ordinary cutlery, but I found that my cutlery was very inaccurate! You can buy measuring spoons.
On this website, you can choose Imperial measures, American measures or metric. If you select American measures, then the recipes will give cup measures rather than weights. The website should remember to do this as you go from one recipe to another.
If you want to bake, apart from an oven and a set of scales (or measuring cups), you will need mixing bowls. If you get oven-proof bowls, then you can use them for cooking as well. Many British puddings are cooked in those bowls. You may need baking tins. You may need a rolling pin.
There are various kitchen machines which I tend to avoid. I do have a food mixer. You can use a hand beater, but it just takes longer. I acquired a large second-hand food processor - a terrifying machine, and I admit that I only use it for making bread-crumbs. A liquidiser makes short work of fruit purées and other liquification, but I tend to use a metal sieve and a lot of muscle. I suspect that it's better to try to start by doing things manually rather than by machine, until you work out what you're doing, and why the machine does it better.
This section will vary for every cook, and tend to be a little eccentric in what's there, and what isn't. Skewers can be used for kebabs, cooking baked potatoes quicker, and whenever you need a long thing bit of metal for poking into things (I tend to mis-use tools!) Jam and sweet cooking is a lot easier with a sugar thermometer. And an oily chip pan with basket for your own chips, although I must admit that oven chips tempt me, ever since I found my local supermarket did them cheaper than raw potatoes still in their skins.
© Jo Edkins 2007 -