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If you don’t already have a kitchen set up, don’t worry because we’ll suggest a few basics to get started. Then you can add items as you get comfortable and want to expand your skills. Here are some of the essential tools and ingredients you’ll probably use again and again.
We’ve had a full set of Wusthof knives (German-made) for many years but find that we only use three of them all the time: A 5-inch carving knife that you can use for all kind of tasks, from paring an apple to carving a chicken; an 8-inch cook’s knife that’s bigger and is perfect for mincing onions or herbs or for bigger carving jobs; and a bread knife with serrated edges that cuts bread or even tomatoes without mangling them. You might also consider a steel honing piece, usually about 10-inches long that will keep your knife blades sharp. High quality steel knives are awfully expensive but they’re an investment that will last a lifetime. Keep them clean and sharp so they’re ready when you’re ready to cook.
You’ll find that a few good pots and pans will serve most of your needs and last a long time. For pots, you might want to have 2-quart and 3-quart pots for cooking vegetables, rice, etc; and an 8-quart stockpot for making chicken stock or soup, or cooking spaghetti. A 4-quart or 5-quart “Dutch oven” or cast iron casserole is another good option for stews or braises you’ll want to put in the oven. A small omelet-size pan and a larger iron clad pan with a lid will give you the option of cooking on top of the stove or in the oven.
You’ll want to acquire a few other simple tools that will help you prep for a great dinner: a spatula (a firm rubber one is fine); a potato peeler; a pepper grinder; a can opener; a firm brush for cleaning vegetables or potatoes; a box grater for grating cheese, making lemon zest or grating fresh nutmeg; a simple pair of tongs for lifting food in and out of a boiling hot cooking pot; a flat wooden spoon for stirring food in the pan; and a large metal spoon with holes for lifting solid foods out of braising liquids. We’ve found that Oxo is a reliable brand for simple kitchen tools.
There are hundreds of different spices used in different parts of the world but we’ll suggest a few to get started with ChowGuys.com recipes. It’s always best to get fresh herbs whenever available – for instance, you can keep fresh parsley or basil longer by sticking the stems in a glass of water in the fridge. But fresh isn’t always available, especially in colder climes. Here’s our list of favored herbs:
This will get you started and take care of the majority of recipes at ChowGuys.com
These are some of the last minute additions that will add zest to any meal: chutney (Major Grey is a reliable brand); French or Dijon-type mustard; Heinz ketchup; sesame oil (regular or hot); soy sauce; Hoisin sauce; Tabasco sauce; Worchester sauce.
Sometimes you just have to use butter (always unsalted) for the taste, but you’ll see that we favor olive oil because it’s better for you, and still produces great flavor as the Greeks, Turks, Italians and Spaniards have found over a couple thousand years. Try to find a good extra virgin olive oil because it’s higher quality and tastes better than the regular squeeze. We actually keep a couple of different kinds of extra virgin olive oil in the pantry: a lighter one for cooking, and a more expensive fruity oil for salads and for dressing vegetables like tomato and mozzarella in the summer.