There are just some things that every kitchen needs. Not that you want…need. For me, this breaks down to spices, tools, cookware and books. We’ll wrap it up with the tools and gadgets you need on hand.
When it comes to kitchen gadgets there are the necessities and the luxuries. These are what I would call the basic necessities for your kitchen.
Spoons: Serving and cooking. Wooden, metal and vinyl. Slotted and solid. At the very least, you need four spoons — a medium to large wooden spoon, for soups and sauces; a small wooden spoon for, well, smaller applications; a long-handled metal spoon for mixing; and a vinyl set of slotted and solid spoons. The vinyl pair are great for serving a weeknight dinner or cooking, as they won’t scratch a non-stick pan. Me? I have wooden spoons in nearly every size. It’s ridiculous. The best serving spoons I own, though, came from the least likely place…IKEA. I have two solid and one slotted stainless steel spoons that were purchased in 2003 or 2004. If I spent $5 apiece, that might have been a lot. IKEA…is there anything you can’t do?
Spatulas: I dislike white spatulas, namely because I end up tie-dyeing them red when cleaning out tomato cans. Oxo‘s spatulas are nice, but I’ve mangled them in food processors. I’m not partial to any particular brand, but size is of the essence. I have four or five regular-sized, one Oxo tomato spoonula, a big-ass Williams-Sonoma spatula and, my fav, a narrow Crate & Barrel jobber made specifically to fit in small jars. It’s nothing short of awesome (I reread that sentence and realize how much of a loser I sound like. Sigh.).
Knives: We’ve already covered my own knife fetish. I’ve made it a point to overpay for knives, which may seem like a waste to others. Good knives will never let you down. That said, it’s very easy to spend $100-$150 on a decent knife block. Just do yourself a favor and get yourself a higher-end 6- or 8-inch chef’s knife. You will not regret the purchase, as long as you maintain it and keep it sharp.
Bowls: I’m a snob, so I don’t believe in using my serving bowls to mix ingredients. Frankly, I just don’t like the inside of my good bowls to get scratched up by electric hand mixers, potato mashers, whisks and the like. I have two sets of mixing bowls. One is a set of one-, two- and three-quart stainless steel bowls that came with a set of pans I bought. The pans are long gone, but the bowls remain. The others are (you guessed it) Oxo plastic bowls with a rubberized base to prevent sliding around. They’re durable, bottom-rack dishwasher safe and I don’t care if the insides get scratched up by the mixer.
Measurements: There are three measurements you will take in a kitchen — volume, weight and temperature. For volume, pick up a set of measuring cups and spoons and the more, the merrier here. Quarters and halves are fine, but eyeballing 1/3 cup is a pain in the butt. You can find a moderately-priced set of measurers that won’t melt in your dishwasher and include 1/3’s and the dreaded 3/4 cup. Personally, I like Oxo’s angled measuring cups. These have taken a significant beating and come backed with Oxo’s lifetime guarantee. When it comes to weight, I love my blue retro-look scale, but any will do. Just be sure that it is easy to zero out for calibration purposes. As for temperature, get a good instant read thermometer. Taylor makes a very reliable in and out model for about $15-20. I had a leftover Williams-Sonoma gift card, so I went for the Oxo (sensing brand loyalty?) leave-in digital thermometer. It’s pretty nice.