When you’re no longer living in the dorm or sharing an apartment with college roommates, it’s time to set up housekeeping for yourself. Even if you’re not an enthusiastic cook you’ll appreciate the ability to prepare a meal for yourself from time to time. While you may have a few mugs and cereal bowls from your college years that you can call your own, you may not yet have what you’ll need to cook independently at the place you’ll call your first home.
A first kitchen doesn’t require that much. As years go on, you may develop a love of cooking and invest in a myriad of cooking equipment. For the time being, however, concentrate on the basics – you’ll feel self-sufficient without spending more or buying more than you need as you set up housekeeping.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you have a basic kitchen setup, consisting of cooktop/oven and refrigerator in your kitchen. What items are essential to make your kitchen a bountiful room in your new abode?
A guide to equipping your kitchen first kitchen so you can get cooking:
A cookbook with the basics, such as:
- glossary of cooking terms
- description of cooking methods
- food basics (like cuts of meats, types of vegetables, pasta shapes…)
- food buying guide
- recipes and meal ideas
Some popular favorites include an original Betty Crocker Cookbook or The Joy of Cooking. Ask older family members and friends for recommendations – they were once new cooks too. Maybe they’ll even donate one of theirs to your cause. You could probably find these at a used bookstore or garage sale, too. Nothing beats the knowledge and confidence you’ll gain from a good basic cookbook.
A small microwave will make simple things, like steaming vegetables or heating up leftovers, a snap. While once a pricey appliance, you can pick one up for under $50 nowadays.
You don’t need a whole set but some pots and pans are essential. Buy the best quality you can afford – they’ll perform better and last longer. Non-stick coating on your frying pan is convenient but it’s not necessary for all your pieces.
Three must-haves are:
- large frying pan – for burgers, bacon, grilled sandwiches, pancakes…
- saucepan – for sauces or soups…
- Dutch oven – for cooking pasta or chili…
Mixing bowls – a small, medium and large should serve you well
Ceramic pieces in small, medium and large for microwave cooking
Measuring cups and spoons
Knives. You don’t need a big set but you’re going to do some cutting. Quality knives can last a lifetime, so invest in ones with a full tang (which means the metal extends the entire length of the handle).
Look for these:
- chef’s knife – for bigger cutting and chopping
- paring knife – for smaller jobs, like peeling carrots
- serrated knife – for slicing bread and tomatoes
- knife sharpener – even good knives are no good dull!
Utensils are the interface between you and your food. These are the most useful ones:
- rubber spatula – for scraping
- plastic spatula (for use on non-stick surfaces) – large and small, for lifting and flipping
- metal spatula – large and small, for lifting and flipping
- slotted spoon – helps drain liquids
- solid spoon – for stirring large quantities
- strainer – for draining
- colander – for rinsing fruits and vegetables
As you continue to equip your kitchen, think multitaskers.
A well-equipped kitchen is a work in progress. Continue adding to it as needed, shopping sales, second-hand stores and garage sales. Follow this advice to have what you need to cook what you want today without making a huge investment at the outset.
What are your kitchen essentials?