People think that having fancy kitchen equipment will make them better cooks. This is the same inaccurate thought pattern that made me think having a pair of Air Jordans growing up would make me a better basketball player (note: it didn’t).
This probably has something to do with the fact many famous TV chefs use the same equipment. But keep in mind they are getting that stuff for free from the manufacturers because it’s free advertising to make us, the consumer, think it’s a necessity. Additionally, those chefs want to use shiny, good-looking, brand new equipment for every show so they do.
As a consumer though, just like a pair of Air Jordans didn’t help me dunk from the free-throw line, a Vitamix won’t help us become a better cook.
With that said, some of the best cooks I know have the simplest and pared back kitchens. Take Deb from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite cooks, who churns out awesome food from a tiny 42-square foot kitchen containing a single counter and tiny stove.
If you’re willing to forego the assumption that a fancy kitchen filled with fancy gadgets will make you a better cook, I’d like to show you how spending about $425 on 19 items can adequately equip your kitchen for any task.
And while one can certainly buy the following items for less money, what made the list is high-quality items made from durable materials (no plastic, I hate plastic in the kitchen), therefore lasting you a lifetime! Any or all of these items would be great as a college graduation gift or for newlyweds, and they are certainly Mr. Everyday Dollar-approved.
1. Chef’s Knife – $26
The workhorse of the kitchen, this knife comes highly recommended from Cook’s Illustrated. The Victorinox is a perfect blend of balance, comfort, and value – putting to shame knives that cost 10 times as much.
2. Bread Knife – $26
Another top pick from Cook’s Illustrated, this reasonably-priced Victorinox knife is best used to slice tomatoes, homemade bread, and meats.
3. Paring Knife – $8
Rounding out the knives, this Victorinox paring knife is perfect for smaller jobs, like cutting fruits and vegetables.
4. Vegetable Peeler – $7
This old school stainless steel peeler makes easy work of carrots, asparagus, apples and potatoes and throws the peeled skins out of the way, not getting caught up in the arm. Fast, cheap and comfortable.
5. Turner – $10
Built from stainless steel, this sturdy and well-built turner can handle any turning duty in the kitchen. Because it is stainless steel, it will last a lifetime and it won’t accidentally be melted while cooking.
6. Spoon – $10
A big, hefty steel spoon, perfect for everything from ice cream to soups, spaghetti sauce and chili.
7. Pizza Wheel – $12
A precision instrument, this works great for homemade pizza but also becomes a multi-purpose tool to cut fresh herbs, breadsticks, pasta dough and bread dough.
8. Can Opener – $8
A well-built, US-made, quality can opener. Doesn’t get better than this.
9. Measuring Cups – $25
Completely solid (handles won’t detach from cups) 18/8 stainless steel measuring cups.
10. Measuring Spoons – $6
Steel measuring spoons that have a nice heft to them.
11. Cutting Board – $20
Knives will love this bamboo cutting board that is durable, easy to wash, has a groove to catch juices plus looks sleek.
12. 3 Mixing Bowls – $15
A few wide, shallow, glass mixing bowls. We save a bit of money by going with glass over stainless steel.
13. Boxed Grater – $9
A sturdy stainless steel grater makes quick work of cheese and vegetables.
14. 13 by 9 Baking Dish – $14
A staple dish for homemade lasagnas and the like.
15. 13 by 18 Baking Sheet – $12
Another workhorse of the kitchen, this natural aluminum baking sheet is used for everything from cookies to roasting vegetables.
16. 7-Cup Food Processor – $100
While pricey, a food processor is an essential part of the kitchen. Use it for things like kneading dough, shredding large blocks of cheese, and making smoothies, pesto, hummus and pizza sauce.
17. 10-Inch Skillet – $32
This 18/10 stainless steel skillet is needed for all the frying and sautéing jobs in the kitchen.
18. 2-Quart Saucepan – $36
A medium sized 18/10 stainless steel saucepan is perfect for rice, beans, rice and beans, sauces, and vegetables.
19. 6-Quart Stockpot – $46
A larger 18/10 stainless steel stockport is needed for boiling pasta, making soups and batches of chili.
These are the things we need to make a great kitchen! Some of you may think this list is missing things like a toaster, oven mitt, colander, popcorn popper and a tea kettle but the good news is that we don’t really need those things. By using what we already have we easily get by: bread can be toasted in the oven, a kitchen towel does the work of an oven mitt, a pot and lid is just as good as a colander, popcorn can be made in a saucepan, and water can be boiled in the same saucepan to make tea.
If you want to buy all these items at once, either for yourself, a college graduate or newlyweds, I’ve made it easy to do through the Amazon list Mr. Everyday Dollar’s Shockingly Simple Kitchen Essentials (free shipping too). Happy cooking!