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For the past 13-plus years, I've run the website The New Homemaker, a resource site for stay-at-home parents, caregivers and everyone else. I've taught many people there to cook from scratch--just simple, home-y things with basic ingredients. I am also a leftovers ninja. I hate throwing food out.

In a comment recently, I told someone I could teach her to cook long distance, and other commenters asked me to write up some lessons here. The original person got overwhelmed at all the lists of expensive equipment "they" said she needed, and at the complicated recipes she was looking at calling for saffron and turmeric and so on, stuff she'd have to run all over town for and then never use again.

Phooey, I say. When people get hung up cooking, nine time out of ten I find out they're using some fancy recipe. That ain't cooking, that's company cooking. I'm talking simple everyday fare here. Leave company cooking for company.

Repeat after me: COOKING IS EASY. COOKING IS MY BIRTHRIGHT AS A HUMAN BEING. I CAN COOK. IT'S EASY.

I promise.

This series will look first at how to stock your kitchen and what to do in there once it's stocked.

Follow me below the saffron thread doodle for part one.

PART ONE: Equipment, from the bare basics to the fully stocked

My philosophy on cookware is the same as Alton Brown's: NO UNITASKERS! Everything in your kitchen should do double duty, or almost everything; Alton says the only unitasker should be the fire extinguisher--but then he uses it to crush garlic, so...

My only unitasker is my popcorn popper, just because it makes such awesome popcorn. So no, you don't need a special appliance to steam vegetables or make yogurt or bake cupcakes (?!) or or or.

Much of what you need for the basics can be obtained even if you're broke. Watch garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist. There's nothing wrong with used cookware, though I do encourage you to pay attention to the materials from which it's made.

Do NOT buy aluminum cookware. There is some debate as to aluminum leaching into food, and I don't like the heat distribution it gives you. Also: not dishwasher safe. If you can, get stainless steel pots with copper bottoms. My favorite pans are all cast iron. Don't buy no-stick. The coating comes off in your food and the pans wear out quickly. Cast iron is for life, yours and your grandchildren's and possibly their grandchildren's, and they're not all that expensive. I've bought affordable cast iron on eBay, even.

Some things are just better bought new, and I'll go over that as we go along.

Bare basics equipment
Most of you have these things already, but here's a handy list if you're just starting out.

Pots:
8 to 12 qt stock pot
3 qt pot
Steamer baskets to fit the 3 qt and stock pots
2 qt pot
1 qt pot

If for some reason your pots don't have lids, you can get a "universal lid," a big stainless lid with ridges allowing it to sit securely on many different sizes of pots and pans. Useful.

Pans:
10 inch cast iron skillet

You can use this to fry an egg or cook pancakes, or in the oven as a roasting pan or to bake cornbread. One of the most versatile pieces of cookware you can own. A new Lodge pan costs about $20 but you can find them used at garage sales and thrift stores--or ask family members. A lot of cast iron was abandoned when no-stick came around. I say, cast iron is it, baby. It's not hard to take care of it, either. If you can, get a Pyrex lid for it or use the universal lid from your pots.

Oven pans:
13x9 Pyrex baking pan
Muffin tin
Half-sheet jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with a lip)
Parchment paper

Use the jelly roll pan to roast nuts and seeds, bake cookies--heck, bake a jelly roll! :) Parchment paper will save your jelly roll pan (and later, your cookie sheet). You can make muffins, individual cornbreads and frittatas, all kinds of things in the muffin tin--it's especially useful for single people making lunches. Make a bunch of individual frittatas or what have you and freeze them. Heat in the oven or the microwave at work. We'll get into that later. The baking pan can be used for cakes as well as roasting meat and/or veggies.

Knives:
8-inch chef's knife
3-inch paring knives (2)

We like black-handled Rodda knives. American-made, inexpensive, sturdy. It's not 100% necessary but highly recommended you get a knife steel. Honing your knife before use saves sharpenings. Be sure to take your knives for sharpening regularly; dull knives are no fun to cook with, and you're much more likely to cut yourself on a dull one, paradoxically.

Gadgets:
The best vegetable peeler you can afford--NOTHING frustrates me more in the kitchen than a bad peeler!
Grater--box or flat, whatever you prefer. Note on box graters: don't use the fine side. We'll talk about that further down.
Metal spatula
1-cup Pyrex measuring cup
Measuring spoons
Potholders and oven mitts
Manual can opener
Colander
Large slotted spoon
Whisk
Dowel-style wooden rolling pin
Corkscrew--I like the newer style lever ones. Trader Joe's sells a terrific one that also has a bottle opener on it

Storage/bowls:
One big mixing bowl, stainless steel or Pyrex
Set of nesting Pyrex freezer-to-oven storage bowls with lids

Why storage bowls instead of mixing bowls for a basic kitchen? You can use storage bowls as mixing bowls as well. Multitask!

Appliances:
Strictly speaking, there is no appliance you absolutely MUST have. But if you can afford just one:
Electric hand mixer
Don't even bother with a manual egg beater. Seriously, just...don't.

THAT'S IT. You can cook almost anything with just the above pieces in your kitchen. You will use both more creativity and more elbow grease, but this kit will do if you're on the strictest of strict budgets.

"But Lynn!" you cry, "I've got most of the basics already, what if I want to make kitchen life a little easier, use a little less creativity and elbow grease? Especially elbow grease?" Here are your expansion options, by category. "Well-stocked" is the next level up from basic; "fully equpped" means you have everything you'll likely ever need or want.

Pots:
Fully equipped:
stock pot with double steamer inserts (aka pasta pot)

I can't eat gluten and don't eat much grain anyway, but for steaming two veggies at a time these can't be beat. Extra stock pots don't go amiss anyway.

Pans:
Well-stocked:
10-inch cast iron skillet
cast iron griddle
Fully equipped:
cast iron Dutch oven
5 inch cast iron skillet--good for the single folks. Fits a fried egg perfectly.

Oven pans:
Well-stocked:
8x8 Pyrex pan
Pyrex loaf pan
Cookie sheet(s)
Pie plate
Cake tins
Fully equipped:
Roasting pan with lid
Covered casseroles of various sizes--I like the fluted white Corningware ones myself
Set of ramekins--great for puddings, custards, individual serving dishes
Broiler pan--personally I use my cast iron pans for broiling
Silpat baking sheet--best thing to happen to cookie baking since cookie cutters
Silicone cupcake liners

Knives:
Well-stocked:
Small cleaver
Carving knife
Boning knife
Paramedic shears--great for butchering, they'll cut through anything
Fully equipped:
Big bad Chinese cleaver

Gadgets:
Well-stocked:
Microplane grater--remember the comment above re: the fine side of a box grater, the side that never works? This does work. Use it for nutmegs, cinnamon, zesting citrus and grating hard cheeses
Tongs
 Ladle
4-cup Pyrex measuring cup
Wooden spoon
Sieve
Tea strainer
Meat thermometer
Cooling rack, preferably large enough to fit over the mouth of the stock pot (because reasons)
Narrow neck funnel
Wide mouth funnel
Ice cream scoop
Fully equipped:
Candy thermometer--even better, a digital probe thermometer you can use for both meat and candy
2-cup Wonder Cup measuring cup--use this for measuring hard-to-get-out-of-the-cup stuff like honey, oil and butter
Mandoline--the cutter, not the instrument, though what you do in your kitchen is your business
Kitchen scale--crucial for following European recipes, and for parceling out bulk purchases
Ridiculously well-equipped:
Deep fryer--oh baby, you know you want one. Homemade doughnuts, potato chips, chicken tenders...

Appliances:
Well-stocked:
Electric kettle--the kind that shuts itself off when it reaches boiling
Crockpot--err on the large size
Immersion/stick blender
Fully equipped:
food processor
Blender
stand mixer
tabletop roasting oven
electric coffee grinder dedicated to spice grinding
If you eat a lot of rice, a rice cooker--but only if you eat a lot of rice

Storage/bowls:
Well-stocked:
Pyrex nesting mixing bowls, all sizes
Pint, quart and half-gallon wide mouth canning jars and plastic storage lids
Quart and gallon zip top freezer bags
Fully equipped:
stainless steel nesting mixing bowls--we got ours at restaurant supply
Wide-mouth thermos
Big thermos
Pint EZ Cap bottles--useful for storing salad dressings and all kinds of pourables. Free source of these: find a friend who drinks Grolsch beer. Sometimes you'll find these bottles in use by makers of premium ice teas, kombuchas and the like. We got one that had once been a vodka bottle. Watch your friends' liquor cabinets. Otherwise, buy them by the case at brewing supply houses.

Anything not on this list you probably don't need. If you want it, that's another issue!

Next time: Stocking your non-perishable pantry

UPDATE: Please do read the comments. Many insightful observations. I just want to emphasize that just because it's not on this list doesn't mean "you can't have it." These are just basics that you really do need, at three different levels. You don't need a lot of specialized gadgets--unless you really want said specialized gadget. I have a pineapple corer, for instance. I only use it three or four times a year but it takes up hardly any room, and man that thing is just amazing. Do you need it, though? No, you don't. :)

Thu Dec 06, 2012 at  5:58 PM PT: Update: The second part in the series is here: http://www.dailykos.com/...


Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 4:18 PM PT: The third part is here: http://www.dailykos.com/...

Originally posted to LynnS in Words on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Cooking With Kos, Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Like the first short basic list, but will have (14+ / 0-)

    to disagree with cast iron pans. Way too heavy for me.

    I like that people are beginning to realize that teflon might not be healthy. I think the silicone type things will be the next danger we discover.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:49:14 PM PST

  •  Great info... (14+ / 0-)

    ... glad you are doing this!

    I am the program and artistic director here on Netroots Radio; and though I have two of my own music shows and an hour political talk show daily during the week; I am putting together a "cultural" program called,"West Coast Cook Book & Speakeasy" about the intersection of Food, Drink, Music, Art, Politics and Culture. I am a professional chef in the SF Bay Area.

    I would love to interview you sometime.

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude -- Pablo Neruda / Netroots Radio podcasts of The After Show with Wink & Justice can be found on Stitcher

    by justiceputnam on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 08:51:01 PM PST

  •  That's why I like 'em (9+ / 0-)

    They're heavy. :) I just use both hands with the big ones; they have a second little handle on the opposite side. The smaller pans I can manage with one. Note that I have little upper body strength, too.

    The best thing is they can go in the oven, right under the broiler.

  •  t/r/h thanks (9+ / 0-)

    I've hotlisted this for future reference. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  •  Wait! Wait! (7+ / 0-)

    No waffle maker?

    Is life worth living without waffles and real maple syrup?

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:01:33 PM PST

  •  isn't the best vegie peeler the old school one? (8+ / 0-)

    a simple hand-friendly steel loop with the blade on a post through the center of the loop?    Like the one I inherited from my grandma?

    I think they call it the 'Swedish' peeler.   (yes, grandma was a swede).

  •  So what do you have as a second choice for (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, nellgwen, kj in missouri

    pots? I use cephalon, but not teflon coated.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:02:38 PM PST

  •  i like cast iron pans (5+ / 0-)

    my dad has one that he has cooked with every day since i was a little kid. He is in his mid 80's now, and the pan was given to him from his mother. Who know what history it had when she got it. No doubt it will outlast me.

    My favorite part is that I can cut shit up with a knife right in the pan and not haveta worry about some stupid finish. That, and plastic spatulas just really annoy me.

    Also too, ma boyfriend got me a nice stone mortar and pestle for xmas this year.  The plan was to make my own mexican seasonings with funky peppers that I find in the ethnic isle at the grocery.

    A question.... some recipe that I was doin the other day called for fresh ground nutmeg.... What does that look like, and where do I find it at the store?

  •  a wok, a pepper grinder, and a corkscrew (12+ / 0-)

    because your spicy stir-fries with a shiraz will be much easier with them.

    •  Woks are optional (0+ / 0-)

      If you do a lot of classic Asian cooking and have gas, by all means. I have a ceramic electric stove and just scrape along with either my skillet or a cast iron omelette pan that is more bowl-shaped.

      Corkscrews are certainly not optional, I'll ad that to the list. As for pepper grinders, they'll be addressed in the next part.

      •  back in another life..... (5+ / 0-)

        I was a delivery boy for a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant...

        A nice seasoned wok, with a powerful gas burner in a well is a very powerful cooking tool.

        I would soo love to have a wok well as one of my burners on my stove. Odd that they don't sell em like that.

        •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

          Personally I don't have the right stove or room for one, but they're very versatile.

          •  I have a cast iron wok that is my favorite (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            DamselleFly, Crider, gulfgal98

            favorite (!) cooking piece that sits on a wok ring. I can cook so many different dishes on it, I'd be lost without it. I agree on cast iron completely. I have a griddle and 2 dutch ovens in addition to several skillets ( 8") to 24" and a tall skillet with lid that's excellent too. I couldn't make crepes without a cast iron crepe maker. Cheap, easy, durable and wonderful. Even when I scorch or burn something they're easy to clean up.

            Since we go camping a lot, Cast iron is the only way to go and I load it up, season it and cook my heart out on an open flame.

            After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

            by Brahman Colorado on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:51:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree about the wok (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              LynnS, Brahman Colorado

              Cast iron for me is essential to heat retention on our standard 9,000 Btu household gas range. It's the only way to get it right, since they use up to 100,000 Btu burners on real wok stoves! We use it at least 3 times a week. Chinese, Thai and Indian food are perfect for a wok.

              We also have a cast-iron saucepan that we use for deep frying.

              "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

              by Crider on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:00:32 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Electric woks are a decent alternative (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Carol in San Antonio

            if you're in a place without gas burners -- I had one for years till I lost the electric control in a move, but now I have my in-laws' electric wok in storage waiting for me to make room for it (it was one of the few things I saved when we cleared out the house for sale).

            Another suggestion for your well-stocked kitchen, and could actually be considered a necessity if you have issues with your hands (arthritis, etc.) -- an electric citrus juicer. My parents-in-law had one, and I loved it so much I bought my own. If you like fresh orange juice, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) than a big juicer, and it's ideal for making fresh lemonade/limeade in the summertime. My parents-in-law had lemon bushes in their yard, and they would juice the lemons in bulk then freeze the juice into cubes which they stored in freezer bags; when they needed lemon juice for a recipe it was easy to just grab a cube or two and either let them sit out or pop them in the microwave to melt.

            "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

            by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:42:38 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  just what (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynnS, nellgwen, emeraldmaiden

        I was going to say.

        Also a microplane grater -- fine grade for zesting citrus.  also works on nutmeg & hard cheeses.

        But then, I am a kitchen ware freak.

        and a pressure cooker!!! -- almost forgot.

        have you no sense? ... plenty of it he answered but at times we get tired of using it ... don marquis

        by grannyboots on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 09:29:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  perhaps in our N. American kitchens (6+ / 0-)

        the cast-iron pans are preferred over the steel woks.  

        Perhaps it's because we carried them across the continent in the 1800's and they needed to be tough.

        But one could certainly turn the equation around and argue that while the wok is essential, the cast iron is optional, especially if one's heritage is Asian.

         

      •  It all depends on how you cook (0+ / 0-)

        For example, you've recommended a crock pot.

        I use a woks (I have three of different sizes) probably 20 times for every time I use a crock pot. Frankly, I dislike slow cookers (brand name Crock Pot) and prefer braising in the oven or stove top - it yields better results.

        •  Very much depends on how you cook (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nzanne, elfling, Cali Scribe

          My reasons on not including a wok in my equipment list I've already enumerated a few times here, so I'll leave it at that. :)

          I do most of my braising etc in the oven, too, and for similar reasons, but slow cookers are still in my list for one great reason: you can leave them to cook while you're at work, or overnight, unattended. Yes, you can braise that way, but I don't like to do that unattended. I like to have a peek to make sure there's enough liquid etc.

          •  My slow cooker is practically (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            emeraldmaiden, puzzled

            a necessity -- nothing better than coming home and knowing that dinner is just about ready. If you're doing a good soup or chili, the longer you can simmer it the better, and you often don't want to leave an actual stove unattended that long (plus a slow cooker, IIRC, uses less power/energy than a stove). And the apartment smells so good when I'm using the slow cooker. (I should do a split pea soup this week...)

            "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

            by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:47:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Uses more energy though. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't have room for a slow cooker in my tiny UK kitchen, but miss one when making duck confit. Duck legs are soooo cheap here but confit is definitely not.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:39:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  My wok (0+ / 0-)

        is probably my favorite pan.  While I do not cook Oriental style very often, the wok functions very well for much of my every day cooking, such as pan frying fish or pork chops.  My wok was a very inexpensive pan which, like cast iron, has become awesome once it became seasoned with use.  I also love a very old cast iron skillet that was given to me by my husband's family.  With a gas range, both of these pans perform beautifully.  I completely disagree with Alton Brown who dissed woks in a recent article.

        "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

        by gulfgal98 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:51:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A teapot. (6+ / 0-)

    Even if you don't drink tea, it's the best way to boil water and transfer it to anything else.

  •  Awesome diary, and one with political implications (14+ / 0-)

    I've frequently argued that our cultural self-perception as unable to cook for ourselves, a basic, fundamental part of all human culture, has lead to a very consumer-passive lifestyle which enables large corporations to take advantage of us economically.

    So I'm a huge, huge fan of "learning to cook"!

    I guess the idea was big in the 70's with a lot of focus on sustainable food movements, like in Hawaii, but carries to the present day with issues of low-income neighborhood community gardens, patio gardens, and even new sustainability in developing nations.

    So I love this diary for this reason! Granted, I don't have 1/2 the stuff you mention. I have like a few pans with mismatched lids, two woks, a steamer missing a leg, that sort of thing. But I am a mean cook ;)

    "Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom" - Walter Benjamin

    by mahakali overdrive on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:21:46 PM PST

    •  yes! This! Exactly! (6+ / 0-)

      This is why I started my homemaking site in the first place, especially since at the time I couldn't find a comprehensive stay-at-home site that wasn't fundamentalist. DIY by its very nature now is subversive, and nowhere more so than in the kitchen. And the garden, but being disabled, gardening is hard for me now. Staying home is subversive now. Who'd a thunk?

      As for kitchenware: really, the least you can get by with, the better. When our kitchen ceiling collapsed, I ruthlessly pared down and I'm fixing to do it again soon.

      •  The gadgets are my weakness (8+ / 0-)

        I live close to Japan Town Center in SF and Chinatown too. Close enough that the dollar stores, okay, how many onigari rice ball presses do I really need? Apparently a dozen or so... ;) Chopsticks? For twenty-five, naturally! Grating devices? Of all sizes! Cherry pitter. Still in the package.

        I also have a weakness for tea pots (not kettles). Thrift stores kill me here.

        No cast iron skillet yet. I'd like one very much.

        Much of my cooking is Asian-inflected so my wok is a lifesaver there.

        "Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom" - Walter Benjamin

        by mahakali overdrive on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 10:59:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My favourite Asian grocery find (0+ / 0-)

          is a small strainer with a big handle. It strains, it sifts flour, it's handy for deep frying... a miracle tool.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:42:47 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I have a use for your cherry pitter (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Carol in San Antonio, LynnS

          Clafouti

          1 1/4 cups milk
          1/3 cup sugar
          3 eggs
          1 Tablespoon vanilla
          1/8 teaspoon salt
          1/2 cup flour
          3 cups cherries, pitted
          1/3 cup sugar
          Powdered sugar

          In a blender blend the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered 7 or 8 cup lightly buttered fireproof baking dish. Place in the oven until a film of batter sets in the pan. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour on the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife plunged in the center comes out clean. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, serve warm.

          from Julia Child

    •  My one regret (7+ / 0-)

      is that my late father-in-law never taught his sons how to cook; he was self-taught because he wanted to eat well in the fraternity and none of the other guys knew how to cook either. My brother-in-law knows his way around a grill, but my spouse hasn't quite mastered the art of cooking (he is willing to clean up after my messes though so I guess it evens out).

      Every man should learn how to cook -- not saying that they have to be a gourmet chef, but at least they should know the basics like how to read a recipe, the difference between broil and bake, and how to cook vegetables so they're not either raw or mushy. (If you can read a recipe, you're more than halfway there...and teaching your kids how to cook is a good way to help them learn about fractions to boot.)

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:57:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My dad, who rarely cooked until he retired (3+ / 0-)

        and then became quite expert in making cakes from cake mixes, insisted there was nothing to cooking except reading a recipe.  I've found that he's correct until I don't have an ingredient or the oven temp is unreliable, or many other variables that good cooks encounter and overcome (not me).  I recall a Danish friend and great cook watching me measure salt with a measuring spoon - "you measure the salt!!!"

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:47:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  absolutely (3+ / 0-)

        Everyone, male or female (I know more than a few women who think a kitchen consists of freezer and microwave) should know how to cook.

        I taught both my sons to cook--the eldest has been on his own for some years, and even bakes occasionally.  OTOH, my dear ex- has absolutely no clue how to do anything other than grill.  Before I left I spent a couple of weeks teaching him to cook a few basic things and froze some meals for him.  If he plans well, he can get by until his parents come for the winter in a few weeks.  Maybe his mom will continue the cooking lessons.

        There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

        by puzzled on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:30:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Every man should learn how to cook (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Carol in San Antonio

        Absolutely right. As a matter of fact, I think that a basic cooking class should be required for every high school student and it should cover not only cooking but nutrition and how to shop for food without spending excessively.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:12:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  The so-called "Paleo" diet (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynnS, Carol in San Antonio

      is excellent for a) getting your ass in the kitchen and cooking and b) reading every label.  I eliminated a bunch of stuff from my diet this year (because I prefer not eating dairy to being eternally dependent on steroids to breathe) and it has made me much less lazy and passive about eating.

      Do you not see that it is the grossest idolatry to speak of the market as though it were the rival of God?

      by kismet on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:50:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks, and your homemaker site is awesome! nt (4+ / 0-)
  •  Going to bed (3+ / 0-)

    I'll be back in comments tomorrow. Thanks, everyone!

  •  Helpful tip: (6+ / 0-)

    If you live in a city where they have one, Costco Business Centers have a large assortment of kitchen equipment. Lots of traditional items, and lots of cool stuff, including gadgets.

    Many are truly "professional" quality. Some, meh, they're just commercial grade. But how great of quality does a 7 qt stainless steel bowl need to be after all? The key is that it's big when you need big; it can double as a very inexpensive clouche when you're baking; and it's lightweight enough to stuff on a high out-of-the way shelf without worrying that you'll brain yourself if it falls out when you reach for something else in the same cupboard.

    All of these items are at better prices than I've ever found them anywhere including discount stores and Amazon.

    Whenever I travel up to the Seattle area,  the kitchen department in the Costco Business Center is always one of my first stops.

    © grover


    So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

    by grover on Sat Dec 01, 2012 at 11:21:03 PM PST

  •  Thanks for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, SoCaliana

    Rec'd, tipped and hotlisted.

    It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~ Helen Keller

    by Pam from Calif on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:29:29 AM PST

  •  I do eat a lot of rice - and my rice maker (9+ / 0-)

    also multi-tasks!

    After the rice is cooked, it gets a pre-cooked chicken leg fresh from the refrigerator.  It gets steamed tender in about 20 minutes while the rice maker is on 'warm' mode.

    I can also make lentils and rice pudding and such in it.

    All your Supremes are belong to us. For Great Justices!

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:38:03 AM PST

  •  Nice Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, mommyof3

    I am going to disagree on the aluminum pans. Every restaurant on the planet cooks in aluminum, they are cheap, last forever and their thermal properties mean that they cook extremely well.

    When I see something definitive about health risks I might re-think that ... most of what I read is ill-informed and scaremongering. I do not accuse you of doing either.

    Secondly .... I would move a decent set of kitchen scales right to the top of the list.

    Most cooking disasters, or disappointments, and especially the baking ones come from the ridiculous habit Americans have of using cup measurements.

    If you want cake, bread and pizza recipes to work, forget cups and learn about "baker's percentages" ... at least use tested recipes that give weights.

    Other than that, carry on. This could be a great Diary series and I look forward to the next one :)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:39:07 AM PST

    •  Oh I forgot. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynnS

      I might be tempted to add a wok to the basic pan list.

      You can fry, steam, boil, poach all in the same pan.

      They are cheap and easily found ... If there is one disadvantage it is simply that they really need a fierce gas burner to get the best out of them.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:44:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Aluminum (5+ / 0-)

      I just really prefer stainless, possibly because I have an electric stove. Stainless does better on electric IME while still working well on gas. I'm trying to recommend equipment that will work in a wide range of circumstances. It's why I like cast iron; it works on every cooking surface from restaurant gas (though you won't usually find cast iron pans there) to wood fires. And it's why I didn't put woks on the list.

      As for kitchen scales, I totally agree that for serious baking scales are the way to go. Right now, though, I'm dealing with the basics. When it's time to cover baking, we can go into that further.

      •  Agreed. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynnS, mommyof3, Mr Robert

        Stainless does very well on electric hobs, probably because the bases can be ground quite flat so they make better contacted with the heating surface. Aluminum is softer, so you need a heavy base to get good heat transfer.

        Stainless steel, which I like too, is pretty poor at transferring heat, and most have copper or aluminum sandwiched in the base to help ... This makes them expensive, but I do like my Tramontina :)

        Cast iron has unique properties and I generally agree with the other posters. Cast iron is very heavy, can be quite costly and does need caring for. That care will be rewarded.

        My point about scales is that it IS the basics. Use your platform to wean folk away from "cups". I say this because everyone wants to make cheap and tasty cookies and cakes, but are put off because early attempts are too often disappointing .... and I lay that at the door of terrible recipes.

        I cooked for thirty years without ever seeing a "cup" measure. I have a nice set of cups now, but I had to move to the US before they ever became a feature.

        Whatever .... It's your Diary, and I give it five stars :)

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:29:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cast iron is expensive? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          twigg, Mr Robert, SoCaliana

          Huh, I bought my last Lodge pan for something like $17.

          •  Total cost has to be less (3+ / 0-)

            I have one cast iron skillet I bought when I left college in 1973 that I still use. The other ones I have were my grandmother's - she died in 1952, and the skillets are over 100 years old, and still seasoned.

            OTOH, we gone through a lot of teflon cookware in 31 years of marriage.

            Even if cast iron were expensive to buy, it lasts forever - even if you don't take care of it, I can't see how you can do much more than wreck the seasoning.

            In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

            by badger on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:05:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I get that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            netop

            But I would argue that cast iron cooking is not the easiest way for a beginner to learn the basics.

            Cast iron isn't well-enough supported by many recipe and books, and it requires care. It is worth learning though.

            Enameled cast iron solves many of the issues, but that IS expensive :)

            I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
            but I fear we will remain Democrats.

            by twigg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:51:46 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  I purchased an extensive set (0+ / 0-)

          of Tramontina back in 2006 and I've been extremely pleased with them. They not only do a great job on my gas range, they also look terrific.  

          Sadly, the quality of Tramontina has gone down the drain in the past few years. The cooking store where I purchased them no longer carries them for that reason, but you can now buy the cheaper version at Wal-Mart.

          The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

          by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:31:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I've found carbon steel to work well (0+ / 0-)

        on both gas and electric (unless it gets dented up).  However, I have not had any experience with it on those new fangled flat-top ranges, so I can't speak to performance there.  However, I have found carbon steel to have SOME of the advantages of cast iron (durability, versatility, low cost, pretty non-stick) without the weight.

        "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars" --Casey Kasem

        by netop on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:41:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  exactly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, Ender
      "most of what I read is ill-informed and scaremongering"
      That kind of stuff weakens credibility.  I've recommended the diarist leave statements like that out as well.  
    •  Scales only for baking (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, Bill W, Crider, ThatPoshGirl

      For everything else a finger licked does the job.

      As for essentials, a complete set of good knives is indispensable, for cutting, chopping,peeling slicing and everything else.

      •  A complete set of good knives... (9+ / 0-)

        ...is the ideal.  But, if economics force one into choosing between a complete set of mediocre knives and two good knives -- a chef's knife and a paring knife -- I think you're much better off with the latter.  Those two knives will handle about 95% of what most cooks do.

        •  Agreed (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bill W, Crider, LynnS, kj in missouri

          It's far more important to have very sharp knives, than lots of them :)

          I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
          but I fear we will remain Democrats.

          by twigg on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:31:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Dexter-Russell Sani Safe is the best cheap knife (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            twigg, kj in missouri

            Even though they look kinda dorky. The Sani Safe line also the best pizza wheels and they sell replaceable blades for those. They also have a more expensive fancy line called Connoisseur that has forged blades, etc. and doesn't look lame.

            I bought Gerber Balance Plus knives back in the late 1980s and still use them every day. Good knives are a bargain in the end because they really do last a lifetime.

            But if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone for real Sabatier non-stainless knives. They still make them.

            "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

            by Crider on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:30:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Ikea has great knives, for cheap. (0+ / 0-)

          I am amazed at the quality. I've been expecting mine to degrade, somehow [I mean, they're so reasonably priced, they must be about to disintegrate, right?], but they're still good, keep an edge, etc.

          "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

          by nzanne on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:35:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ceramic vegetable peeler (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    Now that's a peeler that does a fast, tremendous job, and the blades will stay sharp for a lifetime.  I love those!

    All your Supremes are belong to us. For Great Justices!

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:40:54 AM PST

  •  cast iron- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DamselleFly, LynnS

    i love it because you can start on the stove top and finish in the oven or broiler.

    i have a bunch, one w/ raised lines like a grill that i like to do the steaks, burgers, and chicken in. i'm a vegetarian, but i cook meat for everyone else.

    i also have an enormous one that the hardware store ordered for me.

    a friend of mine said his mom used to bake cakes in her giant cast iron skillet.

    some of them i found at thrift shops and tag sales. even if they look nasty they're still good. just scrub them w/ brillo or steel wool and salt and clean them up. it's easy to reseason them.

    "...i also also want a legally binding apology." -George Rockwell

    by thankgodforairamerica on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:16:14 AM PST

  •  great diary, looking forward to the others. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tapestry, LynnS, SoCaliana

    what is a Winder Cup measuring cup?  i'm quite interested since we use a lot of honey.  googled it but didn't come up with anything that makes sense.

    "How would we know it was America if we didn't hear regularly from the nincompoop faction?" - Molly Ivins 2005

    by politik on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 05:36:08 AM PST

  •  This could be a promising series (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, Ender

    I cook extensively and, while I am confident after reading your opening few paragraphs that you and I would differ as to what is everyday cooking versus "company cooking," (dishes involving simple and relatively inexpensive turmeric are "complicated"??), I applaud you for your effort and I'm sure some readers will benefit from it.

    If I could make one suggestion: please leave the editorializing about hypothetical health effects associated with things like aluminum pans or non-stick cookware out of the discussion. You've stated as fact things that are not proven and it undermines the credibility of the rest of your work here.  The aluminum-Alzheimer's link is not well-supported by the science, and non-stick cookware (I'm referring to polytetrafluroethylene, or PTFE, known as the brand name Teflon) is fine for low- to moderate-temperature sautéing (an empty non-stick pan should never be heated to high, though, because the PTFE will begin to thermally decompose and give off noxious fumes that can harm, among other things, pet birds in the house).

    I would stick to fact-based advice, such as not cooking acidic foods (such as tomato sauce) in non-enameled cast iron cookware, because it will leach iron into the food; altering its taste.

    •  Turmeric (4+ / 0-)

      ...was an example used by the person for whom I kinda wrote this diary. She didn't know what it was, had to chase around to find it, and thought she'd never use it again apart from this one recipe. I agree, it's inexpensive and can be used in many situations, but she didn't know that. Inexperienced cooks might not even have ever encountered the word. I have turmeric in my own spice cabinet, and that cabinet is one we'll address in the next installment.

      As for scaremongering: I'll take your criticism under advisement. I still don't like no-stick pans. I prefer to have one pan which I can use on either high or low heat, rather than having to have two--one all-purpose and one I can use only on low heat.

      •  Everyone is different (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynnS

        I have (and love) my cast iron skillets.  I inherited my big one from my parents and it's at least 45 years old (not sure when they bought it). It's an asset to my kitchen.

        But for foods that tend to stick, such as eggs or certain fish, I have found no good substitute for a non-stick pan.  It takes up very little space and works perfectly. And, properly cared for, it has lasted a very long time.

    •  I've given up on the non-stick pans (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynnS, SoCaliana

      The original small one my mom had has held up, but every other one I've had has been disappointing. And the fact is, eventually I'm going to leave a pan on the stove. I just find that they're not worth my money any more.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:42:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you live in a larger metropolitan area (0+ / 0-)

        Do a little searching and find out where the restaurant supply vendors are.  Often, they'll sell to the general public and it's possible to find some very good equipment (pans, non-stick pans, knives, prep bowls, and so on) at amazing prices; significantly less than at boutique stores like Sur La Table.

        I'm not sure what you mean by "eventually I'm going to leave a pan on the stove." I suspect you and I cook differently.  It may be a difference in age: both of our sons are adults now, so I need not worry about ongoing distractions.

        •  I've been to the restaurant supply stores (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LynnS

          and decided to keep the cast iron. :-) I just haven't found a nonstick pan that I like after 3 or 4 tries, and I've come to really enjoy cooking on my cast iron skillet and griddle anyway. My pots are all stainless steel and my favorites are older than me.

          "Eventually I'm going to leave a pan on the stove" ... once every couple of years, I'll end up overheating a pan. Sometimes because I forget to turn it off, sometimes because I've lit the wrong burner.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 06:33:39 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I agree. Teflon should pass through you unnoticed (0+ / 0-)

      The stuff is not going to be affected by stomach acid or anything else in your digestive system.

      But if you put it in a pipe and smoke it, it's pretty toxic.

      I don't think that aluminum will hurt you. I used to think that it did because of the Alzheimer's link, but that turned out to be a lab mistake. Our municipal water supply where I live is full of aluminum. It's pretty tasty water for Southern California.

  •  I will add that if you have chronic disease (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, mommyof3, emeraldmaiden, SoCaliana

    of a variety that causes fatigue, a stand mixer goes from "nice to have" to "necessary".  

    I call mine Hercules, because it's big and strong and capable of many labors. He kneads and mixes my bread dough, he beats up my casseroles, he crushes my bread crumbs, he rubs in the fat for biscuits and pie crusts, and the only thing he can't do for me is to stir custards.

    Another voice for cast iron. Sure, some days it's on the heavy end, but it's worth it for the finish I get on the food, and the cleanup ease.  Plus it looks really pretty hanging up on the wall.

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 06:14:52 AM PST

  •  Made in the USA (4+ / 0-)

    I'm always looking for American made products, if I can. I thought I was share this link.

    http://www.americansworking.com/...

  •  One more non multi task item (4+ / 0-)

    is a Yogurt Strainer.  I use strained Yogurt for Baking,
    Making Dips and as a Substitute for Mayo.

    True, It only does ONE job, but that one Job comes in
    real handy in Lots of places.

    I Love the Idea behind this Diary. Cooking for Yourself
    is Healthier and Tastier than anything store Bought.
    Also a LOT easier on the Wallet.

    My menu for dinner is a Deep-Dish Pizza. I love my
    Kitchenaid Mixer for making FRESH dough. I also like
    being able to add "Extras" like Rye Flour and Fresh Herbs.

    On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

    by Brian76239 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 10:58:22 AM PST

  •  Wonderful diary! Question, though.. (4+ / 0-)

    what is Silpat?  As in:

    Silpat baking sheet--best thing to happen to cookie baking since cookie cutters
    Not going to mention how long I've been cooking, but long enough to know I don't know everything, or even nearly everything!  Always happy to learn more.

    That said, it's a comfort to know that our views of what makes a competent kitchen and what makes a complete kitchen are very similar.  The more things change, etc. ;-)

    fwiw, I absolutely agree about cast iron.  Where possible, it is the best, longest lasting cookware.  I also recognise the need for some of us to use lighter weight pans.  My wrists ache, just thinking about a ten inch skillet!  But I own one, nonetheless.

    One final thought: For those who don't think they can cook, and you know who you are, if you can read, you can cook!  Start out with simple things you'd actually like to eat, and go from there.  A yummy meal, prepared with your own two hands is a great motivator!

    Marti

    We cannot call ourselves a civilised society if we refuse to protect the weakest among us.

    by The Marti on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:02:54 AM PST

  •  Anodized aluminum? (0+ / 0-)

    My understanding is that anodized aluminum does not leech into food, but I don't know for sure. I don't have one, but my mom has one and I've used it. I didn't notice any metallic taste, which I am pretty sensitive to, and with a little oil they do not stick too badly.  I also have some old enamelware, it is aluminum pans with enamel lining. I prefer my cast iron pans, but the enameled pans seem to work fine.

    I have some stainless steel pans that are cuisinart and I picked them up for very cheap. I've noticed that they are starting to develop pits, and I haven't even used them that much. Not sure what is happening there.

    •  At this point (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ThatPoshGirl, SoCaliana, Ender

      I am not commenting on aluminum. :)

      What's happening with your steel pans is probably a quality issue.

    •  Anodized is nonreactive (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ThatPoshGirl

      it's got a coating of aluminum oxide over it, and is inert.

      However, I don't particularly like cooking with it, personally. I find it sticks and have not, uh, stuck with them long enough to learn to manage them. I'd rather have cast iron or stainless steel.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:11:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  From what I've read (0+ / 0-)

        They retain heat really well, so you have to use about half the heat you would normally. If you would normally good something at 5 or 6, with the anodized aluminum pan it should be between 2 and 3.

        One reason I am curious is because there is an American made brand called ManPan that seems to be reasonably priced. I can't afford it right now, but if I ever can, I think I might like to have them. The reviews are all pretty good.

        http://manpans.com/

        I have a couple of Lodge cast iron skillets. My stainless steel skillets are not good at all, though. I thought maybe the anodized aluminum pans might be a good replacement. The American made stainless steel cookware is way out of my budget.

  •  Just got a new range (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, Mr Robert

    To replace the old pilot-lit clunker that woldn't get over 275 ° and the repairman was afraid to touch.  The old range isn't removed yet (need to demolish the little cabinet next to it to make room.)

    Looking forward to actually baking something (my favorite branch of coooking).

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
    I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

    by Leo in NJ on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:30:19 AM PST

  •  Most all commercial cookware is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri

    cast aluminum. It works great and lasts forever.

    The only drawback is the handle bolts on the inside of the pan require more careful cleaning. Calphalon has this too.

    Stainless does not do the dishwasher deal. I wash all of my pots and pans by hand anyway. I wash all of my silverware [stainless] half the time by hand, and the dishwasher the other half.

    Ikea 365 pots are great and don't pit. They also have the heat disk on the bottom. All of my pans have this now, so as to use less energy. Calphalon and iron don't need them.

  •  Brining chicken and meats (pork) (4+ / 0-)

    Before roasting/BBQ does it really make a diference? what do you use?
    What do folks think?

    Can a slow cooker make roast beef that can be cut into sandwich slices?

    I like corned beef (from childhood memories) how can I make it easily at home ? - I somehow have been unable to buy canned corned beef - for whatever reason.

    •  Tried brining 1st time on a chicken breast (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kj in missouri

      Thanksgiving, and it came out pretty moist even though I overcooked it.

      Slow cookers are too slow to get the rare inside associated with roast beef, but I love pot roast sandwiches.

      I know I have seen homemade corned beef recipes, google it.

      Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.
      I said, "Don't let millionaires steal Social Security!"

      by Leo in NJ on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 11:58:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'll be going over some of this laterb (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kj in missouri, wuod kwatch

      But quickly:

      Brining is not mandatory, but it can do lovely things to meats. I have corned my own beef and I brine the occasional bird, but usually do without.

      I don't like slow cooker roast beef. Pot roast is another issue, but for slicing-style roast beef you'll want to roast it in the oven and then slice it very thin with a very sharp knife.

      Corned beef is really simple. If you can find a brisket already corned, buy that. Rinse it, put it in a covered Dutch oven with enough water or wine to come up about a third to a half of the way up the beisket's side, and cook it for a few hours at 250 F. Check now and again to make sure it's remaining moist, and for tenderness. You can also do it in the slow cooker on low for a day or overnight, with about half the liquid. Some people eat it just wet-cooked, some take it out, pat it off, slather it with mustard and brown sugar and put it in the oven till it crusts. We usually do the former; my mom did the latter.

      If you can't find a brisket already corned, buy a plain brisket and do a search on how to corn it; it's very simple. I think Alton Brown has directions.

    •  I use 2/3 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water (0+ / 0-)

      Ice cold water in the refrigerator. I've tried adding spices and garlic, but I really can't tell any difference.

      I think that it really helps plump up the meat.

      Here is the time table:

      --Shrimp: 30 minutes
      -- Whole chicken (4 pounds): 8 to 12 hours
      -- Chicken parts: 1 1/2 hours
      -- Cornish game hens: 2 hours
      -- Turkey (12 to 14 pounds): 24 hours
      -- Pork chops (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch thick): 1 to 2 days
      -- Whole pork tenderloin: 12 hours
      -- Whole pork loin: 2 to 4 days

      {For birds: One hour per pound}

    •  Maybe you could braise a cut of meat, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynnS

      you might want to consider looking for a stovetop roaster.  They are wonderful for outdoor entertaining; just hook up with a heavy duty extension cord, and they use less of that expensive electric energy than does your oven.

  •  Wow, nice! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    Only point I disagree with is: DO buy aluminum!! Solid, cheap aluminum. Season it and it is just like non-stick. Don't wash it with detergent. Sometimes it is hard to find what with all the fancy pots and pans out there, but online and at restaurant supply stores they are easy to find.  

  •  Mortar & Pestle? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Mr Robert

    I'd find it hard to get through a week of actual cooking (as opposed to a week where I'm too busy or lazy to cook much) without a mortar and pestle. I have three, one tiny, one small, one medium. Occasionally I wish I had a large one, and maybe two more tiny ones. Buy seed-type spices whole and grind them as needed. They last much longer whole. And using a mortar and pestle is way, way, way less messy than other methods of making garlic into a paste. And if you're not doing that at least once a week, you're not cooking right!

    Also, I have to say I find I use the medium-size knives more often than anything else. I agree with your bare-bones set - one chef's knife, two paring knives - but the slightly longer knife gets used every morning for cutting up fruit. The medium sized knives are the ones that are always waiting to be washed or sitting in the drying rack, and hardly ever make it back where they belong.

    I thought I had too much stuff in my kitchen already, but you're now mentioning toys I might want to put on my wish list! Have to build more cabinets!

    Thanks for the diary.

    Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.

    by rcbowman on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:07:37 PM PST

    •  big mortar & pestle (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emeraldmaiden, ybruti

      I think using a big mortar & pestle  is the best way to understand why people sailed around the world in tiny wooden boats to get their hands on spices, like tellicherry peppercorns.  Smashing whole peppercorns, with a bit of salt, and applying liberally (of course) to food will elevate anyone's cooking efforts.  Pepper mills can't do that.  Same deal with other whole spices, the mortar & pestle brings out the best in them, while giving the cook a kinship with the ancients.  Taste will tell you what they were up to!

      Another indispensable gadget, especially for a beginning cook, is not just a knife, but a sharp knife.  Edgecraft's rather expensive line of Chef'sChoice electric sharpeners can be trans-formative in the life of a new cook.  Even a cheap knife can be made cook-show sharp, suddenly enabling chiffonades and jullienne fries.  No more screwing around with what is essentially the cave man's way of getting something sharp, namely rubbing it on something harder.  No more stropping and steels and learning how the skinny sharp blade is turned by use and you need to bring it back to blah blah blah.  These guys have a very different way of looking at the problem and it has worked for me for over ten years.  No, this isn't a can opener with two grinder wheels in it.  Think cutting an edge in steel with industrial diamonds.  I always have a razor sharp knife ready, or can quickly make one razor sharp, at home.  I do not have a steel.  www.chefschoice.com

      Lastly, while people with pyrex measuring cups are carefully pouring out contents onto their counters because the damn things won't pour fast and it goes all over the sides, I recommend Oxo's magical measuring cups.  Watch the cooking shows with an eye out, and you'll see nobody uses those wretched pyrex things with the tiny spouts.  Oxo's pour fast, don't spill, and you can see into them for measurements.  Try 'em.  You'll never go back.

       

      You know what's the difference between Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan? Lipstick. - Charles Pierce

      by BurningFeet on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:48:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I never really got the hang of a mortar (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      emeraldmaiden

      Though I have a lovely big marble one. I prefer a small coffee grinder dedicated to spice grinding. YMMV.

      •  We have a marble mortar but much prefer (0+ / 0-)

        an old wooden one which achieves results faster and better.

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:01:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Zyliss "slap" food chopper (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, Mr Robert, jennifree2bme

    I use this gadget almost every time I cook.  It is a real time saver.  Everything from mincing garlic, to chopping onions, peppers, nuts boiled eggs.  Yeah, you can do it with a chef's knife, but trust me on this...if you learned to cook from the "Graham Kerr" school. where you have a couple glasses of wine in the kitchen, this gadget can save you a nasty cut or two over the years.

    The other item I would add is a clay roasting pot, with a glazed bottom.  I use this to death as well for roasting whole chickens, making pot roast, baking no-knead bread.  I picked mine up 7 years ago for $12, and it's still going strong.  It is great for braising meats in the oven.

    Some appliances seem pricey, but last almost forever.  I have a heavy duty food processor I purchased back in the 80's that is as good as new, and I use it pretty often.  

    You don't furnish a kitchen over the time frame of two paychecks.  It is a long term project.  Quality lasts, and cheap shit doesn't.  The most inexpensive items not only don't typically last long, they often make the cooking experience more unpleasant and difficult.  Sometimes even less safe.  (especially knives)

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:27:47 PM PST

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LynnS, Mr Robert

      Exactly. And the things you invest in add significant value over time. We have everything on this list and more, but it has taken 20+ years to acquire. The $300 breadmaker has made well over $15 of bread, each and every year. The $30 ricecooker has saved more than its own cost in food value- all the rice that would have otherwise stuck inedibly to the stove-top pan. With the cost of food and 1/2" stuck every time, it adds up quickly. The mini electric food chopper which has saved celery and onions and nuts from languishing in the fridge uneaten, maybe going unused entirely because the cook doesn't have time- those items and many others get added to recipes and make the food more palatable, more nutritious and flavorful, thus making it more likely that any leftovers get eaten as well.

      Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

      by jennifree2bme on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:03:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hit the garage sales, esp, in 55+ neighborhoods (4+ / 0-)

    where people are old enough that they used to can food at home, but no longer do.  I've picked up food mills for 2 or 3 bucks that are very handy to have around.  Good for deseeding berries if you make jams and don't want seeds, or separating the seeds and skins from tomatoes if you are making homemade sauces with fresh tomatoes.  Some wintry soups/bisques that call for fibrous veggies can be run through them to remove the fibrous parts and make a smooth soup.  

    Pretty handy.

    Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:38:12 PM PST

  •  Popcorn maker? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, puzzled, SoCaliana

    Take a 3 qt pot, put in 1 tbsp oil, 3 kernels of popcorn, put on lid, place on burner on medium high (electric range, anyway).

    When all three kernels have popped, remove pot from burner (but leave burner on), add 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels, one shake to distribute oil and kernels, and put lid back on. Wait 30 seconds.

    Put pot back on burner. When kernels begin popping, tip lid to allow steam to escape.

    When no more kernels are popping, remove pot from burner and put popcorn in bowls. Salt and butter to taste.

    Infinitely better than microwave or air-popped popcorn. We use the cheapest oil (canola-soybean), the cheapest popcorn (kept in a sealed container until used) and think the resulting popcorn is good enough to not even need butter (and we're from WI, America's Dairyland, where butter goes on/in everything). Almost no unpopped or partially popped kernels - sometimes not any.

    Makes 2 generous servings (or one big bowl if you like to snuggle) here - 3 quarts of popcorn. For single serving, do everything the same, but use 1/4 cup of kernels. Still need enough oil to cover bottom of pot, which means about 1 tbsp.

    I found the method on the internet, but didn't keep the link.

    In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

    by badger on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 12:40:42 PM PST

  •  Republished to "Cooking With Kos" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, SoCaliana, OLinda, Pam from Calif

    Great diary!

    Hope is a good thing--maybe the best of things--and no good thing ever dies.

    by Gemina13 on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:32:20 PM PST

  •  Love my cast iron! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, Mr Robert

    12" Skillet, 5" Skillet, and Dutch oven.  Food just tastes better in cast iron.

    "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is." --Jan L.A. van de Snepscheut or Yogi Berra, take your pick.

    by SJLeonidas on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:37:56 PM PST

    •  I like my cast iron (0+ / 0-)

      I have a couple of really useful cast iron skillets plus a number of enamel coated baking dishes and dutch ovens that I consider essential.

      The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

      by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:11:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What a fabulous idea! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Carol in San Antonio

    Kudos to you for putting this series together. Helping people create simple, nutritious and tasty meals is wonderful. I love to cook, and have a pretty complete kitchen, but your list is a keeper. I may just start weeding out those "uni-taskers".

    Thank you.

    ps I'm also a cast iron fan - my dutch oven is indispensable and I use it frequently to bake no-knead bread. Scrum-diddly-umptious!

  •  tipped, recced and followed! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, SoCaliana

    thanks much!!!

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 01:51:56 PM PST

  •  Take your hands off my rice cooker (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri, LynnS

    coffee maker, coffee grinder, toaster, deep fryer, Cuisinart food processor, and Hamilton Beach immersion blender. They all have single functions and I wouldn't be without them.

    The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

    by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:09:23 PM PST

    •  Just because they're not core necessities... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mr Robert

      ...doesn't mean you can't have 'em. :) I have some unitaskers of my own that I love--stovetop popcorn popper, citrus juicer (the lever kind), my tsukemono press, a pineapple corer/slicer, a chestnut knife.

      I have variations on everything you list but the toaster, the coffee maker and the rice cooker. We have a toaster oven because we can do more with it than just toast and we really can't eat toast anyway (gluten, and no, the expensive substitutes aren't worth it). We don't drink a lot of coffee, but when we do we use a French press. (Which we actually can use for other preps as well.)

      All the other things you list aren't really unitaskers because you can use them for a number of different preparations. They're not, say, pineapple corers. :)

      •  Not necessities (0+ / 0-)

        I agree, but the ones I have make some tasks faster/simpler. It's sometimes difficult to know whether a new tool will earn its keep in the long term. Over the years I've given away or discarded lots of things that didn't because I have a limited amount of space.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 03:04:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I purchased my rice cooker (0+ / 0-)

        at a point when my dog was in declining health.

        He started loosing interest in his food and I took on the job of cooking up food that would keep him eating.

        My formula was basically 1/3rd meet, 1/3rd rice, and 1/3rd vegetables. So I purchased a small, 2 cup rice cooker to make life easier.

        I'm on a pretty low carb diet so the rice cooker isn't getting used that much since Bisquit passed a couple of weeks ago.

        Still, I'm happy to have it and I like the fact that I can make a very small amount of rice at one time. In fact, I found it really hard to find a really small one that suited my purposes.

        The only trouble with retirement is...I never get a day off!

        by Mr Robert on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 09:03:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Actually, your popcorn popper isn't necessarily (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    a unitasker...if it's an air popper, you can also roast coffee beans in it!
    Great diary!

    And for those learning to cook, please, buy proper knives. Dull knives lead to greater chance of cutting yourself. And using the right knife for the job makes that job much easier - like don't use a paring knife to cut up veggies - use a chef's knife!

    Cooking isn't hard. And once you get used to how things work, you'll wonder why you ever thought it was so hard.

    One thing I tell folks is, you can make a whiz-bang dinner for friends and all it is is spaghetti. When I do it, I saute some garlic and mushrooms in a little olive oil. Then add a jar of good spaghetti sauce (Newman's or another you like that looks thick and has no additives). Simmer. Add some good frozen meatballs, or saute some good Italian sausage and add to the sauce.

    Next, make a nice salad, buy a loaf of fresh Italian or artisan bread, and some good fresh Parmesan or Romano (you can also grate your own, but you don't have to). Add a nice bottle of wine (doesn't have to be fancy, go for Trader Joe's "Two Buck Chuck" even - just as long as it tastes good) and you're done.

    Everything but the spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice) can be made ahead of time - and if you have made it ahead of your guest's arrival, the smell of the sauce will whet their appetite!

    Cooking is easy. Cooking is fun. And it can also be quit meditative.

    Enjoy!

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

    by MA Liberal on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:39:57 PM PST

  •  Yes. Cast Iron (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    I have had the same set for more than a dozen years. They are eternal. (Though it took a while to repair the one that my partner's mother scrubbed with steel wool and then put in the dishwasher.)

    Once they are seasoned, they can be used for anything you used teflon for -- and nothing can beat them for heat distribution.

    The only drawback is that you don't want to cook something like red pasta sauce with a high acidity in them. This will erode the surface and can impart a metallic taste to the food.

    For these, I use enamel over cast iron, which is really the best of all worlds. I have stainless stock pots, but that is it.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 02:48:10 PM PST

  •  I would add a timer. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ThatPoshGirl, elfling, Ender

    For those who are starting out, a lot of stoves in apartments don't have timers on them. No matter how experienced you get as a cook, it's always a good idea to gauge your cooking time by something other than commercial breaks on tv.

    Btw- I mention this now because I just overbaked a homemade pizza while reading this thread. Low fat cheese just doesn't bake the same as regular cheese.

    "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

    by histopresto on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:00:54 PM PST

  •  I got one of those bad ass chinese cleavers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ThatPoshGirl

    a long time ago, and even though I have all the other knives you mentioned, other than the cleaver the only ones that get any sort of regular use are one small paring knife and a serrated bread slicer.

    If I were only going to get one knife, that's what I'd buy. You can do almost anything with it.

    "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

    by Orinoco on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 04:02:29 PM PST

  •  I would move two items from well-stocked to (5+ / 0-)

    essential: a pair of tongs and a meat thermometer (even a basic one from the grocery store, no need for a pricey Thermapen to start).

    Tongs are like second hands, I use them to paw at, stir, toss, flip nearly  everything I cook on the stove.  They're cheap; get ones that lock if you plan to store 'em in a drawer.

    A meat thermometer is a beginning cooks best friend. The real truth is that recipes and ovens lie, but the thermometer doesn't .  If you know the food's actual temp, then you can be confident you're on the right track, and can begin the essential step of coordinating what your senses (sight, touch and smell) tell you about the state of doneness of your food vs. what the oven gauge, or recipe says about timing.

    The thing that starts to set you free in cooking is beginning to have confidence in what your brain tells you.

    Together a good pair of tongs and thermometer shouldn't set you back more than $20, new.

    Bonus tip: Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons last forever, no matter what the expiration date on them. Get on their mailing list and you'll soon have them stuffed into every pocket.  Ask around, someone you know is already on the list and will have coupons to part with.

    Agree, modern Lodge cast iron pans are icky: coarse, overly heavy and coated with a nasty non-stick seasoning (Kosher and Vegan they assured me). You can remove it, but then you've still got a heavy, coarse, hard-to-season to non-stickability pan.  Older Wagner and Griswold pots are much, much better and if you look around often cheap at tag sales or second hand shops. Unless it's warped, cracked or deeply rusty, it can be cleaned up.

    Another type of excellent and useful storage containers are canning jars (even ones with tiny flea bites in the rims which make them unusable for canning.)  Paired with white plastic lids you can buy in any canning section, these will store stuff cheaply and well.  Use for refridgerated or dry storage. Wide-mouth pints make excellent containers for whipping cream with either a stick blender or a whisk. Afterwards you can store excess right in them (excess whipped cream, hows does that happen???).  Can also make salad dressings and mayonaise. At Goodwill canning jars are often 10-50 cents each.

    And Walmart (I know!) sells Tramontina Triply pots and pans that are dead ringers for the extremely pricey All-Clad (on their website, only).

    The other big bargain for oven cooking (and depending on  your cooking fuel) and stove top is Corning Ware - the kind with the Blue cornflower design. They are often for sale iused n junk stores - ask for the glass lids,  and they are wonderful. They clean-up very well. Check the botttom for the type of cooking surface.  Older ones can be used on a gas stove. Electric coils require a little triangle of wire underneath; obviously being non-metal they don't work on an induction top.  I use Corning Ware pots a lot for stuff I cooked today and plan to re-heat in a MW and eat in a day or so. Pyrex pie plates (used) are good, too, for the MW.

    Araguato

  •  I don't see anything re energy efficiency . (0+ / 0-)

    Would you be interested in exploring that part of cooking ?

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 07:39:42 PM PST

  •  Even the short list is kind of intimidating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    but you can get a lot done with even less to start with.

    Perhaps a great future installment would be for people to tell us what equipment they have, and we'll come up with ideas for simple dishes you can make with that.

    I personally end up with a handful of meals that I make all the time. I don't need a recipe, and for whatever reason they're things that fit my family and my life neatly.

    Even with only say one or two pots and a knife, I feel pretty confident I could pull a meal together. Or a couple of bowls and a microwave oven.

    One of the most challenging and oddly thrilling things I've done in a kitchen was a week where a bunch of friends and I arrived in Tahoe at a family condo... right in advance of a huge snowstorm that dumped 6 feet on us. We were caught somewhat by surprise, and had only done minor shopping on the way in. We had also just purged the pantry of all the food that was over 5, and sometimes 10 years old. :-) We ate a couple of delicious and eclectic meals with what we could scavenge (my first time making split pea soup from scratch!) before we were able to venture out to the supermarket.

    We may have been geeks, but we had fearsome skills, especially all put together.
    :-)

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 08:58:20 PM PST

  •  Cleavers!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ender

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 10:13:19 PM PST

    •  Sorry! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ender, koNko, LynnS

      What I was about to say:  I had a Chinese neighbor years ago who taught me a few things about cooking, the most important of which was that cleavers are an absolute necessity in a kitchen.  I use mine for just about everything other than cutting cakes and very soft fruit like strawberries or peaches.  They make chopping and mincing meat and vegetables very simple indeed.  They're far better for chopping onions, nuts, and fresh herbs than any so-called "chef's knife" ever thought about being.  The other great thing is that you can quickly slide what you've chopped onto the wide blade and move it to wherever you need it.  For some reason, most Westerners seem to be afraid of cleavers.  That's just plain silly.  Once you've tried using one for a while -- check out some YouTube videos of Chinese cooks at work -- you'll probably never revert to your old knife habits.  

      A note about vegetable peelers:  I find the horizontal ones, the ones  that look like a safety razor,  are far, far easier to use than the traditional vertical ones.  They do lack the pointy end that's good for digging out potato eyes, but I don't find that a game changer.  

      I totally agree about the electric kettle, though to me they are an essential.  They boil water much faster than you can do it in a traditional tea kettle on the stove.  I've been using them ever since I found myself surrounded by British neighbors in an apartment building in Saudi Arabia in the late 80s.  They all had them while I had scarcely ever seen one.  I'm very happy to see that they are beginning to attract a following in the US.  

      -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

      by GulfExpat on Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 10:28:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I bought a cleaver in an antiques store (0+ / 0-)

        and have almost never used my French knife since.  What I like about it is that it is heavy and sharp enough that it cuts through everything from meat to lettuce.  Cleavers are available at Asian markets for quite reasonable prices.  

        I like to have a cleaver or French knive, a good boning knife and a paring knife.  Also a serrated knife for bread and tomatoes.

      •  I have two... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GulfExpat

        ...a big-ass carbon steel Chinese one and a more demure stainless one that if memory serves is Japanese. I use the small cleaver and my 8 inch chef's knife the most.

        I got my first electric kettle, a proper British Russell-Hobbs, when my folks brought it back from London something like 25 years ago. It finally died about seven years ago. We replaced it with some no name piece of crap which died quickly, and now have a Breville. We like it very much. Firing that baby up is the first thing I do in the morning. Tea.

        •  I actually found Russell Hobbs kettles (0+ / 0-)

          listed on Amazon the other day when I  was hunting around for some of these items I find here easily and really can't function without.  Not all that super expensive, either, something like $40 for a 1.6 liter model (You have to page through to about the fourth or fifth screen to find them.)  My kick is that the ones listed are the tall, percolator style, while I prefer the squatter tea kettle style.  Never mind, I'll deal with it when I get over there.  RH is simply the best brand around as far as I'm concerned.  

          -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

          by GulfExpat on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:04:20 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  No whisk? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS, Mr Robert

    I use my whisks several times a week.

    And I agree with Araguato that the meat thermometer is essential and tongs are also pretty close to essential.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:17:47 AM PST

  •  thank you for this diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS
  •  Thank you for initiating this discussion. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LynnS

    About cast iron.  IMHO the best there is for stove top, and it is not difficult to learn how to use and care for.  I never did bother with seasoning in my oven, and it still cooks just fine for me.  I have stocked my and my daughter's kitchen with 2nd hand cast iron and I have even more for the next daughter who will be graduating from college this year.  You do know that  you can make a perfectly serviceable lid by inverting one cast iron pan over another of the same size.  I like to have three sizes, small, medium and large.

    I can't stand jelly roll pans because they always seem to warp.  For cookies and biscuits, see placa and stone, below.

    For stirring on top of the stove, I like whisks and wooden spoons.  Carbon steel knives can  usually be found at thrift stores; what can be challenging is finding a sharpening stone.

    Teflon I use only for the fancy bundt pans, which I like a lot for company cakes.  BUT, I cover all the teflon surface with a thick layer of crisco/oil/butter and dust flour over that.  With respect to teflon and aluminum in general, it is MY health and MY money, and I reserve the right to use what I  like.  I have yet to see any peer reviewed scientific studies not paid for by a teflon maker,  which confirm the benignness of teflon, or of silicon for that matter.  

    I like to have a pizza stone for pizza, cookies, biscuits and round loaves of bread.  

    I also suggest looking at flea markets, if you live on the West Coast, for a placa, which is a large cast iron pan without the sides.  Hispanic cooks use it for making tortillas and quesadillas, but it also makes excellent toast, and you don't have to shake crumbs out of it.  It can also be used in the oven like a pizza stone, but is not as large.  Placas are usually much lighter than 10" cast iron frying pans, and you don't risk burning your arm on the hot edge of a placa.

    At 2nd hand stores I always look for small pyrex custard bowls.  
    They are usually sold for ridiculously low prices and are invaluable in your kitchen, for serving bowls, mixing up one or two eggs, and for individual jello, cottage cheese, custard, and applesauce servings.  If  you are making stir fries, soups, stew, etc, you can set up chopped ingredients in a series of your pyrex bowls, to be added at exactly the correct moment.  Much easier than trying to slide the chopped onions off the cutting board without getting some on the floor and stovetop.  The larger ones make excellent cereal bowls.  I suggest, buy all you see and share with your  fortunate friends and relatives.

    For the person who has never learned to cook, there two cookbooks I like.  Sophisticates may sneer, but nothing beats the original Betty Crocker books, the older the better, for learning basic baking skills.  Perhaps an aunt or grandparent might still have one.  Generations of American women learned basic skills from Betty Crocker.  To that I would add, for updated stovetop dishes, Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, the first edition.  I have found HTCE in 2nd hand bookstores for around $12.  Bittman is not a baker, and IMHO, cannot really be trusted for baking, but his meat, vegetable, soup and stew recipes have easy to follow directions and nearly always make up well, and call for ingredients which can be found in your local market or supermarket. I like his relaxed attitude towards substitutions.

    •  Spot on re: Bittman's (0+ / 0-)

      The man can't bake. But everything else about the book is brilliant, especially his "variations"--he takes one basic recipe and shows you how to vary it a dozen different ways. His app for iPhone and iPad (and possibly Android, haven't looked) is the best thing ever. I love it. It updates itself regularly to feature different recipes, and with more than 2,000 it's easy to miss some. And more fun: right now, the app has snowfall over its splash page and header. :)

      My favorite all-around for baking is Joy of Cooking, especially pre-70s before everyone got ridiculously fat-phobic. But the Betty's are also very good.

      How is a placa different than a griddle? I just make tortillas on the griddle. Though truthfully I'm more likely to make gorditas, which need both a griddle and a skillet...

      And we'll cover mise en place (having all your ingredients ready in little bowls) later. :)

      •  For a supplemental book, I adore (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LynnS

        Sherry Corriher's "Cookwise".  Especially for us geeks who like to know WHY it's doing what we don't want it to do.  She tells you how to make it do what you want it to do, and that gives me a lot of confidence.

        That one, and an old "Joy of Cooking" are my primary cookbooks.

        And the recipe file with the old recipes, many of which I have memorized, handed down from my grandmother and great grandmother.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:11:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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