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Minimal Essential Cookware?


scottmcl
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So what is "minimal essential" (to use an engineering phrase) cookware for a new college graduate just starting to "nest" on their own?

Pots & pans, casseroles, baking sheets, knives, spoons and spatulas, colanders, graters, thermometers, etc.?

Any and all feedback appreciated.

Scott

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So what is "minimal essential" (to use an engineering phrase) cookware for a new college graduate just starting to "nest" on their own?

Pots & pans, casseroles, baking sheets, knives, spoons and spatulas, colanders, graters, thermometers, etc.?

Any and all feedback appreciated.

Scott

Minimal, eh? Hmm, that's tough, especially when you're a gadget freak. Fortunately, most bakeware can be replaced on an as-needed basis with premolded aluminum foil pieces. Here's my crack at a list:

3 or 4 qt heavy-bottomed pot w/ lid

2 qt saucier (with above, doubles as a crappy double boiler)

enormous heavy aluminum nonstick frypan with glass lid (for potstickers, pancakes, stirfry or deep frying...find in any Asian grocery)

well-seasoned cast iron skillet (breakfast items or pan-searing steaks)

stainless colander (sized to fit largest pot so it doubles as your steamer insert)

7" or longer santoku knife with hollow-ground granton pattern

offset serrated knife (bread and other serrated needs)

utility knife

take-apart kitchen shears, bent tip (easier to use on shellfish than straight shears)

diamond sharpening steel (a regular steel will really prolong blade life, but cannot sharpen a dull blade)

large sanitary cutting board for vegetables

large sanitary cutting board with groove for meats

ceramic vegetable peeler

set of Pyrex bowls

dry measure cups and spoons

box grater

balloon whisk

ladle

long stainless tongs

wooden spoon (olivewood preferred)

plastic spatula (as high-temp safe as you can find, for flipping pancakes or stirring items)

med and large silicone spatulas

can opener

corkscrew

plenty of good kitchen towels (I like heavy cotton bar towels)

Even though you said non-electric:

Polder kitchen timer/thermometer

Desirable but not strictly "essential":

oven mitts

top-adjustable-grind pepper grinder

KitchenAid bottle opener

Silpat sheet

nonstick jelly roll pan that fits Silpat (doubles as a baking sheet, and has enough of a lip to catch grease)

several porcelain ramekins (also for prep bowls, keeping some salt handy, melting butter in the nuker, etc)

trivets

fire extinguisher

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So what is "minimal essential" (to use an engineering phrase) cookware for a new college graduate just starting to "nest" on their own?

Pots & pans, casseroles, baking sheets, knives, spoons and spatulas, colanders, graters, thermometers, etc.?

Any and all feedback appreciated.

Scott

Bittman did a column on this. Click.

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Thanks for everyone's responses!

I'd like to add a few variables or alternatives to consider.

First, what about a large saute pan with high sides and a cover. Oven safe. Good for a tomato sauce, or stove-top to oven roasting or braising of small cuts of meat (say, chicken thighs). If the large iron skillet had a cover, might this be a suitable substitute for such a saute pan?

Second, I'd like to put in a vote for some kind of Le Creuset style dutch oven. Again, stove top to oven, and good for old pot roast and like dishes.

Third, what about a slotted spoon? I find I use mine frequently.

Finally, what about a classic 13x9 bacing dish? Gratin dishes come to mind, but also roasting potatoes, other veges, small chickens and other fowl. I've shattered 2 pyrex dishes like this, and am currently unhappy with my (admittedly cheap) non-stick version. I find if I place it on a stack of 2 baking sheets it does the trick (no bottom burn).

Again, any and all feedback appreciated.

Thanks!

Scott

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Minimal, eh? Hmm, that's tough, especially when you're a gadget freak. Fortunately, most bakeware can be replaced on an as-needed basis with premolded aluminum foil pieces. Here's my crack at a list:

3 or 4 qt heavy-bottomed pot w/ lid

2 qt saucier (with above, doubles as a crappy double boiler)

enormous heavy aluminum nonstick frypan with glass lid (for potstickers, pancakes, stirfry or deep frying...find in any Asian grocery)

well-seasoned cast iron skillet (breakfast items or pan-searing steaks)

stainless colander (sized to fit largest pot so it doubles as your steamer insert)

CUT....

Great reply. Thanks!

But what would my college grad use to boil up 1/2 to 1 pounds of pasta? I have a 4 qt. sauce pan, but I thinks it small for a pound of pasta.

Thanks!

Scott

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But what would my college grad use to boil up 1/2 to 1 pounds of pasta? I have a 4 qt. sauce pan, but I thinks it small for a pound of pasta.

I remember that youth came with the blessings of a nuclear metabolism, but an entire pound of dry pasta in one shot? That's eight servings...I guess your grad isn't a loner computer nerd type! :( I survived my first two years out of the parents' basement with a lousy 2.5 qt Corning Visions set.

DeCecco calls for 6 qts of boiling water per pound of pasta, and Barilla calls for 4 to 6 qts per pound. So a 4 qt pan should satisfy your half-pound requirement, and function suboptimally for the better part of a whole pound for most shapes.

I thought about including more baking and roasting items, but the fact is that you can cover most of those bases with disposable foil bakeware and/or a liberal use of foil wrap. So they no longer meet the "minimal essential" requirement. Same reason I excluded kebab skewers, skimmers, grease separators, microplanes, and even pepper grinders from the core list...they're all useful, but not actually essential. You might be surprised how much cooking MacGyvering can be done with a pair of long chopsticks and a large spoon!

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Great reply. Thanks!

But what would my college grad use to boil up 1/2 to 1 pounds of pasta? I have a 4 qt. sauce pan, but I thinks it small for a pound of pasta.

Thanks!

Scott

For years, I used a large steamer pot (had two inserts--one a small basket and the other the size of the pot) for multiple cooking uses. I boiled pasta and potatoes in it, made soups, steamed vegetables, and other things I probably am not remembering. It was actually probably too thin for some things I used it for, and at some point I acquired a metal dutch oven that had thicker sides and was somewhat smaller and used that for a number of the same purposes.

I have some Le Creuset now but managed years without it. Of all of the LC I have, I think the oval dutch oven is the most valuable.

Another item I got a lot of use from (and I still have one, but it not's going to last much longer) is a large nonstick RevereWare skillet with a glass lid. I see that item covered in various ways upthread.

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