The Essential Tools

30.09.2016 |

There’s only so much you can do without the right equipment. Try as you may, if your tools aren’t right for the job, the job won’t come out right, and you won’t enjoy the experience.

First, you need well-constructed cookware. Some of this is expensive, but it will last a lifetime. Or at least 20 years. Not everything has to be high-end brand name, but a couple pieces need to be high-quality.

For pots and pans specifically, always go for tri-ply or 5-ply construction. This has to do with how the various metals are held together. Any pot or pan with a metal disk attached to the bottom is likely to come apart eventually and will be unusable. Sound like jibberish? I explain in more depth here.

Aluminum cookware coated with stainless steel is your best option, although there are more and less expensive varieties out there.

  1. A high-quality skillet or saute pan. 10 inches is fine for the skillet; four quarts is plenty for the saute pan. The differences are in the side of the pan. Skillet = sloping sides, and saute pan = straight sides.

  2. A pot (that is, a sauce pan). Two or three quarts is plenty for most households.

  3. Non-stick skillet. Different from the other skillet; 8-10 inches in size.

  4. A stockpot. Anywhere from six to eight gallons is appropriate.

  5. Cookie sheet. For roasting vegetables and cookies, of course.

  6. Two knives. An 8-inch chef’s knife and a serrated knife.

  7. Tongs, silicone spatulas and turners, slotted spoons, measuring spoons, dry and liquid measuring cups, plastic cutting board, stainless steel mixing bowls, vegetable peeler, can opener, ramekins.

  8. Lasagna pan. 9×13, ceramic or glass.

  9. Countertop or immersion blender.

Strongly recommended but not essential:

  1. Dutch oven. Enamel-coated cast iron or stainless steel, at least 3.5 quarts.

  2. Food processor. 12-cup.

  3. Microplane.

  4. Small pot. Half quart or one quart.

  5. Mandoline.

This is a very brief summary, and your options can make your head spin. If you can get everything at once, do it. But you’ll probably have to build one piece at a time, especially for the larger cookware items and small appliances. I highly recommend investing in cookware pieces now if you can. Get something to last a lifetime. The quality will make a world of difference for you from the beginning.



It’s tempting to buy lots and lots of cookbooks, but there’s no bigger waste of space. Did you know a lot of recipe books aren’t tested? No one really knows how the recipes will come out. I recommend these three books because they’re solid recipes that I always like, and they have lots of helpful information. I think you’ll get the most out of them.

  1. Michael Ruhlman’s Twenty—a journalist approaches cooking like any other story and comes up with the top 20 techniques a home cook should learn to master anything.

  2. Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyonea huge resource for getting more vegetables in your life and acclimating yourself to fresh flavors, herbs, and spices.

  3. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook EverythingI have the vegetarian version because I really want to master vegetables, but I highly respect how he lays out the recipes and information. There’s a wealth of alternatives in each section. You’re in good hands with anything Bittman.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about recipes, summarize what we’ve gone over, and give you access to checklists of essential ingredients.


Recommended resource

Equipment: The Kitchen Starter Kit –


Recommended book by Highbrow by Highbrow

“The Science of Good Cooking” (Cook’s Illustrated Cookbooks) by The Editors of America’s Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby Ph.D


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