The Minimalist Kitchen Part 2: Cooking and Baking

Friday, March 4, 2016


My kitchen is a serious workhorse.  I do a ton of cooking on a weekly basis both for this blog and for my family (and occasionally for fun/all three).  I have a rather a lot of kitchen equipment that has been slowly collected (except for the gifts from our wedding, which all came at once) over the last few years, as I have figured out what I need.  I have also gotten rid of a few things, when they didn't get used.

The list below includes the kitchen basics that I love having, and use regularly. There are a few that you could skip if you are seriously pressed for space (I have italicized those), but most of them are necessary and very helpful.  In many cases, I explain why I love having them.

Some of you probably have kitchens with lots of cookware and gadgets, and you have been looking for ways to pare down what you have.  Hopefully this list can help you look at what you have and figure out what you but don't really need, or don't use.  Gadgets can be great, but only if you use them.  As a general rule, I try to steer clear of the one-use gadgets.

Others of you may just be putting your kitchen together.  If you are, I hope this helps you, too!  I want to help out those who are looking at the extensive suggestions from wedding registries by helping you decide what you really need.

If you're a regular reader, without specific reasons for reading this particular post, I have tried to add small, interesting stories or thoughts on why I have what I have.  Hopefully that makes it fun to read, even if you already have a perfectly outfitted kitchen.  If you do, congratulations!  You are a step ahead of me. :)

*Also, this post does contain some affiliate links.  This won't affect your experience in any way, except that I will receive a few pennies if you decide to purchase something through the link.  If you hate affiliate links, feel free to look up the item on your own, or even better, look for the item at a local thrift store.  I did try to link to the same, or similar items that I personally own, or things that are highly rated, if I couldn't find the exact item that I have.  

For the Stove-Top: 

- A saucepan: I have a double boiler, which felt like a waste right after we bought it, because I rarely used the top pot.  But now we use it quite often as I venture into more complicated cooking, and I love it.  If you don't think you will be using a double boiler anytime soon, just get a regular saucepan.  Perfect for sauces, small amounts of pasta, and about a thousand other things! 
- A frying pan or a cast-iron skillet: at least a 10".  Trust me on this one.  We have a stainless steel frying pan and a 10" cast-iron one, and the stainless steel is about 8", and it is too small for a lot of things.  I would suggest a bigger one.  
- A Stock Pot or Dutch OvenI think these are pretty interchangeable.  The only difference is that a stock pot is usually larger and lighter, and the dutch oven can also be put in the oven (for cobbler, or whatever).  I have one of each, and like using them for different reasons (the dutch oven makes your food look SO pretty!).

For the Oven: 

- 8x8" baking dish: Essential for casseroles, roasting nuts, cooking enchiladas, baking brownies, etc.  
- Rimmed cookie sheet: Great for cookies, roasting veggies, making granola, and other tasty stuff!  
- 2 Silicone Mats: we have three and I used them all the time!  Mine are drying on my counter more than they are in the drawer.  I use them instead of foil and parchment paper.  They are reusable and awesome.
- Muffin Tin: for muffins. Or if you are like me today, you are making croissant cinnamon swirls in them, because your croissant dough didn't turn out, and you have to make something out of it.
- Glass Pie Pan: good for quiche, pot pie, and regular pie.  In a pinch, you can always use an 8x8" baking dish instead.  

Prep items:

- glass nesting bowls: Constantly in use. Perfect for prep and serving.  
- cutting boards: 1 wood and 1 something else.  I have several plastic and one wood one.  I really dislike that the plastic gets stained over time, but I like that they are dishwasher friendly.  I don't stick my wood one in the dishwasher, because wood is porous and absorbs water.  You will also want to skip cutting meat on a wood cutting board for the same reason.  
- 2 large, sharp Chef's Knives: When we were in France, our kitchen had the most horrible little serrated knives with floppy wooden handles.  They were pathetic and sort of scary to use.  The next day, we went out and bought a set of really sharp knives.  We even brought them home with us, and I am in love.  They are such a joy to cut with.  Adam is insistent that sharp knives are safer, because there is so much less sawing that needs to be done.  I am inclined to agree with him. 
- 1 paring knife: essential for cutting apples and such.  
- 1 bread knife:  hopefully you eat bread that needs to be cut with a serrated knife.  If not, they are terrific for slicing cheese.  
- 1 set of measuring cups: These measuring cups might be my favorite thing in my kitchen.  They are just beautiful and they feel really good in your hands.  They also look great in photos. 
- 1 set of measuring spoons: also a great asset, if you are cooking in America.  When I was in England for a study abroad a few years ago, I tried to buy measuring cups and couldn't find them (I guess I didn't look in the right places, because apparently they do exist).  But until I got a kitchen scale, I couldn't figure out how anyone in Europe ever knew how much to measure out for recipes. 
- liquid measuring cup: I love mine, and have used it so frequently that all the markings are coming off.  
- cheese grater: boxed, hand-held, anything will work.
- can opener
- a whisk:  My baby also really likes playing with this one. :)  
- 2 rubber spatulas: I have 4 or 5 of these, and I swear I never have enough.  I would start with 2, and see if you feel the same way.  I use them instead of wooden spoons.
- 1 large rubber spatula: I can't think of a good way to describe this one... you know, the kind of spatula that you flip pancakes with?  
- a large mesh strainer: great for rinsing dry beans, quinoa, fruits, veggies, straining homemade broth, etc.
- rolling pin: great for rolling stuff out... You can use a bottle instead, but I think a rolling pin is indispensable.  I use mine several times every week.  

A few things I like having in my kitchen:  

- Bench Scraper: I registered for one of these for our wedding, thinking they were so cool, but didn't use it for the first 3 years of our marriage.  I was on the verge of getting rid of it, then I went to a pie making class where she showed us how awesome they were, and now I can't stop using mine.  I use it to scrape off the counters, ease pie dough off the counter, and probably other things that I can't think of right now. 
- kitchen scale: See above comment accompanying the measuring spoons.  I particularly love having one for the times when I make French pastries.  French pastries are all about accurate measurements.  
- candy thermometer:  I use mine for making yogurt mostly, but it is also great for the times when I make syrups or candy (which isn't often).  I pull mine out way more than I ever thought I would.
- 8" cake pan (springform, if you like): I toast nuts in mine most of the time, but it is handy for actual cakes sometimes as well!
9x13" baking dish: great for crowds or if you like lots of brownies.
- tongs: great for salads or pulling flatbread out of the oven.  In a pinch, you can always use a fork for salads.
- kitchen shears: I use these all the time.  My favorite use for ours is cutting pizza.  They work WAY better than most pizza cutters.
- Pastry Brush: I use mine to put butter on top of a freshly baked loaf of bread or for the occasional egg wash on bread.  Definitely not necessary, but I didn't have one for a while, and couldn't find an adequate replacement that already lived in my kitchen.  

Did I miss anything?  Anything else you think is necessary for the kitchen?  What tools do you have that you just LOVE using?  

4 comments

  1. Are you a fan of Alton Brown? I used to watch his show Good Eats all the time and he would always talk about how to avoid having "unitaskers" in your kitchen. Such a nice change from food network chefs who try to have you buy more equipment than food to make a recipe!

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    1. I have heard of Alton Brown, but haven't ever seen his show. I probably should watch it though, because I like cooking shows (although the only one I have really watched hard-core is "The Great British Bake Show", which was am TOTALLY in love with.). I will have to check out his show! I bet I could find it online somewhere :) Thanks for the suggestion! I don't love having a ton of stuff around that only serves one functions. They take up so much space, and often are not worth having around. Mostly. I have a few exceptions to that, but they are worth it to me, because I use them so often.

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  2. A few things that may not be essential to everyone but are to me ... KitchenAid Mixer. Before I went to college, I had never made cookies without one, and it was ridiculous how hard it was for me! I leave mine out on the counter because I use it so much--mixing cookies, brownies, cakes, meat for meatballs/meatloaf, shredding chicken. I also have a rice cooker and use it for white and brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, and to steam vegetables. I swear, my rice cooker bowl is always dirty!!! I also have an Oxo cookbook holder that has a clear plastic cover to go over the recipe/cookbook. I love having my recipe up at a slant--much easier to see, and the plastic cover keeps it from getting dirty. I also use my iPad a lot, and this prevents my iPad screen from getting all gunked up. Just a few of my "essentials" in the kitchen :)

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  3. I love your minimalist kitchen and minimalist living, my husband and I are thinking of going this way, such a better life!
    Charlotte
    http://thekitchen.site/

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