On any given Saturday or Sunday, you will most likely find me in front of the television watching a marathon of cooking shows on the Food Network. The shows' hosts always seem to use the latest-and-greatest kitchen utensil or gadget to prepare a meal. I make a mental wish lists of the tools I need to add to my arsenal, but then I usually realize that what I have works perfectly well for me.
Kitchen essentials are great gifts for everyone from the most accomplished foodie to a college student moving into his or her first apartment. No one needs to clutter their kitchen with thousands of dollars worth of novelties that will never be used. Here's a list of the basic kitchen essentials you'll need to prepare great meals.
• A great set of knives is the first kitchen essential. Knives are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. To start, you'll need a chef's knife for slicing, dicing and mincing; a paring knife for peeling and coring; a slicing knife; and a serrated knife to cut breads.
• A cutting board protects your counter tops and gives you a clean space to chop vegetables and cut up meat.
• A set of measuring spoons and measuring cups ensures accuracy when measuring ingredients for recipes.
• A large mixing bowl is a great place to blend all of your ingredients.
• A meat thermometer verifies that meats are cooked to the perfect temperature.
• Pots are available in a several different sizes. A standard 2-quart pot will handle most tasks including making sauces. You'll need a larger pot to boil pasta or cook large batches of soups and chilli.
• With a great skillet or sauté pan, you can cook omelets or stir-fry meats and vegetables. A 10- or 12-inch pan is the most versatile and allows you to make small or large quantities. The non-stick versions are worth the investment.
• A wooden spoon is a great complement to your non-stick skillet or sauté pan. It allows you to stir without scratching your pan.
• Rubber spatulas are also great additions to your kitchen essentials list and come in handy when mixing ingredients.
• A cookie sheet is a versatile tool. Use it to bake cookies or roast vegetables.
• For bakers, a 12-cup muffin tin and an eight or nine-inch cake round are great additions, and don't forget the electric mixer.
Once you have the basics, adding a few novelty items, such as a citrus juicer, pastry cutter or garlic press will increase your collection without cluttering your kitchen.