Not everyone is a professional chef, and the reality is most people have never had any formal training in the kitchen, but that shouldn’t stop you from feeling comfortable in the kitchen. Confidence in the kitchen can be gained with a few simple steps, if you cannot afford to go to culinary school, don’t let that stop you from watching your relatives, or watching food network, or reading some cookbooks/ blogs. Stop in to your local Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table and take some classes ranging from knife skills, to holiday meal preps. About once a month I try to post one to two recipes that work with that months produce and I do my best to keep them simple. I thought I would also do a quick kitchen staples that should help you get an idea of things I always have on hand and that will help you stock your own kitchen to eat healthy.
Tools and Appliances
8-10″ chef’s knife-
Having a knife that you not only feel comfortable with holding, and that you know how to use is key. Is your knife too heavy, uncomfortable to hold, you want your knife to be one you are comfortable with, make it the investment it is and be happy with it. I can’t tell which knife to pick because it is all personal preference. Basic knife skills are the best thing one can learn- this will not only give you more confidence in the kitchen, but will also prevent any injuries from happening. Keeping your knife sharp is also super important, a dull knife will leave you frustrated, and can even cause you to hurt yourself while using it. I have a friend who taught himself how to sharpen his knives with a block out of a hobby, but that might not be for you. Getting your knives sharpened at least twice a year is going to keep them in good shape, and help ease your kitchen struggles. You will also want to keep up that sharp blade by using a honing sharpening steel regularly.
calibrated meat thermometer
This is so important, especially if you are not comfortable with the press method of telling when meat is done. I tend to use the press method of using my finger to press down on the red meat especially while cooking, the meat thermometer is super helpful for poultry, and pork to make sure it is not over or under cooked.
I love my tongs, and know a few chefs who would agree that tongs are a must in any kitchen. My tongs are being used every day in the kitchen, or my husband is using his grilling tongs when he uses the grill. I am sure you will find many ways to use tongs in the kitchen, and will quickly learn the reasons why I put it as a staple!
spoonula/ wooden spoon
I have friends who are chefs, and swear by the wooden spoon, and I also have friends who are chefs, that swear by a spoonula. I think it comes down to personal preference. I prefer the spoonula/ silicone spatula to a wooden spoon, but I have both in my kitchen.
Stainless Steal Nonstick Pan & Cast Iron Skillet
Necessary. Buy them. I think its that simple. Every person needs a great cast iron skillet, it just makes things taste better, and it is always a staple. The nonstick pan well that is perfect for easy clean up and eggs. I tend to go between the two in my kitchen but having both on hand will allow you to make endless dishes. You can heat up your leftovers on the stove top with them, and take things from stove to oven! Searing food on the stove top and finishing off the food in the oven is what is done in restaurants, and professional kitchens all the time. This allows for a nice sear and presentation on the outside, while cooking the meat through and not drying it out.
A great dutch oven will give you so much use. Just like above it allows you start on the stove and finish in the oven, but it also lends a hand to creating soups, stocks, sauces and stews. This is an investment piece if you get a quality brand, but it can also become a kitchen heirloom.
This is great for cooking your rice, pasta, quinoa. Or heating up your jarred pasta sauce unless you make your own.
Lined with foil (easy clean up!) is perfect for roasting vegetables, or making cookies you pick.
Produce, Seasonings, Pantry Staples
I always have chicken broth on hand! I use it in countless recipes, and as a substitute for water often when I am making rice or quinoa to give it some added flavor.
I use garlic along with onions and fresh herbs 8/10 times I am cooking. Fresh garlic, or garlic powder are on heavy rotation in my kitchen. Garlic is great roasted, sauteed, mixed into a salad dressing. I love it crushed, or minced over chicken with some lemon and fresh rosemary for a simple weeknight meal.
When I was in college, in my culinary semester the first thing after knife skills we learned (which we practiced with onions, carrots etc.) was the importance of onion specifically in being a key ingredient mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery), which is the base to so many soups, stocks, and a variety of dishes. Onions cooked or raw, are used daily in my house- from breakfast, to dinner I can almost always find a use for them.
These three are always in my pantry, and at least one is used weekly. I will often times cook up a batch on quinoa and reheat it throughout the week as a side to our dinners, or mix with veggies for a salad. I grew up in a house where rice was a staple and served at almost every meal, I have since started using brown rice for the most part and will even make a pot of brown rice, and black beans when I am feeling super lazy and call it a meal for lunch.
Fresh Herbs are the best, they add dimension, and flavor to any dish. Since moving to a larger apartment with a balcony, I have started my own herb garden that makes having fresh herbs on hand at all times even better. I love adding the herbs to any meal I am cooking during the cooking process, and then garnishing with a few pieces at the end.
I use olive oil for the most part, but also use coconut, or grapeseed oil. People will tell you to watch the oil intake because of fat, I use it all the time and it has been used for centuries in cooking so why not use it? Having an oil that has a high smoke point is a staple, but also having a quality olive oil to be used as salad dressing that has a high flavor profile is important.
I just love cheese, but having cheese on hand especially during the holidays is the perfect appetizer. Quality cheese that you can pull out and have a decent cheese platter in minutes for those drop in guests is staple to me.
Protein, but if you are a vegetarian or plant based diet this wouldn’t apply to you. As long as you have proteins in your diet that is what matters, and which ever way you decide to get that protein is up to you.
Greens or vegetables of your favorite pickings. These are great for salads, quick, easy and healthy snacks or for adding into your smoothies for those extra vitamins and minerals.
Perfect for breakfast, perfect for baking with, egg salads, anything.
I hope this little list of my kitchen staples helps you stock your kitchen and gives you the confidence you might need to get cooking.