If you’re just starting out on your culinary adventure or are relatively new to cooking, moving out of your family home into your first apartment or student accommodation this quick list of the most essential kitchen gadgets and utensils for your first kitchen will help you cook your favorite meals with ease where ever you may be and however large or small your first kitchen is.
Many of the “essential” utensils you will use in your kitchen will depend on the food you like to cook and the skills you quickly gain, but this guide should provide a starter kit of kitchen gadgets and the bare minimal essentials to get you up and running. But over time, I am sure you will gather plenty more tools and machines to aid you in your cooking.
Essential kitchen utensils
First, let’s start with the essential kitchen utensils you will need to prepare even the most basic of foods for cooking. First off purchase a decent kitchen knife or if your budget will allow, a selection of different size knives to get you started. If you can start with a medium-sized chef knife and perhaps a smaller sharp knife to help you prepare more fiddly foods. A sharpener to keep your knives in tiptop condition is also preferable but not necessarily one of the first things you need.
It is also worth remembering that if you are a student who will move from one accommodation to another, it’s best just to purchase one versatile knife that is capable of a wide variety of different tasks when cooking. Rather than a heavy kitchen block equipped with sharpener and other size knives that may hinder you from being a true nomad and will need to be continually moved from one location to another.
A small paring knife to peel and chop is my go to knife, as is a strong sturdy and sharp bread knife, essential for cutting those doorsteps wedges for sandwiches.
Once you have your knives sorted, you can consider buying a decent peeler to help do a variety of tasks, including the obvious vegetable peeling, which can be accomplished using a sharp knife, but is so much quicker when using a peeler. Although if you have a smaller knife, this can be useful for peeling and save a few pennies in your budget for some other more essential kitchen gadget to get you started.
However, if like me, you eat a lot of veggies, I find a peeler almost invaluable when making stews, soups and broth because of the amount of vegetables I consume on a daily basis. They really make light work of peeling carrots and potatoes.
If you are new to using a knife and are worried about cutting your fingers when preparing foods, it might be worthwhile considering knives with ceramic safety blades. Some of which we have previously featured here on Geeky Gadgets. For example, the award-winning design team at Slice provides a wide selection of different knives for both the kitchen and workshop and is well worth checking out.
Another great essential when baking and preparing a wide variety of dishes is a rolling pin, perfect for pastry and other flour based recipes. They can be made from wood or silicone style plastic. Having said that, I have used a glass or jar to roll out pastry for small baked treats such as jam tarts.
Don’t forget how versatile and useful your basic knife, fork and spoon can be. These don’t need to be expensive and you don’t need a fancy set good enough for dinner parties straight away. Some companies sell each item individually so you can build up a set. A good stainless steel item could last a lifetime. The humble fork can also be used to whisk up an egg or two for your quick scrambled egg breakfast or snack. Whilst your dessertspoon can be handy when measuring out ingredients such as oils.
It goes without saying that a plate, bowl and side plate are essentials. There are so many options to purchase these days from fine bone china to plastic and everything in between. A full dinner service can be built up in no time if you opt for something plain and simple in white, for example. Plates and bowls can double up as serving dishes, mixing bowls or to store and cover leftovers in the refrigerator.
Measures and timers
A measuring jug is another essential you need to purchase if you don’t already have one together with a simple weighing scale, allowing you to easily weigh out the required ingredients ready for cooking. If you have a phone, a kitchen timer is not essential but can help stop your phone from becoming covered in flour and other ingredients as you cook.
A good set of mixing bowls is also an essential and some can even double as a measuring bowl, saving the need to purchase a separate measuring jug or bowl. Make sure they are microwave friendly, but overall the material is down to preference although if you are travelling then plastic might be more suitable than glass, because of the extra weight and breakages that may occur with the former material.
Another essential kitchen gadget to combine with your new kitchen knife is a good quality chopping board or chopping board set, depending on what you will be preparing. Because don’t forget you are supposed to use different chopping boards for different foods such as meat, fish and vegetables to help prevent cross contamination. Personally, I prefer a wooden chopping board which can be maintained with a little oil, but this again is down to your preference and plastic, glass or wood are all available at affordable prices. Worth considering is where you will store these items, as they are often large.
Wooden Spoons and spatulas
You won’t break the bank by purchasing a wooden spoon or two. These versatile, cheap and handy utensils will save you burning your fingers on metal cutlery when preparing and stirring your hot foods such as soups and sauces. They wash well and are unlikely to break easily. A wooden spatula will help you flip your fried foods over to achieve the perfect fried food.
Roasting or Oven Tray
You may not want to cook or bake that often, but the oven tray is invaluable in my opinion. I use it every day for anything, from cooking oven chips to roasting vegetables and using as as tray to hold ready-made meals for reheating in the oven. You can purchase a variety of sizes to suit your needs. My go to is the largest size, which means I can throw everything I want to oven bake into one tray in the oven, making life easy. They are easy to wash, will store in the oven out of sight and can take a bash or two.
Grater, Sieve or Colander
Consider a strong grater if you like grated cheese in foods, for example. However, they are tricky to store if space is tight. If you have invested in a peeler, this can double up to cut cheese into thin strips.
I couldn’t live without a sieve or colander for draining potatoes or veggies before mashing or serving. A good strong metal one would be my preferred style as I’ve had so many mishaps with flimsy plastic ones toppling over with my precious vegetables overflowing into the sink! They can be stacked easily when stored underneath bowls or pans and travel well.
Saucepans, Woks & Pans
Finally, you will need a decent saucepan, frying pan, wok or steamer to cook your prepared foods. This again comes down to preference and your preferred foods and cooking style. For instance, if you like fresh vegetables quickly cooked, then a wok might be a great choice and can be used for a wide variety of different food preparation techniques. Saucepans are great for boiling, stewing and, depending on size, making larger meals that may need to simmer for quite some time and require a lid to keep in the moisture. A nonstick frying pan, as always a great addition to any kitchen and helps you quickly rustle up a wide variety of dishes. Care will need to be taken with nonstick as the coating can come off if you use metal cutlery for stirring, for example.