Going to a kitchen store can be a pretty bewildering experience, especially if you don’t cook very often. It can be very tempting to simply buy one of everything you see, but that is neither practical nor affordable.
The truth, as most experienced cooks know, is that you don’t need a crazy amount of shiny new gadgets to cook good food. The deliciousness of the final product is in no way correlated to the amount you spend on appliances. What you do need is a good, well-curated selection of basic tools that can do more than one thing. Forget single-purpose items such as a garlic press, a slap-and-chop or even an expensive mandoline – a sharp chef’s knife can do it all, and so much more.
Here is our list of the top kitchen tools that are most important to a new cook. These, along with a few classic cook books, are all you need to get started.
- A chef’s knife
You don’t need a set of overpriced kitchen knives that come in a fancy wooden block (and then go dull straightaway). If you only get one, get a high-quality 8-inch chef’s knife that can do just about anything, and keep it sharp. As your cooking repertoire expands, consider adding a paring knife (for small fruits and veggies), a serrated bread knife, a cleaver and a filleting knife (for fish and meat).
- A sharpening steel or whetstone
A knife is only as good as the sharpness of its blade. Dull knives can be deadly. Sharpening your knives at home is much easier than you think – all you need is a whetstone and a sharpening steel. Don’t forget to store your knives to preserve their sharpness – my favourite is to invest in a wall-mounted magnetic knife strip.
- Heat-proof tongs
Tongs are the workhorses in a kitchen – you can use them for deep frying, browning meats, moving hot pots and more. Choose ones with a good grip, and a heat-proof silicon heads that won’t scratch your non-stick pans.
- A good set of pots and pans
To start, you’ll need a good non-stick pan (for eggs and pancakes), a cast-iron pot (for sauces, stews), a small pot (boil noodles or eggs) and large stock pot (soups and pasta). As you go on, add a cast-iron pan (great for things that require a sear, and then get finished in the oven, such as a steak), a griddle and a wok.
Many new cooks often just buy a cheap metal set, but here is where spending a little more can make a big difference. Get silicon utensils if you can – they are especially good for flipping eggs or whisking sauces. Must haves include a whisk, large spoon, spatula, egg flipper/frying slice.
- Chopping boards
You want boards that are easily to sterilise (you don’t want cross-contamination) and easy to store. Steer clear of huge heavy ones that are hard to wash – a nice set of wooden boards is your best bet. Keep it well-oiled and it will last for years, plus softwood is kind on your knives.
- Measuring cups
When you get started as a new cook, you want to measure your ingredients accurately to improve your odds of success. Get a set of measuring cups and spoons. If you can, add a measuring beaker (I like the 4 litre Pyrex ones) and a kitchen scale (for maximum accuracy).
- Miscellaneous tools
If you use canned goods, get a can opener. If you drink wine, a corkscrew is a must. A good peeler is great for potatoes, carrots and a wide variety of root vegetables. Don’t be seduced into overpaying here – look for simple gadgets with good grips and strong steel parts. In general, the less fancy a tool is, the less likely something will fail and the longer it will last.
This is all you need to get started – all you have to do now is practise, practise, practise.