You're moving out on your own! What kitchen stuff do you need?
January 31, 2024 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm the proud owner of one spoon, one fork, and 3 knives. A cheese slicer. And a set of 43 year old wedding china. I enjoy cooking, preferably in bulk so I can freeze meal-sized portions. So I know I'll need cooking vessels, food-freezing vessels, and cooking utensils. If you were in my shoes, what would exist in your perfect dream kitchen?
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Home & Garden (71 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Buy a rice cooker, a litre measuring jug, a good frying pan, a good sauce pan, and enough tongs. The rest is theory.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:14 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]

Here are a few things thay come to mind:

At least 2 cutting boards (and function over how they look, nothing heavy that's a pain to wash quickly)

At least a chef's knife and paring knife

A good oven mitt (note to my 20 year old self: this should not be purchased at the dollar store, you will burn yourself)

More important than any specific item is to pay attention to how you cook and what you would use. You can start without much and get stuff as you need it. Much easier than admitting a purchase was a waste and doesn't work well for your style of cooking (I'm looking at you Instant Pot Blender).
posted by Eyelash at 7:20 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]

A good oven mitt

We have a pair of oven gloves with fingers (like this) and they're so much nicer than the mitts, even.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:23 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]

First and foremost are good knives and a way to keep them sharp. An 8" chef's knife, a good paring knife and a medium slicing knife, though you will probably use the medium knife the least. A serrated slicer for bread/ham/tomatoes would be next. If these are the knives you already own, then you should work on acquiring a sharpener and honing steel. Or at least a honing steel, which will delay the need to actually sharpen the blades. Try to get in the habit of running the blade over the steel every time you use a knife, and you will go for many months before needing sharpening. Use a wooden or plastic cutting board every single time to preserve the knife edge. Plastic can go in a dishwasher if you have one. I have them in colors - red for meat, yellow for chicken and green for veggies. Plain white is fine, too - just don't cross-use before thoroughly washing.

You will need cutlery for eating. A kitchen supply store has many options from easily bendable cheap diner silverware to heavy, fine quality stainless that will last for decades. Add a couple of mixing bowls, wooden spoons, flexible silicone spatulas, a ladle, serving spoons for both cooking and serving at the table, a spatula for turning eggs, tongs for turning food easily, measuring cups and spoons, a cheap kitchen scale for baking, and you're on your way. If you do much bacon-frying a spatter screen. Restaurant supply stores also sell excellent heavy cookware that will last your entire life as will as sheetpans and heavy-duty baking pans if you are into baking.

What an exciting time for you! Good luck in your new home!
posted by citygirl at 7:24 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

Three mixing bowls: small, medium, large, plus at least one colander. One good chef's knife: this Victorinox is affordable and great. A microplane grater, plus your classic four-sided grater. While my dream kitchen would have all the room in the world for many pots and pans, in reality, I can get by in my tiny kitchen with one small pot, one medium pot, and one 10-inch saute pan. If you're cooking in bulk, you'll probably want a couple bigger pots and pans too. At least one half sheet pan, and one quarter sheet pan. A slow cooker and a toaster oven if you've got the counter space for them. If like me, you despise mincing or chopping garlic, a garlic press is worth taking up space as a unitasking kitchen tool. Whisk, spatula, slotted spoon, big wooden spoon.
posted by yasaman at 7:24 PM on January 31

Blue Apron has a pretty good recommended supply list for cooking. (Not an endorsement of Blue Apron; I got frustrated with the service and stopped using it. I just like their supply list.)
posted by capricorn at 7:36 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

My go-to most used items are my set of 5 stainless steel mixing bowls, spring loaded tongs (with two cheaper ones for backup), solid wood chopping board, and Misen chef's knife.

Runners-up are a set of 3 mesh strainers (one of the last things I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond, sob), the microplane zester, and kitchen scissors.

My most used pots are small and medium Cuisinart skillets, a newish 16 quart stockpot, 12" Lodge cast iron pan, and smaller sauce pans.

The only thing I'd add is a replacement for the rice cooker that my cats knocked off the top of the fridge during the COVID sabbatical. I have a microwave, toaster oven and coffee maker on the counter. The other stuff (Instapot, food processor, waffle maker) lives in the cabinets and doesn't see much action.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:37 PM on January 31

I've put together this kitchen starter kit for a few people now. I focus on high quality, multi-use products:

1 Nordic Ware half-sheet and 1 eighth-sheet pan
1 deep nonstick saute pan OR 1 deep stainless saute pan + 1 large nonstick frying pan
1 Victorinox Classic or Fibrox chef's knife
1 GIR Spoonula
1 wooden spoon
1 Microplane
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:43 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]

Cutting up/prepping food:
Chef’s knife
Paring knife
Cutting board (my favorite is a large but thin bamboo one)
Microplane zester
Food processor (I have a Cuisinart with blade and grater and I use it to whip cream and grate stuff instead of using a box grater usually)
Immersion blender for soups
Mixing bowls (microwave-safe is good for things like melting butter)
Extra little ramekins for prepped ingredients are nice!
Kitchen scissors (great for herbs)

Cast iron or carbon steel skillet
Nonstick frying pan (I seldom use mine but it’s nice to have the option for eggs)
Sheet pans
Silicone baking mats
Medium saucepan
Large enameled cast iron Dutch oven
Instant Pot (ditto but if you’re prepping food in bulk it’s very useful)
Wooden spoons
Rubber spatulas for scraping bowls
Metal/plastic spatulas for frying things
Slotted spoon
Large metal spoon

Glass Tupperware
Plastic or silicone freezer bags
Parchment paper
Ice cube trays
Muffin tins
posted by music for skeletons at 7:46 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

Sous Vide Immersion Cooker, Vacuum sealer, optional insulated water bath container.
Instant Read Thermometer
wireless remote Thermometer for fridge and freezer. Readout with alarms magnetically stick to the outside fridge door.
1" office binder clips
posted by Sophont at 8:00 PM on January 31

Bag clips?
Bottle opener
Can opener
Cloth napkins?
Dish cloths and towels
Garlic press?
Ice cream scoop
Lazy susan for storage
Meat thermometer
Oven thermometer
Paper towel holder?
Pie server
Pizza cutter
Pot holders
Salt and pepper shakers
Slow cooker?
Spice rack?
Toaster oven?
Vegetable peeler
posted by NotLost at 8:00 PM on January 31

Ikea dorm room check list here. Although I don't think you need a hot plate and a french press.
posted by saturdaymornings at 8:01 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

The most used items in my kitchen are the notepad, dry-erase whiteboard and set of dry-erase markers that are all stuck to the side of the fridge. It’s easy to get lost in on-screen recipe reading/viewing and miss details you’ll want later, and having a way to make paper or whiteboard notes is crucial.
posted by mdonley at 8:02 PM on January 31

The victorinox noted above is an america's test kitchen recommend. I own it.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:12 PM on January 31

A large pasta pot that comes with a strainer insert and a steamer basket. My mom got me one over 20 years ago and I use it ALL the time!
posted by Molasses808 at 8:15 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Some of this depends on what you like to cook, and how you like to cook it.

- measurement: some combination of measuring spoons, measuring cups, and/or a scale.

- temperature: a probe thermometer for meats/fishes. I use an infrared laser thermometer nearly every day, but my wife doesn't use it at all.

- cutting: a few knives (personally, I could get by with a chefs knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife). box grater. kitchen shears.

- mixing: at least 2 different sized mixing bowls. if you like to do all your chopping and measurement ahead of time, then a set of different sized glass bowls. a mesh sieve.

- storage: glass containers for refrigeration/heating; silicone for freezer use. this would let you avoid having food in contact with plastics.

- pots/pans: a stock pot. a non-stick sauté pan. a regular sauté pan. a saucepan. a casserole. a dutch oven. a wok.

- bakeware: sheet pans. cupcake pan. loaf pans. ramekins. bundt pans. cake pans. pie dish.

- misc: a colander. a can opener. a jar opener thingy. some glassware and flatware. a pizza cutter. a rolling pin. a pastry brush. a spider. kitchen towels. silicone trivets. an apron. spatulas. spoons/ladles. spice drawer organizer.

- electrics: air fryer. coffee maker. rice cooker. hot water boiler. mixer. immersion blender. toaster.

- consumables: parchment paper; aluminum foil.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 8:58 PM on January 31

New kitchens with novice chefs might start by reading this 2007 Mark Bittman NYT article (A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks) to establish a baseline if your cupboards are mostly bare. It’s got good reasoning on major elements to include or avoid, though I’m not as excited by a 12 cup food processor if a stand mixer is available. I’d add the super versatile instant pot pressure cooker.
posted by enfa at 8:59 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

Waste basket(s)

I like to have two -- one for regular trash, and one for recycling.
posted by NotLost at 9:02 PM on January 31

Go to a restaurant supply store in your area. There you will find sturdy, durable, easily cleaned flatware and dishes. If you’re just cooking for yourself, get four place settings so you can have three meals in a day and breakfast the next before doing the dishes (and lots of tableware comes in sets of four.) You will probably want a large dinner plate, a smaller lunch plate, a little saucer or side dish plate, a regular bowl, a mug, a water glass, and a set of silverware for each place setting. As a bonus you could get wine glasses, chopsticks, a small bowl (for salsas or small amounts of soup or cut fruit), or a big bowl (for big salads or bulky pastas) as well. Adjust according to your habits. For example, I have extra teaspoons because I am that person who makes like three mugs of tea a day, and I have extra small forks because I use them to dish out wet food to my cat. You might not want the big dinner plate and opt for more smaller dishes if you like cuisines that tend towards multiple courses or disparate flavors, or you might go for no saucers and mugs if you eschew hot drinks.

Also at the restaurant supply store will be: stainless steel mixing bowls (get at least three big ones), good knives (start with a paring knife and a chef’s knife, branch out into a serrated bread knife and whatever kind of deboning or butchering knife you will use), dishwasher safe cutting boards, fabric napkins, and baking sheets (get two.)

A good brand of gadgets is OXO good grips. They have the best can opener, peeler, salad spinner, and a bunch of other things. Get the gadgets that you will use and only bother with the more specific ones if you have trouble with fine motor control or grip strength issues.

I really like my rubbermade brilliance containers. They come in glass and plastic but I only have the plastic ones. They are just the right sizes for meal prep and leftovers, don’t stain, go in the dishwasher, stack and share lids, are really airtight and can be frozen or microwaved. You might like getting some of the glass ones to bake food directly in them and then freeze for later, I haven’t done that yet.

I like my Cuisinart Pro cookware set, it has held up marvelously to intense use. I’ve added a small nonstick pan for eggs, a big nonstick over safe braising pan that does a braised chicken thigh with rice brilliantly, and a medium sized stainless Dutch oven for pot roasts and their ilk. From my set I use the stock pot, the little sauce pot and the smaller sauté pan most often. You can probably get started with just a medium saucepan, smaller sauce pot, and stock pot, plus a nonstick of your preferred size for eggs. Add a Dutch oven of your preferred material and size depending on what and how you like to cook. Unless you are doing baking, most stuff you would do in a glass baking dish is good on a sheet tray on parchment paper or in an oven safe pan.

General advice: Buy tea towels that are whimsical and make you happy and go through them often. Get a fatigue mat to stand on where you do your chopping and other prep work, or in front of the sink. Don’t buy a pan you have not lifted in person because they can be crazy heavy and that discourages use. Don’t buy everything all at once, once you have the stuff to make your preferred breakfast, an easy lunch, and a comforting dinner, just add other things as you need them.
posted by Mizu at 9:59 PM on January 31 [8 favorites]

Corelle dinnerware sets are very hard to break and hold up extremely well through many years of use, especially if you get them in plain white.
posted by ceramicspaniel at 10:43 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Instant Pot (cooks rice, slow cooks, sautés, pressure cooks, sous vide compatible I think and some have the air fryer top so it’s literally 5+ kitchen gadgets in one), good set of knives (I use Victorinox at work, but F Dick or Jero are comparable for a home cook) and steel - and think about a set of cutting gloves or a chain glove so you don’t cut up your hands, simple flatware and dish set, colander, two graters, mandolin (like, I use this way more often than I thought I would when I bought it), measuring cups and spoons and anchor/pyrex glass measuring cups, sauté pan, stock pot, sauce pot, cast iron (can’t go wrong with Lodge), silicone scraper for cleaning, 3+ cutting boards (wood is pretty and nice it is also a pain in the ass to keep clean and oiled), some sort of coffee or tea maker if you are into it (but also nice to have for company), silicone spatulas and wooden spoons/spatulas, tongs, flipper spatula, Food Saver (Costco runs them on sale a few times a year and you can get inexpensive compatible sheet rolls at Walmart), those sheet pans with air bubbles in the bottom, 1+ wire rack, Pyrex/anchor dishes with lids for cooking in the oven and storage in the fridge, SCISSORS, towels, mitts, mugs, pint glasses, 1+ pitcher, whisk, ramekins (seriously they come in handy), some air tight containers (home goods or Marshall’s are good for this), a serving platter and bowl, ice cube trays. The item which is super nice to have but not a necessity is an enameled Dutch oven. I do not have one but frequently complain to myself that dammit ima get one one day. Anything else you can add later. You can make steaks, pizza, and breads in cast iron. You can fry in cast iron. The options are endless but this is what I’d want if I was starting my kitchen all over again (I have most of it but it is a mishmash of acquired and inherited and bought goods over 20 years).
posted by sara is disenchanted at 10:51 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Two-drawer dishwasher. So nice never needing to unstack the fucker, instead always being able to just take something from the just-washed drawer, use it, and put it back in the to-be-washed drawer.
posted by flabdablet at 11:06 PM on January 31

Apparently I like to live dangerously...mid forties...I have only ever used folded up tea towels to get hot stuff out of the oven...I have never owned an oven mitt...never suffered any injury I can recall as a result of this recklessness.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:33 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

The item which is super nice to have but not a necessity is an enameled Dutch oven. I do not have one but frequently complain to myself that dammit ima get one one day. Anything else you can add later. You can make steaks, pizza, and breads in cast iron. You can fry in cast iron.

And if you get one of the non-enamelled ones and learn just how little time and effort it takes to maintain its seasoning, you never even need to bother learning how not to chip or scratch enamel.

I have one of these seasoned cast iron combo sets, which I bought many years ago when their price was still kind of reasonable, and those pans are going to last for generations. If you can find a similar set second-hand, do.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Omg I followed that link and saw the prices and freaked out…until I saw .au and my eyeballs went back into my head. But yes, I technically have a cast iron camp pot and lid that’s small enough to cook with in the oven but it is bulky and unwieldy and difficult to use on the stovetop. and for the same price I could have purchased Lodge’s enamel piece.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 11:56 PM on January 31

gaah, so much Stuff! When I left home in 1973, I brought a copy of Katharine Whitehorn's Cooking in a Bedsitter, first published in 1961. It was very useful for Starters (who slept in the kitchen) and the recommended batterie de cuisine was 'finite':
1 really sharp knife 1 piece of flat wood 1 decent pan 1 BIG frying pan
1 little saucepan 1 bowl (not plastic) 1 fish-slice 1 tin opener
1 jug saucepan 1 egg-beater 1 wooden spoon nothing else

Be assured that I have a lot more kitchen-clobber now.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:33 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

We are having this discussion on a daily basis because the kids (my adult daughter and her boyfriend) are moving out. So we are having a hard look at what they actually use, mostly because they are self-admitted hoarders and otherwise could get too much stuff for their small first kitchen.

Obviously good knives. The paring knife, the santoku and the chef's knife are the ones we use every day. And I have bought a cheap sharpener in IKEA. I was once all into classical sharpening and honing, but then I stopped and I have never looked back.

For cutting boards of course we use our big heavy wooden board and you need one, but a lot of the time when cooking for one or two, we use a small plastic one. We have two, a small one and a very small one, and they are in use all the time.

Little glass bowls for the stuff you just chopped. Do the mise en place, even when cooking for one. When it becomes a habit you realize how helpful it is.

A 5 l stainless pot with a steamer insert and lid. This is for all sorts of stuff. You can cook pasta, rice or potatoes in it, and steam some vegs on top. You can make a soup or a stew in it. You can steam dumplings in it. You can use it as a mixing bowl. You can bake in it.

If you eat any form of eggs, a non-stick pan is useful for frying eggs and making omelettes and other egg things. Also pancakes and crepes and stuff like that. The one that sees most use here is the 20 cm one, is that 8"? Don't spend too much on it.

For all other frying purposes, you need a cast-iron skillet. It is also useful for roasting a chicken or a whole celeriac in the oven. Mine is enameled because at the time, it was the only thing you could get here. (I've never heard of enamel chipping or scratching, what is that?). Mine is 20 cm, because larger pans are quite heavy, and it is fine for our needs.

Now here is one thing that is very different from my usual take on this: we have discovered that the pot we use the most is a small enameled cast iron balti like this. The kids looked at me with their best puppy eyes to get to take it with them, but nope. It is an amazingly practical little pot when you are cooking for one or two. Luckily, I have a similar pot that I found in a thrift store and they can have that.

Earlier, I would have suggested just buying one carbon steel wok instead of the two skillets and the Balti. But for that you need a fierce gas burner and not everyone has those. And also I don't feel you need to be going very minimalist? If you have a gas burner, a wok is a wonderful thing. If you have one nearby, buy it in a Chinese restaurant supply store. You might find some of the other things on this list there too.

An alternative option (in place of a wok) is a sauté pan. I don't use them that much anymore, but for years I always had one at work on the stovetop, and the kids use one several times a week (they have actually collected several copper sauté pans).

I prefer melamin stirring spoons and spatulas. They are easy to clean and some are quite pretty and can go directly to the table.

You need a thing you can put the hot pot on so it doesn't burn your table/counter.

Tons of tea towels. It is impossible to have too many tea towels.

A bowl that can be used both as a mixing bowl and a salad bowl. Silverware for the salad. A whisk.

A casserole dish. Pyrex is good.

With the above, you can cook and bake everything. Then you can add on according to your habits and needs. Don't go out and buy a lot of stuff now. I hardly ever use the stand mixer, and while we have a rice cooker, I prefer cooking my rice in a small stainless steel pot that I also use for a lot of other stuff. But those are my habits. The kids use the rice cooker all the time. In place of the sauté pan, I now use this gorgeous thing. It is easier to put in the oven and for me, it has more uses.
You'll want to figure out your needs over time. Will you be entertaining a lot? Will you focus on specific cuisines? Will you bake? Do you like smoothies?
When I divorced, I decided to see a lot of people, but I also decided to cook just a handful of dishes for them, and planned my cookware accordingly. I mean, I wrote down a list of recipes and looked at what I needed to cook them.
posted by mumimor at 2:47 AM on February 1 [4 favorites]

It doesn't sound like you're going for minimalism, but if you are - you don't actually need a nonstick pan for eggs. If you're already getting a stainless steel pan, check YouTube for how to fry eggs and other things with it. (If you're already getting a carbon steel or cast iron pan, they should be fairly nonstick if seasoned.)

If you don't have a lot of storage space, I'd start out with fewer things. It can be a pain to always have to fish things out and search and unstack and rearrange, especially when dealing with heavy pots and pans. That said, there are pot/pan/lid organizers that might work for your space.
posted by trig at 3:56 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

You're going to get a lot of pro- and con-arguments about all the appliances. This is my "pro" for the rice cooker, from the position of someone who previously was a "con":

I also used to cook my rice in a stainless steel pot on the stove, and it was perfectly fine. But I got a small one anyway, with a steamer on top, as a sort of proof-of-concept move; I'm trying out a lot of bento cooking with a new job. And I love that thing now. The rice comes out perfectly - faster than the stovetop does - and the stuff on top is steamed perfectly as well. Also - it is near silent. So I can dump the rice into the cooker and plop a couple of dumplings or some other serving of another food into the steamer on top, jump in the shower, and then just a few minutes after I get out, my lunch is prepared and ready to be packed into the bento box - and I haven't needed to use the microwave, which sometimes wakes up my later-rising roommate.

My roommate also got his own rice cooker at about the same time (he wanted the Cadillac of rice cookers, and wanted his own at work) and was so excited about it after he tried it that he waited for me to get home late just so he could brag about it. He does these sort of free-form things with it - he will throw a bunch of random vegetables and condiments into it along with the rice and cook it all up together, and he ends up with these rice-stew sort of things. He overbaked once and shared some with me - a melange of mushroom, cherry tomato, soy sauce and mango salsa or something - and it was pretty darn good.

So - yeah. Rice cooker. They're decent.

That said - what mumimor says about "pace yourself" is wise; get a couple basic things now, and buy as you go as you find out what you need. I've had a couple of "ooh, I need that" moments over the years, but then tried the whatever-it-is and realized that actually, no, I am not in the habit of pressure-cooking anything anyway.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:01 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

I've had various transformative and/or time-saving cooking revelations due to using:

Slow cooker -- made soups and stews fast to make in quantity

Instant pot -- fast, accurate cooking of various things

Enameled cast iron -- many people say Le Creuset is a bourgeois affectation that differs not at all from cast iron, and those people are wrong. I don't know what it is about their process, but WOW there is a difference in various ways from other cast iron equivalents I've used, everything from cooking time and consistency to cleanup.

Toaster oven -- never had one growing up, got a higher-end one some years ago, and it enables more diverse kinds of toasting than a toaster or (for my money) a broiler, as well as serving as a teeny countertop oven.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:02 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

When I moved out on my own in similar circumstances, I had what you had (minus the wedding china) and needed to get one pot, one saucepan, a decent-quality paring knife, a cheap set of mixing bowls, a baking sheet, and a colander. Oh, and probably a glass or two and a mug. That got me through a year of ramen and learning to bake my own bread. The small mixing bowl doubled as a soup bowl, the paring knife made me learn chicken anatomy really well because I couldn't muscle the cuts, and I fried eggs in the pot. None of this was ideal, but it was bare-bones functional.

Later, I added a loaf tin, a frying pan, and eventually a blender, plus an extravagant four place settings and a couple more plates/bowls/cups. Then I moved in with my now-wife, who had a pretty complete kitchen, and I learned the joys of a decent chef's knife, and our wedding presents included a cast-iron pan (which is now a primary item) and a set of good-quality steak knives, which would have been a needless extravagance for me on my own but is a fucking delight.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:22 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

These pyrex glass storage containers are excellent for single-serving food storage. They are compact, stackable, easy to clean (no stained tupperware), and freezer-safe.
posted by pjenks at 5:23 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I am middle-aged and have a kitchen full of accumulated stuff, and the thing where I daydream about throwing out what I have and starting fresh is rectangular glass lidded storage containers. Rectangular means they’re much easier to fit in the fridge (or freezer if you’re careful about overfilling) and glass means microwaveable. If you buy some identifiable brand, that increases the chance you’ll be able to buy more matching (not just an esthetic consideration, it’s about how they stack) in the future.
posted by LizardBreath at 5:27 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

(I own exactly the Pyrex containers linked by pjenks. The bowls themselves are good, but the plastic lids are cheap af — they split and broke after a year or two.)
posted by LizardBreath at 5:29 AM on February 1

Some of the dream kitchen answers (although I’m taking notes!) may be sort of expensive for someone starting from scratch, so I’ll just chime in and say you can probably skimp on flatware, if you want to be able to put more of your money toward some of the really nice stuff mentioned here. We got a bunch of non matching flatware from the local thrift store at ten cents a piece when we got our first place in our twenties and haven’t regretted it. And depending on how much you want to entertain, you may find that you don’t need very many sets. When I briefly had an apartment on my own, four of each (spoon, fork, table knife) was enough to be getting on with.
posted by eirias at 6:12 AM on February 1

Because those pyrex containers are relatively common there are a lot of third -party silicone lids available for them. Never tried them myself but that is one advantage of buying some long-established product line.
posted by trig at 6:13 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I cook 75% of my meals in my dutch oven, so I'd recommend you start with that for a cooking vessel. Mine isn't cast iron, but some sort of aluminum or stainless steel thing that still works great.

Also not mentioned: get yourself a roll of masking tape or painters tape and a sharpie marker. Label everything that goes in the freezer with name and date. You think you'll remember what that mysterious package was, but you won't. And if you're super organized, start a list of what you put into and pull out of your freezer so you don't have to dig around and read all the labels.

2 stainless steel bowls will go very far in the kitchen for mixing and for holding chips. Stainless steel is light and easy to clean up.
posted by hydra77 at 6:21 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

I did this recently and also cook a lot. The first things I bought were a good knife set, a set of mixing bowls, a set of cookie sheets with removable silicone liners, a set of silicone cooking tools (spatula, tongs etc), a good can opener, measuring cups/spoons, cutting boards, key appliances (chest freezer, toaster oven, etc). I already had some dishes/utensils, pots/pans, a baking pyrex, muffin tins, a kettle, an instant pot, oven mitts, storage containers, and some other misc kitchen stuff that I would have had to buy quickly otherwise. The minimum pots/pans for me are a small-med nonstick pan for eggs, a large frying pan for sauteeing/stir fries (mine is oven safe), a pot with a lid for boiling/steaming, and a large stock pot (can be the instant pot, though it's a bit small).

You'll also need to think about building up a pantry (which may require storage containers/organizers) and buying cleaning tools/supplies, plastic bags and other consumables.

If you buy Tupperware or other food storage containers, make sure they stack nicely, including the lids, or that you have a great system for neatly storing the lids.
posted by randomnity at 6:30 AM on February 1

I like to bake things. Let me suggest:

A 9x9 and 9x13 baking dish. Both sizes have their uses. Get glass, not metal.
A Pyrex one cup glass measuring cup
A set of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons
A pastry blender - get one that has the flat blades, not the weak round ones
If you can spare the cash, a KitchenAid stand mixer. Doesn’t have to be the fancy ones, the lowest end model will do great.
A couple of baking sheets
A sifter (NEVER WASH IT. You’ll ruin it immediately. Just wipe it clean.)
A good whisk
A kitchen scale
An egg separator
A rolling pin
A pie pan if you wanna make pies. Glass is good.
Mixing bowls

Also, if you can shop at Costco, buy baking parchment. You can buy this at grocery stores, but if you get the $13 pack at Costco you won’t need to buy it again for years. The stuff is super handy. Also keep a roll of wax paper handy. It’s great for putting over the countertop to create a work surface for rolling or kneading dough.
posted by azpenguin at 6:53 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

We really use knives (1 sharp cutting knife, 1 breadknife), 2 chopping boards, frying pan, roasting tin, baking tray, oven gloves, 2 litre sauce pan, fish slice / turner, wooden spoon (except silicone rather than wood), kitchen scissors, slotted spoon, grater, cheese slicer, tin opener, corkscrew and pyrex measuring jug.

Also useful are scales, mixing bowl, casserole dish, measuring spoons and cups, extra saucepans, extra knives, tongs, spatula, whisk. I don't make pastry so don't really use it but a rolling pin can't be easily substituted.

For countertop electrical equipment, I'm British so an electric kettle is absolutely essential. Otherwise, we use our microwave and toaster frequently, handheld mixer occasionally. I think we would get value out of a small slow cooker and a small rice cooker, but don't own either yet.

For consumables, we basically get through tin foil and kitchen roll like it's going out of fashion, and occasionally use baking/parchment paper. We also use ziploc bags a lot but I think if we had a dishwasher I would want to switch to reusable storage containers.
posted by plonkee at 7:02 AM on February 1

Coming back in now that my brain isn't exploding quite so much (I started a new job this week so I'm scattered like whoa). So.

I still recommend the buy-stuff-as-you-go option. That's probably the best way to really get a sense of what your eating habits ACTUALLY are, as opposed to trying to go with a one-size-fits-all list in full.

That said, since you say you like to prepare things in bulk, I have some initial ideas:

* There are a squillion different options for freezing things. However, I've found that some of them didn't suit me so well - glass or plastic containers never seemed to be the right shape or size, and I would also sometimes forget to allow for liquidy stuff expanding. I also tried those reusable silicone bags, but they were tough to clean and I couldn't ever seem to get them to re-seal. So instead, I use regular old ziploc freezer bags - in conjunction with the smaller ziploc "snack size" bags. The snack size bags hold about a cup or so of food each, which is ideal for me since I'm usually cooking only for myself. So I divvy the thing I'm freezing up amongst those smaller bags, seal them, and then throw all of them inside a bigger freezer bag. That makes it a breeze to pull out just the amount I need - one cup, two cups, whatever. And things defrost way faster when they're in smaller-size lumps like that. When I'm making soup I sometimes don't even defrost - I just plop the frozen stuff directly into the pot.

Also, the bigger ziploc freezer bags are washable and reusable to a point - I just rinse them in the sink and let them dry.

* I've seen the Instant Pot recommended here for its multi-function use - however, think about what you'd actually really use before buying one. It's easy to be seduced by the fact that you can slow-cook, pressure-cook, saute, rice-cook, and make yogurt all in one thing. But - if you don't really eat enough yogurt or rice to justify a dedicated piece of equipment for those purposes, that doesn't really help you. And the Instant Pot doesn't really slow cook as well as an actual slow cooker. So that leaves the pressure-cooking part - and if you don't really pressure cook that much,'s kind of not really useful.

If you do think you'd like to give all of that a whirl, go with a used one as a proof-of-concept instead of buying a new one. (That's what I did with the rice cooker I own now.)

* Speaking of slow cookers - if you regularly are cooking just for yourself, you can get smaller size ones that will suit you fine. I actually have two - a 3-quart size one, that is good for 2 people plus some leftovers, and a 1-quart, which is perfect for serves-one. I've used both a lot - especially for meal-prep cooking (I just made some bone broth this past weekend, in fact; I dumped like 2 pounds of pig feet into the cooker, added a carrot, a celery stick, half an onion and a squirt of some ginger paste, added water to cover and cooked it on "low" for 24 hours.) I'd recommend getting at least one, because you can do meal prep and also regular cooking with one.

One caveat is that you will easily become frustrated by a lot of the slow-cooker recipes out there, because a) they are assuming you're cooking for a family of about 6, and b) they never freakin' say what size slow cooker they are using. A lot of them also only cook for 6 hours, so that doesn't work if you're out of the house all day at work. And so I also have a book recommendation - Slow Cook Modern, a slow-cooker cookbook in which 90% of the recipes are written for a 3-quart cooker, and 100% of them take at least 8 hours. Most of the recipes are proper "meals", but she also includes a handful of recipes in the back for meal-prep type things - soup stocks, precooking dried beans, seasoning pastes, etc. The meal-prep chapter is where you'll sometimes see recipes scaled to a 6-quart cooker, but they're all easy to halve for a smaller machine.

And they're all good recipes - you'll find comfort-foody meat-and-potatoes American-heartland kinds of stews, but you'll also find vegan recipes, keto-friendly recipes, gluten-free recipes, and lots of other international-cuisine kinds of things. She also has a cheat-sheet in the back to tell you which recipes are good for "I have some time to do some meat browning in the morning before I start the slow cooker" and which are good for "I want to just dump everything in and hit 'start'". I have made bean/chard/corn stews, a Korean pork-and-kimchi thing, a posole, a borscht, and a chili from that book and I heartily recommend it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

....Oh, the posole is actually a perfect illustration for how I put this book to use:

* I had pre-made some chili seasoning paste and that was in my freezer. It just involved dumping sun-dried tomatoes and dried chilis into the cooker with water, running it 8 hours, and then pureeing the stuff and freezing it.

* Then I used the cooker again to make hominy from scratch. I've always had issues cooking hominy on the stove - I can't ever get it right for some reason, it's always too tough. The slow cooker finally did the trick.

* And now that I had this chili paste and the hominy done, I was able to make a posole; it called for pre-cooked beans, and I also had that from cooking it up on the stove (although a can would also have worked). Dumped the beans and the hominy into the cooker with a lump of the chili paste and a couple other ingredients, turned it on, and there you go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 AM on February 1

I eat a lot of salad. Essential-to-salad-making items that also work for other applications:
giant stockpot*
salad spinner**
Mixing bowls***
Kitchen scissors****

*If you wash greens and other produce in a large receptacle, you can water plants with the washwater instead of just dumping it down the drain. And obviously that large receptacle should be a stockpot because you need a big stockpot for lots of stuff. Stock. Tomato sauce. Jam, if you make jam. But mostly I use it to wash greens and vegetables.

**Not just for salad. It's good to spin dry green beans, broccoli, berries, whatever. If you come home with a big haul, I find that washing it all at once and getting it pretty dry before stashing it in the fridge means I'm more likely to eat it because it's right there and ready to go and I don't have to trot it over to the sink and minister to it before I gobble it.

***I have a nice wooden salad bowl and lovely salad tongs for stupid fiddly dinner salads served to company, but most of the time I eat my giant salads out of stainless steel mixing bowls that date back to the pre-Kitchenaid-stand-mixer days. I got all of them at garage sales. These are great for baking, too. The Kitchenaid bowl is unwieldy with its handle and its wobbly base, so I do the measuring in the stainless bowls.

****Because I frequently punt and cut stuff up with scissors directly into bowls or pots if I'm cooking something vegetable-forward. For some things, like big clumps of shitake mushrooms, it's more efficient than doing the whole cutting board plus knife, then transfer rigmarole. I have lots of kitchen scissors because I use them all the time. At least one pair should be heavy duty chicken scissors in case you want to spatchcock a chicken at some point.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:47 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

IKEA has several series of very good containers at IKEA prices. You should always be wary of IKEA products, but their containers are excellent.

However, my daughter is a chef and she has introduced those very cheap square containers that are used in professional kitchens to our household, and I find myself using them more and more. Again, go to the restaurant supply store. They stack so well and fit into the fridge like a dream. They aren't pretty, though. Some of the IKEA glass containers are so nice, you can use them as serving dishes.

For instance now when I make a yeast dough, I make it directly in a large container, no mixing bowl required. I put a piece of tape where the top of the dough is, and put it in the fridge for an overnight rise. Then I can see if the rise is sufficient or the dough needs extra time on the countertop before shaping. So easy! And no filming required.
posted by mumimor at 7:57 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

An enameled Dutch oven, and a Lodge Multi-cooker are invaluable. Between the two of them, you can cover most of your pots and pans bases.
posted by soy_renfield at 8:24 AM on February 1

I have so much kitchen stuff I never use, or use very rarely. You will get way more stuff over time than you need over time.

I'd start with 1 mixing bowl. If you bake big stuff, get a big one. Mine I use most is pretty small.
A frying pan. Whatever kind.
A tall pan, for like making ramen or boiling spaghetti.
Mason jars for storage. It's way easier to find the lid.
A set of measuring cups and measuring spoon.
Can opener.
A decent knife. I prefer serrated blades, but your preference.
A crock pot.
An oven pan, maybe a square one you can make a cake or a roast in.

that's a good start right there.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:40 AM on February 1 [3 favorites]

I don't use cutting boards, I just use a plate. I don't like washing extra dishes, and plates fit easily in a dishwasher and cutting boards don't.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:41 AM on February 1

These jars

A Shelfy.

A convection oven.

These pans (the handleless ones will fit in the above oven).
posted by dobbs at 8:42 AM on February 1

I have issues with Water's generally, but her book "The Art of Simple Food" was gifted to me when I was a burgeoning home-cook. I still stand by the sections on outfitting a kitchen, and pantry. Invaluable organizational resource for an ethnically Anglo-American kitchen. Grab a copy from the library or used for like 5 bucks.

This question depends so much on how you cook. A rice cooker may be vital; it may be a giant waste. I could not function without a pressure cooker; as many have advised above, this is insanity to some folks. I use a Soviet pelmennitsa regularly; this is atypical for a north american kitchen. My neighbor owns a wok and uses it all the time; We do not own one, and wouldn't if we did. I use a sous-vide rig fairly regularly; many are able to function without even knowing what it is. The list continues.

Lots of good lists upthread, so I won't go over a whole list, but jus to highlight a few invaluable items. I cook a shit ton for my family of 3 (easily 6 nights a week, most meals on weekends, etc). Highest mileage cookware items by a long shot in our house are; enamel dutch oven, cast iron skillet (many sizes, but a 10" gets used most)*, carbon steel pan (a couple sizes, but again, the 10" gets used most)* and a 5qt pressure cooker. The pressure cooker doesn't need to be used with its lid, so, now you also have a 5qt pot.

*I like carbon steel and cast iron much, much more than nonstick pans; they last longer, are less problematic environmentally (even with better options available today), but do have a learning curve; even with that learning curve, they are not as fussy as many folks make them out to be. They also happen to be cheap, and built to last a few generations. The other reason we just default to these is because if you have nonstick cookware, you need plastic tongs and spatulas; I own a lot of kitchen stuff but hate doubling up on items. Having a plastic spatula and a metal spatula drives me mad.

Do not overlook both thrift and especially restaurant supply stores; they are often both cheap and bombproof.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:22 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

If budget is a concern, Victorinox has extremely well regarded paring and chef's knives at affordable price points. It's safer to use a good, cheap knife than a poor, pricier one.
posted by Candleman at 10:39 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

I cannot echo The_Vegetables loud enough. Wide-mouth 1-quart mason jars:

- cost about a US dollar and a half apiece
- store a perfect 1 eat of soup/roast veggies/sautées/curries, 1-2 eats of sauce, making them an excellent size for independent living
- designed to hold molten sugar and literally be boiled: also freeze, thaw, microwave - ALL the temps
- hold up to drops to an astounding degree (I’ve broken only 2-3 in my whole life, and I DROP shit)
- wide-mouth (NOT “regular”) stack modularly when lids are on, which helps save space in fridge/freezer
- 1-quart sizes fit under many shelf risers, making them easier to squeeze in to limited cabinet space as well
- lids do eventually wear out/rust but can easily be replaced (sold separately for canning), and the old ones can be RECYCLED (at least in some markets)
- clean up perfectly in a dishwasher, also super-easy to wash by hand (especially with a quick soak - glass is the best)
- can be used for dry food storage, last-minute to-go coffee cups, craft storage, making jam or pickles as gifts, vases
- don’t etch or show wear over time, and are effectively immortal unless they chip or break
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:52 AM on February 1 [5 favorites]

All-Clad pots and pans will last you a lifetime.
posted by hypnogogue at 11:57 AM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Stuff-reducing, washing-up reducing plan that works at ours:

Bowls and plates/saucers should be the right sizes to use plates/saucers as lids for temporary use -- marinating, rising dough, putting aside prepwork, a day or two of leftovers in the fridge. More uses of fewer stuffs.

Then, if you find yourself needing extra bowls, get a small stack of each useful size instead of a nesting set of many slightly different sizes. Less hunting with two hands through a stack, more certainty that recipe A requires one bowl of size Big and two Medium.


It's a pity no-one makes snap-on freezer lids for bowls that are really standardized (Corelle, a great deal of Japanese tableware, Fiestaware, Portmeirion, ??). We freeze in wide-mouth quart jars also, reasons as above. And glass peanut butter jars too because we have so many and they're surprisingly durable.
posted by clew at 11:59 AM on February 1 [1 favorite]

Oh lord. They should have closed the thread because I'm inspired to write a full-length response myself.

Before I share my own shopping list, my general guidelines:

* The more you're going to use it, the more you should look into reviews and see what is the most durable + bang-for-buck for your use case. Do not worry about "pretty" or "heirloom-quality" if you have a close-enough option. Also, many name-brands end up on sale around the holidays and/or have outlet stores or have sales of refurbished/certified items, which puts heirloom-quality stuff in the bang-for-your-buck category.

* If you're hand-washing everything, buy the stuff that makes that EASY. (and that includes cleaning supplies and drying racks - your sink should be CLEAR. Always! It's not a storage bin! No such thing as "pre-soaking", just pre-rinsing! Five minutes tops! Get nylon pan scrapers!) If you'll have a dishwasher, optimize for that (don't buy things you need to hand wash, where possible) & don't worry about wear/tear as long as you know the things you're washing will survive the first cycle.

* High quality knives >> high quality pans >> high quality utensils >> high quality appliances
(mostly, you really do need your knives to be GOOD, and the appliances are often passable when they're cheap)

* Most things you think might be luxuries are probably at a restaurant/kitchen supply store in a durable-enough format for cheap. My utensils are from a kitchen supply store. Plain but indestructible. Also the kitchen supply store knows where/when you can have your knives sharpened for you periodically.

* Have some go-to microwave-safe containers. Preferably glass or stoneware. Plastic, even if marked safe, will pit if subjected to oily sauces/foods. If you don't have enough for both storage AND cooking, just transfer to saved takeout containers for storage and clean the microwave-safe stuff for immediate re-use.

* Also if it's a deciding factor: round stuff always takes up more room than square stuff. Pots and pans often should be round. Storage containers really don't need to be.

The actual supplies I use the most:
Cookware: nonstick frying pan, enameled cast iron pot (5.5qt or higher, doubles as smallish stock pot and very large saucepan), 12in cast iron pan, couple of heatproof spatulas, wooden spoons, tongs, spatula/turner, strainer, whisk, ladle, can opener, sheet pan, roasting pan, aluminum disposable broiling pans. Throw in a utensil holder for the counter. Buy parchment paper to have alongside aluminum foil & plastic wrap.
Appliances: Slow-cooker, immersion blender, hand mixer
Prep: Inexpensive metal mixing/prep bowls, one Pyrex measuring/mixing cup, salad bowl, thin plastic cutting boards, 8" chef knife, paring knife, serrated bread knife
Serving: 4 dinner plates, 4 "plate-like bowls", 4 cereal bowls, small spoons, large spoons, forks, dinner knives, 2-3 large serving spoons.
Storage: Freezer-quality zip bags. Scavenge reusable takeout containers. Soup pint/quart containers, and rectangular entree containers with lids. These are all insanely durable now. Don't mix them up... save only the same ones from the same place. They will likely have logos/manufacturers on them if you're unsure (or the lids won't fit across containers, or they won't stack cleanly). But in a pinch, Rubbermaid and Ziploc make great durable containers/lids for both purposes & they stack very neatly in cabinets. Also make great prep containers, btw.

Not covered: pantry items, cleaning supplies, coffee supplies. You'll figure that out. Electric kettle and French press are a very good coffee setup.

I cook all the time. If you don't see it on this list? I probably have it and it's gathering dust 🤣

Brands: GIR (relatively new, make awesome utensils), HIC (amazing stoneware), Lodge, Le Creuset or Staub, Calphalon, OXO & Good Grips, Crock Pot, Pyrex (obviously), Victorinox, Henckles/Zwilling, Breville, Kitchen Aid.

Reviews: Cooks' Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen and The Wirecutter are good primary sources for recommendations.

Don't buy ANY of this stuff in a supermarket! Go to a small local storefront that sells most/all of these brands, if they have OXO and Le Creuset and Breville/Kitchen Aid appliances, you are golden to buy anything there. (Buy your dish rags and sponges there too) Only use IKEA to stand in for low-priced kitchen supply stuff that doesn't need to be ultra-durable, but the prices are right and you might be surprised by the longevity of a few things if you take care of them. (I've got 16-year-old pots from them I'm not getting rid of... but it was their 365+ stuff). The bigger dedicated chains that you might look at for this are Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table... they do shipping online... they are not cheap, probably going to rip you off for most of the stuff on this list (but you'll at least have it!)... for stuff like your prep knives and appliances they are a fair supplier. Stay out of their clearance sections unless it's the exact name-brand stuff you want.

One last note: about Instant Pot... I don't think you strictly need it. Its main use is for pressure-cooking. I think anything pressure-cooking counts as convenience that you can buy for yourself at a later date when you're sure you will use it. I bring it up because you do a lot of food prep, and a pressure cooker has done some miracles for me in that department.
posted by brianvan at 12:08 PM on February 1

Adding another point to the quart-size mason jar list:

- lids do eventually wear out/rust but can easily be replaced (sold separately for canning), and the old ones can be RECYCLED (at least in some markets)

The lids referenced here are the two-part lids that come with the jars and are designed to be used for canning. Which it's fine to use. But the Mason jar company (Ball Canning, for the record) also makes reusable and washable plastic screw-on lids for all their jars that you can also get instead and just re-use.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

My main piece of advice is: Acquire things slowly.

Know what kind of cook you are. Buy for who you *are* rather than aspirationally.

Never buy a gadget that only does one thing.

If you acquire a gadget, explore its every possible function.

If you acqure a gadget, know in advance what you want it for and what niche it will fill.

I know people who've bought an Instant Pot and it changed their lives, retired their oven, etc. I know people who'd say the same thing about an air fryer.

I own neither of these, not even a rice cooker. Someone tried to give me an Instant Pot; I couldn't fit it into either my kitchen or my life. I gave it away.

I recommend glass saucepan lids.

I recommend good pans that aren't non-stick. Non-stick limits its lifespan.

I recommend steel pans over aluminum.

Enameled cast iron is nice, but level up to it after you've cooked on steel for a while.

Plain cast iron is more damn trouble than it's worth, to me.

If you're feeling frisky, put up a friends-locked social media notice that you're establishing a kitchen and you'll be deluged with good second hand plates and cookware.

Best of luck.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:06 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

(Oh! You can get Corelle/Corningware snap on lids as replacements/afterthoughts. Very practical.)
posted by clew at 1:09 PM on February 1

Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything has a wonderful list. If you want a smaller list, his How to Cook Everything-The Basics is a good place to start. Get this from the library and copy the relevant pages. Read the list and decide what you want to get depending on what kind of cooking you will be doing. I don't bake so I have no bakeware.

ATK is a good place to get the recommended brands to look for. ATK gives you a budget option for many of these.

I would add a Rice Cooker and Instant Pot to the usual list of food processor and blender as being really useful.

For knives, I have the usual Chef's knife+ paring knife+ bread knife set; but I have found the 5" Chinese Cleaver to be my go to for most cutting/chopping needs. I have the Carbon Steel version which is a chore to keep clean, but takes a very sharp edge and easy to keep sharp using a honing steel.
posted by indianbadger1 at 1:55 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]

Not for the kitchen, but something like this will be incredibly useful.
posted by Ferrari328 at 3:00 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

You may be tempted to buy a bunch of stuff at once. Resist that temptation. You generally save money buying individual things as you need them over buying sets of things with stuff you don't use in them.

My essentials list would look like this:
  • Daily use dishes/flatware and utensils, enough that you don't have to wash dishes more than once per day, or that you can host a guest for a meal (plates, bowls, cups, forks, table knives, table spoons)
  • Small 2-3qt saucepan with lid
  • Non-stick skillet (10-12")
  • Nonstick-safe spatula
  • Chef's knife
  • Cutting board (cheap plastic is fine, avoid glass)
  • Large mixing and/or serving spoon
  • Set of measuring cups and spoons
  • Microwave-safe containers for leftovers, if you have a microwave and plan to use it
  • Can opener (I prefer safety can openers, but whatever works for you)
  • Bottle opener
You'll get quite a bit of mileage out of this equipment alone. Just about everything else (and yes, that includes things like instant pots and baking sheets and so forth) I would evaluate whether you need it based on the foods you plan to prepare. If you have a microwave or dishwasher, pay attention to whether the things you buy are microwave or dishwasher-safe and treat them accordingly. Note that china is not typically regarded as dishwasher safe, but if you're not precious about it I'd say go ahead and just use it and let what happens happen.
posted by Aleyn at 3:32 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

An Instant Pot is a terrible stand-in for a slow cooker, trust me. If you anticipate slow-cooking food, get a slow cooker and wait on an Instant Pot for its other uses.

My two aunts and grandmother and mother were great and prolific cooks and bakers, but they never had lots of stuff. (Tons of genuine-article Tupperware, though.) For some reason, Mom and Gram never had kitchen shears, which I find invaluable, or tongs.

So I'd say get some good kitchen shears and some tongs that feel comfortable. If you do bulk cooking, as I did a few years ago, you might want a set of extra measuring spoons and measuring cups.

Later on, you might want enough nice graduated-size glass bowls for mise en place of several recipes at once. They look so orderly and photogenic and make me feel like I know what I'm doing.

Nesting stainless steel bowls with non-slip bottoms and snap on lids would be nice.
posted by jgirl at 4:30 PM on February 1

If you anticipate boiling lots of pasta or other things that need to be strained, maybe get a pot with an integrated strainer in the lid. They're usually either glass or all-metal lids; glass is nice but it's heavier and every glass lid I've used so far eventually gets water trapped someplace where it either never dries or you have to dry it by hand in some fussy way.
posted by trig at 5:16 PM on February 1

I get the nicest spatulas (pancake turners) and other utensils at thrift shops. I prefer wood handles and metal not plastic, and I have stopped buying them but see them pretty often. You aren't supposed to use metal on teflon, but it's made by a toxic (PFAs) process and I avoid it. Same with my potato masher, big spoons, slotted spoons, tongs, etc. I find it v. useful to have a small spatula and a larger one, 2 pair of tongs. I've also gotten vintage measuring cups and spoons that I like, as well as most kitchen goods. Requires visiting often, but it's a sustainability practice for me. I prefer aluminum cookie sheets. I have the small tray and top broiler pan from a long ago toaster oven that is perfect for my needs. Thrift shops have so many dishes and mugs and glasses, many quite lovely. I can't resist a vintage mixing bowl but you only really need 1 and can use it for salads, too, and probably a pretty big stainless steel bowl. Corkscrew. A big cake pan and/or roasting pan is useful for roasting vegetables. A ladle. If you will roast a turkey or chicken, a big fork is handy. I own a big roasting pan with a lid, but a big pan and rack will do the job. I was given an absurdly large stock pot many years ago; it is worth the cupboard space because we sometimes have lobster. It is also filed with ice and beverages for events.

Rubber or silicon scraper spatulas; I ended up getting silicon and they work well and don't get gross or burn. Flatware - I've got vintage silverplate that has to be handwashed, but it was from craigslist and is a pleasure to use. I have small and large wood cutting boards. I am loyal to swingaway hand can openers. I drink Sam Adams so I need a bottle opener and was given a nifty one that is magnetic and lives on the side of the microwave. A couple paring knives, the ones at Ikea are not bad. Colander. Big strainer and tea strainer. A couple different sizes of Pyrex measuring cups. Big pitcher for iced tea. Knife sharpener. A lemon juicer is really handy, there are a bunch of types; I like the wooden reamer. A salad spinner is bulky but if you eat lots of greens, incredibly handy.

A good chef's knife - @ 7 - 8 inches is worth researching and spending a little money on. My Mom gave me a set of Revere pots and pans; I don't use the frying pans because she also gave me an excellent cast iron skillet that is effectively non-stick; you should be so lucky. Vegetable peeler - I am loyal to Ecko brand, but people love the handles on Oxo. Tea kettle and'or electric kettle. It took a long time, but I am now a champion of electric kettles. Start 1/2 the pasta water on the stove, 1/2 in the kettle, so much faster.

I have a favorite Asian restaurant; their takeout containers are the ones with a black container & clear lid. Sturdy, cheap, don't leak. Lg. yogurt containers are a good size, or qt. size deli soup containers. In my Mom's kitchen, there was a cupboard of containers and lids and jars that always fell out and lids and containers never matched. Big pet peeve. Limit the kind of container, have a bunch, lids should be interchangeable. For freezing soup/ broth plastic mayo or peanut butter jars; glass breaks.

I buy cloth napkins and dishtowels when they're on sale; they are easy to wash and pleasant to use. I use paper towels sparingly. The best pot holders are the handloomed ones. I made some a couple years ago and they are so sturdy but flexible.

I have arthritis in my hands, so I have ended up using campware enamel plates and bowls because they're light, sturdy, and I can use them outside. The pasta bowls are kind of flattened and great for salads and breakfast. I end up using the plates as universal pot lids that are easy to wash. I was given 4 pretty Asian blue & white ceramic soup bowls and now I buy blue & white Asian bowls which stack well and are nice to hold.

An immersion blender is really useful for smoothies, creamy soups, etc. Get one with a whisk attachment. Instant read thermometer is useful for bread and meat. I have a crock pot and recently got an instant pot but haven't used it yet. Keeping food warm in a crock pot is as handy as making slow-cooked soups and stews. I don't use my food processor often, but when I do, it makes short work of big tasks. I have a hand mixer, and a big old Kitchen Aid stand mixer that is attractive but not often used.

I recently had occasion to use the fire extinguisher for an oven fire, was glad I had it. A box of baking soda would have worked. Big list, but I thought about what I actually use often.
posted by theora55 at 7:23 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

A silicone muffin tray is really handy for doing a few things in bulk. Cooked brown rice freezes well. We keep a bag of rice muffins in the freezer, and when a rice base is needed, microwaving one or two for 60-90 seconds does the trick. Oatmeal freezes well to, but rice and oatmeal look alike when frozen, so label the bags.
posted by dws at 8:46 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]

I have yet to encounter a silicone (pet peeve note: not silicon!) spatula that isn't slippery and wubby to the point of utter uselessness. Wooden or steel or GTFO for me.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 PM on February 1

I've been hesitating about this, because people love their slow cookers and who am I to judge, but: Why You Shouldn't Buy a Slow Cooker.
Anyway, my basis philosophy is to not buy any appliances before you know what you really need. They are all ugly and take up a lot of space. I am not saying don't buy appliances, I have plenty myself. Just wait so you know what you need.
posted by mumimor at 2:22 AM on February 2

I've been hesitating about this, because people love their slow cookers and who am I to judge, but: Why You Shouldn't Buy a Slow Cooker.

A counter-argument with some additional ideas: After reading the article above, I think that a lot of the issues raised therein might be connected to the size of the slow cooker; the issues they report (they don't heat up quite as welll) are not ones I've ever experienced in my smaller slow cooker. Moreover, they are ones I've experienced with the slow-cooking setting on my Instant Pot. So if you'd still like to try a slow cooker, and you're leaning towards a smaller one, then you'll probably be fine.

That said - the article's argument that you can achieve the same thing with a Dutch Oven inside a regular oven is also fine, and a Dutch Oven is a damn useful thing. (I scored one at a thrift shop for only ten bucks and it's been fantastic.) The only caveat there, though, is that you may not be comfortable leaving the house for the couple hours that your Dutch Oven is in the regular oven; the advantage to the slow cooker is the convenience of having something you can throw food into before work and let it do its thing all day, without having to worry that you're going to come home and find your house has burned down.

Mind you, if you know you're not ever going to find yourself wanting to slow-cook your dinner while you're at work, or you work from home, then a Dutch Oven might be the way to go anyway; it's definitely more versatile. I've used mine as a soup pot on many occasions.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Useful items I forgot. Funnel. Graters; Mom gave me her vintage steel graters - Fine, Medium, Coarse - and they're very good at their task. Most box graters have a horrid panel that's meant to grate fine, but I find useless except for bloodying the skin of my knuckles. but if one has Medium and Coarse, that's enough.
posted by theora55 at 10:39 AM on February 2

I get the nicest spatulas (pancake turners) and other utensils at thrift shops.

I get mine at SPATULA CITY.

But really, the thrift shop idea is an excellent suggestion. I mentioned various glass bakeware in my reply earlier. This stuff is often easy to find at thrift shops. I keep having to restrain myself from buying more when we go thrift store hunting. The glass stuff lasts basically forever as long as you don’t break it (doesn’t warp, lose its coating, etc.) so if you find it at a thrift shop it’s likely going to last you a long time. To give you an idea, I needed a pan to bake some enchiladas in, so I picked up a cranberry Pyrex glass 9x13 baking dish while I was buying the ingredients. That was almost 30 years ago. I still use that dish on a very regular basis.
posted by azpenguin at 11:51 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]

Mod note: This post has been pulled off the shelf and added to the Sidebar and Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 5:42 AM on February 7

Response by poster: Thank you all so much. I have lists upon lists of what I'm going to need and where to go get it.

Y'all raised kitchen stuff I'd never thought of, but would use frequently. I feel a lot better about moving out on my own now.

Thank you again!
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:21 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

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