Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A first kitchen: Part 2 - Basic Equipment

My apologies for taking so long to follow up on the first post in my First Kitchen series. I've been spending the time mulling the question of where to begin and wanting to make sure that I got it right. My first instinct was to begin with a discussion about basic cookware - pots and pans - but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that before we get there, we have to address basic kitchen appliances with an eye towards identifying what is really necessary and what might be convenient or useful but could really be done without in a pinch.

I am going to suggest that there are only two kitchen appliances that are absolutely necessary in a person's first kitchen: a fridge and a stove. Do note that this series isn't about "the things that you need to get by in your dorm room in college"; this is a series about YOUR FIRST KITCHEN in your first house or apartment. The series presumes responsibility for your own food and your own diet and your own cooking.

Even if a person is intending to shop daily for food, a kitchen still needs cold food storage. Any reasonably healthy diet in this part of the world needs dairy and fresh produce, all of which need cold storage. Fortunately, rental spaces usually come with one and houses are built to accommodate one. Whether a fridge NEEDS a freezer or not is dependent, I think, on personal taste and on a person's shopping style. If you like ice cream, you're gonna need a freezer. If you want to buy things like meat in bulk to last for weeks and weeks, you're gonna need a freezer. If, on the other hand, you hate ice cream and you are going to shop every day for fresh food, then maybe you don't need a freezer. But the fridge, the fridge you need.

A person also needs a stove. It's tough to cook without heat and the stove (incl. oven) is the most versatile appliance out there for heating food. You can cook everything on a stove or in an oven, and in fact, that's where you SHOULD cook them. You can't saute an onion in a microwave and even if you could, why would you want to?

That's not to say that a good microwave or a toaster oven isn't useful and I think that most people would consider a microwave to be a pretty standard addition to a kitchen. I think I'll save further discussion about small(er) appliances for another day as this post has gone on long enough already.
Thoughts? Comments? Disagreements? Ringing endorsements? Please contribute in the comments!


  1. I think a person alone might manage with a cook-top and a toaster oven...for the hotting up of food. A person alone after cooking for most of her adult life manages without a "big oven" nearly all the time, although it IS a wonderfully handy place to store the iron frying pans...a great deal can be done -- and has been done! -- with a good, deep electric frying pan too, esp. if it has a nicely domed lid.

  2. Thanks for the comment, CR!!

    I think you''re right that a person could manage with less than a full oven/stove, but I guess I was thinking about a person right at the beginning of their kitchen adventures, really learning to cook and more than simply managing, but having the opportunity to flourish and experiment in the kitchen. So in my mind, a stove and oven provide the most versatility in a single appliance for doing that. The oven is a lot of appliance for a single person though; I hear you.

    The electric frying pan is a useful piece for the "small appliance" discussion, fo' sure, especially for one-pot cooking, of which I'm a super-fan.

  3. There is a discussion to be had about a BBQ too, but I might ask the husband to write that piece. If a person has grown up with BBQ, it might be an essential for a first kitchen!