Fuck, Marry, Kill: Kitchen Edition [Elbows on the Table]

I grew up in a commercial kitchen that also included a fully stocked “prep” kitchen one floor up, two walk-in butler pantries and a detached dry food storage as large as a garage behind the house. I was not reared in a hotel or army base but with a mother who believed why do less when you can have the best? Because of this, she could throw a dinner party for two dozen guests, bake a wedding cake or jerky an entire deer without going to the store (I have witnessed all of these things too many times to count growing up).

Since I was raised in a culinary Xanadu, I know that someone should have a nine gas burner stove with 36 inch convection oven and griddle attachment. However, I am also a bit of a gypsy and in a whirlwind in the heat of passion I will start off to a new city and new life with only what fits in my hatchback. Everyone needs certain things in your kitchen but not everything needs to be purchased at Sur la Table. There are a couple items you have forever, some you buy cheaply and toss and more things are money pits you are fooled into thinking you need.

If you are right out of college, a bachelorette with only a can and wine opener or just need to revamp your favorite room, here’s a handy list that shows you what to invest in, buy on the cheap because you didn’t pack it and what you should save money on and avoid completely.  Just like the relationship game: some you marry, some you fuck ’em and leave ’em and some you outright should kill.

NOTE: I consulted my culinary genius that is loins of my fruit on my list (aka-my mother). Her must-haves were thirty items long and included gems such as this: a ceramic bread bowl large enough to rise four loaves of bread at once (non-negotiable). She is also a person who owns 10,000 pounds of wheat and used to grind it into flour everyday to make bread and pancakes. My list respectfully disagrees with her definition of necessity.

 A Good Chef’s Knife. Sometimes this has been all I have had in the kitchen because one can always go raw with fruits, veggies or even your own kibbeh nayyeh. If you buy a bad knife you are flushing all of that money down the toilet and setting yourself up for frustration because cutting a tomato is arduous. This will run you around $100 but it is something you will never replace. A dull knife is as useless as a crummy one, so also invest in a sharpening stone or commit to frequenting your farmer’s market where they will oblige you at $5 a pop.

Crockpot. I know it may seem dated and unnecessary but it is both a life and money saver. Sometimes I really don’t feel like cooking because of crummy weather or a crummy attitude. A crockpot is a cure for all that ails you. Dig out that roast in the back of your freezer and chop your leftover onions, carrots and potatoes. Salt, pepper, add water, cover and forget until dinner. Nothing is more comforting. And if you have a date, nothing is more heartwarming, than classic slow cooked food. Crockpots are inexpensive so don’t settle for generic. If you buy one that is good and treat it well you will have it for decades. Mine was inherited and was a housewarming gift from my mother’s first apartment.

Cast Iron Skillet. These are actually more coveted the older they get. The only time I use a pan instead of my cast iron skillet is when the skillet is already occupied. They cook evenly, are easily popped in and out of the oven and makes the best fried chicken you will ever eat. As an added benefit, if you are anemic, cooking regularly in these pans adds a ton of iron to your diet.

Mixing bowls. You shouldn’t spend more than a few bucks on these. There is no such thing as too many bowls and you want them in all different sizes. I prefer metal because you need that chemical reaction for certain egg based dishes and they hold up well to everyday culinary warfare.

Decent Commercial Serving Spoons (pierced and regular) and a Ladle or two. Plastic utensils are flimsy and crummy and if you’re anything like me, half of them are half-melted because you left them too close to the burner. Commerical metal spoons are the way to go. They are large, stiff and can withstand the hardest of ice creams.

Coated Nonstick Cookware
: These were created back when butter and olive oil was the devil and nonfat cheese and hydrogenated oil margarine was the key to health. It is impossible to not have these scratch, which adds flecks of teflon in your scrambled eggs. They are about as durable as aluminum foil so if you ever expose them to heat or banging they will be dented-for-life.

Appliance accessories du jour. I’ve happily said au revoir to yoghurt makers, egg cookers, hot dog cookers, food processors galore, popcorn poppers, onion choppers, ice choppers, sandwich griddles, drink mixers, ice cream makers, panini grills, ad nauseam, ad infinitum… They look cool, but after the novelty wears off (usually after about a week), they just clutter your counter space and gather dust.

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featured image credit: joannova, a/k/a foodalogue