If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you are likely to build up quite a supply of pots, pans and gadgets. I, myself, am a bit of a gadget slut. I don’t think I’ve ever met a gadget or specialized pot that I didn’t crave. Luckily, I adhere strictly to a “sleep on it” rule that doesn’t let me indulge in impulse buying. It works 99% of the time. The other 1% results in me owning ridiculously specialized things like the egg poacher that’s been taking up space in my cabinet for about 5 years now. In five years, I have not once thrown the lavish brunch featuring perfectly poached eggs that I envisioned when I bought that pot!
Aspirations are great, but very few of us live the kind of lives featured in Williams Sonoma catalogs. If you are cooking in-between the rest of a busy life, the following pieces of equipment are essential to that effort as they allow for cooking for multiple nights and re-heating quickly. I’ve included links for visual examples of the equipment, but you should shop around to find brands at prices that suit your budget. Don’t feel the need to buy everything at once. Restaurant supply wholesalers are an excellent place to shop for all these items without the brand names at steeply discounted prices. The links are all to Williams Sonoma for convenience not as an endorsement.
- Slow Cooker (aka Crock Pot), 5 or 7 qt capacity: This is the busy cooks best friend. You can feed yourself for a week off of the stews you can produce, but they can do a lot more than create stews.
- Braiser, 3.5qt: It’s not as limited as its name would suggest. This pan sees a lot of use in my kitchen – I do everything in it from braising to roasts to sautéing to pasta sauces.
- Roasting pan: Chickens, leg of lamb, beef, all find their home here, but it can also be used for casseroles.
- Dutch Oven, 3.5qt capacity: Soups, stews and, as its name suggests, stocks.
- Stainless steel fry pans, 8,10 and 12 inch
- Stainless steel saucepans, 2 and 3 qt capacity
- Knives, Chef’s knife, bread knife, pairing knife (see my post on “Essential Knives” for more details)
- Toaster oven: It obviously toasts, but most good quality modern toaster ovens can basically substitute for your actual oven for many functions. It heats up faster than an oven and so it can be a great tool for cooking small portions. If you get one with convection, it will even reduce cooking time. I often use mine to bake/broil single servings of fish and meat.
- Vitamix Blender: This blender is crazy expensive, and it took me a long time to get on board with such an expensive purchase. However, it is one of the most versatile tools in my kitchen. It has basically put my food processor out of business. Soups, sauces, chopping prep, grain grinder, juicer, sorbet-maker – Best. Tool. Ever! It really puts all other blenders to shame in terms of quality of finished product. Shop around online and you can often find them quite a bit cheaper than the Williams Sonoma model linked to here.
- Plastic storage containers: The value of being able to properly store extra portions and freeze them until needed cannot be overstated. A supply of plastic containers in a variety of sizes is a must. Build a supply by buying a few and retaining some of those takeout containers.