How to Outfit Your First Kitchen
Last week you met Caroline, the Innkeeper at a beautiful little Bed & Breakfast called Stonehurst Place in the heart of midtown Atlanta.
I've had the utter pleasure of sitting at Caroline's breakfast table on numerous occasions and chatting with her about seemingly insignificant things... the weather, the fascination of running a B&B, relationships, and other such topics, like my new found love for the kitchen. For as long as I can remember what I've enjoyed most is talking with folks that are far more experienced than I am in areas of personal interest and taking in their advice to make changes to my life for the better.
During one of my most recent visits, one of the topics that Caroline and I could have gone on forever about was how to properly outfit a new kitchen. I was venting my frustrations to her around the fact that my kitchen is so small, so space is of essence and that I more often times than not am cooking for only one. Top that with the fact that I do a lot of traveling and it makes for a fun challenge in knowing what necessities to buy to cover basic needs when deciding to stay in and cook versus going out to dinner, something I love and do so often.
Based on this very conversation Caroline took matters into her own hands (as I'm not the first person she's heard this all from before) and has written an article covering tricks of her trade offering up advice on the best approach on getting started. I've had the privilege of hearing most of this first hand so Caroline and I thought it would only make sense to share her humble wisdom with you. She starts with a focus on Preparation Utensils but knows there is so much more to it than just these simple starters. Over the next several weeks she'll be providing more insight into several different categories including (Cooking Items, Baking Items, Serving Items, Storage Items and Small Appliances). Don't worry, I'll help you keep track by providing you updates on these new releases and summarizing the advice I've taken to make my own kitchen at home functional. So let's get started...
Preparation utensils are those items you need to peel, chop, strain, stir, etc. As she states, for many of these items you will find a personal preference and you will try several before you find "your favorite." But I agree and have taken her advice as she strongly suggests a good sturdy set of stainless steel measuring cups and spoons; they will last forever. Wooden or bamboo (which is all the rave) chopping blocks are now considered safe as along as you wipe clean after each use. A wooden rolling pin is a must too (you can find smaller sized ones at Whole Foods for those of you in apartments or with limited drawer space). I'll share some yummy homemade pizza recipes in upcoming blogs to put this tool to good use.
I never appreciated Caroline's advice on a good set of knives until I had the luxury of using my neighbor's Shun & Zwilling Henckels knives, both brands that were once foreign to me. (Mind you this borrowing tactic was not an easy feat as he's more protective of these tiny tools than most are of their first born child, and God forbid I get one of his knives anywhere near the dishwasher... more on him in another blog). I don't believe you have to spend a fortune on these to get yourself started as I have yet to take the plunge, but if you have the opportunity to borrow someone else's knives to get a feel for what works for you or are able to take a cooking course/knife skills class that will certainly help you get comfortable with making a larger purchase eventually.
Take Caroline's advice and get started with a small paring knife, a "chef" knife for chopping, serrated knife for slicing breads, boning or trimming knife for removing fat from meats, good pair of kitchen shears and sharpening wand. I can personally say that I plan on starting with at least a pairing knife and a chef knife. These things take time so don't feel rushed to buy them all at once and as we progress in our cooking we can add more "speciality" knives as we go along.
The final piece of advice from Caroline, which I love and I didn't receive until it was too late, was to save room in your kitchen by eliminating things like a garlic press and a pizza cutter. There are ways to often times do things more efficiently with the tools you already have on hand, for example using your chef's knife to loosen the garlic or to cut your pizza.
Renee Woodruff blogs about travel, food and living life to its fullest on Shape.com. Follow her on Twitter. Tune in for her next TASTE blog to meet a man that will make you want to clean your plate!