My cousin Claude asks a $1,000 question…

Last week my cousin Claude posted this on my Facebook page.

“JD! so I’m finally getting my own place, which means, I need my own kitchen stuff…any recommendations on knife brands? pots and pans as well, but I’ll probably get those for free from friends… CHOP CHOP!”

I’m not sure he was expecting what follows as my reply, but here it is. In this first post I’ll talk about basic kitchen equipment, the kinds of things I use. Then we’ll move on to pans and baking, and finally knives.

Over the past couple years I’ve learned many important lessons through trial and error about the must-haves for the home cook. Though this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list (exhausting, maybe), I think it covers most of the basics, with my personal experience weighing in on certain products and most importantly, a mind for value. Composed here is my guide for an on-a-budget home kitchen supply shopper; it is reasonable to say you could get all or most of these products, or careful approximations, for around $1,000 total. Considering all the horrible purchases I’ve made myself, that’s a pretty good deal!

Bottom line, don’t spend too much money on any kitchen supplies until you have really clear ideas about what you want. The one exception I always made was for useful pieces of equipment like stand mixers (sausage grinding attachments! Personally, I use a 1000 Watt Viking, but Kitchen Aid makes one that is much smaller, and more suitable for the average person’s needs, and is much cheaper), blenders (everyone puts off purchasing one of these, but they’re super valuable. Don’t sell yourself short and wait till one of your friends gives theirs up after a short-lived smoothie or blended cocktail phase) and food processors (I splurged and got a super-pro Cuisinart. I don’t use it a ton but it’s nearly indestructible and it’s always great to have around). Also, a spice/coffee grinder is a good gizmo to have…available for about 10 bucks at a Walgreens or CVS, they’re useful for making fresh chili or spice powders, also for grinding rice for making horchata or pulverizing coarse grains to a less substantial size for sprinkling into doughs for texture. At home, I actually have two.

Two other gadgets I might have mentioned are: a good toaster oven (that means don’t just grab the first one you see at the Salvation Army!!) and a rice cooker. Both are versatile tools that take up little space.

Up next…pots and pans and baking tools!! I never thought I’d be so excited!!