You don’t need much equipment to have a well-stocked kitchen. A good set of knives and pans is essential. Fancy blenders, pasta machines, juicers, and the like are not. You don’t need a food processor or garlic press if you have a knife. A pan doubles as a meat mallet and baking dish. Buy the best quality knives and pans you can afford, and they will serve you well. Not only will they perform better,but they will last longer too, likely saving you money in the long run.
You can head over to your local big-box retailer and pick up a basic set of knives. Not even professional chefs need ten or more knives to run their kitchens. This shopping list is a good place to start:
- A 2- to 3-inch paring knife for peeling fruit and cutting smaller vegetables.
- A 5-inch boning knife for cutting around bones in meat. An 8-inch chef’s knife for all types of chopping.
- A 10-inch serrated or bread knife.
In terms of material, most knives are stainless steel. French knives tend to be softer, which makes them easier to sharpen but also more vulnerable to damage. German companies use harder steel, making them trickier to sharpen but also more resistant to wear and tear. Japanese knives are also made from very hard steel. They tend to be lighter and are usually the prettiest. In terms of brands, I like Wusthof, Shun, and Global. They’re not cheap, but their craftsmanship is outstanding. Part of caring for your knives and extending their lifespan is proper honing and sharpening. Sharpen a knife too frequently and you’ll wear it down. Sharpen it too infrequently and you’ll have a dull knife that requires more force to cut, which is dangerous. Also, never wash your knives (or anything sharp) in the dishwasher because it dulls them. Hand-wash them. You can test a knife’s
sharpness by, with one hand, holding up a sheet of paper by a corner with two fingers. With the other hand, bring the knife to an edge of the paper and try to run it through. If it cuts into the paper, it’s sharp enough. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. If you use a proper cutting board (more on that soon) and you hone your knives after each use, you shouldn’t have to sharpen your knives more than once every 3 to 6 months.