If you’re starting out on your own, or planning a wedding and registering for your first set of kitchen equipment, you may not know where to begin. If you have a good cookbook, like The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook or the Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book, you may find a list in the front of the book. If you register at Williams-Sonoma, they provide a whole kit with lists of what you should register for. If nothing else, get the list from Williams-Sonoma and register elsewhere (though you might as well register at W-S; they have wonderful cooking equipment and great customer service). Now, to my list.
In my opinion, the most important equipment you should have is a good set of sharp kitchen knives, including a pair of kitchen shears and a knife sharpener. If you have to choose and can only buy a few good knives, select a paring knife, a chef’s knife (6″ or 8″), and a serrated bread knife. Sharp knives are actually safer than dull ones. They require less pressure, and thus yield more control by the user. Also, if one does accidentally cut oneself, a straight cut heals more quickly than a jagged laceration. My favorite brands include Shun, Henckel, and Wusthoff.
The next thing you will need is a cutting board. Regardless of what Rachel Ray says, you should NEVER use a plastic board for raw meat. Plastic is fine for vegetables and fruits, but it tends to hold bacteria in the pores of the board. Wood contains natural anti-bacterials that will help kill off any bacteria the meat leaves behind. Regardless of what board you use, be sure to sanitize them, and never cut on your countertops unless they are designed to be used in that fashion (most are not).
As for cookingware, obtain a 10-12″ omelet pan, a 4 qt. saucepan, a dutch oven, and a 8-12 qt. stockpot. You may want to get multiple sizes. Make sure that each pan has a lid that fits well and can go in the oven. I suggest the Emeril’s set; you can get this in stainless steel or nonstick.
As for bakingware, I use as much stoneware as I can. Find a glazed stoneware if you can (I recommend checking out TJMaxx for inexpensive yet high quality glazed stoneware). If I had to pick one stoneware pan to get, it would be a large bar pan (see http://www.PamperedChef.com
for what it looks like; it’s also sometimes called a jelly roll pan, 15x10x1″). Other stoneware pans I recommend are muffin pans, casserole pan, pizza pan, 2 pie plates, a loaf pan (or pans) and a square pan (8×8″ or 9×9″). You can buy a separate baking sheet for cookies, or use the bar pan for such jobs.
As for other essential tools, here’s my list:
blender (Osterman is a good brand)
can opener with a bottle opener
colander (for straining vegetables or pasta)
corkscrew (if you like cooking with wine)
first aid kit (every kitchen should have one)
grater (try to find one with multiple size grating options for grating everything from spices to cheese)
hand mixer (if you can afford a food processor or standing mixer, like a Kitchenaid, enjoy it and use it)
hot pads or mittens
ice cream scoop (can be used for scooping muffins into mufin pans)
mixing bowls (get a variety of sizes, at least 3; glass is recommended, though one metal bowl is recommended for items that whip better in chilled bowls, as metal retains the cool temperatures the longest)
pastry cutter and pastry brush
serving spoons: ladle, slotted spoons, pasta server, mesh skimmer and pancake turner
spatulas (preferably, one small, one medium, and one large, for various jobs)
set of measuring spoons (1/4 tsp., 1/2 tsp., 1 tsp., 1 Tbsp.) and measuring cups (1/4 c., 1/3 c., 1/2 c., and 1 c.)
whisk (my favorite is the ball whisk because it’s easiest to clean – instead of the ends being connected, each whisk wire is separate with a small ball at its end)
wire cooling rack
wooden spoons and spatulas
You may also consider getting a toaster oven that has a convection oven feature on it. This will eliminate the need for a toaster and allow you to cook small portions without using the energy of your conventional oven. I personally do not own or use a microwave oven, but if you do, make sure that any of your dishes that you put into the microwave are microwave-safe.
As for setting a beautiful table, I recommend sticking with white dishes, including serving dishes. To add color to your table, decorate the table with placemats, napkins, and a fresh flower arrangement. Corningware has some great white serving dishes. Also, you’ll want matching flatware (or silverware, if you can afford it).
This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope it is helpful.