Monday, April 13, 2015

Ghost's Kitchen: Stocking Your Kitchen Tools

Hello everyone welcome to a new segment of this blog called Ghost's Kitchen.

I figured since I do my video game, movie, and TV stuff under my old character name of Ghost then I might as well continue with it here.

I have come across several people in my immediate sphere of influence who don't really know how to cook or are intimidated by it either because they lack the confidence and instruction or they simply have never needed to learn before now.   I also know just as many people who cook wonderful meals and have for several years who are looking to perhaps increase their recipe library with simple things for themselves or their family.  I'm hoping that this will satisfy one or possibly even both groups of people with each entry.  

Today we're going to start off with something basic before we get into recipes and tips.  Today we're going to talk about stocking your kitchen with the proper tools.

Yes yes, I know.  There are going to be several of you all who absolutely do not need this information whatsoever.  This one is mostly going to be for people who haven't really had the need to cook before but want to get started.  Plus it's a way to sort of base-line what tools we will be most commonly using during the rest of my series of food related blog posts.

Stocking Your Kitchen Tools
(a.k.a. The Broke College Kid's Kitchen Starter Kit)

Few things can be as frustrating as starting a job without the right tools whether you're trying to build something but don't have enough nails or you're playing a game and find out way too late that you've left a required item stuck in a barrel at your house.  The same is true with cooking.  If you don't have the right tools and/or enough of them, cooking a meal can become incredibly difficult and frustrating.  Now there's something to be said about improvising with what you have but sometimes that's just not going to cut it for certain things.

The below pictures show items which I feel every kitchen should be stocked with.  Obviously some of these things are negotiable depending on your preferences and taste but if you have all of these things in your kitchen you'll be prepared for most normal meals that you would fix and probably all of the recipes that I will ever cover on here.

To start off with, you will need access to your basic kitchen appliances and features.  Things such as a sink, refrigerator/freezer, oven, stove top (if not part of the oven), and microwave are necessary to make most things we'll be discussing in later installments. This may seem painfully obvious, but some of you reading this may be currently living in a dorm at college where you quite simply don't have these things.  For those of you which that applies to, hopefully if you wish to practice your culinary skills you have a friend with a house or apartment, or you can head home and practice with your family.  Once you have gained access to those essentials, it's time to make sure you have/have access to the following items.

A. Can Opener - I suggest spending a little extra money here.  The cheap can openers are cheap for a reason as they either don't work or will cause physical pain in trying to operate it.  Don't go overboard but don't buy the Dollar Store one.  The one pictured here was bought at Target for $14... a little pricy for me at first but it was fully worth every penny.

B. Spatula/Turner - I have two of these so I don't have to keep them clean and ready because sometimes I'll use mine more than once a day.  You don't need to spend a lot of money here as long as the product is sturdy.  A flimsy turner is as good as a Kleenex

C. Slotted Spoon - Good for stirring things which are cooking in a pot.  Also good for serving these things and more.  Pretty self explanatory and will be used often.

D. Wooden (NOT BAMBOO) Slotted Spoon - Good for stirring things that require something to be a little more sturdy like brownie mix, chilli, and mac n cheese.  Also good to put over a boiling pot of pasta to help avoid boil over (will cover this in a later post)  Why not Bamboo?  Because you need a porous wood for the pasta boil over trick to work.

E. Ladle - Used for stirring and serving things like chilli and soup.

F. Pasta Stirrer - Used primarily for stirring and serving spaghetti, linguine etc.  The teeth help to grab the pasta and keep it in the spoon.

G. Whisk - Used for beating whipping and stirring ingredients.  Most often used for desserts or making omelets.

H. Knife Set - You need to look for a set that has at minimum a set of scissors, a small knife, and a large knife/cleaver.  Most knife sets will have multiples of these or different kinds but these 3 will be the ones you use most often.  This is going to be the most expensive thing on the list.  Similar to the can opener you get what you pay for with knives.  Spend extra money or ask for a knife set for Christmas or something.  If you absolutely cannot afford a nicer set, a cheap set will still work; you'll just be putting in extra elbow grease and energy in using them.  I had a cheap dull set for years that I thought was perfectly fine till my dad bought me a fairly expensive set that cut me even if I look at them.  So if you can afford a good set spend the money, if not get something cheap till you can upgrade!

I. Paring Knife - This tiny little knife can actually be quite useful.  I mostly use this to make curved cuts in things, check if the center of brownies and the like are done etc.  It's kind of a multi-tool in my hand.  It seems a bit redundant if you have a full knife set but trust me you'll end up using this bad boy more often than the others.

J. Measuring Spoons - Pretty self explanatory.  As you can see I just have a cheap plastic set.  Just remember which spoon is which measurement when the measurement starts wearing off from washing and you'll be fine. 

K. Measuring cups - You can probably get by with only having one 2 cup glass measuring cup but I would highly suggest getting a 1 Cup, a 2 Cup and a 4 Cup because you never know what you might end up making and needing it for.  I use the 1 cup and 2 cup ones most often.

L. Plastic Mixing Bowl - You may be thinking "well why not just use a regular old cereal bowl or something instead of buying a mixing bowl?"  Well that's a good question...tell me your own answer to that when you try to mix seasonings with 2lbs of raw meat in a cereal bowl.   You may not use this all the time but it's size is incredibly helpful.

M. Skillet/Pan - This is for cooking many many many things.  I would suggest buying a 12 inch skillet as that will easily fit most things you would ever need to make in it unless you plan on feeding a family of 10.  I can easily fit 6 burgers in my 12 inch skillet.  Most Pot and Pan sets have an 8 inch and a 10 inch skillet and if that's what you have that's fine and at times you may find that you need 2 skillets but from my experience and the kind of things I cook, I haven't found that a necessity.

N. 11x15 Glass Casserole Dish - *you could also use a 9x13 pan as most recipes call for that*  I prefer using the 11X15 pan because of a couple dishes I make which need a little extra room for stuff to actually fit and cook through.  Yes that means I end up with thin brownies when I use this one but if that's the only drawback then I'll take it!  You'll use this for things like brownies, cakes, casseroles and a chicken dish that I will be covering at a later time.   Sometimes these will come in a pack with a smaller casserole dish as well.  If you find a combo pack get that because the small one can be used for things like banana pudding.

O & P. Pots - Generally pots come in a set with pans so if you end up getting that then you should be good.  Unlike skillets/pots, I find that I regularly need two pots.  Generally a very large one for things like chilli and pasta and a small one for things like green beans, spaghetti sauce, and carrots.  If both of them have a lid then that's excellent but you will definitely need a lid for the small one as most things that end up being prepared in that one tend to pop and spew stuff all over you and you kitchen (I'm looking at you spaghetti sauce!)

Q. Colander - There are many kinds of colanders on the market and I'll be honest with you.. they all work pretty much the same.  You can have a silicone one with a handle, a large cheap plastic one, one that hangs on your sink, or a metal one...doesn't matter.  They are to drain water off your food when you're fixing spaghetti or other things that you may boil in water.   Save some money and run to the dollar store for this one.

R. Cookie Sheet/Baking Pan -You'll probably want a couple of these in various sizes but to start off with you'll only NEED one large one.  This is for baking practically everything from biscuits to cookies to chicken.  Don't worry about spending a lot here because I've had both expensive ones and cheap ones and they all end up looking like they crawled out of a ghetto back alley within a couple years... which is why you have...

S. Aluminum Foil - Use this to cover your baking pan so that the inevitable unhappiness of the pan doesn't get on your delicious food.  You can also use this to wrap leftovers or put ingredients in and place on a grill or fireplace if necessary.

T. Silicone Oven Mitt - You'll need this for pulling out that cookie sheet from the oven unless you just don't like having flesh on your hand.  Why silicone?  Easy Cleanup!  I would avoid ones that are fabric like the plague because they don't insulate anywhere near as well as the silicone.  Also if you happen to get grease or anything on the mitt, if it's silicone it'll just wipe off.  If the mitt is fabric it will need to go into the washing machine and could shrink making it unusable (not that THAT'S ever happened to me before grumble grumble)

U. Cutting Board(s) - Cutting boards are essential so you don't butcher your kitchen counter with that expensive sharp knife you just bought.  There are multiple kinds of these but I would avoid wooden ones because of their porous nature where the juices from different meats can get into them.  I'm sure a good scrubbing or running it through the dishwasher will eliminate those problems but why not just use a plastic one and not worry?  You can have one simple cutting board like the white one on the right that you'll have to wash off if you are cutting multiple kinds of things or you can find a four pack like the ones on the left where there is a designated cutting board for vegetables, beef and pork, fish, and poultry.

V. Small Glass Bowl - These can come in a four pack (or larger) or may even come with your 11X15 glass casserole dish.  This one is more on the side of "you don't really need this" but I find it incredibly handy.  I use it to put sauces and oils in that I plan on brushing on to meats when I cook.  They can also be used as mini icecream bowls!

W. Brush - This is simply used to brush on sauces and oils to meat and other foods.  They come either as the one above or in a silicone variety.  Both have their ups and downs and it depends on what you want.   My fiber brush brings a lot of liquid with it but you have to blast it with water to get them all out.   The silicone one gets cleaner faster but you have to dip it in the liquid more often.  Take your pick

SHEW that was a long list

Now this is nowhere near the amount of kitchen supplies you could purchase or perhaps even need.  There are some things I will be using later on that I haven't mentioned here such as a glass bowl, or a burger patty maker. There are certain things that serve very specific purposes that you don't generally need on a daily basis such as a flour sifter, and a wok.  There are a lot of expensive items that can make your life easier such as a blender, hand or stand mixer, or a toaster oven. The purpose of this entry was not to fully get your kitchen to where you have every single thing imaginable, but rather was to get you to a base point where you could adequately make food for the average person.

Obviously if you can't afford to get this all at once improvise as much as you can or need.  Slowly stockpile these things over a few months or if you are lucky enough to still have your parents living ask them for help acquiring these things.  From my experience, parents will buy these kind of items ten times over before spending money on a video game or movie for you. Don't be too proud, just ask them and I'm sure they'll be impressed with the decision you have made and help as they can.

Yeah there's just a few more things that you should consider keeping stocked up on for your kitchen to help you make the best food possible.  That's right I'm talking about a barebones set of spices, seasonings and oils!

X. Cooking Spray - simple aerosol cooking spray is a necessity for most things that you will cook so that your food doesn't stick to whatever you are cooking it on.  I chose canola oil but you can use vegetable oil or any other variety.

Y. Vegetable Oil (not pictured) and Olive Oil - Vegetable oil is your standard go-to oil that most cakes and brownies ask for and is a necessity from that aspect.  However when I'm doing basically anything else I end up using Olive Oil.  When mixed in with food it keeps things incredibly moist and adds a slight bit of good flavor to the food.  It's a key ingredient in making good salmon and turkey so that they don't dry up like sand.

Z. Salt and Pepper - If you don't already have this in your house I don't know what you are doing with your life, I really don't.  If you don't have this get it and slap yourself for not having it already because this gets used in too many things to count.

AA. Garlic Powder - I personally love garlic and don't have time to deal with fresh garlic so garlic powder became something I use fairly often like in my turkey burgers or omelets.

AB. Cinnamon Sugar - This one won't be used as much but it can be used for things such as sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries, cheesecakes, and a plethora of other desserts.  It's a good thing to have handy just in case.

AC. Various Seasonings That You Enjoy - It's always good to keep well stocked on a few seasoning blends that you enjoy and go with multiple dishes so you can pull something out at the last minute.  I tend to prefer Weber brand seasonings because they just appeal to me and taste incredible.  The ones I use most often are their Old Bay, Zesty Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Herb, Kickin' Chicken, and Gourmet Burger.  I highly suggest checking them out and giving them a taste for yourself.  If that's not your thing then find something you enjoy!

Well that's about it.  As I've said before this may not be all that you want or need but this will provide you a good base of which to grow from.  I don't claim to know everything there is to do with cooking or probably even 1/10th of anything about it but I do what I can and the people I have cooked for seem to enjoy it and that's all that matters.  If you enjoy yourself and others find your cooking appetizing then you have succeeded.  If you think I've missed something that people would find essential to starting out then please leave a comment on here or on Facebook!  I'd love to hear from you and learn myself.

This is Ghost fading into the darkness!
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If you want to see my other food topics and recipes then simply click here!

1 comment:

  1. its always better to get a good knife set save and skrimp for it other wise well ask wes what i did with his old one. and when you cant cut anything but yourself not worth it. atleast i am feliting my steak and finger!!!! the friendly kitchen recipe guru.