We don’t need to tell you that the benefits of being a dope home cook (impressing dates, saving money, eating healthy) are many. But somewhere along the way, a lot of us gave up on cooking for ourselves. Instead, we decided to outsource our culinary pleasure to the first halfway decent Thai spot on Seamless who would hear our cries. The reason? We didn’t have the right tools for the job.
Shopping for kitchen gadgets can be shockingly stressful, but we have a solution: go minimal. Forget about all those corny, single-use gadgets (melon baller, anyone?) and the crappy, dull knives you won in a bet in 2004. You only need a handful of tools to prepare and execute most dishes like a real culinary rockstar.
The secret, as always, is to invest in the best stuff you can afford and take good care of it with some basic, routine maintenance. Just like your closet, your kitchen should be an exercise in joyful, deliberate minimalism. It’s all about getting the maximum amount of utility from just a handful of key items. Join us as we show you the five things you need to awaken your inner chef.
GET A KILLER SKILLET
A cast iron skillet is indispensable—the classic navy blue blazer of cookware. If you only own one pan, a well-made, ovenproof skillet should be it. This kitchen workhorse is an absolute essential, so invest in quality. We recommend going big and getting a 12-inch version. Not only can it fit more food, the wider surface area will make reducing sauces a breeze. In terms of brands, Le Creuset is the king of the castle, but if dropping top dollar isn’t an option for you, Lodge and Staub are both excellent, too.
Along with a killer cast iron skillet, a gourmet chef’s knife is the other critical item for your grown-ass kitchen. For less than $150 you can and should buy a top-quality piece that will last a lifetime. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to shape and design, but we recommend a light, ergonomic knife, like this sleek model from Anthony Bourdain-endorsed Japanese knife kings Global. Pro tip: a sharp knife is a safe knife. Be sure to get it professionally sharpened twice a year, and for everyday use, cop a home-friendly sharpener and run it through that bad boy before you start chopping.
BUST OUT A COMBO MOVE
Much like kicking ass at Street Fighter II, curating your kitchen is all about executing combo moves. That’s why you should buy a sturdy saucepan with a matching skillet-style lid. In addition to obvious stuff like steaming rice, these dudes are perfect for small jobs like poaching a filet of salmon or sauteing fresh greens. And, if you invest in an attractive piece from a top brand like Le Creuset, you can make it the star of your spread and be the king of oven-to-table dining.
If you hate cleaning blenders (and who doesn’t?), handheld immersion blenders are awesome. Not only can you use the stick blender attachment to puree delicious soups and homemade pasta sauces, you can also throw on the food processor attachment and whip up some dope pesto, aioli, and salad dressing. The best part? Today’s models, like this chic and very affordable model from Cuisinart, are all dishwasher safe.
If you’re cooking gooey items like chicken quesadillas, or delicate dishes like buttery, French-style omelettes, you will definitely want to give your sturdy cast iron skillet a rest and bust out a slick, non-stick skillet) instead. The reasoning is simple: When you want a hard sear on something like a steak, you need high heat and a pan built like a tank. More delicate and cling-prone foods like eggs, however, benefit from the smooth surface of a non-stick pan. The good news is that unlike a cast iron skillet, which warrants spending some real money, a good non-stick skillet can be had for around $40.