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So you’re learning to cook. Or at least trying to. And everything can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re cooking for someone other than just yourself. Whether you’re starting to learn to cook from scratch, moving out for the first time, or just stuck in a bit of a rut with your cooking skills, this back to basics cooking post is a must read.
Moving into university accommodation or your first home, shared or solely owned, means you’re probably not likely to have all the fancy kitchen appliances you may have had access to when living with your parents. You’re back to basics in every sense of the word, stocking up on store cupboard essentials from scratch, and possibly don’t have the most well-equipped kitchen as a starting point. But please don’t worry.
Why Back To Basics?
As long as the kitchen you’re working in has 4 walls and an oven there’s hope. Plus, you’re reading this back to basics post so you’re already well on your way! While a bad workman always blames his tools, the truth of the matter is you can prepare anything with just a few essential pieces of equipment and a well-stocked cupboard.
To get you started, I’ve listed below the kitchen essentials to help you begin your journey to being more than an “alright” cook. Some things you’ll have already gathered over the years I’m sure, but I’ve listed some of my favourites, and the essentials I sorely missed when I was both at university and living on my own.
1. Set of Saucepans
These are truly an essential. If you’re planning on doing any cooking at all, you’ll most likely need a minimum of 3. Taking it back to basics, you probably could start off with just a small, medium and large saucepan. This will allow you to cook different ingredients at the same time, and therefore your meal will come together so much easier. But one thing you absolutely must look for is non-stick in pots. I adore these non-stick pots, and you can buy them as individual saucepans or the set of 3.
1.1 A Large Frying Pan With A Lid
This is less of an essential, but I do highly recommend a large frying pan. I always found I needed 2 frying pans, but I made do with a saucepan lid on them or a large plate if necessary. But my preference was always to have 1 small frying pan (for fried eggs or pancakes) and a large one for anything else. A set like this Tefal 5 piece set is perfect if you’re looking for the 3 saucepans and 2 frying pans. While you may want to opt for a cheaper option, the key thing to remember is making sure they are durable. There’s no point saving money on buying a cheaper set if you’re going to have to replace them 3 times while someone else uses the one more expensive set. Keep an eye out for deals in August and September when supermarkets and other shops begin to offer student bundles and discounts.
2. A Good Set of Knives
Here again it’s the quality of the knives that matter. I personally fell in love with the IKEA knives a friend had at university. However my parents had bought me good ones from Lakeland. So while knife preference is very much down to the individual, my main advice is to try and buy a couple of different sizes. Ideally you’ll have one for slicing bread, another for large vegetables (think pumpkins), and another for garlic, onions and other smaller foods. If you’re looking for a simple 3 piece set then these MasterChef knives are great! However, if like me you’ve always dreamt of owning a fancy looking knife block then the Sabatier Original 5 Piece Set is a really good price for some good quality knives if you’re looking to get back to basics.
2.2 Back To Basics Essential No One Remembers About
But before we move onto the next essential item on the list of must have kitchen utensils, there’s one essential that people often forget about – a knife sharpener. I remember going to university and my dad telling me to ask a local butcher to sharpen my knives for me. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t fancy carrying knives around the streets of Glasgow looking for a butcher who would sharpen them for me. So one thing I highly recommend for anyone and everyone is a good knife sharpener. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and this knife sharpening block even sharpens your scissors for you! Perfect for when Christmas is coming and you need to wrap those presents…
3. Chopping Boards
Yes I was the geek in school who loved the different coloured chopping boards for colour coding what you were slicing. Chances are though you’re looking to get back to basics with a simple chopping board to get you started. If in doubt, 2 chopping boards is a good idea. This way you have one for your meat and one for everything else. We prefer glass chopping boards in our house for onions, garlic etc, and have a plastic one for anything that won’t scent the board. Whichever you choose to buy, make sure you clean them thoroughly to help them last you a long time!
4. Set of Utensils
You’d think this would be a clear cut, easy to find one. And yes, you’re right. You can buy a back to basics utensil set pretty much anywhere. But trying to find a nice pot to hold them in? That can be the difficult part. Overall, though, you’re aim is to come away with a wooden spoon, spatula or fish slice, ladle and potato masher. Anything else you manage to get is a bonus, but these 4 essentials will see you get on well with your cooking adventures. This Beeptrum Kitchen Utensils Set of 16 pieces may seem like a lot, but contains your Potato Masher, Solid Turner, Skimmer, Deep Soup Ladle, Slotted Turner, Pasta Server, Solid Spoon, Slotted Spoon, Salad Spoon, Flexible Spatula, Basting Brush, Egg Whisk, Tongs, Spreader Spatula, Frying pan spatula and comes with a proper holder for everything!
I also highly recommend making sure you have some sort of tin-opener (manual or electric), a peeler, measuring spoons and a grater. And of course a set of tongs if you’ve decided not to buy the Beeptrum Kitchen Set.
5. Mixing Bowl
In many houses, the mixing bowl doubles as the sick bowl. And if this is the case in your house then please please please remember to clean it thoroughly before and after every use… But that aside, your mixing bowl will be super helpful for whisking eggs, making sauces, and combining ingredients in when you’re cooking. In our house, we have 4 different sized baking bowls alongside approximately 9 Pyrex mixing bowls. They can be useful for storing food in the fridge, making Christmas puddings, and even just help when you’re weighing out multiple ingredients in advance of preparing a recipe.
6. Ovenproof Dish
This is very handy if you want to make any kind of pie, lasagne, or roast (without a roasting tray). Many families have a go-to ovenproof dish, so only you will know what it is you’re looking for. I personally bought a simple mock-Pyrex ovenproof dish for lasagnes, stocked up on baking trays and roasting trays, and bought an ovenproof casserole dish that could work on both the stove-top or in the oven.
Personally? I advise one of each. Some people are happy using a colander for draining their rice etc but I often feel like too much slips out. A colander is an extremely helpful kitchen utensil for getting back to basics. Not only will it ensure that your rice and pasta aren’t waterlogged when you serve them, but it can also double as a steamer if you purchase a metal one like this colander from Contiup.
Back To Basics Summary
The above are the bare essentials for getting back to basics with your cooking. As I said, you don’t need to have top-of-the-range stuff. And your local discount stores are always a good source for those ovenproof dishes we were talking about. There are countless kitchen gadgets on the market, but many of them are one-time-wonders that will sit and gather dust after a few uses. If you’ve other essential items that you think I’ve missed out, please do include them in the comments below!
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