Here's a list of some of the essential pieces of equipment needed to stock a kitchen.
- Wooden spoons
- Heavy duty metal spoons
- Whisk(s); one large for whipping cream, eggwhites, etc., one small (optional) for vinaigrettes and smaller batches
- Heavy duty metal tongs; a couple pairs, at least 12" long
- Heat resistant silicone spatula
- Slotted spoon (good for retrieving delicate items like poached eggs)
- Spider strainer (not absolutely necessary but very good for deep frying, blanching, etc.)
- Heavy duty sieve (double mesh if possible)
- Instant read thermometer
- Silicone brush(es) for pastries, sauces/glazes, etc.
- Can Opener
- Frypan(s) - 10" is sufficient for around 2 people but some prefer 12". Having a few different sizes is useful so that you use the right size pan for the job. An 8" pan is useful for cooking small items, toasting nuts/spices. A small non-stick pan is nice to have for delicate items like eggs or fish. Choose a thick-walled pan (at least 2mm) or one with a thick aluminum/copper disc for good heat retention/recovery and one that has metal handles for going in the oven.
- Saucepans - A 1.5-2qt and a 3qt are sufficient when starting a collection. Smaller sauce pans are good for heating milk, warming butter, or for sauces. Choose pans with stainless steel lining if possible since it is not reactive like aluminum.
- Dutch oven - Dutch ovens are very versatile and can be used for making stocks and sauces, cooking pasta, braising, deep frying, making soups and stews, and baking bread to name a few. A 5-6qt pot is usually sufficent for most. Most dutch ovens are enameled cast iron which is very durable, has good heat retention/recovery, and is non-reactive thanks to the enamel
- Saucepot - In lieu of a Dutch oven, a ~6qt saucepot is good for making stocks and sauces, cooking pasta, making soup and stews, deep frying, etc. Choose a thick-walled pan if possible, or at least one with a thick aluminum/copper disc on the bottom for even heating and better heat retention/recovery.
- Cast iron skillet - Some prefer cast iron pans to stainless steel fry pans and for the most part it's a matter of preference. Cast iron is inexpensive and has the benefit of mass (i.e. better heat retention/recovery) which makes it well suited for high-heat applications like searing. Some drawbacks include increased weight and the added process of initially seasoning the pans and keeping them seasoned, although these steps are fairly simple.
There are many other pieces of cookware but the list above is for a barebones kitchen. A good steel frypan or two with some sauce pans and a larger pot can get pretty much all the jobs done in the kitchen. However, there are some extra items that can make things easier or that are just better suited to some jobs. These include:
- Saute pan - Good for sauces and ragouts, sautes (e.g. chicken saute), small braises, shallow frying
- Saucier pan - The curved sides make this a very useful sauce pan, especially for roux-based (or most thickened sauces for that matter) sauces and egg-emulsified sauces. The sharp corners of a regular sauce pan are hard to reach with a whisk and the roux or egg may hide in the corner and burn/curdle instead of being incorporated into the sauce and ruin it.
- Sauce pan with sloping sides - Much like a saucier pan, the sloped sides make this pan excellent for making reductions. The heat is quickly concentrated on the smaller base of the pan while the sloping sides give a larger surface area for the liquid to evaporate.
These sets have gotten generally good reviews and recommendations and are worth considering.
- Tramontina stainless tri-ply 8-piece set (skillet review here)
- Cuisinart stainless 10-piece set
- Cuisinart stainless tri-ply 10-piece set
There are many brands available for cooking equipment. Most are fairly good, but obviously some are better than others. Some reputable cookware brands that are readily found include:
- All-clad - Stainless and copper-clad cookware; made in USA
- Calphalon - Stainless and anodized almuminum cookware
- Cuisinart - Anodized aluminum and stainless cookware
- Demeyere - Stainless cookware; almost prohibitively expensive for home cooks
- Henckels - Stainless cookware
- Le Creuset - Enameled cast iron cookware, including Dutch ovens; made in France
- Lodge - Cast iron cookware
- Mario Batali - Enameled cast iron cookware; Dutch ovens are very good performers and roughly half the cost of Le Creuset or Staub
- Mauviel - Stainless and copper-clad cookware; made in France
- Scanpan - Ceramic-titanium non-stick cookware; made in Denmark
- Staub - Cast iron cookware, including Dutch ovens; made in France
- Swiss Diamond - Diamond impregnated non-stick cookware; made in Switzerland
Below are some other cookware brands that produce items that are of similar calibre but at slightly harder to find since they are usually used in professional kitchens:
- Browne & Halco - Aluminum and stainless restaurant-style cookware
- De Buyer - Carbon steel and copper cookware; made in France
- Johnson Rose - Aluminum restaurant-style cookware
- Matfer-Bourgeat - Stainless and copper cookware; made in France
- Paderno - Copper, stainless, carbon steel cookware
- Vollrath - Aluminum and stainless restaurant-style cookware