Cookware Essentials to Build a Smarter Kitchen

  • By Jess Dang
  • February 1, 2013

Today is February 1st, which means we are already in month #2 of our #CookMoreIn2013 campaign. For those of you who tried out January’s tip, we’d love to hear what you discovered by writing down the meals you ate out vs. the meals you cooked. Our February #CookMoreIn2013 tip is all about the cookware essentials for building a smarter kitchen. After all, if you don’t have the right equipment, cooking will end up a lot less fun and a lot more frustrating.

Stop Battling with Your Prep Tools

I’ve been in so many kitchens that had top of the line cookware but either no prep tools or just really bad ones – peelers that didn’t peel, can openers with rusty blades, cutting boards that were warped, too small, or slipped on the counter. The tools fought us rather than helped us. Does this sound like your prep experience? Well, I promise you, it doesn’t have to be like this. Cookware is important but you’ll never get to the fun cooking part if prep is hell. Below are the six prep tools don’t cost a lot to own and will transform your cooking experience.

Essential Prep Tools by Cook Smarts

  1. A sharp knife: From what I’ve seen, most home cooks don’t using their honing steels or knife sharpeners. This slick ceramic knife made by Kyocera is non-sharpening and is incredibly sharp. Plus, it’s a great price for the quality. If you can afford it, I also highly recommend a Global chef’s knife. They are wicked sharp and light
  2. Large, grippy, dishwasher-safe cutting board: I use this cutting board for 90% of all my chopping. It grips the counter well, can be sanitized in the dishwasher, and is a great size
  3. A sharp peeler: Why are there so many peelers out there that don’t peel? It makes no sense. This is the one I’ve owned for years and I love it
  4. Prep bowls of a variety of sizes: Learning how to organize your workspace makes cooking go faster and clean-up less of a pain. I would always bring these to my cooking lessons, and clients loved them. They collapse for storage and dishwashers. Plus, they come with snap-on lids
  5. A salad spinner that serves as a colander and serving bowl: A salad spinner is not just for drying salad greens. Use them to wash everything and as your main colander (I drain pasta in mine). This one is multi-purpose with a bowl that’s nice enough to serve your salad in!
  6. A non-rusty can opener: A can opener? Am I really recommending this? Yes, because I’ve spent too much time in kitchens with terrible ones. I have literally spent 20 minutes trying to open one can because of this. To no more of that!

Cookware for Every Cooking Job

I am anti-cookware sets. I think they’re just a way for retailers and manufacturers to make you think you’re getting a deal when you’re really getting a lot of unnecessary pots and pans that will just clutter your cabinets. Instead, I’m going to recommend to you 2 tiers of cookware. The first tier are the pots and pans that will satisfy almost all of your cooking needs. If you’re just building out a kitchen, these are the ones I’d recommend getting first. Tier #2 are the cookware pieces I’m glad I have on hand but definitely end up using less often.

Most essential cookware by Cook Smarts
Tier #1

  1. Cast iron skillet: Gosh, what do I not use this pan for? It’s heavy-dutiness means it’ll last you a lifetime, retains heat incredibly well, and can go from stovetop to oven. Do everything from searing and roasting meats, scrambling your eggs, sauteing vegetables, to baking frittatas in it.
  2. Sheet pans: These pans can get a lot of action – roasting vegetables, baking meats, toasting nuts, and of course baking cookies are just a few things you can do on them
  3. 4 quart saucepan: I find this sized pot to be the perfect size whether you’re cooking for 1 or a family of 4. Boil pastas and vegetables in it with ease. Plus it’s not heavy, so easy to maneuver and handle
  4. A saute pan: The high walls of this pan make it great for sauteing anything (hence the name). I especially love it for tossing pastas together
  5. 5 to 6 quart Dutch oven: These sturdy pots will keep your soups warm and can even bake bread. It’s also oven-safe, so great for braising meats. I have two other sizes, but I use my 5 quart 90% of the time
  6. A wokStir-frying is one of my go-to cooking methods, and a non-stick wok is perfect for the home cook use

Essential cookware by Cook Smarts
Tier #2

  1. Super non-stick pan: I just recently purchased one of these. It was expensive, but it is super non-stick. You can definitely make an omelet in your cast iron, but if you want something lighter for day-to-day use, this is a wonderful pan
  2. A big ol’ pot: Every so often I find myself cooking for a crowd and this is when I grab my big pot to boil those 2 lbs. of pasta. Less used but can be handy when you’re cooking for more folks
  3. 2 quart saucepan: I can do just about everything in my 4 quart pot, but there are times when you just want to heat up a few cups of something or make a just a bit of quinoa. This saucepan is a great size for those moments
  4. A grill pan: Your cast iron skillet will give meats a nice sear, but every so often you want to see those grill marks. This is the pan to get that done
  5. Family griddle: For those weekend family breakfasts, eggs, bacon, and pancakes can all be made on one hot, flat surface

Accessories that Wow

Every girl knows that you need accessories to pull your wardrobe together. Same goes for your kitchen. These are the extra touches that make the magic happen

Essential kitchen accessories by Cook Smarts

  1. Tongs: I have 4 pairs of these tongs. I love them. They are an extension of your hands in the kitchen, tossing salads, stir-fries, noodles, serving dishes up, and so much more. The nylon heads also protect non-stick surfaces and are quite heat-proof
  2. Whisk: Eggs and vinaigrettes get made almost daily in my kitchen, so this whisk sees quite a lot of love
  3. Wooden spoons: Forget plastic or silicone, nothing beats just plain old bamboo or wood. They’re sturdy and won’t hurt your pans
  4. Flipper: There are time when you just need to flip something – a piece of fish, a pancake, an egg. This flipper does just that – flip stuff
  5. 4 Cup Pyrex: This 4 cup Pyrex doubles as a measuring instrument and as a bowl. I whisk vinaigrettes and make pancake batter directly in it, and then it’s got a lip for perfect pouring
  6. Multi-sized lid: I love kitchen tools that are multi-purpose. This universal lid can cover pots and pans that measure 7” to 12”. No more crazy lid clutter

For some more kitchen tools, visit our Amazon Store

We recommend a lot of OXO tools and wanted to point out that we are not sponsored by them (but definitely would love to be!). We just love the design of their products and use them everyday in our kitchen.

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