I think of cooking in a slightly, and very non-technical way. In my mind, cooking is divided in two main divisions: your everyday food and fancy food.
Most of your cooking will be of the first type, especially if you are like me: I prefer to buy my own quality ingredients and ensure what I am eating, I derive pleasure from the preparation process, I love to eat homemade food, and – the main factor – I want it all fast. My definition of a successful meal needs to fulfill all of the above (flavor, nutrition, pleasure) plus a prep time of up to 30 minutes or so.
There are some kitchen appliances that help you eat better, cheaper, and just as fast. Here they are, in no special order:
- George Foreman grill. They are easy to wash, so you end up grilling way more often than you could ever imagine. They drain excess fat from the meat, but the meat stays tender and tasty. The grilling surface heats very quickly, so you save time cooking. Cooking for 1 or 4 people is the same. It makes virtually no smoke, so you can grill even in an apartment kitchen. You can grill veggies too. What else is there to say?
- rice cooker. The best Japanese rice cooker can prepare rice (white or brown) and steam vegetables and meat at the same time. You spend 2 minutes rinsing the rice, 10 minutes prepping the other ingredients in the steaming basket, press one button, and you are good to go. This is a full meal for 2-3 people, and it is tasty too.
- sous vide cooker. You can buy in bulk and batch cook meats for the entire week in ziplocs. Meal prep, then, is a breeze: simply sear the meat in a hot grill or a hot pan. There you have it: price savings, meat cooked to perfection to your preferred doneness, warm nutritious meal, the whole package.
- toaster oven. You can bake brownies, pizzas, bread, potatoes, pies, cakes. You can heat up quick snacks or breads or bagels. A toaster oven is small, practical, and cheap. It will save your day more than once.
- charcoal grill. Ok, I will admit this item is not like the others. A barbecue made on a charcoal grill is not faster, however, it is much, much tastier. And it is my site, so I get to write what I want. Plus, charcoal makes much, much tastier BBQs than gas.
Other important items for beginners that often are overlooked are:
|Item||Why Would You Need It?||Suggestion||Price|
|Measuring Cup Set||Especially important if you are starting to learn how to cook. Experienced cooks can guess things by instinct or experience, and you probably lack both experience and instinct to do it the same way – otherwise you likely wouldn’t be spending your time reading this.||Pyrex 3-Piece Glass Measuring Cup Set||Click here to see today's price|
|Measuring Spoon Set||Same as above||1Easylife Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons||Click here to see today's price|
|Kitchen Scale||All you need is a simple electronic kitchen scale with a tare function, so you can zero out your container weight and weigh only the ingredients. Converting between grams and ounces could be an useful feature if you are willing to try foreign recipes and want to avoid the math.||Etekcity Digital Kitchen Scale||Click here to see today's price|
|Kitchen Timer||I prefer a digital timer because the tick-tock noise from those rounded timers drives me insane. I also prefer a dedicated device because I don’t want to mess on my dirty mobile while cooking with clean hands. You could use a watch or a kitchen clock, however in my newbie experience it is easy to forget about the time because you are overwhelmed with all the things going on and then it is already too late.||CDN TM30 Direct Entry Kitchen Timer||Click here to see today's price|
|Cooking Utensil Set||These should be handy when you need it. If you have the counter space, have a utensil holder by the stove or a utensil hook rack. I tend to prefer the utensil holder because it is easier to keep it clean, plus you can move it out of the way when it is convenient for you. A hook rack looks fancier, however cleaning the backsplash is harder – and, in my experience, when cleaning is harder, you tend to let it go.||NEXGADGET 12-Piece Nonstick Cooking Utensil Set||Click here to see today's price|
|Knife Set||Quality knives that remain sharp are safer than dull knives because you don’t have to apply too much force to cut or chop your food. The result also looks much better and the process of food prep becomes faster and satisfying, instead of frustrating and tiresome. For storing the knives, I personally prefer a knife block holder instead of the magnetic strip.||Cuisinart C77SS-17P Stainless Steel Knife Block Set||Click here to see today's price|
And, of course, there are also the items that most people remember when thinking about cooking: cookware for cooking and frying, bakeware for baking, dinnerware and cutlery for eating, drinkware for drinking, and a kitchen canister set for all those tasty leftovers.
Finally, I strongly believe you should buy some cooking books, starting with books that teach you the craft of cooking: how to measure ingredient ratios, understand the main function of each ingredient in a recipe, and so on. Once you know what ingredients act as flavorings, emulsifiers, liquids, acids, thickeners, etc., it becomes easier to know how you can improvise and whether you can cook something without a certain ingredient.
This “meta cooking lesson” is important to understand why things are done in a certain way and in a certain order. Some people just know it instinctively. I am one who is not blessed like that and needs to study in order to understand. Thankfully, there are some smart cooks who have written books for people like me – who need to understand the “reasons why” in order to better understand something. Once you understand the patterns behind the recipes, then it makes sense to buy themed recipe books – ethnic food, dieting, and so on.