questionswhat are the most essential items for a kitchen?

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@sgrman05: Just wait...check your PM....monogrammed frosted beer mugs!

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@anoted: I find the 8" better for the backswing. Really good workout too.

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@anoted: BB&B is AWESOME! I didn't know they had it broken down into that much detail! Crazy...

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@sgrman05: Heh...I linked to Bed Bath and Beyond's first apartment portal. Which has lots of articles to help people and tons of lists to set you up, including, I think my favourite: a perishable and non-perishables list. Seriously...they tell people that you need to buy things for the bathroom like toilet paper and band aids and then they go through all the things you need in the kitchen food wise. I don't know, that's in a tie with the list of what items you actually need in a toolbox (the toolbox is included on the list).

Basically people, the rule of life is this. If you've been kicked out of the home at a tender age and don't really know anything about dorm living, or living in your first apartment (even if you're sharing it with 5 people) or you're preparing to live on your own the first time or to get married...if you're going through any big life changes and are lost--go to BB&B, they'll provide crazy amounts of help including where to find the rest of the help you need.

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@flyinggirl: these are also necessary implements for hitting intruders over the head.

But they are heavy as hell and very hard to just swing around willy-nilly like a tennis racket. I got my first cast iron skillet (as a defensive weapon against intruders of course) and was shocked at how bad a weapon it actually was in a fight. I then began to suspect that Hollywood had been lying to me for decades and they were using lightweight props!

I found a nice long flashlight with some serious heft is much more practical. You can use it as your super-powerful flashlight when you need to and if there is an intruder, you have both light as a weapon and something fairly have that you can swing the hell out of. It's also much easier to keep by your bed.

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A nice 12" cast iron skillet. You can make everything from bacon to pineapple upside down cake in it. I didn't even have one until about 10 years ago and now I have 6 in varying sizes and keep looking for more. I got 3 of them from my neighbor's mom when she went into elderly housing. They are probably 90 years old and still good as new.

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Bed Bath and Beyond has a "Your First Apartment Section" of their website: http://bit.ly/KXn91E which includes a good more then basic checklist (http://bit.ly/f99H9r)

Bed Bath and Beyond has three big prep sections of their website. College, "first apartment" and getting married. They're ridiculously extensive and go way past what they sell.

So they have a whole section of their website for people moving out on their own for the first time. A basic apartment checklist which I linked to. A checklist for basic dry goods and spices you need in your kitchen. A list of tools you need in your toolbox. Guides on how to find an apartment, and credit and living with someone and renter's insurance--EVERYTHING. I'd start by spending a little time reading their guides and lists, and amending them to what you think your needs are.

From my experience I wouldn't be surprised if when you switched to the engagement section you found that they could just about plan your wedding for you.

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The phone - to call for delivery.

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In addition to some of the excellent suggestions above, I'd recommend a good potholder/hot mitt. The other kitchen implement that made me feel safer doing normal-kitchen-things was a good knife; many people recommend an 8" chief's knife, but I'm a small person and almost always use a 6" utility knife instead. (Growing up, we used a cloth towel to take stuff out of the oven and "knives" were of poor quality/hadn't been sharpened during my lifetime.)

In terms of convenience/ease of using my kitchen, having a container with various cooking implements (I use a vase that I already had) next to the stove is much easier than digging through a drawer looking for the right spatula/spoon while food is burning, which is how we did it in my house growing up. I also have a clear plastic "shoebox" next to the sink in which I store the bottle-brush, scrubby thing, etc. Keeps water off the counter, easy to wash occasionally, good for controlling my natural inclination towards entropy.

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An A-B-C fire extinguisher. Seriously. It's like insurance...you may never need it, but it comes in handy when you do.

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Good cooking utensils (spatula, etc). I got those mutli-colored ones from woot a while back and they are great.
A nice metal colander, screw those plastic ones.
A few good knives if you can afford them.
I find my hot pot infinitely useful for making pitchers of iced tea.

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Being an engaged person myself, and having just bought a house, but more importantly getting married soon, we registered for all kinds of good gifts!
Bed Bath and Beyond is great, and has an excellent checklist of items for the entire home (including the kitchen!).
Here's a link to their checklist: (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/regchecklist.asp?)
Hope that helps! I know it did for us.
Note: I'm still using some of my crap from college though, waiting a few months still for the wedding to get the main (more expensive) stuff.
Note: Be sure to include the ? in the weblink (at the end) -- it cut it off for me...

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Wow! @bingo969 covered everything I was going to suggest; the only difference is that i don't much like silicon except for spatulas.

Colanders are useful for many things besides the obvious; you can get perfectly adequate ones for a couple of dollars at your local supermarket, Target, or dollar store.

When we vacation we rent cabins out in the boonies, and over the years I've learned to pack my favorite large knife and paring knife, my favorite spatula and big spoon/ladle, a flexible plastic cutting board, and a decent 12" frying pan. Anything else that we need and the cabin doesn't have I can hit a local Walmart or Target for a cheapie version, which we generally leave behind anyway. So for me, as a suggestion, the things I take with us when we travel are the necessities and worth spending good money on ; everything else you can start with inexpensive basics, if necessary, and trade up as your budget allows.

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The nice thing about an egg beater is that you can make most of the things you'd make with a mixer, and the price is considerably less.

Avoid buying cheap tools. They won't work right, and you'll regret it.

I love a well-appointed kitchen. I'll probably have more to add, later in the day.

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You need the previously mentioned measuring cups, and measuring spoons as well. I'd watch for the next time housewaresdeals.com has a Kitchenaid set of kitchen tools, since they tend to have a bunch of the very items you lack (including spatulas). I've bought them in the past, and then sold the ones I didn't want at a garage sale for $2 apiece (I ended up $2 ahead). Here's an example of what I mean:

http://deals.woot.com/deals/details/fae2cbe3-3087-4d65-a265-ce1e2cba0354/kitchenaid-19-piece-kitchen-gadget-set

I see a bakeware set's coming up on the 15th.

Consider the things you like to cook most often, and the things you'd like to cook. Don't buy a lot of fancy spices until you're sure you'll use them. Cinnamon is good to have, as is Chili Powder. You need salt, and baking soda. Don't bother with baking powder unless you're planning on using it.

You really ought to have an "egg beater" (http://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Steel-Vintage-Style-Beater/dp/B000BU5K9K).

[more]

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(cont.)
-Containers for leftovers, and at least one roll of each of these: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper, and parchment paper
-As for the “software,” I always keep a number of staples on hand: AP flour, sugar, butter/margarine, milk, a basic oil, eggs, baking powder and baking soda, etc. You will use them in a bunch of recipes.
-Also, keep some uncooked pasta/rice around – basic makings for a quick side dish or meal when you don’t want to think too hard.
-As for herbs, spices, and the like, I generally don’t keep stuff around that I don’t use very often because almost all of them lose their flavor if they aren’t used within something like 6 months. Salt, black pepper, vanilla extract, and maybe garlic powder are pretty safe to keep around constantly, but other than that, buy only what you like. Don’t buy those spice racks with 50 spices unless you plan to do some experimenting, as they’ll all likely go bad before you can use them up.

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(cont.)
-Paring knife, chef’s knife, pizza cutter (you’d be surprised how much use I get out of one of those), and at least one veggie peeler (with a comfortable grip)
-A few spatulas (silicone is wonderfully convenient), a ladle, a spoon, and a slotted spoon for use in those pots
-Set of mixing bowls in a few sizes, a set of measuring cups for dry ingredients, a measuring cup for wet ingredients, and a set of measuring spoons
-Colander, corkscrew, bottle opener, at least one whisk, and a few wire cooling racks
-Flatware for 4+ settings (bump that to 8 if you ever plan on having company) – go with a trusted company, and even if you spend a little more money, it will last a lot longer than the cheapy kind
-Dishes (obviously) – stuff like the Corelle sets you can find at Wallyworld are pretty cheap and will last you a while if you don’t want to spring for higher quality stuff right away

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Good grief, I could write a novel here (and probably have).

-One small, one medium, one large saucepan/pot. Also, a small and a large (12”ish) skillet
-Cookie/baking sheet and a couple of baking dishes – suggest starting with an 8x8 and a 9x13
-Two 8” or 9” round pans if you’re planning on any baking
-Crockpot – don’t waste time with a tiny one – get a decent-sized one, and double a recipe if you have to; you’ll be much happier withleftovers than not having enough room
-At least two decent-sized cutting boards: 1 for veggies/fruits, 1 for raw meat. NEVER mix them up (label if you must), unless you want to have adventures in food poisoning! (Suggest plastic for the meats, and please please please never ever cut on glass – it’s horrible for your knives.)
-Hand mixer and stand mixer – for a starting kitchen, get a good-quality hand mixer. Save up for a stand mixer for a while down the road, especially if you end up doing lots of mixing. Food processor is another thing to save up for.

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For everything you buy - think one rule: Multi-task.I would put down as bare essentials the following:

1 - 2 quart pot
1 - 5-6 quart pot
1 - 12 inch skillet with lid

Those three right there can easily cover 80-90%+ of the meals you'll be making. Get these at a local restaurant supply store. They are open to the public and you'll get good quality stuff for less than the cheap big-box crap.

1 - 13x9 pan
1 - 1/4 sheet pan (Optional)

I use a 13x9 pan in the oven for pretty much everything. Braising meats, baking vegetables, making deserts. Everything. The 1/4 sheet pan is nice as well and fairly useful but you can do without it if money is an issue.

For utensils:

1 - Silicone Spoonula (That half spoon half spatula type thing)
1 - Silicone Spatula/Flipper
1 - Silicone Tongs

Those 3 will cover pretty much everything you need. You can add in things like a strainer/colander. They are very useful but you CAN get by without them if you really need to.

Good luck.

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One really good Chef's knife, a decent sized cutting board, a good non-stick skillet, and a crockpot.

Don't put the crockpot on the unnecessary side. It makes so many quick and easy meals, and when you find out how little time you have, you'll be thankful.

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The only essential tools are the ones that you need to do the cooking you plan to do [frequently].

I'd think that if you don't know what you need, you're probably good with what you've got. When you find yourself preparing/cooking something often that gets a little tedious then there's probably a tool that can save some time.

If you want to start cooking more, start simple and cheap with the tools. Don't waste money on stuff you won't need if you decide cooking isn't your thing.

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Voting up the 2 cutting boards suggestion, as well as a 2 or 3 high quality cutting knives, along with a cast iron skillet. A dutch oven is worth the investment too . In the long run, it is better to take time to outfit your kitchen with quality items that will last for years, rather than going on the cheap with items that will quickly break.
That being said, your local Dollar Stores are great for getting plastic colanders, spatulas, or cheap pizza wheels, etc., that you really don't use all the time, but are handy to have until it's time to make an investment.

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A few basic pots and pans, measuring cups, spatulas, strainer, basic serving utensils, and the normal plates, silverware, cups.

Definitely have 2 cutting boards. I always find myself cutting both veggies and meat close to the same time.

Agreed about the spices - buy what you need for each meal, and maybe 1 or 2 extra if it looks interesting and you like to experiment.

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Tools - a usual set of pots and pans, spatulas, spoons, ladle, and at least a 7 " chef knife.
Seasoning - I use three the most; Italian seasoning, black pepper, and garlic powder. You may want to include salt for your cupboard, but I seldom use it.
The usual arsenal of plates and bowls, forks and spoons.
A drying rack if there's no dishwasher.
Food storage containers for leftovers.

That's all I can think of right now...

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If you want an actual list I would just look at someone's wedding registry. Typically anyone with a registry has had some wife who took a lot of time thinking about it. I'm younger but am married and own a house, trust me we didn't buy everything in one trip. For the past couple years we just started out small and worked our way up. Anytime you go shopping just look around and think "hey, this would be nice to have" and if you can afford it, buy it and add to your collection.

As far a spices go, whenever you're making a meal that requires some sort of herbs or spices, just buy what you need, and it'll last you quite a while. Next meal do the same. Eventually you'll have a nice spice cabinet made up.

Hope this helps! Don't be discouraged that your place doesn't feel "adult-like" give it some time to start building up and when you're ready to move you'll wonder where everything came from!

PS* Since you mentioned you're engaged (congrats) maybe you should hold out til the wedding!