In the kitchen: When less is more

When I moved into my first apartment, my kitchen was stocked in an appropriate college-student fashion: cast-off pieces of stained Tupperware, cheap pots and pans that warped when they got hot, and a few new gifts that my practical relatives had given me for high school graduation presents.

By the time my husband and I were engaged, I thought that “real” cooks had certain types of tools in their kitchens. I also thought that the most expensive tools lasted longer and were the best value. Oh, and time-saving tools were a necessity for busy cooks such as myself. So I created a wedding registry accordingly.

As it turns out, I was wrong on all accounts, but it took some time to realize that. Although I will share what I think is necessary in my kitchen, I am not you, of course. I don't cook like you cook, and my kitchen is not your kitchen. My kitchen (see pictures here) is not huge, but it's not small as Mark Bittman's either. However, decluttering was great, and I like my counter tops to be clear. So what's necessary in a kitchen, and how much do you need to spend to have a working kitchen?

Mark Bittman argues that you can set up a kitchen for $300. If doing it all over again, I would have three goals:

  1. Spend as little as possible.
  2. In the interest of space, buy as few things as possible.
  3. When quality matters, buy quality for as cheaply as possible. When it doesn't matter, buy the least expensive product.

What I Could Live Without

1. Toaster. We got a huge four-slice toaster when we were married. We probably used half of the toaster twice a month for the first eight years. For as little as we use it, we could make toast with our broiler.

2. Food chopper. This tool cuts nuts and onions by smacking the top of it and engaging rotating steel blades. I gave mine away. A knife can do this, so you could save $32 (The Pampered Chef's version's cost) by avoiding this one.

3. Serving bowls. I have mixing bowls and serving bowls. It would have made more sense to buy a set that was both pretty and practical.

4. Non-stick pans. We have a set of non-stick pans. We cared for them according to the manufacturer's directions, but after five years of use, they were still flaking. For that reason, I won't buy non-stick pans again. Plus, they require non-metal utensils, so if you have both non-stick and regular pans, you may have two sets of utensils.

And another thing about pots and pans: You may want to avoid sets and just buy the sizes you will need. I have a stockpot (used often for making stocks, pasta, and soups), a small and large sauté pan (I use the large sauté pan much more often), a small and large saucepan (I use them both equally, but could probably get by with just a large one), and another pan that I use all the time for one-dish meals.

5. Dutch oven. I have never had one, although I occasionally drool over the Le Creuset ones.

6. Digital scale. I personally don't have a scale, but most of the websites I checked out did put this on their short list of tool requirements.

7. Food processor. I had one, but rarely used it. Other people say it makes the best pastry crusts. But I rarely make pastries.

8. Knife block. My husband, who loves cleared counter tops more than I do, is counting down the days until the knife block disappears. And really, he's right. A paring knife, big knife, and a bread knife would be enough for me. My small hands like The Pampered Chef Quikut knife for just over $2. I have had it for years, and I think it's an amazing deal for the money.

9. Any appliance that is large and has one purpose. Quesadilla makers, a Keurig, a pizza maker, etc. Although I don't take my own advice and make an exception for my waffle maker and regular coffee maker.

The Nice-to-Haves

1. Stand mixer. My stand mixer is a Kitchenaid — and wow! — do I love that thing. However, I didn't get one until three or four years ago. Instead, I survived with a hand mixer and didn't need anything else. I did receive the fruit/vegetable processing attachment as a gift and now use it to make applesauce from our apple trees.

2. Blender. Before I got a stand mixer, I had a blender/food processor combo. One part cracked a couple of times and needed to be replaced, but it was okay otherwise. But one year for Valentine's Day (this was one appliance that really said “I love you!”), my husband gave me a Vitamix. Expensive, yes, but awesome. It should last a very long time.

What I Don't Want to Live Without

1. Cast iron pan. As I mentioned above, I am over non-stick pans. Cast iron pans, though, aren't non-stick, but they act like it as long as you season and care for them correctly. Surprisingly, my pan was around $20 and looks like I will be able to give it to my grandchildren. It is heavy, though, which isn't a bad thing if you need a door stop.

2. Hand mixer. While I could probably develop more muscles with a wooden spoon and a whisk, I do like my hand mixer. I am not sure that I need a hand mixer and a Kitchenaid, but I have both. And I use both.

3. Pans. I already mentioned the pans I have. Shopping for pans is intimidating. I suggest reading reviews, or trying to find old sets like Farberware or Revereware at estate sales.

4. Rubber scrapers. I use these scrapers all the time. After eight years of daily use, they are only stained, but are otherwise as good as new.

5. Digital thermometer. Thermometers can be used to prevent under- or over-cooking, thus preventing bad meals and using more heat than necessary. Check out this chart for appropriate cooking temperatures.

Ironically, as I look over this list, my kitchen still seems excessively overstocked. I don't have a minimalist kitchen yet, nor am I likely to. But I will keep moving that direction as I become a better cook and realize which tools I need and which ones I don't. I have had some amazingly delicious, but simple meals in other countries that were cooked in kitchens with the bare minimum, so I definitely don't need as many gadgets as we have.

Which gadgets do you prefer not to live without?

 
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jane savers @ solving the money puzzle
jane savers @ solving the money puzzle
6 years ago

I do not have fancy appliances or tools but I am a good cook and I do bake.

My new requirement is that everything I use be dishwasher safe. Knives, bamboo spoons, stainless steel pots and pans and forks are my main tools.

I do have a hand mixer to make cakes light and fluffy and a hand blender to make my favourite low cal treat frozen pureed strawberries with vanilla protein powder that tastes just like ice cream.

FI Pilgrim
FI Pilgrim
6 years ago

We are like you used to be, our kitchen is overly cluttered. It stresses me out to go in there and have every working counter top covered with “tools” and appliances.

I think coming from a family of 9 people made me/us this way though. Those appliances feel a little more necessary to us.

Z
Z
6 years ago

I agree with most of this, but I love my digital scale. Great for portion control and paring down or scaling up a recipe.

Bridgett T
Bridgett T
6 years ago
Reply to  Z

I think everyone ends up with one or two things that are ‘unnecessary’ but that you use often enough it doesn’t matter. For me it’s my rice cooker – it’s just so much easier to dump the rice in and know it’ll stay hot and ready.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Z

I have a mini scale that does double duty for yarn. (You can figure out how many yards you have left by the weight — important when you’re making socks). It’s so handy!

Money Bunny
Money Bunny
6 years ago

Potato Masher

Probably the last thing I need. Using the back of a ladle is getting old.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago

The stuff I use daily: chef knife, paring knife, chopping blocks, 2 cast iron pans, 2 small pot, steel spatula and tongs, wooden spoons, measuring cups/spoons, digital scale, apron & towels, steel bowls, whisk, kettle, tea brewing pot, salt crock, pepper grinder. Stuff I use weekly: knife sharpener, serrated knife, enameled cast iron pot (from Costco, reasonably priced) or electric pressure cooker (this was a gift I didn’t want but ended up using though I know it won’t live long); medium steel pot, rubber spatula, blender, strainer(s), skimmer, ladle, mortar+pestle, pyrex oven thing (rectangle), safety goggles. Stuff my wife uses… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I am curious: What do you use the safety goggles for?
Also, knowing how much you like Early Retirement Extreme…I read this post after I wrote mine. http://earlyretirementextreme.com/the-minimalist-kitchen.html. My list is still so excessive!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

Frying! Splattering hot oil drops can fly far.

I just got a $2 pair of what seems like polycarbonate.

I can’t do the Jacob thing in the kitchen– unlike him, I reeeeeeally enjoy food.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Me, too, El Nerdo! Safety goggles are very important. They are also needed for working with oven cleaner.

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

A spatter shield works, too–and keeps the hot oil drops off your clothes.

Anne
Anne
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Man, I am seriously impressed at the kind of cooking that goes on in your house.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Same here. I’m drooling a little bit.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Ha ha– it’s cuz I’m a glutton! Winter breakfast is either eggs (omelets with bacon or cheese and ham or spinach, etc) or oatmeal (in almond milk with chocolate + bluberries + walnuts or PB), plus hot tea with milk, and a grapefruit or something. If in a hurry or desperate then it’s a smoothie (almond milk, berries, banana, whey powder) and black tea. Lunch will be a meat with veg and sometimes a starch or beans or something hearty. Some of this was fixed on weekends some of it maybe it’s made fresh, depending. Maybe if we’re really hungry… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
6 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

I believe the wire thingy with the handle is called a pastry cutter. You use it when cutting shortening or butter into flour and other dry ingredients.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

Or a whisk.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
6 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

Ah! Pastry cutter! No wonder–I don’t make pastries. If I did, I’d probably die within a month.

The whisk I use daily– indispensable tool for me. I suppose a fork could do, but it doesn’t have the same power.

Matt YLBody
Matt YLBody
6 years ago

If I had to have one thing it would be a slow cooker. It’s SO easy to make a large, flavorful meal with enough portions to save for leftovers. Set it and forget it ha.

Ben
Ben
6 years ago
Reply to  Matt YLBody

You already have a slow cooker.
It’s called an oven.
Despite its size – it is much more efficient than most slow cookers because of the insulation.

Most electric ovens also have 2 very useful features:

Timers – set your oven to go on in the afternoon, instead of leaving a slow cooker on all day. Or set your oven to go off after a certain time – letting you prep in the evening, and cook while you sleep.

Convection fan setting – saves time and energy, cooks more evenly, no need for an additional counter-top appliance.

SAHMama
SAHMama
6 years ago

Silicone spatulas/scrapers, bamboo spoons, my crock pot and rolling pin are my essentials. I just ordered a couple of cast iron pieces to switch over to in the new year, as my non-stick cookware is flaking and not working so well. I had a stand mixer and hated it so I sold it. I’ve never used the broiler part of my stove.

OneEC
OneEC
6 years ago

The link to the rubber scrapers is broken. Which is too bad because I am on a quest for the holy grail of rubber scrapers. They are the bane of my kitchen equipment.

That said, I own 3 dutch ovens, one Le Creuset, one Martha Stewart, and one from TJMaxx, I frequently have 2 on the stove top and one in the oven, those are definitely things that I could not live without.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  OneEC
Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I just remembered that the office is closed, so I apologize that the link will not be fixed.

Sandi_k
Sandi_k
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I have two of those, bought at a friend’s PC party. I’ve used them for nearly a decade, and they look brand new. Love them!

Brian @ Debt Discipline
Brian @ Debt Discipline
6 years ago

Knife blocks are over rated. We spend a good amount of money on one and then purchased a pampered chef knife which has become our primary knife for carving, chopping etc.

Crock pots are a good purchases, good way to slow cook meals while at work.

Betsy14
Betsy14
6 years ago

Immersion blender! Love it – so great for making soups that require pureeing. Kind of a niche piece, but I don’t own a blender any longer (and I hated pouring hot soups into the blender anyways), and the immersion blender is small and fits into the kitchen utensil drawer, so it’s a good fit for my kitchen.

Mrs PoP
Mrs PoP
6 years ago
Reply to  Betsy14

I LOVE my immersion blender! Soup-making is so much easier with it than having to transfer hot soup to a blender or a food processor – and it’s so much easier to clean than the food processor, too!

Things I need to give away are a cheap mandolin and a tool that was supposed to cut curly fries but is darned near impossible to use. I got them as birthday gifts about a year ago and all I’ve been able to cut with them so far are my fingers…

Kate
Kate
6 years ago

Funny- I use my slow cooker probably three times a week and my food processor once a day.

It’s not just pastry crusts- it’s spice mixes (no expensive packages) and pesto, sauces, chopped veggies, etc.

To each his own, I guess!

partgypsy
partgypsy
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

I use a mortar and pestle for most things like that, unless I use my coffee grinder (hard spices or large amounts)

Thera
Thera
6 years ago

We gave away our slow cooker, I hated the late night or early morning prep.
Never owned a processor and don’t think we need it.
Got rid of the wok as well as many other gadety things like an apple peeler etc.

What we do use and I could not live without:
Wooden spoons, measuring spoons and cups, a big glass measuring cup, mortar and pestle, cutting boards, paring knife, big Ginsu and a bread knife, hand mixer, popcorn maker, 2 slice toaster, sifter, apron, towels and paper towels.

Stephen
Stephen
6 years ago

You must be doing something different with the non-stick pans or using metal stuff in them. My tefal frying pan was bought more than 6 years ago and is still almost good as new. One knife mark on it from someone who didn’t know better.

These things aren’t expensive either. Picked up the last one for less than 30Euro.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Stephen

I have Calphalon pans which were supposed to be good. Maybe yours is a better brand? We don’t use metal utensils and follow all other recommendations (no high heat, no dishwasher and so on). I am not sure what the problem is, but we’ve tried to be diligent when using them.

partgypsy
partgypsy
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I think that the nonsticks have a limited life span, especially if you use them frequently, possibly every 3 years or so because if they show too much wear I replace. Remember not to heat without something in them (even if just a bit of oil) I only use them for certain things and the iron skillets for the rest.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

36 years ago we got three electric frying pans, two with Teflon or Silverstone, one without any non-stick finish. I traded the other two in and kept the one without nonstick.

I still use it. I have to periodically remove the handles and remove grease, but once every ten years or so isn’t much of a burden.

Shari
Shari
6 years ago

My husband is a kitchen gadget hoarder and it drives me crazy! We have everything you could possibly need to cook, and some things we have two of. We have two blenders….I got him a new one that was supposed to replace the old one, but he kept them both. If I were the one cooking, I would get rid of at least half of the stuff in our kitchen, but since he is the cook I put up with it. Still, we have: two blenders, two crock pots, a griddle, a waffle maker, toaster, quesadilla maker, two FULL sets… Read more »

Eliza
Eliza
6 years ago

I am a single parent of teens, very experienced home cook. used to entertain (before children) making all sorts of fancy things. Just saying, I know how to cook and still cook most meals from scratch, but working full-time and busy and have simplified over the years. I do not have a dishwasher. We eat a mix of paleo, standard American and raw vegan (yes, I know… but there are 4 of us with different tastes) I have pared down to these basics (for me) Good knives (large heavy one and smaller one) and cutting boards Heavy stainless steel cookware… Read more »

Dave @ The New York Budget
Dave @ The New York Budget
6 years ago

In terms of quality of the items you DO need – I think http://www.thesweethome.com is a great resource, personally.

partgypsy
partgypsy
6 years ago

Looking at what people find essential or not, it differs. Toaster: disagree, we use ours pretty much every day. I have a couple nonstick pans I use alot (primarily for eggs). We don’t have a dishwasher so everything is hand washed and use plastic spatulas, but yes they do need to be replaced every few years but they are inexpensive enough this is not a big deal. I agree about the buying by the piece. We eloped so never got a big influx of cookware for our house, therefore it was really by trial and error we got the idiosyncratic… Read more »

jmlWI
jmlWI
6 years ago

Slow cooker (x2), pressure cooker, and immersion blender. In the winter I make lots and lots of soups, and I use the slow cooker(s) to make chilis, broths, pot roasts, and so forth. Toss everything in and ignore it until suppertime. I can make large batches and freeze them for future lazy/busy evenings. The pressure cooker makes cooking whole grains, beans, and tough meats something that can happen in about an hour. Several of the soups I make require last-minute pureeing, so the immersion blender comes in very handy. I’ve tried pouring hot soup into the blender or food processor,… Read more »

Susan
Susan
6 years ago

So much depends on what kind of cook you are. Thirty years after first starting to assemble my own kitchen stuff, here’s what I learned. When it comes to pots and pans, quality matters – buy one pot that lasts forever. You’ll pay for it, but that payment will be SO worth it, and your children will inherit them and, someday, be grateful. We have a set of All Clad pans, and they are tremendous, and expensive, and worth it. We have a “scanpan” nonstick pan for fish – expensive, lasts forever, worth it. I have a Le Creuset dutch… Read more »

Jane
Jane
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I very much agree on the high quality pots and pans. I initially scoffed at my husband’s wish to register for them for our wedding. But they look incredible eight years later and are well-nigh indestructible. That $100+ All Clad stock pot will outlive me. We also registered for only four Henckels knives and that’s still all we use years later. I think all of us use pots, pans, and knives, but pretty much everything else is variable and depends on your food palate and overall cooking style. What is essential for one person is a waste for someone else.… Read more »

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I love Henkels knives too! The good ones are worth the cost — though you can often find them on sale. Good quality knives make so much different when it comes to food prep!

When I set up my first apartment, I asked around to find out what I’d need. The answer: a chef’s knife (I think my is 9″), a paring knife and a medium sized serrated knife.

Erin
Erin
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

A great, more affordable All-Clad alternative are the Tramontina tri-clads, sold by Walmart. You can get a really freat 8 piece set for $140.

We got these for our wedding 2 years ago, and they ROCK. Solid, sturdy, with great heat distribution. I’m pretty sure we’ll be cooking with them on our 25th anniversary.

We registered for them on the recommendation of a friend, who’d seen them favorably tested and compared to the pricey All Clad stuff. Here’s a great article that compares them: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/08/equipment-the-all-clad-vs-tramontina-skillet.html

PB
PB
6 years ago

I looked for new pots and pans when we redid our kitchen, partly for the look and partly because all of our wedding stuff had worn out after 20 years. I am not very strong due to a chronic condition and was quite surprised at how heavy some of the new cookware is – could hardly lift it without any food in it, so didn’t think it would be good for me. I finally just bought the old tried and true Revere ware, which has stood the test of the past 18 years. I do have three dutch ovens, though,… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
6 years ago
Reply to  PB

I have Revere ware, but also a cast iron skillet. I’m glad that I have it because it is lighweight and sturdy. However, the new Revere ware is not worth much. Go to thrift shops and estate sales and get the oldest pans you can find. They are heavier, and you can feel the copper coating.

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
6 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Absolutely! We still have our original Revere pots and frying pans, and they’re fine, 40-odd years on. We use them every day. A couple of the handles are discolored from the dishwasher, but they’re not warped and they heat evenly.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago

There’s a lot I can’t live without though I don’t always them daily. Daily: Cast iron pans – All of them were purchased used and are about ~50-80 years old now (estate and yard sales). Knives – Good quality knives are worth the $$ investment. Vitamix – It was a gift, I never would have purchased it because of the cost but its something I use on a daily basis. Few times a week: Le Creuset set – Purchased 10 years ago and was a floor model and a return item so it was heavily discounted. I use the Dutch… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
6 years ago

The stuff we use most often: –Cast-iron frying pan. Found it in the “free” box at a yard sale. A little steel wool took care of the rust. –Strainer. Got it from my daughter, who got it at a dollar store. I use it to strain soup stock, yogurt, lentils, gravy… –Warming tray. My partner has no idea how he got this thing and it sat unused in the cupboard for ages. I use it to proof bread dough and culture yogurt. Before that, I used a heating pad set on low for both tasks. –Iced tea pitcher. It’s a… Read more »

Jennifer
Jennifer
6 years ago

I love my two Dutch ovens, I make our jellies and jams instead of store bought and the thick pans are essential to avoid scorching. Also a must have for soups and braises. One odd gadget I now am a big fan of is the ricer. I got one since I was hosting thanksgiving this year and I’ve found so many uses for it, just made spaetzle with it last night! You’ve got me thinking about finding a new home for the toaster, only use it 2-3 times a month.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
6 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Just FYI to those who want to make jam: You don’t need to run out and buy a Dutch oven. I make jam in a regular stainless steel saucepan and have never had a batch burn.
I remember reading about using a ricer to make baby food. Then again, you could also put it in a blender or a food processor, or just mash the food up with a fork.

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

When our baby was little, we bought a simple baby food food mill. It ground everything up suitable for the little guy, right at the table. I packed it when we traaveled and at restaurants, too. It was easy to wash, as well. We never bought baby food, and I think we saved a ton of money because of it.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

You can toast bread – or anything else – perfectly easily on a pan on the stove. Don’t even need to crouch down to use the broiler.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Someone else not only knows what spaetzle is, but you make it, too??? I love that stuff. My mom actually has a spaetzle maker which I have borrowed, but – funny story, at least to me – we are always finding stuff from the previous owners of our house tucked away. Recently, we found a grater with holes big enough to press the spaetzle dough (or batter?) through with a wooden spoon. They were pretty delicious.

Marie
Marie
6 years ago
Reply to  Lisa Aberle

I work in a German restaurant, so I see spaetzle by the bucketful on a daily basis. I can’t imagine spending the time to make it by hand! You must be more patient than I.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie

Marie, I make it so rarely because it is a lot of work. But soooo delicious when I get to eat it :)!

Lilypad
Lilypad
6 years ago
Reply to  Marie

My mom has a spaetzle maker she got from her mom and it says “made in Western Germany” (not even “West Germany” as it was known till 1990) which means it was made shortly after WWII. I finally bought my own in the mid ’90’s when visiting relatives in Germany. My cousin could make hers the old school way (cutting the dough on a cutting board and tossing it into the boiling water) but I always thought using the Spaetzlepresse was a lot more fun.

Ivy
Ivy
6 years ago

Interestingly I didn’t see a breadmaker on anybody’s list so far. We use one daily, as we make all of our bread at home. Yes, I could make it by hand and I do it occasionally (right now for the holidays almost every day), but for everyday use a breadmaking machine is such a timesaver. After our old one died earlier this year we splurged on a Zojirushi and never regretted it. Otherwise we use most of the things we have pretty regularly, my “out of the way” drawer has very few things in it. I do have a few… Read more »

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Ivy

For me owning a bread-maker would be akin to having a free bakery, or heck, a drug dealer in our apartment. That would be the death of me. 😀

Janice
Janice
6 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Amen to that. Got rid of mine for the same reason. 🙂

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago
Reply to  Ivy

I agree. Both regarding making your own bread and the Zojirushi brand. I’ve been using a breadmaker regularly for years, and when my last breadmaker died, I sprung for the Zojirushi, and was really impressed with the result.

For years, we’ve been having people over for dinner and getting raves for the bread (and we send them home with the rest of the loaf), but the Zojirushi really has made the best bread ever!

Emily @ evolvingPF
Emily @ evolvingPF
6 years ago

Kitchens really are individual! We love our nonstick pans and literally never use our other ones. I practically don’t know how to cook without a nonstick pan now. Also essential for us: a slow cooker, ceramic knives, a rice cooker, cutting surfaces, and our toaster oven. We also have a bunch of stuff that we registered for not knowing any better that we would rarely or never use it, unfortunately.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago

How timely! We did a major purge on our kitchen the day after Christmas. Here’s what we donated/tossed/sold: -Blender -Wok -Extra cutlery -A broken colander and disgusting chopping board that I had a hard time letting go of for sentimental reasons (they were my parents’, I remember them from my youth) -Juicer (we replaced with a Nutribullet, which we use often) -Veggie chopper (supposed to be convenient, but ironically, I was always too lazy to dig it out of the cupboards) Aside from pots/pans/silverware, here are some items I didn’t want to get rid of: -Slow cooker -Fancy pie dishes… Read more »

Mrs. B
Mrs. B
6 years ago

I just got an enameled 5qt Dutch oven for Christmas. My Aluminum one is going. I do have 3 Annodized Aluminum (non-stick, no-teflon) skillets we use a lot. I have 3 sizes of saucepans that are stainless steel with Aluminum disk bottoms that were Martha Stewart-branded form KMart 10 or so years ago. I have a cast iron skillet and a pressure cooker with 2 sizes of pots. The bigger one lives in the basement. Hubby keeps offering to get me a Kitchen Aid, but I don’t want to take up precious counter space, so my hand mixer does fine.… Read more »

ap
ap
6 years ago

As for toast, if you have gas burners you can downsize to a camping-style toaster meant for the firepit. This costs about $2 and takes up no more space than a single plate.

I have a knife block that hangs on the wall so profile is very slim.

As for single use machines, I wouldn’t be parted from my rice cooker or coffee grinder for anything. Also I discovered Vitamix this year and am in love. Making soup almost every week now. Got rid of my old blender years ago because it was so unsatisfying and messy.

Elissa @ 20s Finances
Elissa @ 20s Finances
6 years ago

Oh man – I couldn’t live without my cast iron skillet either! I cook almost everything on skillet. But I hardly ever use my toaster either – I don’t even know why I have it. Good tips! My boyfriend is just setting up his new kitchen and I will be sure to forward this to him.

Teinegurl
Teinegurl
6 years ago

We actually got a keurig has a gift. I actually love the ease of using it also i waste less coffee with it. Before with our traditional coffee pot we would only drink 1 or 2 cups out of it now we have no waste and since we didnt buy it i can justify the cost of the k cups.

imelda
imelda
6 years ago
Reply to  Teinegurl

This is not meant to be judgmental in any way – my office has a keurig and it’s great – but I just wanted to point out that the waste of having individually-packaged servings of coffee is way more wasteful than tossing away half a pot of brewed coffee.

I mean, unless you live in the desert, I guess.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  imelda

I forgot to mention, we also have a Keurig. It was a gift from my DH’s previous employer. Its used M-F and I prefer to do pour overs during the weekends when there’s more time.

The first thing I purchased was a reusable filter by EkoBrew that fits into the Keurig so I can use my own preferred coffee and not have to throw away any plastic containers. Problem solved!

PawPrint
PawPrint
6 years ago

My crockpot. I use it at least once a week, usually more. Luckily, we have one of those lazy Susan things in the corner cupboard. Also, my husband grinds my coffee beans for me every day so the coffee grinder is a must. We don’t have a coffee maker, however, just a filter holder.

Sandi_k
Sandi_k
6 years ago

When we moved 2 years ago, we purged a lot of things. Once we unpacked, we purged even more, because the kitchen cabinets have significantly less space than our old place. What we’ve kept: – Mixing bowls, glass, various sizes – Waffle iron (for the kids) – Mandolin – Blender (about to be donated, we haven’t used it) – Calphalon pots and pans – 3 large pots, 2 large saucepans, 2 small saucepans, 1 large skillet and 1 small skillet – One cast iron skillet – Bakeware – several 9×13 pans, several 9″ cake rounds, bread pans, muffin tins –… Read more »

Marie
Marie
6 years ago

I gave away our coffee maker. That probably sounds insane to most people, but I hate coffee and my husband’s reflux makes it a no-no for him. Several times a year I make tiramisu, and I stop at a restaurant for a cup of good coffee as needed for that recipe.

Marianne
Marianne
6 years ago

One thing for all who are drooling over Le Creuset cookware: Lodge makes pretty nice Dutch ovens for a lot less. I got a nice one at Target for $50.

Patricia
Patricia
6 years ago

I can vouch for the old Revere Ware. I got my copper-bottom set 42 years ago and still use it almost every day. It made it through raising 4 kids with only one small dent in one lid.

stellamarina
stellamarina
6 years ago

We still use the original Corelle dishes that we bought when we first got married….almost 40 years ago. Only time any have broken is when we lived in a house with a tile kitchen floor….otherwise they just bounce when dropped. Over the years we have added on to our set as we find our pattern at secondhand stores. I really like glass bake ware and mixing/serving bowls. They match with everything on the table and can also be used in the microwave. Also….they do not rust out in our salt air.

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
6 years ago

Nobody has mentioned a knife sharpener? I have a less-than-$20 version that fits in my silverware drawer and also sharpens scissors. You don’t really need expensive knives, just sharp ones. Mine are kept on a magnetic strip that fits on the wall, under the upper cabinets.

I’d be unhappy without my flat-bottomed wok (for electric stoves), cast-iron frying pan, and toaster oven, too.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago

I have a knife sharpener – though i’m looking to replace it. Any recommendations?

I completely agree about sharp knives — though I’ve found that good quality knives are easier to use because the metal doesn’t bend. A sturdy blade is easier to chop with than one that’s flimsy.

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I found my knife/scissors sharpener on Amazon.com–the “Kitchen IQ V-Slot 10 Second Knife and Scissors Sharpener” looks like it, though I think mine was a different brand name. I wouldn’t use it on expensive knives or scissors, but for mine it’s excellent.

I agree with you about flimsy knives. The ones I have weren’t terribly expensive, but they’re sturdy, well-balanced, and comfortable to use. They’ve lasted decades, and look to be good for more.

Carla
Carla
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Also using cheap knives is a sure way to chop off a finger. If its dull and slips on an item of food, it can slip and go through your skin.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago

I love seeing what people find useful and what they don’t 🙂

I try to only buy things I need, but sometimes you have to be willing to make mistakes in order to find things you’ll use often. For instance, I thought I would love a slow cooker for soups, but it turns out I prefer a regular old pot on the stove. I wouldn’t have known that unless I’d tried.

However, I do love my convection toaster oven for baking small things, and my George Foreman grill is great for grilling peppers and as a sandwich press.

SwampWoman
SwampWoman
6 years ago
Reply to  Beth

My lil’ brother got me a HUGE George Foreman grill for Christmas. I was wondering what he was thinking, but then I used it for the first time when my daughter and SIL were dropping off three hungry children for the week after work. I made Cuban sandwiches for six in four minutes! None for me, sadly, because I’m gluten intolerant. The grandkids were very impressed and said I should open a restaurant. Heh. The pepperoni calzones the next day didn’t take long, either. As for my essentials: Three cast iron frying pans, a cast iron chicken fryer, various sizes… Read more »

Priswell
Priswell
6 years ago

I love kitchen gadgets, and as much as I love them, they also save me money, because I cook every day and use them often. My all time favorite is my pressure cooker, which I use 2-3x a week. I have a set of Kitchen Craft cookware that I didn’t in the least begrudge buying. I use it daily, and it cooks very well and is easy to clean. I have a Borner V-slicer (Mandoline) that I use very often to chop onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, and whatever else. I use my juicer every day, and recently got a cast-iron… Read more »

Dan
Dan
6 years ago

Keurigs are awesome. That’s really all I disagree with in this article. They may not be a must have for non-coffee drinkers, but if you drink coffee they can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Also, the ease of use and variety of drinks it can instantly make is quite amazing in my mind.

Best part about this article to me is you could expand the same logic to any room in your house. Look at all the crap Americans are prodded into buying that is a waste of money!!

Rachel
Rachel
6 years ago

You put a Dutch oven on your “what you could live without” list, but seriously, getting one made my life so much better. I use mine every week when I batch-cook. It’s big enough for soup or pasta sauce. When I’m making something that requires a quick meat browning and then a long braise (huntsman’s chicken, a roast), it means a one-pot dinner. I’ve also used it as a deep-fryer, and to cook breads with particularly wet doughs. Mine _is_ a Le Creuset (it has a 100 year guarantee!), but I’ve seen pretty good quality knock-offs at Williams Sonoma for… Read more »

evlilik
evlilik
6 years ago

A great idea in concept, however poorly implemented. I purchased one hoping to save space but found that the coffee maker leaked and the toaster oven was a fire hazard (timer does not turn off the oven).

Sunflowergurl
Sunflowergurl
6 years ago

You forgot the can opener!! I think that’s pretty important and I use ours pretty frequently. Though, I know you can use a manual one but depending on the can, that can be a pain to use.

Cast Iron Muffin Pan
Cast Iron Muffin Pan
3 years ago

Great Post!! Muffin Pan is most important part of your kitchen. In muffin pan, you can cook or bake several items like cupcake, muffin, taco cups and cookies etc.

Crystal Bishop
Crystal Bishop
6 months ago

So I read the times article and apparently I can do better than the writer. Try a knife block with all the types of in bed, a pair of kitchen scissors, and a basic utensil of each type: spatula, slotted spoon, regular utensil spoon, ladle, slotted spatula and and a knife sharpener of the rod variety for 15 dollars and all of it has already lasted over a year, toaster which I do need for $10, 1 green pan, $6 brand new, and the other pots and pans are castoffs from friends and family, wooden spoons, $1, I don’t have… Read more »

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