The Well-Equipped Kitchen

What you need to outfit your kitchen—no matter how much (or how little) you like to cook

Outfitting Your Kitchen for the Way that You Cook

 

We’ve looked at three different types of cooks and designed three different kitchen registries. Which one are you?

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By Julia Sexton

 

 

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Take a look at any married couple about three years after the wedding and you’ll see the same thing: unused kitchen gadgets shoved in attics, in basements, in closets, and under beds. In a few more years, those yogurt makers and tortilla presses will even start to look a little comical—like the silent butlers and fondue pots of yore. Add another year or two, and that couple will be selling those obsolete gifts for pennies at a tag sale. They’ll be thrilled to get their closets back.

Wedding registries are your opportunity to avoid these kitchen clunkers and assemble what you really need for your kitchen. That means cookware that you use, tools that stand the test of time, and appliances that won’t wind up in the attic. So, before you go running through the aisles with your UPC scanner, swiping everything that piques your fancy, ask yourself, “How do I use my kitchen?” This does not mean, “How do I aspire to cook?”

 Trust us, if you don’t currently spend your weekends with 30-step, eight-hour recipes, chances are you won’t be doing so in the future. So, if you’re more the heat-and-eat type, you’ll want to save the bulk of your gift registry for something that you’ll really enjoy, like a kayak, a flat-screen TV, or gorgeous bed linens. However, if your idea of weekend fun is whipping up homemade chicken stock, a seven-layer cake, and dinner parties for 14, you’re going to want a sophisticated, diverse set of tools. No matter where you fall on the cooking spectrum, we’ve collected items that guarantee you’ll get maximum use with minimal equipment. These are the kitchen tools that belong on the top of your registry list.

 

 

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A Basic Cook

Who you are:

 

 What you do:    You do light cooking and easy, five-ingredient recipes. You can sauté chicken breasts, fry eggs, boil hot dogs, and grill hamburgers, but you usually use jarred pasta sauces and baking mixes. While you don’t particularly enjoy cooking, it’s definitely a part of your everyday life. You might attempt more advanced cooking around the holidays, but on average, you spend less than half an hour cooking dinner and you eat out/get takeout fairly regularly.

 

What you need :

 

 

 

Eight-inch chef’s knife We recommend: Wüsthof-Trident Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife, $79.99 at Chef Central. There’s no need to clutter up your counter with a useless eight-piece knife set. Register for a single, best-quality, 8-inch chef’s knife and you’ll never regret it. This blade will get you through all your chopping, slicing, and mincing with ease.

Knife sharpener We recommend: Wüsthof-Classic Knife-Life Sharpener, $25 at Macy’s. No matter how much you hone your edge, your knife is useless without semi-annual sharpening. This easy home sharpener will keep your blade cutting forever.

 

 

 

Paring knife We recommend: Wüsthof-Trident Classic Four-and-a-Half-Inch Utility Knife, $44 at Chef Central. For hulling strawberries, coring apples or any other small, tight cuts.

 

 

 

Two polyethylene cutting boards We recommend: 10 by 15 inch OXO International Poly Boards, $12.99 at Chef Central. Cutting boards protect your counters and your knives, so don’t be caught without a few. But while wooden versions look nice, these polyethylene cutting boards can go right in the dishwasher. You can also color-code them for meat and veggies to prevent cross-contamination.

 

Nested metal mixing bowls We recommend: Gourmet 5-Piece Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set by Ultra Quality, $19.99 at Fortunoff. Mixing bowls come in lots of different materials—melamine, glass, ceramic, rubber—but the pros know that only metal can go from fridge to freezer to stovetop to dishwasher (but not the microwave, of course). A sturdy set will do it all.

 

 

Angled liquid measures We recommend: OXO SoftWorks 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set, $19.99 at Target. Tired of bending down and squinting every time you measure liquids? These angled cups accurately display volume from the top, which means you don’t have to crouch.

 

 

Dry measuring cups We recommend: Browne & Co. Ltd. Oval Measures, $19.99 at Chef Central. Who decided that measuring cups should be round? These narrower, oblong dry measures fit more easily into canisters, boxes and jars.

Measuring spoons We recommend: Browne & Co., Ltd., Oval Measuring Spoons, $9.99 at Chef Central. Oblong measuring spoons fit into tight-necked spice jars, which is reason enough to prefer them over round.

 

 

Pots and pans We recommend: 10-Piece Non-Stick Cookware Set by Calphalon, $399 at Fortunoff. Non-stick cookware is a godsend for harried cooks, because it’s very forgiving of serial burners—most blackened disasters just wipe away. This sturdy, basic set will get you through all your meals.

 

 

Spatula for non-stick cookware We recommend: OXO International Omelet Turner, $8.99 at Chef Central. This heat-proof silicone spatula won’t scratch your non-stick cookware

Instant read meat thermometer We recommend: Polder Safe-Serve Instant Read Thermometer, $14.99 at Target. Takes the guesswork out of cooking chicken, burgers, and steaks—which is a must for novices and chefs alike.

Wooden spoons We recommend: Acme Pre-Tix Wooden Spoon Set, $2.99 at Fortunoff. With designs unchanged in centuries, this four-piece set of wooden spoons is both effective and easy on your cookware.

Two pairs heavy-duty kitchen tongs We recommend: Cuisipro Stainless-Steel Non-stick Locking Tongs, 12-Inch, $10.99 at Target. Tongs are a cook’s right hand, great for turning or lifting with assurance—plus, they’ll help you snag that fork that fell down the garbage disposal. Buy two sets so, if one is dirty, you always have another on hand.

10-inch whisk We recommend: WMF/USA 10-Inch Stainless-Steel Whisk, $10 at Bloomingdale’s. There are a hundred whisk designs, but this is the first and the best.

One ladle We recommend: Amco 6-oz Stand-Up Ladle, $9.99 at Chef Central. This flat-bottomed, measuring ladle stands up all by itself.

 

 

Two 9-inch round cake pans We recommend: Calphalon Classic 9-Inch Round Cake Pan, $24 at Macy’s. Skip those nearly disposable, rust-prone supermarket versions and buy a couple of good cake pans, even if you’re just using a mix. You’ll wind up saving money in the long run as these pans will never need replacing.

Rectangular baking pans We recommend: Pyrex Original 2-Quart and 3-Quart Baking Dish Set, $15.99 at Target. These heat-proof glass pans work for lasagna, roasts, and cornbread, and then they can go right into the dishwasher.

Two baking sheets We recommend: Chicago Metallic Sheet Pan, $9.99 each at Chef Central. These pro-grade baking sheets won’t rust, burn, or warp.

 

 

Electric hand mixer We recommend: KitchenAid Portable 5-Speed Hand Mixer, $49.99 at Chef Central. With the way that you cook, there’s no need for a space-hogging, big-ticket stand mixer. This hand-held version will whip up cream, egg whites, and any batter you choose to bake.

One ovenproof glass pie plate We recommend: Pyrex Nine-and-a-Half-Inch Flavor Saver, $4.99 at Fortunoff. There’s a reason that everyone owns a Pyrex pie plate—it heats more evenly than metal or ceramic and you can actually see when your bottom crust is browned.

One 12-cup muffin tin We recommend: Chicago Metallic 12-Cup Muffin Pan, $24.99 at Chef Central. Even the most unwilling bakers wind up making cupcakes and muffins. This 12-cup tin will last a lifetime.

One wire cooling rack We recommend: RSVP International Chrome 16-by-12-Inch Cooling Rack, $9.99 at Chef Central. This roomy rack will cool pans and pans of cookies.

Strainer/Sieve. We recommend: WMF Six-Inch Strainer, $49.99 at Chef Central. Why buy a purpose-built sifter when you usually use mixes? This multi-purpose sieve will strain as well as sift.

Pot Holders/Trivets We recommend: Silicone Hotspot Pot Holders, $6.99 at Fortunoff. These handy silicone pot holders double as trivets, plus they’ll never lose heat-resistance in the dryer.

 

 

 

Coffee maker We recommend: Cuisinart’s Stainless Steel Grind and Brew, $149.99 at Fortunoff. It unites a coffee grinder, drip machine, and thermos in one space-saving unit.

Electric tea kettle We recommend: Krups Stainless Steel Kettle, $79.99 at Macy’s. Free up that burner and keep your kettle from grease spatter. This countertop version boils water quickly yet its handle remains cool to the touch. 

Blender  We recommend: Waring Professional Bar Blender in Stainless Steel, $129.99 at Chef Central. Unlike cheaper versions, this powerful blender has the heft to crush ice, puree tough vegetables, and whip up smoothies in no time.

 

 

Mini Food Processor We recommend: Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus, $50 at Bloomingdale’s. This hardy little processor easily chops onions, garlic, and herbs without breaking your budget or cluttering up your counter.

Toaster We recommend: Electra-Craft’s Dualit 4-Slot Chrome Toaster, $319.99 at Macy’s. Okay, just because your culinary skills don’t require a big stand mixer or a full-size food processor, that doesn’t mean you don’t want a little counter bling. Here’s a status kitchen gadget that you’ll actually use—it’s the Bentley of toasters.

Cookbook We recommend: The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Reichl, $26.40 at Target. Everyone needs one recently published general cookery book. (And no, you can’t just use your grandmother’s 1950s book featuring mock turtle soup and “beanie-weenies.”) Ruth Reichl’s latest epic will take you everywhere from acorn squash to zuppa inglese, with easy-to-follow, tested-to-death recipes.

 

 

Salad spinner We recommend: OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner, $24.99 at Bloomingdale’s. This convenient spinner makes salad washing and drying a snap, plus it also works for leafy herbs like basil and parsley.

Colander We recommend: 3-Quart Wide Rim Colander by Metro Marketing, $9.99 at Chef Central. This hefty metal workhorse will drain your veggies and pasta for a lifetime.

Potato masher We recommend: OXO Good Grips Potato Masher, $8.99 at Macy’s. Resist the urge to use power tools on potatoes, as over-whipping can make them gluey. This old-school potato masher is quick and easy—and it’s great for guacamole, too.

Pepper mill We recommend: Peugeot Fidji 8-Inch Black Pepper Mill, $52 at Macy’s. Pre-ground pepper tastes like dust. Grind to order with this high-quality French mill.

Peelers We recommend: OXO Swivel Peeler and Y-Peeler, $9.99 each  at Chef Central. OXO’s handy, sharp peelers are great for potatoes, carrots, apples, and lemons.

 

 

Box Grater We recommend: 18/8 Box Grater, Cuisipro, $19.99 at Chef Central. This classic box grater zests lemons, grates nutmeg, and slices and shreds cheese.

Corkscrew We recommend: Classic Rabbit Corkscrew with Foil Cutter in Black, $49.99 at Target. Ideal for klutzes; there will be no more cork chips in your wine.

 

 

Can opener We recommend: OXO Snap-Lock Can Opener, $12.99 at Target. Why waste your counter space on a bulky, noisy, and slow electric can opener? OXO’s comfortable and quick manual version works on any size or shape can—quietly.

 

 

A Hobbyist Cook

 

Who you are:

 

 What you do:    You enjoy cooking and baking when you have the time, and you try out new recipes regularly. You own several cookbooks, plus you’re always on the lookout for new recipes from friends or the Food Network. While mid-week dinners are fairly basic, you look forward to entertaining and cooking from scratch on special occasions. While you might use chicken stock from a carton and a few other convenience foods, you definitely bake from scratch.

 

What you need:

 

To the basic cook’s kitchen, add:

Multiples Following several recipes at once requires multiples of basic kitchen equipment. Double up on measuring spoons, measuring cups, spatulas, mixing bowls, and cookie sheets.

 

 

Kitchen Shears We recommend: Wüstof-Trident Come-Apart Shears, $19.99 at Chef Central. These quick-cutting scissors plow through whole chickens, trim fat, and cut stemmy herbs, plus they come apart for quick, sanitary cleaning.

 

 

Carving Board We recommend: Kansas City Board 22 by 15-Inch Carving Board, $79.99 at Chef Central. This beautiful wooden board has a deep well for juices, perfect for table-side roast carving.

Bread Knife We recommend: Wüstof-Trident Classic 9-Inch Bread Knife, $79.99 at Fortunoff. Goes through crusty bread without squashing it, plus it’s great for slicing tomatoes and chopping chocolate, too.

Scale We recommend: Taylor Precision Aquatronic with Glass, $59.99 at Fortunoff. The best baking recipes measure weight, not volume. Be prepared to go either way with this good-looking digital scale—it’s also great for portion-conscious dieters.

Heavy-duty pots and pans We recommend: All Clad 14-Piece Cookware Set, $999.99 at Macy’s. Why clutter up your cabinets with poorly designed, low-end cookware that burns and smokes and eventually falls apart? Bite the bullet and buy the good stuff. Even though you’ll use these well-designed pots and pans every day, they’ll still last forever.

Roasting Pan We recommend: Matfer-Bourgeat 18-Inch Aluminum Roasting Pan, $139.99 at Chef Central. Your roasts deserve better than disposable foil pans. This heavy aluminum roasting pan has easy-grab handles and can take you from standing rib roast to a 24-pound turkey, plus you can pop it on a burner to make gravy. 

 

 

Probe Thermometer We recommend: Polder Dual Sensor Thermometer and Timer, $29.99 at Fortunoff. Let’s say you just spent $150 on a standing rib roast. Are you willing to leave success up to a guess? This leave-in probe thermometer alerts you when your roast is done.

 

 

Dutch Oven We recommend: Le Creuset 8.75-Quart Round Dutch Oven, $244.99 at Bloomingdale’s. Le Creuset’s enameled cast-iron pots heat evenly and can go right into the oven for slow braises, stews, chilis, and ragus. You’ll reach for this mammoth Dutch oven whenever you’re cooking for a crowd.

Rolling pin We recommend: Vic Firth Manufacturing Company 15-Inch Rolling Pin, $31.99 at Fortunoff. This rugged pin will make easy work of even the coldest, stiffest piecrust.

Pastry Brush We recommend: Robinson Knife P-Tix 1-Inch and 2-Inch Pastry Brushes, $2.49 and $3.99 at Fortunoff. These natural bristle brushes are perfect for sealing your pies or painting egg wash on homemade breads.

 

 

Sifter We recommend: Norpro 8-Cup Crank Sifter, $19.99 at Chef Central. There’s nothing more annoying than a small-capacity sifter, which requires three hands to re-load. Get the job done at once with this generously sized sifter.

Bench Scraper We recommend: OXO Scraper/Chopper by OXO International, $7.99 at Chef Central. OXO’s handy scraper moves chopped veggies from cutting board to pot, and scrapes up flour and dough.

Stand Mixer We recommend: KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer, $299.99 at Fortunoff. This is your kitchen’s John Deere tractor, with available attachments that include a meat grinder, pasta roller, sausage stuffer, and ice cream maker. Even without the extra attachments, it whips cream, beats butter, mixes batter, kneads bread, and keeps coming back for more.

Silicone Pan Liners We recommend: Silpat Half-Sheet Baking Liner by Demarle Inc., $19.99 at Chef Central. These ingenious silicone mats mean the end of pan-greasing as you know it.

Oven Thermometer We recommend: Taylor-Precision Oven Guide Thermometer, $12.99 at Chef Central. Oven temperatures vary considerably. Always be sure with this easy-to-read oven thermometer.

Fridge Thermometer We recommend: Taylor Precision Pro Freezer/Fridge Thermometer, $9.99 at Chef Central. Because the same goes for your fridge.

 

Ice Cream Maker We recommend: KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Stand Mixer Attachment, $79.99 at Fortunoff. Home ice cream makers are getting better and better, thanks to better freezing gel locked inside their bowls. Put your KitchenAid to work with this easy-to-use ice cream attachment.

20 Food Processor We recommend: Custom 14 Food Processor by Cuisinart, $279.99 at Bloomingdales. This powerful processor with a 14-cup work bowl chops, slices, grates, kneads, and purees. It’s a welcome labor-savor for the busy, ambitious cook.

 

 

French Press We recommend: Bodum Chambourd 12-Cup Coffee Press, $39.99 at Macy’s. There are always two or three guests who want decaf when you’re serving regular, or regular when you’re serving decaf. Instead of investing in two coffee makers, keep this space-saving French press on hand for entertaining. It’s quick, easy, and good looking enough to come to the table.

Cheese Grater We recommend: Zyliss USA Inc. All Cheese Grater, $17.99 at Fortunoff. Zyliss’s tough, well-designed rotary grater makes quick, fluffy threads of Parmigiano Reggiano, cheddar, or Romano.            

Pizza Stone We recommend: Kitchen Supply 16-Inch Rectangular Pizza Stone, $29.99 at Chef Central. Not only is it a great surface for baking pizzas, breads, and pastry, but, if you leave the stone in your oven, it’ll reduce hot spots.

Pizza Wheel We recommend: OXO 4-Inch Pizza Wheel, $9.99 at Chef Central. This easy-to-hold pizza wheel is great for cutti

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