If you're outfitting or updating your kitchen with new culinary gear, what are the essentials you can't cook without? This week on "In the Pantry," Aida Mollenkamp dishes up her tips on the pots, pans, utensils, and other indispensable kitchenware to make cooking and baking a breeze. "You're not going to be able to cook everything under the sun," said Mollenkamp, "but you will be able to cook probably 80 percent of your recipes with these things right here."
A high-quality saucepan and frying pan. Mollenkamp recommends a seasoned cast-iron skillet because of its versatility in the kitchen. "You can do everything from sear to fry, to make sauces, to even baking in it," she said. And you'll want a good-sized saucepan, which you can use to make everything from a small amount of soup to a basic tomato sauce.
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A sieve. Blanching vegetables, sifting flour, and draining pasta will be made easier if you use a sieve. Sieves come in a variety of sizes.
A set of nested stainless steel or glass bowls. These will hold either hot or cold ingredients in them. "You can do everything from whipping cream to making vinaigrette to melting chocolate in them," said Mollenkamp.
A glass measuring cup. It's important to use the correct measuring tool when you're cooking or baking. Make sure to have a glass measuring cup for use with any liquid ingredient.
A peppermill. Want freshly ground black pepper in your dish? You'll need a peppermill to grind up whole peppercorns.
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Mollenkamp also recommends some key utensils that will make a big difference in your cooking endeavors. What's on her list?
-An instant-read meat thermometer for ensuring your meat and poultry are properly cooked.
-A wooden spoon.
-One good-quality chef's knife that can be using for dicing, peeling, and mincing. Chef's knives come in a variety of blade lengths, so you'll want to purchase one that you feel comfortable using.
-A set of tongs for anytime you're frying or searing and need to be able to turn things in the pan.
-A good can opener.
-A standard tablespoon and teaspoon set. (If you plan to bake frequently, you should also have a set of dry measure cups.)
-Kitchen scissors for tasks like trimming vegetables or herbs like basil or rosemary, and even cutting meat.
-A cutting board. Mollenkamp recommends using wooden cutting boards because they are antimicrobial and can be easily cleaned with soap and water.
If you want to add some fancier cooking gear to your kitchen, Mollenkamp said you should include a Y-shaped peeler to your list of purchases. If you're going to be making whipped cream or doing some serious baking and mixing batter, add a whisk to your utensil jar. You can use aluminum foil for everything from lining pans to keeping things warm once you cook them. You'll also need one rimmed baking sheet, which Mollenkamp said could be used "for everything from roasting vegetables to roasting chicken, to making cookies." Finally, invest in a high-quality pot for making bigger portions of soups and sauces.
For more cooking tips and tricks, check out host Aida Mollenkamp's book, Keys to the Kitchen.