If the closest you’ve come to cooking is whipping up a PB&J, there are plenty of online classes you can take through programs like Bluprint, Udemy and Masterclass. (And even if you’re not typically a home chef, you may have stack of cookbooks collecting dust on your coffee table, like Alison Roman’s cult-favorite “Nothing Fancy.”)
Some people are putting their culinary skills to the test with exciting new recipes, while others are struggling to cook at home for the first time. Whatever your reason or skill level, there are few essentials you’ll need. We asked two culinary experts to dish on the absolute must-have for cooking at home.
Organize your cupboards and utensils, keeping everyday items close at hand. Most importantly, have a clean working space with sharp knives and a solid cutting board.
Master the basics
Good food doesn’t mean going overboard, Tonkinson said.
“Good flavor comes from solid, precise technique and not an overabundance of flavors,” Tonkinson told HuffPost Finds. “Learn how to master the basics: roasting, sautéing, frying and braising.”
If you’ve just perfected the art of boiling water, it might be best to stick with simple dishes that only require a few ingredients, said Kelly Ruben, a private chef based in New York City. She recommends one-pan recipes for beginners, and working your way up to more complex recipes.
When in doubt, turn to the experts
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of recipes out there, Ruben has a good hack for deciding what you want to cook.
“The best way to ease into an at-home cooking routine is by narrowing it down to one blog, Instagram account or cookbook that seems approachable,” she said.
Ruben recommends watching video tutorials to master complicated techniques that often get left out of written recipes, like how hot a pan should be when searing a steak or how thick to roll out a certain type of dough before baking.
Make sure you have the right tools
There are two essentials Tonkinson and Ruben agree are necessary for a well-prepared kitchen: a sharp knife and decent-sized cutting board. Together, they can make all the difference when preparing meals.
“Choose recipes that fit to your kitchen and not the other way around.”
- Barry Tonkinson, director of culinary research and development, Institute of Culinary Education
But remember, as with most things in life, kitchen products are about quality over quantity.
“If you look at the recipe first and then have to buy the equipment for it, you could end up hoarding an enormous amount of cookware that you rarely use,” Tonkinson said. “Choose recipes that fit to your kitchen and not the other way around.”
If you’re not sure what tools you might need to become a burgeoning master chef, Tonkinson and Ruben shared the gadgets they swear by in the kitchen.
Take a look below:
A multifunctional microplane
Both Tonkinson and Ruben agree that a microplane is one of the most essential — and underrated — tools of the kitchen. Ruben uses one "every time I a make a dish that requires grated garlic and/or zested citrus," while Tonkinson said it's, ahem, grate, for "cheese, zesting citrus and shaving nutmeg.
Both chefs agreed that a KitchenAid stand mixer is essential to a well-prepared kitchen. It's great for baking, but Tonkinson also uses it for "making meatballs, making mayonnaise and making my own butter." Ruben said it helps "speed up any recipe."
No kitchen is truly useful without a good set of mixing bowls in a few different sizes. They can be used for tossing ingredients, whisking sauces and food prep. But why stainless steel?
Ruben said stainless steels bowls are ideal for proofing dough and even using as a double boiler for melting chocolate: "They maintain heat and/or cool temperatures better than plastic bowls and aren’t as heavy as glass."
Tonkinson said the Vitamix is "the blender of all blenders," and is well worth the price. "This is an unrivaled piece for your culinary kit, which will be able to handle all of your culinary challenges," Tonkinson said.
No kitchen is complete without a few silicone utensils. "These are great for baking, stirring soups and sautéing vegetables. And you can leave them on the side of a hot pot without the risk of them melting," Ruben said.