- Victorinox Fibrox knives are by far the best value you will get. They are inexpensive and are quite the workhorse.
- I agree for the most part about the pots and pans except cast iron should be #1 on the list. The one thing you will learn very quickly as a cook is that cast iron is your friend. It also lasts forever.
- Someone said something about ditching whisk. Are you freaking kidding me? A whisk costs under $5 and it is invaluable for lots of dishes.
- Desserts are generally hard and require specialized gear. I'd drop the whole damn category.
- I'd add a bamboo steamer to the list. You can pick one up at a asian grocery store. Put it over a large pan of water.
For example, at the rate I cook, I had to buy three separate fibrox chef's knives to go a solid month without needing to resharpen. And then I'd need to resharpen all three. I decided to upgrade to a slightly more pricey knife that was made of a harder metal. I can now go between 6 and 9 months between sharpening that knife.
So if you do go for the victorinox knives, they will arrive super sharp. But be prepared to resharpen them frequently depending on how much you use them.
In about 9 months time I will have dulled all 5 victorinox chef's knives and the one MAC knife I own. And the MAC gets more than half of the load during that time.
Cast iron dutch ovens are another story because you will frequently use them in ovens where the heat retention properties are useful.
I guess I agree with you: if you have a high-quality stainless skillet, you don't need the cast-iron pan. Things we do in cast-iron that we don't do in the All Clad pan: make cornbread, sear steaks, grill vegetables outdoors.
It's kind of like driving an old F350 as a daily driver. Sometimes its just what you need, most of the time it's a heavy, ponderous maintenance nightmare.
And yeah, I laughed at the whisk thing too.
In any case, the result isn't bad for you -- it just tastes bad.
If something particularly hard to clean was in there, I do what scouts do on a campout: put an inch of water (with a little oil) in and set it to boil, then go back to the "wipe it out" step above.
- You don't need cookbooks. The internet is better in terms of 'MVK', and the best cookbook is the one you make yourself.
- Get rid of half of the pots and the dutch oven. Cast iron is indeed the greatest.
- A stand mixer is nice, but by no means is it Minimum Viable.
- If you insist on getting a mixing bowl that isn't a regular bowl, don't get three of them.
- Ditch the whisk.
- Saying an ice cream maker is part of an MVK is like saying cool t-shirts is part of a startup's MVP.
That being said, I really like this article.
Cookbooks: he's recommending specific cookbooks which he thinks will make you a better cook. As he says, lots of them are crap, as are lots of the recipes and tutorials on the internet. You're paying for curation here more than the content itself.
Pots: Keep in mind that a "10 piece" pot set is really one 5 pots or pans, which is not that much. Having the correct size pot or pan for the quantity of food that you're heating makes a big difference in how things turn out. (For example, when sauteing onions & vegetables you really want a fairly full single layer.)
Whisk: I'm sorry, but it really is an essential tool
Ice Cream Maker: I completely agree, and I'd be inclined to ditch the whole "desserts" section.
Note, that I think there's some debate about what "minimum viable" means here. The stand mixer falls in this grey area, I think. You can probably get away with a good hand mixer (as he acknowledges) but the stand mixer is more versatile and time saving.
Also internet recipes are a minefield for someone learning to actually cook. I'd say at least 90% of them are garbage, and I might be spotting them a 9.
* You will be unhappy if your only cooking surface is cast iron. I agree that you can do without the dutch oven but it is the "pan you can do without" that is the most valuable; it is the immediate runner up to the the "list of must-have pans".
* Strong disagree on your mixing bowl point. You need lots of mixing bowls. I have 8 and wish I had more. For instance: muffins and pancakes both want two mixing bowls at a minimum, and three if you don't want to use a service bowl to separate eggs. Sautees want a mixing bowl for proteins and mixing bowl for prepped vegetables. Dinner prep usually wants one mixing bowl just to throw onion skins and wrappers in. Mixing bowls are lightweight, stackable, cheap, and supremely useful, and it makes no sense to chintz on them.
* I don't even know how to respond to "ditch the whisk" unless you're one of those old French guys who can make a hollandaise with a fork. You need a whisk.
My mom is 81. She can make oeufs en neige with a fork. That I can't.
The difference is speed. Mayo doesn't need speed. It's just about fat molecules being elongated.
Yes you can. You just need to run the fork wide in the bowl (with firmness) and pour the oil VERY SLOW. It helps if someone else pours the oil so that you have one hand left to hold the bowl still.
The internet is full of terrible information in general. That's why PageRank was invented. Is there something unique about cooking information that means PageRank won't work with it?
I'll find the eHow "how to cook a steak" that was pegged to the top of a SERP in a bit.
Another counterexample to your belief about the miracle of PageRank: try searching for symptoms some time.
There are many (non-tech) long-tail topics that I've successfully searched for using Google, so I don't think this is a generalizable statement.
> The sites with the most recipes tend to either be overtly user-generated or slyly repackaged UGC.
I can't speak as to the average user, but I am usually able to easily ignore/sift through such sites. They pop up frequently in all kinds of searches these days, and is one of the clearest signs of Google's results going downhill.
That said, I have no personal experience looking for recipes online, as my cooking knowledge was largely learned from my mom, and I've had no reason to turn to any other sources so far.
> Another counterexample to your belief about the miracle of PageRank: try searching for symptoms some time.
When did I suggest that I believe that PageRank is miraculous? It has its pitfalls, just like any other algorithm.
And I've actually searched for symptoms several times and successfully self-diagnosed (confirmed later during a doctor's visit). So this example of yours doesn't hold up. My success there may have been swayed by my professional biomedical knowledge though.
But you can still sometimes see this problem with medical topics because heavy-handed government regulation has largely stifled innovation in the medical industry. New technology adoption in the industry is extremely slow, and from my own professional experience, I can tell you that getting doctors to do something as simple as type their notes (so they're available to patients online) instead of handwriting them is akin to pulling teeth.
The protectionism that has resulted from constant lobbying by the AMA has resulted in lots of doctors being able to avoid the adoption of new technology, so discussion of medical topics online by knowledgeable individuals is rarer than in other fields. Perhaps this will change as baby boomers age and medical costs skyrocket, but I'm definitely not holding my breath.
Also, there is of course the issue of most people searching for this stuff not being very knowledgeable, so it creates some confusion on the part of the searcher, what with all the new vocabulary. As for your cerebrospinal fluid example, it's very possible that I see those sorts of results, but I just tune them out due to how absurd they are.
Edit: you were probably talking about CSF rhinorrhea. As it says:
> Most cases of CSF rhinorrhea occur after major accidents where the bones of the face and skull experience significant trauma.
Ergo, if you haven't been in a major accident recently, disregard. Doesn't seem that complicated to me.
> most people who search for prepared dishes aren't actually going to prepare them
None of these are problems for people comfortable enough with cooking and know what you're attempting to make, but if you're trying to learn best practices I think it's easiest to find a reputable cookbook for reference. I agree with that the author said, many cookbooks are terrible. I think it's going to get worse with self-publishing and ebooks (I'm definitely not knocking them--but I think in this case it's going to lower the quality).
To your specific point, I agree with the sibling comment about it being an aggregate for the whole site and people linking to stuff they have no intention of making.
I'm late to the party, but wholeheartedly agree. My most read cookbooks are:
The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Had it since graduating college 25 years ago and every page has butter/chocolate/etc stains.
The Dean & Deluca Cookbook David Rosengarten. Simple recipes, good explanations.
Classic Home Desserts Richard Sax. Amazing collection of sweets over the last 200 years.
Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen A lot of people think he's a blowhard. Whatever, the food's great.
I have lots more, but those are probably the most thumbed-through.
OK, one more :-)
The Village Baker's Wife too lazy to get up and look up the author, but it's a fair to good pastry book.
The really important thing about the above books is that they build a knowledge base. Once you have that, along with some experience, it's much easier to evaluate online recipes and see if they even have a chance of being good.
There's way more to meringue than I realized.
It depends on what you need it for. With my electric mixer it's easy to overwhip. It's probably just silly nostalgia and habit though (my grandmother used to whip cream with a fork).
Fishing for recipes on the Internet is an advanced skill. You need to know how to cook reasonably well in order to evaluate the recipes and adjust each one to your situation.
In contrast, something like Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" gives a lot of basic advice, has a set of consistent recipes with clear variations, and is carefully designed to avoid confusion.
And for the nerdy, the Bittman book is available in a Kindle version, so it need not take up any physical space.
If you want to be "interesting" about this: get Ruhlman's Twenty (which is 20 core techniques with sample recipes) and Ratio, and then use the Internet for everything else. If you read Twenty, you'll probably be able to spot bullshit on the Internet.
But as far as going to AllRecipes and following instructions, you can do it, and you'll end up with something edible, but you're not learning to cook properly doing so.
Also, why get rid of the dutch oven, but keep the cast iron? A dutch oven is cast iron. I am confused.
You're talking about recipe collections, not cookbooks, and for those you are probably right.
But a good cookbook doesn't just contain recipes, it contains basic cooking knowledge, it contains general recipes that you can use to make actual meals. And you'll be using those guidelines over and over again when cooking.
I also think a standing mixer is a luxury, but I've upvoted everyone who's said you cannot ditch the whisk. Whisks are important. Enough said.
Many comments on this thread have been about knives. I've owned quite a few knives over the span of years of professional cooking. A really good chef knife will really only be appreciated by those who cook either professionally or really seriously as a hobby. A soccer mom who chops onions once or twice a week to cook dinner very likely won't know/feel the difference between a 50$ Whustoff or Henckel vs a $250 Shun.
The other important thing to know about knives is if you do decide to spring for a good quality blade, maintaining it is really important. Sharpening with a whetstone with the appropriate grit and honing the blade before each use will keep your sharp edge for much longer.
All in all the article is good. All-clad is hands down the best quality and most durable cookwear out there. Although I don't think using a dutch oven to make sauces is a great idea.
My MVK? A refrigerator, a knife, and a cutting board.
A little background...
90% of what we eat = raw produce. So it's pretty straightforward. We just eat produce at home and an occasional hot meal out. Every meal at home is either fresh fruit or a salad. (I haven't eaten anything other than fruit before noon for 25 years.) We have lots of nuts & seeds, cereals, snacks, and many wonderful things in our fridge.
We eat out at restaurants several times per week and zero in on our favorites. (Living in Miami, we'll probably run out of fantastic options in about 30 years.) Most of the places we go serve food far better than what we could or would want to prepare and most definitely satisfy our "foodie" desires. Miami also offers many foods we would have never even dreamed about.
This was a nice post for beginning foodies (Thank you, Matt), but these days, MV<anythings> asymphtotically approach zero. In most places, you really can eat lots of delicious and healthy food without all that stuff.
(By the way, anyone need a stove, range, or microwave with 0 miles on them?)
We eat better than most people I know who do cook. Come on over the next time you're in Miami and we'll show you. :-)
It's all love with this comment, you know. Come to Chicago sometime and we'll make you ceviche.
Personally, I'm trying to cook my way through Weber's Big Book of Grilling. So I don't even need the kitchen, nyahh. To each his own, I guess.
The thesis statement is also helpful to understand what he is trying to achieve:
I define the Minimum Viable Kitchen as one that can
allow you to create over 75% of the recipes that are
in what I consider to be the best cookbooks for
For cooking most western foods, for example, i think he totally misses the mark in the pots/pans section. Having worked in a 'new american' kitchen, i can confidently say that buying cheap aluminum/stainless 8", 10" sautee pans, an 8" nonstick, a 1pt saucepan, a 2qt pot, (~$9 ea at fsw or whatever) and a cheap $30 dutch oven covers the vast majority of of cooking needs if you throw in a few pieces of steel wool and let the sheet tray pass for whatever baking.
the notion that heavy pans for 'even heat distribution' are essential is true at some echelon of gourmet cuisine, but getting to know how your pan behaves on your stove is infinitely more valuable and cost effective than buying a set of all-clads. case in point, buy a cast-iron fry pan and discover its 'even heat' characteristic still includes a hotspot right under the burner.
75% of all recipes don't require all that much, though, it's the 25% that add much of the weird equipment overhead (i'm looking at you, spring form pan!)
My 12" allclad fry on the other hand, not so donut shaped.
The takeaway possibly is that minimum viable anything is relative to the expectations of the observer. Also that over-thinking things can lead to excess.
You'd be surprised at the crap knives people buy. Not only do cheap knives dull quickly, they also are composed of multiple pieces. Dull knives lead to scarring injuries (whereas sharp knives lead to a clean cut that most likely won't scar) and knives that have multiple pieces will be harder to clean and therefore contain more bacteria.
If anyone needs a recommendation, I swear by Global  knives. They are sharp as...well, anything I've ever seen. They also stay sharp for a long time. Yes, they will cost you a lot of money (but they're usually on sale somewhere out there) but over the long term you are saving money by not having to buy so many knives.
I respectfully disagree with having a throw-away knife because a knife is a sharp cutting instrument that is supposed to be an extension of your arm/hand. If you are always purchasing new knives, you are changing the feel of the knife and you will change how you unconsciously use it (also known as muscle memory). Especially with a paring knife, use the same one because the 'paring' action usually involves you cutting towards your wrist and you want to make sure that you don't accidentally suicide yourself.
My goto knives are:
- G-4: Oriental cook's knife (http://www.global-knife.com/products/g/product_g-4.html)
- GSF-49: utility knife [I use it as a paring knife] (http://www.global-knife.com/products/gs/product_gsf-49.html)
One other key piece of advice for knives: cutting boards. NEVER NEVER NEVER use glass cutting boards. Tempered glass is very strong and you are just damaging the blade by cutting on it. Use wood (and clean it well) or, at the very least, plastic.
Also, get a great pair of shears (which come apart for cleaning), such as http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002IMMEW
I cook a lot (for a family of 5) and my minimum/essential kitchen items for us are:
- 2 knives (I use Global but I like Victorinox too) + Henckels sharpener
- Cast iron skillet
- Small non-stick pan (my wife prefers little/no oils)
- 2 Pots
- 1 steamer basket
- 1 baking sheet
- 1 pizza stone (or some unglazed tiles from Home Depot)
- KitchenAid stand mixer
- Vitamix 5200 blender
- 1 large Rubbermaid tub/lid for rising bread dough
- 1 slow cooker / crock pot (you can get em for as little as $20)
As for books, I've collected a few here and there but the ones I refer to the most are The Professional Chef (referenced in article), The Magnolia Bakery cookbooks, and Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (amazing bread a pizza dough for busy people).
What do you think about slow cookers destroying vital nutrients? This is the only thing keeping me from buying one.
I read some more serious research a while back but a quick search on Google got these 2 (not so great) sources:
I really only cook 2 things in our slow cooker: (1) meats in some sort of sauce (usually chicken or pork) which we use with chopped/raw veggies for tacos or salads and (2) steel cut oatmeal (we set it on low the night before with diced apples + cinnamon).
Supplies I'd add to a MVK:
Dry measuring cups/spoons, liquid measures, rubber jar opener, bottle opener, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, digital timer, oven mitts, soap (I also like Lysol wipes for quick sanitizing)
Ingredients to keep in stock:
Fridge: butter (salted for cooking, unsalted for baking), lemon, lime, whole milk or cream, eggs, soy, Worcestershire
Pantry: cooking wine, vinegar, olive and vegetable oils, salt, black pepper (peppercorns in grinder preferably), dried spices (oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, chive, dill, cumin, coriander, chili powder, red pepper, garlic powder, dried onion, or at the very least some "cheater" mixes like Adobo, Jane's Krazy, Old Bay), vanilla, nuts and nut butters, shortening
Dry ingredients: white flour, white sugar (brown optional), baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, chocolate, breadcrumbs (or make them)
Also keep around: fresh garlic, onions, quick starches (rice, couscous, pasta, potato), bread, liquid stocks (really you can make these), cheeses, other alcohols
I think you can probably get everything on my list for less than the price of the ice cream maker.
People focus a lot of the equipment, but a properly stocked pantry will get you further.
Find a canned "quick" item that is super luxurious. Keep it always stocked. It makes the simple life awesome. Mine are "elysee gherkins". Eat a sandwich? Add gherkins. Any kind of appetizer? put a small bowl of gherkins out.
My secret luxurious dessert ingredient is speculoos. I saw it on Chopped so now I have to pick it up every time I'm at Trader Joe's.
I agree that measuring cups & spoons and oven mitts are a big oversight though, and the inclusion of the ice cream maker is just strange.
And since it seems somewhat on topic, Hubbub are hiring developers, so if you love both food and technology we'd love to hear from you: http://developers.hubbub.co.uk/.
We provide an online delivery service for local independent food shops, because we love food too much to leave it to the supermarkets.
Go and live in a developing country for a few years, see and taste the phenomenal food, then double check if you need to spend a fraction of $971
The nytimes author seems less fussy about things and imho has a better list for people who need a basic version of most often needed kitchen items.
This priceonomics article is pretty good. I definitely agree with the Victorinox suggestion and only buying a chef's knife and paring knife upfront. I think getting an ice cream maker is kind of ridiculous. I do think it's good to have a few basic cookbooks handy (finding good recipes on the internet is definitely an acquired skill).
One very helpful thing I haven't seen mentioned is to check out restaurant supply stores. They generally charge way less than most retail places, while their presentation isn't always as pretty they work fine (obviously, since they're used in restaurants). The only issue I've had is that the size of things necessary for a restaurant can be too big for my home use.
Similarly, you don't tell a novice to spend $1000 on equipment they might never use. I've cooked "gourmet" for over a decade and I've never owned a stand mixer. You tell them to buy a good chef's knife, a good paring knife. A stock pot, a frying pan, maybe a saucepan. I have a cast iron pan but i use my nonstick pans much more often.
The difficulty in learning to cook is not in getting the right tools. It's in getting someone to overcome their fear of it. You just need to show them that it's actually not a difficult thing, that you can screw up a recipe multiple times and still have a delicious result. Make a pot of spaghetti, then a simple soup or stew, roast a chicken, fry a steak. Then go nuts making Keller's Oysters and Pearls. But only after.
The people who would find use out of many of the items listed are the same people who know what they need, anyway.
Buy that, plus the "Ultra Fine" stone: http://amzn.com/B000B8L6MC
The Lansky system has metal guides that maintain the right honing angle for you, so you can easily get a decent edge by just following the directions in their video. So long as you treat your knives right, you should just have to do that twice a year. (No dishwasher, and don't let them bash against silverware in the drying rack and in the drawer.)
As for a knife, get something with a real high carbon steel blade. Most stainless is too soft and loses its edge.
Chicago Cutlery used to be good, but I see now they've cheaped-out on their design. (If you have the good fortune to find an older Walnut Traditions knife, make a "boat" with aluminum foil and soak the handles in mineral oil, then don't wash them so much. Oil soaked wood doesn't need too much washing.)
This one looks promising: http://amzn.com/B0000CFDD5
* Strong recommend on the Fibrox knife. If you don't already have a serious knife, don't buy one; get the Fibrox and use it for awhile. You may never want another knife, and if you ever do, you'll have a very good idea what you're looking for. Beware of knives: they're Veblen goods.
* Don't get the expensive butcher block board. Actively avoid it. If you feel like arguing about this, you're not the reader this note targets; everyone else, trust me that the butcher block board is a lot of maintenance for not a lot of practical difference. Plastic and laminate boards work great, are cheap, and you can throw them in the dishwasher.
* Get two boards of different colors and designate one for meat. This minimizes accidental cross-contamination and also makes it easier to handle multiple prep steps since a board that was used for carrots and onions can just be rinsed off to reuse for shallots or garlic.
* I'd recommend against the knife sharpener. It's hard and a little time consuming to do a good job sharpening knives, and if you're not ready to commit to learning how, you're better off bringing your knives in every month or so; it takes just 2 minutes for a shop to do it. You probably won't sharpen your own knives even if you buy the equipment, but having it, you'll convince yourself you don't need to have your knives sharpened professionally. Bad sharpeners can also mess up your knives.
* Strong disagree on "just get 10 piece set" of pots/pans. You need a large sautee, a saucier (which will double as rice and veg cooking), a soup pot, and a _small_ nonstick omelette pan, and nothing else. Except for the omelette pan, which you'll be replacing every year or so, the quality of your pans will matter a lot. I like All-Clad, like everyone else.
* If you want to optimize a little, get a Lodge Enamelled Dutch Oven and use it for soup and also braises.
* Get the cheapest All-Clad on offer. All-Clad's multiple lines are mostly about price discrimination.
* Unless you eat smoothies, most people will use their Kitchenaid Mixer more than they'll use any blender. You can safely skip the blender! People geek out on blenders, and, what's more tricky, venders aren't Veblen goods; their performance really does scale with their price. Which means you'll easily be convinced to drop a lot of money on a blender. If you're unsure whether you want to allocate a lot of dollars to a Vitamix (we love ours, but...), get an immersion ("stick") blender instead. They're very cheap and they'll do most of the culinary things you'd do with the stand blender.
* Again regarding mixers: there is only one brand. You want a Kitchenaid.
* If you're not going to bake, you can skip the mixer.
* If you get a stick blender, you can get one with attachments and skip the hand mixer.
* Nerds need slow cookers. Here again I disagree with Matt. Normal people can get away with not having a crock pot, but if you're looking to set up a kitchen that will get you cooking more and eating In-N-Out less, you need the crock pot. They're cheap, and more importantly, they allow you to queue up a meal in the morning and come home to it done.
* Hard to disagree with Matt on the utilities. You need a scale. You need a stack of light metal mixing bowls (do not waste time and money on heavy mixing bowls). Microplanes are great. You want a box grater. You want a thermometer. If you're making room in your budget for optimization: the Thermapen is totally worth it. Nobody I know who has one fails to wax poetical about them. I rarely use the rolling pin. I disagree about the silicone tongs; get all-metal ones, but get a good pair. Matt didn't say "fish spatula" but trust me on this, you'll use it all the time. If you didn't know you needed a good whisk I don't know how I can help you.
One thing Matt didn't list here that has more or less changed my life: go to Amazon and get the largest bulk plastic deli cup box they'll sell you. Deli cups are amazing. You need deli cups. I don't mean "you need 1 or 2 deli cups". I mean you need a stack of 60 somewhere in your kitchen, and another 300 or so in a closet.
Stab at a true minimum viable kitchen (there are other minimal configurations):
- Cuisinart 3qt sautee ($52)
- Large pot ($25, Cuisinart)
- Small cheap nonstick omelette pan ($20, Cuisinart)
- Fibrox chef's knife ($26)
- Metal fish spatula ($12, OXO)
- 2 plastic cutting boards ($30 for 2, generic)
- 2 light metal mixing bowls ($20 for 2, generic)
- 1 4-cup pyrex measuring cup ($10)
- Balloon whisk ($10, OXO)
- Large wooden spoon ($5, Calphalon)
- Large slotted spoon ($10, OXO)
- Tbsp/tsp measuring spoon ($3, generic)
- Stick blender ($45, Cuisinart, w/ whisk)
- Pepper grinder ($10, generic)
- Thermometer ($20, generic)
- Scale ($20, generic)
Couple minor rebuttals:
* The sharpener I recommended takes seconds to use and can't really be messed up. Cook's Illustrated says it works as well as an electric one that is much more difficult and more time consuming. I can sharpen my knife with it in less time than you can even safely package yours to take to get sharpened, and the Fibrox needs to be sharpened somewhat often. Seriously, buy that sharpener and try it. I'll give you the $9 back if you don't like.
* I don't think a 10 piece set costs more than the individual pieces you described typically. They count lids at pieces, so it's really more like a 6 piece set. I frequently need multiple saucepans or skillets when cooking so I really don't think it's overkill. (I'd recommend one saute and one skillet at minimum). You need a small saucepan and a large. I would agree that the first thing I'd spend extra on would be All-Clad pans. Most restaurants, even good ones, use cheapo aluminum pans though, so I don't think I'd call it minimum viable. (I probably should have recommended cheap aluminum pans from a restaurant supply store honestly.)
* I'd pick the blender over the stand mixer any day, and I almost never make beverages with it. It makes awesome soups. Aerates a quiche. Makes homemade mayo. Purees fruit for sorbets or granitas so well you don't even have to strain out the seed chunks. I don't think I'd do any of those with an immersion blender.
A large straight-sided sautee does double duty as a skillet.
Interesting how neither of us think the food processor is a vital purchase. Especially because I use mine all the time, but, yeah, not in my "MVK".
PS to everyone else: if you don't make mayo, you should try; it's extremely easy and very very good. 1 egg yolk, salt, tbsp of tart liquid, maybe some dijon. Mix, then slowly pour 1 cup oil while running blender. Done. Got some sriracha? Mix in after you get the emulsion going. Amazing.
I use my food processor occasionally. Pie crusts, etc. But most stuff I'd rather do in a Vitamix.
I guess maybe I love my blender so much because I love soups and sorbets. And quiche. I use it probably at least twice weekly. And going through that cook book, there are a lot of things that call for it.
My opinion on pots and pans is that you should consider non-stick pans to be disposable. Even the best ones will have their teflon worn down over time. So I don't waste money on high-end teflon pans. I buy heavy duty aluminum teflon pans from restaurant supply stores. My personal preference for non-teflon pans is enameled cast iron and/or clad stainless steel pans. These pans will last a lifetime. So people should buy ones they're comfortable spending.
+1 on the rest of your recommendations though. A good knife and set of pans (all tri-ply or anodized aluminum) helped improve my cooking skills a lot.
That's exactly why people say the Fibrox is cheap. Spend $100 on a good knife, and you won't have to sharpen it more than a couple of times a year, if that.
It's really worth spending about $100 on a knife. Beyond that, you're paying for fancy handles and/or damascus steel. Too much below that, and you're getting an inferior product.
What temperature is a 5 on the slow cooker? Who knows? 200 F is pretty easy to understand.
- Stick blenders, at $20, are a steal.
- Kitchenaid is a good mixer brand, but Breville also gets very high marks.
- If you're going to bake even infrequently, the rolling pin is non-optional. A good solid rolling pin can also be used for whacking things (e.g. butter you want to soften but not melt) and as a cylindrical mold.
We have a pricy Vitamix blender, but I use my stick blender much more often regardless.
I'm sure a Kitchenaid would have been a great purchase too, but there are definitely multiple viable choices here.
We started making spaghetti with the meat grinder extruded attachment. Half way through the batch the mixer started making a grinding noise. Turns out we stripped every damn tooth off a 45deg gear in the box. Best pasta I've ever eaten!!!
I cleaned the gear box out and ordered new gears, gasket, and a ring. I'm putting it back together as soon as the grease comes in. I'm not sure how I'll make homemade pasta next time though.
For pastamaking, I have an Atlas hand cranked pasta roller/cutter with various size attachments I bought over 20 years ago. It' all steel construction and will probably work for another 20 years.
We have a Vic Firth one that gets used about a half dozen times a day (my girlfriend has been on a year-long hardcore baking addiction...which while almost as costly as a meth addiction at least has the nice side-effect of keeping us in an embarrassment of breads, cookies, and pies).
I have that Accusharp sharpener. It might be worth the nine bucks. It has yet to convince me. I'm going to try taking my dull knives to the local pro shop and see how much better life can get.
The Thermapen is the greatest.
Put me on the team that wants a food processor, but then again I'm a baker who is fond of pie, which is the killer app for the food processor:
The processor's also good for pesto, though, and pesto is awesome.
There is no silicone spatula on this list! I guess it's true that I'm a baker and therefore use it more. But, still, I regard mine as an essential.
- buy your All Clad pots at Bed, Bath & Beyond with a 20% off coupon
Note: I haven't tried this in a some time; they may have discontinued it. You can get a coupon online, in the mail, on eBay...
Anyway, I guess my point is: don't pay full price for cookware, you can probably get it for less somehow.
Actually if you want the cheaper line, Home Goods or TJ Max has good deals on them.
Cooks Illustrated doesn't like Tramontina; they claim they heat unevenly and require more oil. They "Recommend it with reservations". The "budget" brand Cooks Illustrated likes is Cuisinart.
The problem with these stores is they have inconsistent stock, which changes all the time depending on what the other stores have shoved off on them.
The big thing about delis is that you'll simply save a lot more food, because they're so extremely convenient.
Do you use the tiny ones that take-out dipping sauce might come in? Or the ones that an order of hot-and-sour soup might come in? Or the ones that an entire Chinese entree might come in? Or the ones that a half-gallon of soup might come in?
I'm guessing your answer is "all of the above" but I'm curious.
I know where you're coming from, though, because in the last couple of years, without even consciously trying, I've noticed myself getting more and more use out of our used take-out containers. Either we were clued out before, or there's been an evolutionary leap in the quality of deli cups, such that they're now better than disposable Gladlock-type plastic containers, which in turn are better than my aging collection of Rubbermaid and Tupperware containers. They're even arguably better than my snap-closed glass storage containers, which I've liked for years because they can be reliably cleaned.
Also +1 on parchment paper and Silpats. Your baking sheets and pans will last forever.
He picked a cuisine without saying which one.
A MVK will have different sets of equipment depending on the cuisine you choose. A Chinese kitchen will have a wok and a rice cooker, while a French kitchen will have things that you need to make bread.
The most important thing is to choose a cuisine and stick to it! There is a lot of learn from one cuisine before you move to another.
In my experience (being Chinese and born in North America), my kitchen holds a lot of stuff that i like (black bean sauce and grainy mustard) that just don't work together, but i wouldn't want to live without. (Also wok spatula and tongs if you are looking for an equipment example)
Here's Kenji's non-scientific rant on the subject:
Here's the better-equipped-with-charty-graphy-goodness version:
FYI, I'm no master of the wok. Just a fool who plays with the master's tools
One of the really nice things about a wok is that liquids drain to the middle, and the centre is super hot! You really don't get that on a saute pan. Also, when you toss something with a wok spatula, everything is generally gathered in the middle. Maybe I just need to move 2 to 3 times faster in a saute pan.
There is also something Cantonese cooking called wok hei (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wok#Wok_hei). It's pretty elusive, but some dishes IMO live and die by it. I know when dishes are right when a waiter passes a plate across my face and for a brief moment, it felt like a heating element just rush past.
Probably cost us < $100 as most of it was free. Same with our bone china crockery + cutlery (both were $20).
Less to wash up as well and we haven't cooked any ready meals for 10 years - we only cook from basic ingredients.
Recipe books - we own one and it's the Mary Berry baking bible because it's so easy to fuck up when baking and she does 100% bullet proof recipes.
These days I do have a lot of random appliances, mostly from loyalty rewards. They're handy, but the only one I regularly use is my electric mixer. No need to a stand mixer!
We make bread by hand (only takes ten mins) and everything that comes out of a microwave tastes like shit.
Actual bread takes 10 minutes of attention and about 2 hours of wall time.
The Wirecutter review:
A cast iron enameled wok, though, is awesome. I got mine from the Wok Shop in SF for $30 with spatula/etc.
http://refer.ly/cooking_tools/c/59d5b57c118b11e2a4ec22000a1d... is what I came up with a while ago.
I have more kitchen equipment than I know what to do with, but 95% of the meals I wind up cooking need at most these:
- Bamboo Cutting Board
- Plastic cutting board
- Tongs, spatulas, and cooking chopsticks
- Rice cooker
- Chef's knife
- Paring Knife
- Sashimi knife
- Aluminum nonstick pan
- cast-iron griddle / broiler pan
- Pot with steamer
- 12 Qt. Stock pot
- Large Wok
- Mixing bowls
- Hand mixer
This is enough equipment to cook a broad range of French, Japanese and American dishes. It's nice to have things like a Mandoline, oil thermometer or blender, but I find myself using them less frequently as I become more experienced. I've also never owned a tabletop mixer and never wished for one.
In terms of pots and pans, I recommend getting a carbon steel wok. A carbon steel wok requires a bit of TLC but pays off in terms of delicious quick meals and the ability to use much less oil. Unfortunately when most people use a wok (often stainless or non-stick) they never actually stir fry but only end up sauteing or braising/steaming the food in its own juices. A zucchini and onion stir fry should only take about 4 or 5 minutes to stir fry, if even that. A wok is great for meals for two -- for larger meals you will have to cook in batches, if what is being made in the wok is the main course.
A good book for learning how to use a wok is "Wok Fast," which teaches you the techniques behind the wok, gives you a variety of sauces, and a bunch of recipes. By learning why a certain thing is done (such as why you should steam broccoli a bit before stir frying) instead of just following recipes, you can be more creative when cooking. The book is out of print but Amazon lists some other sellers.
Just be aware that most carbon steel woks come with a protective coating that must first be removed prior to seasoning and using it; find some instructions online or else you will end up with strange translucent stuff in your food. :) The coating has to come off as it is the interaction of oils with the carbon steel that cause a wok to develop its non-stick patina.
1. Wait until the wok surface is hot enough to vaporize a sprinkling of water instantly.
2. Add the oil + onions and/or garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. Coat the wok with the oil as you do this.
3. Add the meat, let it sit on the wok until it is seared (at which point it will "unstick" from the wok) and stir fry about two minutes. Remove the meat, which is not yet fully cooked, and set it aside.
4. Wait for the wok to heat up again, but be careful about using the water droplet technique as that can cause the oil to splash. Add the vegetables and stir fry until they brighten, about two minutes.
5. If the wok is still pretty hot at this point you can just add the meat and cook another two minutes, then add the sauce and cook a final two minutes. If it seems like it isn't hot enough, remove the vegetables and let it heat up a bit before adding everything.
It's definitely more effort than just being able to add the meat, stir fry, then add the vegetables, but it does work, and only takes 8-10 minutes for meat + vegetables. If you are cooking only vegetables, the water doesn't need to instantly vaporize -- it should sit for about 2 or 3 seconds before vaporizing.
As I said, I'm recalling this from memory and I don't generally cook meat, so the instructions might be off (please don't eat undercooked meat!) But what I wanted to convey was that I found it possible to stir fry for two even with a low end electric stove. Maybe there are some stoves even worse than what I had, though! :)
I think this shows electric ranges can get suitably hot with the right wok. I'd still like one of the 50A 3-phase induction woks used at high end restaurants, or an outdoor turkey fryer gas burner (40k BTU), though.
In the 90s, they totally changed JoC, removing whole sections and modifying a bunch of the recipes to be "healthier" (read low-fat). I much prefer having the original recipes and then be able to choose my own substitutions if I want to modify them.
Vitamix and Blend-Tec are both on par; I'd take either. (slight preference for vitamix, maybe?) I've never owned either, although I've used a vitamix at a military hospital; it was nice.
Demeyere is unquestionably better than All-Clad. It just has no distribution in the US (at least not until recently). All-Clad outspends everyone in sponsorships and marketing. "All-Clad is like Starbucks" comes up often.
Staub vs. Le Creuset has come up a bunch. Staub is certainly more durable (interior glaze, color change). Le Creuset has more colors outside, and more range. I have both (and Lodge), and agree about Staub > Le Creuset generally. Also, the stoneware crap from Le Creuset = hate. I hate it when premium brands come up with lower end stuff which is hard to distinguish. The worst is probably Kitchen-Aid; they had a bunch of Wal-Mart stand mixers which were visually indistinguishable and sucked.
...which helped me learn about the MAXIMUM viable kitchen. It has a $10,000 lab-grade centrifuge, among other things.
As for a general book about cooking, the best value is "On food and cooking" by Harold McGee. It's about $25 and it's comprehensive and well-written.
Things I could do without (I just don't bake much):
-ice cream maker
Some things I would spend a little more on:
Personally, the single piece of equipment that I would recommend to the home chef* would be a good pressure cooker. Vegetables, stews, beans, and grains cook better and much, much faster, and the stocks you can make in a pressure cooker will blow away stovetop stocks.
*: I would consider a home chef to be someone who wants to spend time cooking. I know many people who don't and I don't grudge them that -- but for me, cooking is a true hobby (as in, something where I negatively value my own time -- the longer it takes, the more satisfaction I derive from it).
#1 is a cast iron skillet as others have mentioned. It's the third most used pan in my kitchen.
#2 and #2 most used is an omelet pan. Use it not just for omelets but for any kind of eggs. Also rocks at grilled cheese. Here you do want to go non-stick.
#3 is a set of measuring cups and measuring spoons. My advise is skip the plastic and get stainless. Plastic ones seems to break after a few years, especially if you run them through the dishwasher. You will also want a separate set of measuring cups for liquids if you get serious about cooking. OXO makes a nice set of three clear liquid measuring cups with graduations that you can read from above. Indispensable IMHO.
I assume they use odds and ends from their furniture manufacturing.
$25 for a cutting board? A $40 digital scale is overkill.
True MVP/MVK should be using stuff that's truly necessary. ie: A knife honer - just use the bottom of a ceramic bowl - worked for chefs for millennium.
The reason I ask is because I see what I assume to be quality SS cookware at restaurant auctions all the time and they usually go for a fraction of what they're worth new. When I wanted to get a huge kettle (compared to my 20 quart canning pot) for brewing, I was able to get a 10-gallon SS pot for $30 at one an auction. For boiling water, it works perfectly. I'm just not sure about more delicate applications of heat and food.
I've got some that are going on 10 years, and they're essentially new, except for baked on oils on the (outside) bottom.
Cheaper stuff tends to show wear more, anodized aluminum exteriors wear through, nonstick fades after a few years, thin stainless dents.
I like restaurant supply stuff, I'd go there more often if I was closer to a store. I'd generally have no problem with used stainless stuff from a restaurant.
My local restaurant supply store has a 10-gallon SS pot for $165. A 15 year old item going for 18% at auction seems pretty reasonable to me. Things are cheap at auctions, and people will pay a big premium for a new item.
Even then adherents will spend a lot more time cooking and on food than those of us who can just buy a grocery bag of bread and milk and fruit every day or two and live without cooking, or who have other cut down hacks.
This MVK post goes completely against the whole "minimal viable" spirit, which _should_ be self-explanatory: only what you need. This kitchen getup is certainly viable, but it's anything but minimal. This is more like the "I have $1000 and want a fancy ass kitchen" viable kitchen.
What you need (for 4): one egg, some oil, salt, dijon.
With the yolk, oil, salt and dijon, make regular mayo. Make it strong (don't save on oil). You need to mix everything before adding oil, as salt doesn't dissolve in oil.
Whip stiff the egg whites.
Then mix the two (mayo and stiff whites) slowly. Use a spoon for this.
This produces a sauce that is delicious and extremely easy/fast to make.
When it comes to minimal a rice cooker is what I would want. You can steam, pan fry, boil and slow cook. Short of baking and dehydrating(which I'm sure you could figure out) its got you covered.
Saying you 3 knives is minimum seems to be missing the point.
Also, I really like my slow cooker, it also works great for either hacker or hustler with a lot on their mind because you just cut meat & veggies, throw it in the pot with some seasoning, set it and get on with your life. Nothing like a good beef stew..
Never put the words "Thomas Keller" near "minimum."
I have some allclad D5, it's great. If you're looking for nonstick, pick up Tfal's pro nonstick line on amazon - saute pan runs around $30 and is Cook's Illustrated favorite pick.
Oh, and a good set of tongs are my must have in the kitchen.
Sadly I don't think I can find most of the items in my home country (maybe there's an opportunity there :) ).
Without that (expensive) component, you can greatly pare down this list to about ~400ish