Five essential kitchen items for novice cooks

Cooking is one of those funny things that can really divide people. Depending on who you are and the way you were raised, you may have spent many hours in the kitchen as a child, learning the trade either by being taught by your mother (or father) or by simply paying attention to what was going on around you. Alternatively, you may have grown up in a house where ready-meals, TV dinners and takeaways were the norm and the kitchen was just a place where pizza was transferred from box to plate.  Although women are expected to almost instinctively know how to cook, there are both men and women who leave home with basic or non-existent knowledge of the kitchen. For many, the first time they come face to face with the need to cook a meal is when they get to university. But while it may be tempting to spend your entire time in college living off ramen, beans on toast or microwave dinners, the Internet is full of wonderfully simple recipes you can easily make at home. First, though, you need to furnish your kitchen with some basic tools of the trade. Here are some things you will need.

A quality frying pan

It’s worth spending more money on a quality non-stick frying pan. Teflon coated is best, unless you have an aversion to it. There are claims that Teflon can get in your food if the pan is scratched, so it’s important to go for a well-made model that’s less likely to get damaged in the process of everyday cooking. You can make some of the simplest of dishes in a frying pan, so even if you’re completely new to cooking, you’ll get a lot of use out of it. After all, fried eggs or omelettes are pretty much the first thing anyone learns how to make in the kitchen.

A wok

Asian food may seem complex to the uninitiated, and while there are some wonderfully complex dishes you can make, throwing together a stir fry is incredibly easy and makes a light, yet filling meal. In fact, many supermarkets now offer readymade stir fry packs of noodles, chopped vegetables and sauces, so you don’t even need to prepare anything. Just throw everything in the wok and stir as you fry. If you want a quick and varied meal, you can’t do much better than that. Of course, woks can be used for other types of meals, too. They can be used for making curries and even stews, at a push.

A quality set of pots

You want at least two pots in your kitchen – a large pot and a smaller saucepan. Again, this is one of the things where it pays to invest in quality. A good pot can last you a lifetime and can even be passed down for generations. A badly made pot can lose a handle at an inopportune moment or leak coating into your food as it ages. Unless you’re very much into your cooking, two pots should be enough. Think pasta or rice alongside sauce or a stew. You don’t need much more than that. Of course, if you’re going to be entertaining groups of people, you may want to consider buying a particularly large pot, or several more that you can keep on the go at once.

A good knife set

Chefs and those who love to cook will tell you to invest in a quality knife set and it’s true that there’s a different knife for petty much any cutting activity in the kitchen. But the main subject of this article is kitchen essentials for the novice cook, so you can probably get away with just a couple of knives to begin with. A chopping knife and a paring knife should do you fine when you’re starting off. A bread knife is handy if you’re going to buy unsliced bread. You may want to add a peeling knife, but a vegetable peeler is more likely to do this job easily and elegantly.

A hand blender

There is practically nothing this wonderful device cannot do. Many come with attachments, including a whisk and a chopping blade. Use it to make smoothies, make creamy soups by blending vegetables inside the pot, whisk egg whites or even make salsa. Hand blenders are pretty cheap and while not as powerful as standalone blenders, they are far more versatile around the kitchen. Once you start using a hand blender, you’ll never look back. You’ll always be finding new, exciting ways of using it.