Building a Kitchen: Pantry Staples

I don’t know if anyone else feels stuck at home, but I personally have been leaning on my non-perishables. I feel like it’s the first thing people buy when they move into a place. Here are some things I think you always need to have. I am only including non-pershibles or with an expiration date of a year + (no produce). 

  1. Flour (All-Purpose) – I think flour is just a great thing to have on hand, whether you are baking, breading, or thickening
  2. Granulated Sugar – I use possibly too much sugar everyday sweetening my coffee but also for baking and general cooking. 
  3. Neutral Oil – One thing I learned pretty quickly is that you need some sort of cooking oil to saute, fry, roast, etc. but you have to be careful about the type of oil. Some like avocado oil have their own flavor that they add to the food. Get neutral oil like canola or vegetable. 
  4. Vinegar – There are a thousand and one types of vinegar but you really should have at least one in your kitchen. Vinegar is essential for cooking things like meat or making salad dressings and other sauces. Also good for cleaning. I, personally, prefer apple cider vinegar for cooking and white vinegar just for cleaning. 
  5. Soy Sauce – This might just be cause I like salt and rice dishes. It’s also has a lovely depth of flavor and savor that just salt does have. 
  6. Lemon Juice – Essential for cooking, baking, and mixing drinks. It is a great add-in to sauces or to top off dishes like salad and pasta. 
  7. Tomato Paste – This is a really condensed flavor of tomato in a smooth paste. It is a great base for stew, sauces, curries, etc. It’s a great way to start building flavor up, even to add to a basic rice or pasta dish. 
  8. Pasta – For pasta. I personally really like the farfalle (like bowtie) and my partner really like linguine which is really easy to cook. 
  9. Rice – Obviously. I don’t really have anything else to say for this. 
  10. Baking Soda – Good for baking yes. But also cleaning, clearing unpleasant scents, and for helping with pain when it comes to bee stings and bug bites. 

Building a Kitchen: Essential Herbs and Spices

So I think the most important thing is making simple foods taste really good is seasoning. However, spices and herbs are expensive. For me, and the cooking that I know here is a basic starter kit for any new kitchen.

  1. Salt: Obviously – everything and everyone needs this. Also, technically a mineral but still.
  2. Black Pepper: Again most things need a little pepper. If you can get one with a grinder, you will be better off.
  3. Cinnamon: This is my partner’s favorite flavor but it is very versatile and hard to replicate with other spices.  It’s a sweet and warm spice. Useful in everything from French Toast to curries.
  4. Cilantro: This has a really fresh and citrus-y flavor (if it doesn’t taste like soap to you). It’s great with rice, on top of tacos and burritos, with salad. It’s a really quick and tasty addition to many dishes.
  5. Basil: It is a sweeter herb with a more neutral flavor. Great for all Italian food. It is easy to use and pull in more flavor anywhere.
  6. Rosemary: The definition of herbaceous. It is delightful and woodsy. I love added this to any roast or soup. Also rosemary-lemon cookies are the best thing to be invented.
  7. Mint: Mint should be a requirement. There is no substitute. It is perfect for drinks (alcoholic and non) and desserts. Also to through on top of dishes and fresh into salads.
  8. Oregano: Oregano is featured in a lot of food (Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean) for a reason. It is just a little bitter but really accentuates savory and sweet flavors. Oregano is almost impossible to overuse.
  9. Dill: This might be my most controversial pick but I just think that there is nothing that can replicate this taste. It is earthy and tangy. Great for dips, soups, and sauces.
  10. Cayenne: Really any chili or pepper powder works but I like Cayenne. I think it is really easy for beginners to add layers of heat and spice without a lot of skill.

Building a Kitchen: Essential Cookware

I know when I was just starting to live on my own I had no idea what I needed to get by in the kitchen. It’s been almost four years so I have compiled a list of necessities to get you through any day to day cooking/baking/food constructions.

  1. Cutting Board: silicon or wooden work but it is essential. You will destroy counters, pans, plates, etc. Silicon/rubber cutting boards are easier to clean and maintain.
  2. Colander: drain the water! Also can be useful for cleaning fruits and veggies. Can be combined with mixing bowl to create make-shift salad spinner.
  3. Mixing Bowl: you know for mixing and combining
  4. Chef’s knife: I would recommend 4 – 6 inch blade. Not so big that you feel unsafe wielding it but big enough to not have to put all your strength into dicing an onion.
  5. Saucepan (2 quarts) with lid: for boiling and simmering. You do need a lid. Don’t make my mistakes

    You can live forever on fresh salsa and chips
  6. 10 inch frying pan: ideally it will also be oven safe. I don’t know what I would do without my copper pan
  7. Sheet pan: sizable enough to make at least 12 cookies.
  8. Wooden Spoon: for stirring and mixing. Also won’t scratch Teflon and can stop water from boiling over.
  9. Slotted Spatula/turner: for flipping
  10. Tongs: catch all tool for cooking and serving (don’t underestimate)

If you can’t make cookies, do you even have a kitchen?