Despite the wish list on your friend’s wedding registry, you don’t need fancy equipment to cook good food at home. When I asked Hugh Acheson what his favorite kitchen tool was, he shrugged off the question: “It’s not about tools. You should be able to cook something good with just a fork and a cast-iron pot.” While there’s something to be said for keeping things extra simple, it’s also important to have enough tools on hand to make cooking at home as easy as possible.
Here, then, is my list of the essential equipment that every cook should have in his or her kitchen. A good knife You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: your best tool in the kitchen is a good, sharp knife. Now, a good knife doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive knife. You can get a very decent, functional knife for less than fifty dollars. In fact, at the beginning, it’s probably advisable to do so.
Get a medium-size chef’s knife that fits comfortably in your hand (Harold Dieterle recommends a German knife for beginners and a Japanese knife for more experienced cooks) and keep it sharp. To do that, either buy a sharpening stone (see Susan Feniger) or get it professionally sharpened every so often.
(When I started, I used the AccuSharp; now I use a Japanese whetstone.). A good cutting board You may not think much about the cutting board that you use to cut your vegetables, but chefs do. And most of them know something that you might not: a bad cutting board can damage your knife.
Some chefs—Rebecca Charles, for example—have custom-made cutting boards built into their counters. For most people, I recommend a large rubber cutting board that not only is kind to your knife but also can withstand lots of scrubbing in the sink without warping.