Black Books
Posted on 02/13/2013 by gaia_kiari

Hello! Long time watcher, first time poster here. I hope I'm allowed to ask this :)

What sort of equipment would you recommend a beginner to have in their kitchen?
I mean things like bowls, measuring materials and baking pans/trays etc. Everything! xD

I get very confused very easily (when it comes to cooking - being scared I've not measured properly and knowing when something is actually cooked are my weaknesses) and I still want to learn how to cook, and bake some of the delicious things I've been reading about on here!
I like to be sure I've got everything I need before I get started, I am very bad for starting a process and then realising I'm missing a critical part (like when I tried to make cookies - greaseproof paper!).

So please, any hints, tips on good equipment and advice on being a beginner would be very much appreciated :) I only have a small kitchen at the moment, though my boyfriend's mum doesn't mind me using hers. She says it's safer for me to try there as I have some physical/mental health problems - she can help me out if I get properly stuck or am about to burn/destroy something by accident ^^;

Thanks very much :) Also I have no idea what to tag this post as, so I haven't tagged it as anything...

el_hombre 13th-Feb-2013 04:18 am (UTC)
Heya, I reckon you can't go wrong with the following:
Measuring cup
Measuring spoons
some sort of mixer
baking paper
a salter/kitchen scales
a cake tin
a biscuit tray
a spatula
That'll get you started.
Measuring sppons/cup, and mixer aren't essential but they're nice to have and help with achieving uniform results.
Have fun!
pixiepilot 13th-Feb-2013 05:46 am (UTC)
One thing I do to keep myself from getting confused or forgetting ingredients, is to read through the recipe a few times before I make it.

When I start baking, I'll pull out everything I need and put it on the counter to make sure I have everything, and to make sure I have the baking powder out and not soda if I need powder and (vice versa).

I also measure out things that need to be mixed together (like dry ingredients) so when it's time to mix them with the wet ingredients, I know it's all right there in the bowl and I don't have to keep looking at the recipe and remembering where I am on the list.

Good luck with making the wonderful things people post here! Just the past few days they've had me drooling. Also, baking gets easier the more you do it. Don't worry if you forget ingredients or burn something as you're starting out. All of us have. I continue to. But the effort is always worth it, and when it does turn out, it's amazing to eat something tasty that you made yourself!
tsuki_no_bara 13th-Feb-2013 05:49 am (UTC)
in addition to the previous comment *points up* i'd say aluminum foil, plastic wrap, a couple mixing bowls, and a big mixing spoon. (to be honest i think all kitchens need a wooden spoon or two, just on principle.) you can get a handheld mixer/beater if you don't have the money or space for a stand mixer, or work your arm muscles mixing by hand.
encircleme 13th-Feb-2013 06:18 am (UTC)
Oh my god I love the pink mixer in your icon, makes me wish mine was that color and not the blue it is (which I also love but omg that pink).
encircleme 13th-Feb-2013 06:15 am (UTC)
1 good set of measuring bowls of different sizes, then after using them for a while you'll figure out which ones you find yourself using the most-buy 1 or 2 more of those sizes.

A good set of silicone spatulas.

Two of these:

Seriously, those are my favorite. They're cheap, there's like EVERY SIZE and with 2 sets you'll always have a clean one to use immediately.

One good, sturdy metal or glass 9x13 baking pan. If you like cakes get some 6 or 8inch rounds (you'll want 2), if you're into cupcakes get a cupcake pan, etc. Sit down and write out what you like the most.

Foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, ziplock bags, if you want to be fancy a silpat or two is invaluable. The best seriously.

A hand mixer would be great to see if you use it enough to justify buying a $200+ stand mixer.

(this is baking only, if you want more general cooking material advice, PM me)
encircleme 13th-Feb-2013 06:17 am (UTC)
Also a whisk, a colander, a sieve, mixing spoons (get silicone, wood or plastic don't get metal!) Target has last I checked cheap like under $5 sets of mixed size/shape wooden utensils. Get one, replace it in 6 months, repeat.
cappyhead 13th-Feb-2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
Just looked at and bought the measuring cup & spoon set linked above. Thank you! I've always wanted smaller measuring spoons (1/16 & 1/32 teaspoon) but have never seen them anywhere!
encircleme 13th-Feb-2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
It's an awesome set, I love it!
maeyaj 13th-Feb-2013 06:34 am (UTC)
I would say, for a baker starting out, and for equipment that won't break the bank, try the dollar store. They usually have everything you need, except baking sheets, etc.

-Dry measuring cups (Usually comes in a set, 1 cup, 2/3 cup, 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup)
-Wet measuring cup, (Plastic or glass is good, although plastic will be less expensive. 1 cup measurement will work.)
-Measuring spoons (Usually in a set, sometimes will be sold with dry measuring cups. Most sets come with basic: 1 tablespoon, 1/2 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon)
-2 large bowls. (Plastic/glass/steel, doesn't matter. One to mix wet, one to mix dry)
-a whisk (Medium size is ok, doesn't need to be fancy. Or you can use a fork.)
-a mixing spoon, be it a wooden spoon or plastic
-a fork (Sometimes, recipes call for a "pastry cutter", you can do this step with a fork, which will take a bit longer, or with your hand.)
-Rubber spatula (Helps when 'folding' ingredients and to scrape the batter off the sides of the bowl. You can also use this to mix if you don't want to use a spoon. If you can, get a silicone one, where it's heat resistant. Those white plasticky ones will melt when in contact with heat.)
-Cookie sheet (You can bake cookies, scones, pizza, anything that will hold it's shape well once mixed.)
-9x9 or 9x13 pan. (Brownies, cake, casseroles. You can usually adjust the amount you make to fit whatever size you have. Especially if you use they have a serving size calculator. If the recipe is for a 9x13 pan and serves 8, just re-calculate it to serve say, 5 or 6 and it will fit in the smaller size, or vice versa.)
-Crisco or shortening. (Comes in handy when you need to grease a pan. You can use to grease & flour a cake pan, use to grease before baking brownies, etc. Also, is an ingredient in lots of recipes and not too expensive.)
-9" round cake pans (If you want to make round cakes)
-muffin tin (for cupcakes, muffins. Or you can buy the aluminum foil ones with the liner where you don't need a tin.)
-parchment paper (What they use to line baking sheets so that the baked goods come right off, re-usable if you're making a batch of something all at once and need to use the same baking sheet a few times.)
-cooking spray (if you don't want to use parchment paper or use shortening.)

If you plan on pre-measuring your ingredients before mixing, you don't need the fancy smaller bowls that come in sets, you can use what you already have in the kitchen. i.e. cereal bowls, cups, measuring cups you won't need for that particular recipe.

Baking is more of a science, you mostly have to follow the recipe or the end product won't come out as expected.

Cooking other food is more a matter of personal taste, you can add to a recipe or take away from it, depending on what you like.

Good luck! And definitely, read through the recipe at least once completely before starting. Read through as many times as you need to. As you get more comfortable in the kitchen, you can replace the starter items with more expensive, nicer tools if you want. You'll come to learn what you actually use and what you don't need with time.
(no subject) - Anonymous
doubletake 14th-Feb-2013 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: electric knife sharpener:

Keep in mind that each time you use the sharpener, you are removing part of your blade. Use it a lot, and you'll end up with a smaller blade...or a blade that is inset a bit from the 'heel' of the blade (the back end, nearest to where your fingers go) and this can mean you'll have a difficult time cutting all the way through things. Most of the time, you do NOT need to sharpen your knife when it gets dull--you need to 'hone' it--that's what that funny looking metal stick-on-a-handle thing that comes in knife blocks (steel) is for.

What happens is that the thinnest bit of the blade actually gets bent over, rather than rounded off as most people assume. Honing bends the thin sharp bit back in line with everything else.

Here's a really zoomed in picture of the bent over edge:

Honing reshapes that edge back to where it belongs. Sharpening removes that whole end where it's bent over. Your knives will last much longer if you hone regularly and only sharpen once honing isn't bringing the blade back to where you want it.

Here is a good video (he's a bit chatty in the beginning but there's good information once he actually gets going) on honing technique:

Sharpening DOES smooth out chips and dings, so if you've got a blade in awful shape it will need sharpening before you use it/hone it.
(no subject) - Anonymous
doubletake 14th-Feb-2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
No problem! I went through a couple of knives with the electric sharpener before pastry school set me right. :) Honing feels a little awkward the first few times, but once you get in some practice it'll smooth out.

I hone before cutting any meat, and often before veg, too--the nice part is that you can do it quickly and there's no cleanup or setup really, and no reason not to do it whenever you you can have a blade that feels new EVERY time you cut! :D
hikerpoet 13th-Feb-2013 12:39 pm (UTC)
Greaseproof paper critical for cookies--could've fooled me? ;) It can make the process more convenient or make them more attractive, sure, but in most cases certainly not vital!
naomi_chan 13th-Feb-2013 01:30 pm (UTC)
Was skim reading so may have missed this, but for cupcake recipes I'd say a muffin tray is awesome because it keeps the shapes of cupcake cases (I've had spill-over before).
cooling wire wrack, for well cooling them.
Silicon cupcake cases are great for recipes that don't need icing and the cakes pop out really easy.
Silicon pastry brush - great for when you got to put egg on scones or brusing syrup on to cakes and I think they're more hygenic than a hair-brush version.
Skewer - best way to test if your cakes are raw in the middle

Pretty much agree with everyone else (though we don't use cups in the UK so it confuses me) but most recipes I know I use ounces. For baking cupcakes (I'm obsessed and learning myself) I've found that if you remember they work in equal parts. It's generally 2ounces per egg, so you'd have 4 oz flour, 4 oz caster sugar and 4 oz butter to 2 eggs for about 12 cupcakes. Cream the butter and sugar first add the eggs and then fold in the flour. If it looks a little bit stiff at the end add a smidgen of milk to loosen it up and then pop it into a 180 C oven for 20-25 minutes (don't know fahrenheit sorry). That's my simple cupcake recipe for you! ;)

And I'd like to add this:

My favourite Christmas present, it gives you step by step instructions and explanations of where you might have gone wrong - I'm attempting my 4th recipe next week.
gileswench 13th-Feb-2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
In addition to the excellent advice given by so many others, I'm just going to recommend that you think about *what* you intend to bake most before you start buying and tailor your purchases to that end.

For instance, I own two muffin tins... but I hardly ever use them. I just don't bake many muffins or cupcakes, so they languish in the cupboard gathering dust. On the other hand, I own at least six pie plates/tart pans, use them all the time, and could really find a use for a couple more. Why? Because I bake pies, tarts, and quiches all the time. My cake pans get a regular workout. My cookie sheets? Mostly when I make a galette or need to put one under a casserole that might bubble out of the dutch oven. Oh, and about twice a year when I make chocolate chip cookies. I bake bread at least once a week, so bread pans are a must for me. But if you don't plan to bake bread or make a lot of pound cake, you could probably go a fair time before you need to actually own one.

So think about whether you believe you will bake more cookies or more cakes, more pies or more bread. Then get the best equipment you can afford for those aspects of baking. Fill in the blanks as needed over time.

Oh, and having a good, reliable kitchen scale is very important if you're ever going to deal with recipes measured in weights rather than volume. I love my kitchen scale almost as much as I love my KitchenAid stand mixer... and that's a LOT! But don't buy one until (a) you know you're going to use it, and (b) you can afford a good, accurate one. A cruddy, inaccurate scale is far worse than not having one at all.
mummy_owl 13th-Feb-2013 05:56 pm (UTC)
I'd say a definite would be scales - preferably ones that show ounces and grams - and a cooling rack.

I know some have suggested cup size measures but as you're in the UK (I checked your profile to be certain) most recipe books will show ingredients by weight. Cups are generally used in american recipes.

A pint sized measuring jug so you can accurately measure liquids. It's important in many recipes to get the measures accurate.

Good luck! :-)
thenanerbananer 13th-Feb-2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
All of the above are really good lists, especially for baking. But you said cooking too and one thing I find invaluable is my large (12" here in U.S.) skillet. I use it ALL THE TIME. I'd also make sure I had good sauce pans in a variety of sizes, and a large stock pot. Happy baking and cooking!!
verygwen 13th-Feb-2013 08:50 pm (UTC)
I highly recommend Alton Brown's book "Gear for your Kitchen."

Cutting boards
A really good knife
Immersion blender
measuring spoons and cups

Beyond that I think you should just pick recipes that you want to make and then get the equipment you need for those specific recipes. That way you can slowly acquire things over time as you need them instead of buying things you might never used based on someone else's recommendation.
kahlan_amnell 14th-Feb-2013 05:52 am (UTC)
Immersion blender for a beginner? Why so? It seems like a pretty specialized tool, and more useful for things like soups than for baking. They are also expensive, and potentially dangerous if misused.

Edited at 2013-02-14 05:54 am (UTC)
verygwen 14th-Feb-2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
I use mine for everything - salad dressings, garlic oil, sauces.. and it comes with a mini chopper that gets tons of use as well. Pretty sure it was less than $50 and it's one of the only kitchen gadgets I own that I'd replace immediately if it died.

So, yes, I'd recommend it for everyone :)
cinnastyx 13th-Feb-2013 09:28 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to start cooking more (my New Year's resolution was to try and not eat so much take-out/fast food) and I realized very early on a few items I need or need to upgrade. My list might be helpful to you.

- Heavy mixing bowls, preferably Pyrex, Anchor Hocking or Corning, in a larger sizes (glass stays put better than plastic or metal when mixing ingredients in them)
- smaller bowls/custard cups for pre-measuring ingredients
- Sharp knives, including a good paring knife
- Whisk, silicone is best, it won't rust :)
- egg separator
- Cutting boards (they make colour coded ones to prevent cross-contamination)

Good luck!

sharpecostumes 14th-Feb-2013 12:37 pm (UTC)
While I don't cook goodies a whole lot, but an item I discovered in high school home economics and just adored was a Kitchen Aid stand up mixer. My mom found a used one for me with all the bells and whistles and I couldn't recommend a neater piece. It's heavy so it doesn't walk around like the Bosch I grew up on and can help make everything from homemade whipped cream to kneading your bread dough if time is short. It's traveled all over with me from college in Idaho to clear out here in Michigan and continues to surprise me with its uses <3
smittenlilly 15th-Feb-2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
Hmmm, pretty much everything has been mentioned so far ;) I might have to stock up on some utensils as well.
Oven cloth (pot holder) perhaps? Your hands will appreciate it ;)
lollie2e 16th-Feb-2013 05:42 am (UTC)
These aren't neccesarily "baking specific" items but here goes;

Microplane zester! Takes the hassle out of grating lemons, oranges, limes.

Ice cream scoop (with a trigger): If you plan on making muffins/cupcakes often these make the process of filling those muffin tins quick and easy. I also my ice cream scoop to measure out the batter for waffles and pancakes. And of course, it's also useful for ice cream :)

Juicer! I use this cheap plastic juicer that my mom bought years ago. You dont NEED a juicer but I get a lot more juice out of an orange/lemon/lime/pomegranate whatever by using this.

Good luck!!!
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