The only things a kitchen needs
To fill the emptiness of having no kitchen as an on-campus student, I spend hours browsing online for cookware, dishware, glassware, and other food-related implements. My interest is not in gadgets such as strawberry hullers, spiralizers, and air-fryers, but in more classic tools. Knives, pots, pans, and dishes are my window-shopping bread and butter, and with the amount of time I’ve spent browsing, I am almost qualified to talk about it.
Besides knives for eating, most people will only ever need two knives in their kitchen: a paring knife and a chef’s knife. These knives are complementary. The paring knife, ideally three or four inches long, will give you the most control when peeling, deboning, and performing any other task that requires precision. The chef’s knife, about eight inches long, will provide the weight and length needed to break down larger vegetables and carcasses with ease. These two components are the most important in anyone’s kitchen. Occasionally, you will find that a serrated bread knife may be useful; in my opinion, a length of 12 to 14 inches allows for easy cutting of pastries, bread, and cakes.
Pots and pans
Continuing the trend of cookware minimalism, you should only need a few pans: a saucepan, a frying pan, and a deep stockpot or dutch oven. A medium stainless steel saucepan is one of my favorite additions to the kitchen. The saucepan is versatile—its high walls allow for easy weeknight pasta, perfectly steamed rice, and, of course, sauce! The stainless steel is great for cooking acidic food and is usually completely oven safe. Next is a frying pan, 11 to 13 inches across, which will easily accommodate a stir-fry or larger proteins. If you opt for carbon steel or cast iron, you’ll have an ovenproof pan that’s relatively non-stick in exchange for a hefty price tag and more maintenance. The frying pan is a workhorse and should be your favorite tool in the kitchen. If you feel so inclined, a wok would also work, but that comes down to your cooking style. The last item in this category is a stockpot or dutch oven. Both of these are large, deep pots suitable for soups, long-simmering curries and sauces, holding oil when deep-frying, or low-and-slow roasts. These pots are meant to be heavy so they can hold heat for long periods of time without any hot spots. I prefer enameled cast iron or stainless steel for these.
You’ve got all these sweet kitchen tools, but you still need something to serve your food on. One of the most underappreciated things in people's kitchens is dishware. Every time I go to a restaurant I like to lift their plates up to see who made them. Presentation is one of the most important factors to food—appealing food is more enjoyable. There are two types of dishware I like to browse for: porcelains (like classic china) or earthenware. Porcelains have the advantage of being thin and lightweight while earthenware holds heat better and is sometimes more visually appealing, depending on the potter. For a single person, you should have a set of dishes that includes a dinner plate, a low-walled large bowl, a small bowl for soups or a portion of rice, and a small plate for desserts or sides.
I’ve listed a lot of potential purchases, and you may be tempted to buy a set of cookware for peace of mind. In my opinion, cookware sets usually seem like a good deal based on the number of things you get, but you usually don’t need everything. Most people would benefit from purchasing things like this à la carte.