Getting Started

So you want to start cooking. Or you’re moving out and need to get basic kitchen supplies to get you started. There are so many choices out there, but what do you actually need? So many appliances and different knives and pots and pans. Do you really need that egg-slicer or that stand mixer?

A lot of different opinions on this subject, but I’d like to keep it simple, stupid. You really don’t need much, let alone expensive stuff. A little bit goes a long way, so here are my suggestions:

The Tools

  • A decent chef’s knife. Yes, you can use a small vegetable knife (‘aardappelschilmesje’) to do a lot of cutting, but honestly, you’re not doing yourself any favors. A big chef’s knife can be a bit intimidating at first, but is much safer in the end, and makes slicing and dicing so much easier. You’ll end up using this one knife for doing most of your cutting. There are plenty of speciality knives, but for starters: this is all you need. Get one of around 24-26 cms long.
    What is decent? I mean better than a flimsy, 1-euro-store knife, but you also don’t need to splurge 100’s of euros on some Japanese Damascus VG10 steel Santoku knife. A decent 20-30 euro knife will do just fine as long as you maintain it well. More on this in a different post.
    The brand ‘Victorinox’, known for their pocket knives, apparently makes great chef’s knives. My first chef’s knife that I got almost 20 years ago, was a simple pressed steel knife of about 20 euro’s and it still sees regular use. Get a cheap one, learn how to use and maintain it, and then, if you want, you can go look for a fancy knife. 
  •  A honing steel. I’ll have to write another guide about actual knife maintenance, but for now: get yourself a honing steel along with the chef’s knife. This might seem a bit daunting and unnecessary, but it is the first and easiest step to keep your knives sharper in between uses. There is a bit of a trick to using it, but you don’t need to go all flashy like Gordon Ramsay to keep your knife’s edge sharp. 
    However, pay attention to what kind of knife you have: most knives are regular steel and with those, you need an actual honing steel, but if you disregarded my first tip and bought an expensive Japanese knife (or any other knives made of harder steel), you’re gonna need a ceramic rod. The harder steel could get chipped by using the regular honing steel.
  • A small vegetable knife. Because sometimes a chef’s knife is just too unwieldy. Peeling potatoes could get interesting if you wanted to use a big knife. So for general stuff, like peeling, cleaning and quick little cuts, a small knife is invaluable. Any will do, even the cheapy ones with a plastic handle.
  • A cutting board. This is to protect two things: your kitchen top or table, and your knives. Get a simple one, either plastic or wooden. Stay as far away from glass ‘cutting boards’ as you can, as they will fuckup your knives like nothing else. I like big ones so you have enough working space, but get anything you want or like the look of. It might be a good idea to get at least two: one for vegetables and one for meats, or maybe just chicken. 
    Wood vs. plastic. Both have their advantages. A problem with cutting boards is the buildup of fats and whatnot that bacteria very much like. Once they start to live on/in there, it leads to nasty smells. You’d think wood is a bigger culprit here, but wood actually has some anti-bacterial properties, so as long as you keep your wooden boards oiled, I actually prefer that option for most cutting. Plenty of plastic cutting boards eventually get that narly, old-cutting-board smell. Goes without saying, but clean them well after use, with hot water. 
  • Pots and Pans. Yeh, this is a big one, and I might have to let you go a bit on this one. There are so many choices here, and what you need depends on the people you have to cook for, so it is hard to make a recommendation here that is suitable for everyone. What I will say is that, again, you don’t need much. 

A few regular pots with lid are a good start. Maybe a 2.5L and a 5L one. Nothing fancy. A skillet will definitely come in handy; I like my cast iron one, but this takes a bit of extra care, so any steel one will do. It is not a bad idea to get one regular, non-coated steel one of about 30cm for most of your cooking, and get a smaller non-stick skiller for more delicate stuff, like eggs and pancakes. 

  • General cooking utensils. Another huge category with many options. But we were talking about basics, so I’ll give you my most used utensils. A good spatula. A few wooden spoons. A pair of tongs. A Y-shaped vegetable peeler. Maybe a colander, even though in a pinch, you can use the lid of the pot. Don’t go overboard at the start, just pick up what you think you need along the way. What I do want to say, is stay clear of all those single-purpose ‘devices’. Like an egg-slicer, a garlic press, banana-boxes, avocado peelers and whatnot. They’ll only take up space, you use them maybe once a year, and can easily be done with abovementioned equipment.
  • Immersion Blender. I have a small kitchen and while I greatly enjoy a clean kitchen, and don’t even mind doing the dishes, I don’t want to spend too much time cleaning. Plenty of reasons for me not to have a kitchen blender, or a stand mixer. But, sometimes you do need to blend something, like soups or sauces. An immersion blender has so far been all I need for this. It is small, fits in a drawer, and it does what I need it to do. So before you fill up your kitched with those large devices that only take up counter space: think. Do you really need it? Are you actually going to use it more than twice a year?