Move For Fun, Get Fit For Life.

Race Day September 22, 2018

Healthy Living Expo September 20-21, 2018

Equipping Your Kitchen

, by Joan Cunningham

“To become a cook you need only a few essentials: appetite, ingredients, a kitchen to work in, a few tools, and a few ideas about what to cook.” Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food

Hmmmm. Christmas is just around the corner, and to up your cooking game, I have some thoughts on good tools for your gift wishlist. Ms. Waters, I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to equipping the kitchen. In my mind, the most important pieces of equipment are a good knife or two, and a good cutting board. Period. Everything else rests on this foundation.

Invest in a really good 8” chef’s knife or 7” santoku high carbon knife, and learn to use it well. You need to find one that is well balanced and fits comfortably in your hand, and that makes cutting/chopping/dicing/mincing a breeze. If you have to work at it, you’ll get frustrated, tired, and cooking will be a chore.

While sets are attractive because they usually come with nice blocks and appear to be such a great deal, in this case, I beg to differ. You’ll be much happier in the long run if you go to   reputable retailer, test-drive their knives, and find one that feels great in your hand. Seriously, you can definitely get by with a really good chef’s knife or santoku (depending on your preference), a serrated utility knife, a honing steel, and a paring knife. You can add the rest as time goes by.

Either take a knife skills class or go on-line. I will be teaching Knife Skills for the Weight Loss Challenge participants on March 20 and May 1, 6:30 p.m. at Williams Sonoma, Boise Town Square. In the meantime, there are some great videos that will help you learn the proper technique for using your knife efficiently and safely. While you’re there, look for information on honing; depending on the type of knife you purchase, you may need to hone your knife every time you use it, once a day, or once a week. Honing is not sharpening! Sharpening removes steel from your knife, and lessens its useful life. Honing keeps a sharp knife sharp, and keeps it sharp longer. That’s it. A sharp knife is a safe knife. Honing should become part of your routine in the kitchen.

Take care of you knife investment, and it will last you a long, long time. Never leave it in the sink or put it in the dishwasher. Clean it carefully after every use, dry it, and then store it. Use a knife sheath or wood block for storage. Take it to a professional sharpener when it becomes dull.

Good wood cutting boards are the easiest on your knife edge. Keep two cutting boards - one for meat/animal products, and one for fruits and vegetables. A lot of people are put off by wood cutting boards, thinking they harbor bacteria. In fact, wood surfaces have natural anti-bacterial/anti-microbial properties, and are fairly easy to maintain! I have a good, thick, footed cutting board I have had since before I got married, and I have been  married almost 32 years! I just clean it with soapy water after I use it, rinse it, dry it well, and store it vertically against the backsplash in my kitchen so the air can circulate and dry it completely. I use a good oil recommended by the manufacturer periodically. Again, a good board is worth caring for, and worth the investment.

Equipping Your Kitchen

Okay, now that we have spent the majority of your equipment budget, let’s talk about the rest of the basics that will get you up and cooking! It’s pretty simple - a 2- or 3-quart saucepan with a lid. It needs to be heavy and heat conductive. I prefer stainless steel because it lasts forever and is easy to care for.

Next, a 10” cast-iron fry-pan that is well seasoned. Today, cast-iron pans come “seasoned,” and you just need to maintain it. Again, this is a pan that will last a life-time if properly cared for, and the seasoning actually makes it a non-stick pan without any of the vagaries of other non-stick pans. In fact, the iron that seeps into your food from cooking with cast-iron is actually good for you! For more information on seasoning and maintaining a cast-iron pan, click here.

And, last, but not least, a Dutch oven or a 4- to 6-quart oven-proof stockpot with a lid. Again, no need to spend a lot of money here - a cast-iron Dutch oven performs extremely well and will last forever.

That’s it! This short list will get you going, and adding to your kitchen stash can be as cheap as perusing garage sales and thrift stores. Below are some thoughts about nice- to-have” additions as time goes by:

  • Serrated bread knife
  • 12” stainless steel sauté pan
  • 12-quart stockpot
  • 3-quart saucier
  • Lightweight, nesting mixing bowls
  • Colanders and sieves
  • Salad spinner
  • Food mill
  • Pasta machine
  • Food processor
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Blender
  • 12 x 18 professional weight baking sheets
  • Stand mixer

Small tools

  • Tongs
  • Spider
  • Metal and rubber spatulas
  • Pepper grinder
  • Wooden spoons
  • Large metal spoon and large slotted spoon
  • Ladle
  • Whisk
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Can opener
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Oven thermometer
  • Steamer basket
  • Zester
  • Graters - box, and flat microplanes for zest and nutmeg, coarser for cheese
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bowl scraper
  • Bench scraper
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brushes
  • Juicer
  • Kitchen towels
  • Kitchen twine
  • Corkscrew

Your thoughts and questions are always welcome. For more information on eating well and deliciously, please visit The Intentional Kitchen, or email me, Chef Joan at

Tags: weight loss,health,nutrition,weight loss challenge,wellness