Some things make cooking a bajillion times easier. These are the ones I consider to be essential. I’m compiling this list as I cook so it is by no means complete, but it’s a good start. I have often found myself at other peoples’ homes and volunteering to cook (I can’t help it, I LOVE to cook for people!) but then discovered that they were missing a much-needed pan for the recipe at hand. Even if you don’t cook yourself YET, it always helps to be prepared!
Measuring spoons – at least two sets, and make sure that they are ones you like the feel of in your hands. You will use them a LOT.
Toothpicks – These are for testing whether baked goods are done (“The Toothpick Test“) and also helpful for holding sandwiches together, holding plastic wrap off of frosting, and holding olives for garnishing drinks.
Little bowls – These are great for measuring spices or salt over (check the kitchen tips & tricks page for the easiest way to measure spices), and for prepared ingredients. Ever watch a cooking show where the chef has all the ingredients pre-measured and just pours in the little bowls at the right time? It makes cooking a ton easier. Yes, it does make a lot more dishes, but let’s face it, you’ll have to run a load of dishes anyway so may as well make the cooking easier.
Bottle opener – This is not just to open bottles, but also works like a charm to pop open home-canned goods in those glass jars with the flat lids. No more hurting your hands trying to wrench those things open!
Large mixing bowls – The ones with high sides are the best. Metal ones are the most common (and I adore mine) but make sure you have at least one that’s glass too, as some recipes can’t be made in metal bowls. Yes, really. Don’t worry, they will say so.
Masher – This is a device used for mashing potatoes and bananas. It looks like a squiggly metal thing at the end of a stick. It’s great for all sorts of stuff and totally fun to use.
13x9x2 pan – This is used in a lot of recipes that are baked, and most recipes that are baked that use a different pan can be adjusted to fit this one. If you only have one dish you can bake in, this is the one to get first.
9×9 or 8×8 square pan – This would be the second pan for baking I’d get. This is a perfect size for brownies and other desserts that, although more is awesome, you don’t necessarily want that much food.
Loaf pan – Used for baking bread that’s in a loaf shape – specifically I use this for banana bread.
Cooling rack – If you enjoy making cakes, pies, breads, or cookies, a cooling rack helps these to cool evenly and generally adds an extra boost of awesome to baked goods.
Pastry brush – I have a silicone one. This is used for brushing egg wash over breads and pastries, brushing BBQ sauce over meats, brushing butter on phyllo dough, that sort of thing. It’s a paint brush for food, and when you need one, there aren’t really any other gadgets that will work.