If you walk into a kitchen supply store, it’s hard to know where to begin. There are so many different gadgets and appliances to choose from, it’s easy to walk out with more than you need. To make your life easier, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Wilson details what’s in her kitchen and why you don’t need to break the bank (or clutter your kitchen) to be ready for any recipe. Read on for an excerpt and tips from Sarah’s newest book, The I Quit Sugar Cookbook.
START WHERE YOU ARE
The best cooks improvise. The worst kitchens are those with unused waffle-makers in the corner cabinet. The worst cookbooks are those with long lists at the front telling you what you should go and stock up on from scratch. This is not one of those lists. It’s an illustration of what I use and why.
Double steamer: A 2–3-quart one is best. I boil my starchy veg down below, steam my greens up top.
4½-quart slow cooker: These one-pot wonders cook your dinner while you’re at work, are cheap, use less electricity than a light bulb, and cook slow and low, preserving minerals and enzymes, thus making your food more digestible. There is really little discussion to be had here. P.S. An oval shape is best and if I had to do it over, I’d get one with a timer.
Big mixing bowl: The old ones are best: nice lips! I got mine at a garage sale after a walk in the woods.
Little mixing bowl: Inherited from Grandma with a tea towel from the 1950s.
One big (chef’s) knife: I’ve had mine for a decade. Go to a good knife shop and ask for their help.
Two paring knives: Knife blocks just take up too much room and I’ve never needed a bread knife in my life.
Immersion blender: Also called a stick blender or handheld blender. Again, cheap. Takes up no room. Allows you to blend stuff in the pot it was cooked in. Even better: you might like to buy yours as part of a multi-function processor kit (with grater, chopper, etc.). I did. I use most of the said kit, especially the grating and mandoline blades.
Zip-lock bags: Worth the plastic investment if you wash and re-use. To dry, slap them to your kitchen window or backsplash. When they’re dry, they’ll drop off. I use them daily but have only ever bought three packs in four years.
Wooden spoons: Generally inherited with character built-in.
Large frying pan with lid: 13-inch should be large enough to serve 6. (This way I have a smallish skillet for meals to serve 1–3, and a bigger pan for dinner parties or cook-ups.)
Cast-iron skillet: 10-inch is best for most things.
Cast-iron vs. non-stick vs. stainless steel frying pans
Cast-iron: This is my pick. It gives you even heat and a really anchored cooking experience, and will last a lifetime. Cast-iron pans are also best for one-pot cooking (you can brown food on the stove, then plonk in the oven or under a broiler without transferring between pans). They’re also naturally non-stick, if you care for them properly. Google “How to season a cast-iron skillet.” If possible, buy one second-hand or nab Grandma’s old one and Google “How to bring cast iron back to life.”
Non-stick: Cheap and convenient, but only buy non-Teflon varieties. Drawbacks: You can’t work up a hearty reduction or put them over super-high heat to get crusts and crispy bits. Also, they don’t last long—they scratch and dent.
Stainless steel: Expensive but good for pots and bigger pans. Invest in triple layers (aluminum between two layers of steel) and riveted handles.
Excerpted from The I Quit Sugar Cookbook. Copyright 2015 by Sarah Wilson. Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Photo credit: Rob Palmer