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essential cooking tools by Fawnda Camarillo

by Fawnda Camarillo, posted to Food & Drink

I was a total noob cook a couple years ago. Now I'm graduated to super-noob! My skills may lag, but I think I've figured out what a decent starting set of gear is.

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a knife skills class


Draeger's Cooking School

Check your community listings for one-off cooking classes. Find a knife-skills class. You should get safety and cut techniques, and learn about mise-en-place. It is worth every penny! A basic class like this helped me get over an initial confusion / fear-of-recipes hump.

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Flour-Sack Towels

Don't want them too big: want to be able to hang them on your apron or belt or what not. I want them to be able to double as oven mitts, so I want them fairly beefy, thick, absorbent... I hate that puffy microfiber shit. This link isn't necessarily what I use: I haven't found a towel that I love yet! Please comment with what you love for your go-to do-everything towel.

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chef's knife


So last night I was slicing/mincing garlic with one of my freshly...more

8" Chef's knife. This one knife will do everything: carve, slice, chop, crush, mince, julienne, chiffonade... Your main knife needs some length in order to get your saw on, and a little curve in order to rock the mince. Knife geometry and fit is a personal thing, like underwear. Get it sharpened professionally once or twice a year, like underwear.

Anna Hackman: Can you recommend which type of knife to buy. I would like to chop up herbs. Any suggestions were to buy.

Fawnda Camarillo: For me it came down to either the 8" Shun chef's knife or the 8" Wusthof chef's knife. Finally settled on the Shun. It's an investment, your good knife is. It's worth getting a quality knife that your hand is happy with. Try a few out at a Sur La Table or a Bed Bath & Beyond even.

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cutting boards

John McLeod designs cutting board

One for veg, one for not-veg seems to be the general way to go. I really like cutting veg on a wooden board or block. I have one down all the time on the counter, and then pull out a plastic board on top of it to use in chopping chx, fish, beef etc.

Eden Godsoe: Love these. Must get me some!

Larissa: Yea, they're attractive and seem pretty durable.

Fawnda Camarillo: I like them but they get a little carved up after a year now. I wonder if the end-on block style is even better maybe.

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bench scraper

Material: Stainless steel blade Handle: Maple wood Size: 6 x 3 blade,...more

There is nothing so freeing as knowing that you can scoop up detritus without worrying about whether you will slice into an artery. Don't use the back of a knife: the board scraper is a dull-edged flat thing, and rests always to the left of my cutting board. Also good for gathering cuttings off of counters and what not. I have the CIA scraper, with a metal blade and cheap pine wooden handle, and it makes a satisfying clatter when I toss it onto the countertop.

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medium-small and small glass bowls - prep-bowls!

8-Piece Glass Prep Bowl Set

Small-medium, glass bowls / i can't think of a proper haiku now but / damn it's super useful to have a few of you / for putting recently chopped stuff in / viva mise-en-place / ur the best!!

Glenn Smith: prep bowls help organize the chaos!

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large and medium glass and steel bowls

What's a kitchen without bowls? Designed for function and style these...more

For mixing your salad! For serving that salad, or for storing leftovers of any kind, you'll need two or three medium or large-ish storing or serving bowls. I like the glass ones. The steel ones are lighter weight, but are sometimes less "grabby" with the cling-wrap.

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steel spatula

OXO's SteeL Lasagne Turner is perfect for slicing and serving lasagne....more

A fierce, not too long, not too wide blade that you use to scootch and sometimes scrape stuff out of your skillet. The one I have by Oxo is apparently called a "lasagne turner"? But it is stout and not too long and perfect for scraping that grippy, seared chx fillet off of the bottom of the steel pan.

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sautee or fry pan w/lid (stainless steel)

Shop the latest All-Clad Stainless Steel Covered French Skillet, 11"...more

The stainless steel skillet or fry-pan is my prime cooking vessel. It is wide and open so you can finesse foodstuffs over high heat, just slightly deep enough for a quick braise, or a simmer over low heat. Could be a skillet, could be a fry-pan. When the pan has layers of copper or the like it takes longer to heat up, but then it will maintain a heat more evenly over the entire surface.

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salt cellar w/spoon

Dinner is served..with style ! ...

Put the kosher salt or maybe the sea salt in here. Your main go-to salt for seasoning dishes as they cook. The cover keeps it from getting dusty. Thumb-lift on the cover makes it easy to grab a pinch or two.

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pepper grinder

Shop for Vic Firth 7 to 8-in. Mills at We are your...more

Keep some black pepper around, the king of spices. Keep a nice grinder for it, it's worth it. I covet some of the pretty Porche ones that I've seen, but am happy so far with a peppergrinder from Vic Firth. (Vic Firth makes drumsticks too)(not the chicken kind)

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large spoon

Classic OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Utensils are useful for...more

We will spoon it from the skillet. We will spoon it from the pot. We will use the large spoon as an opposable thumb.

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The Zyliss cook-n-serve tongs are ideal for cooking, stirring and...more

Much as I'd like to think I could survive with a spatula and a large spoon as my go-to grabbing tool, the fact is that the grabbing tool of choice is *the tongs*. Love the tongs. I'd love to specialize in tongs like Rick Nielsen specializes in double-necked guitars.

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Representing the best in American craftsmanship, All-Clad’s d5...more

Finally, after all of the previous items on this list, a pot is in order. Soups, stews, pasta, they all can build upon some of the items in this list, and they all require some sort of large sauce pan or pot. Get one with a lid!

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Measuring Cups

Shop The WEBstaurant Store for Anchor Hocking 551770L 16 oz, 1 Pint...more

Suggested by Glenn Smith

Start with a 1-pint, pouring measuring glass that goes as fine as 1/4 cup.

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