Being a single guy, and doing some cooking, I thought I might as well display a tiny bit of my ego and share what I think are a few nuggets that will make life easier for other people in my situation. Some of it is generally useful too, but in the end, it’s probably most useful for someone like me. Single, living by himself, and more than a little lazy. It’s better than takeout every night 😉
Most of the recipes I’ve already posted are somewhat relevant, but to start with, I’m not going to talk about them. What this post is about, is what you have in your cupboards. And what you have to cook those things in.
Quality matters when it comes to cookware. You can buy cheap pans, and have to replace them every few years, or you could spend five times as much, and never have to replace it. The more expensive pans tend to be better for cooking with, too. My material of choice is stainless steel. Not non-stick; except in a frying pan. No-where else matters, and will lead to things wearing out faster. Stuff doesn’t stick to a non-stick pan, but the non-stick coating isn’t too good at sticking to the pan, either. Buying them over time is probably the way to go.
- 1 x 20cm saucepan, with a lid. Glass lids are good, but make sure the handle on that lid is plastic. Metal will get too hot to use without a cloth. If you can get one with a pouring spout, that’s good. If you can get one with a pouring spout and a lid that works as a strainer, that’s even better. Draining potatoes is a pain, and that makes it easier. I got one from the Judge Vista line and it’s doing pretty well so far. Not cheap, but it seems to be worth it.
- 1 x large frying pan. Here non-stick works. I got a Tefal one with a red spot. the spot’s stopped working, but the pan is still fine. 26cm or bigger. As long as your cooker can handle it.
- 1 x deep stock pot. If you’re ever making chilli, Bolognese, or soup you’ll thank me for getting one. A saucepan just isn’t big enough. Something like this would work. You’re wanting a pot that’s around 18cm deep and 25cm wide. Bigger isn’t bad, but will make other pans harder to use at the same time.
- At least one baking sheet for the oven. Anodized aluminum is a good idea. I’ve got a Mermaid baking sheet and it works well, being almost non-stick. It also won’t rust, which is a big plus. Measure your oven before you buy, as some won’t take the big sheets.
- Plastic boxes. Lots of plastic boxes. You’ll be storing your food in these, as everything makes more than one serving. I like the lock n lock ones.
- A pasta pan is so useful if you eat a lot of pasta. Those are the tall pots with the strainer that fits inside them. Not the most efficient way of cooking, as there’s a lot of water, but easier to drain. Works for potatoes too. Rice is too small and if you get the measurements right, you can avoid needing to drain it.
- A saute pan. These are much like frying pans, but have straight sides, and come with a lid. Don’t get non-stick here. These are useful if you are making something with a sauce, as frying pans are more likely to slop it around. If you get one with a metal handle, you can stick it in the oven too. I’ve never done this, but some people like to be able to. Don’t forget the oven gloves 😉
- A second 20cm saucepan. Or maybe a smaller one. handy if, for example, you want to heat some baked beans, while you boil some potatoes. Smaller has the advantage of things not getting spread out as much when you’re reheating something, which reduces the chance of something burning. But it means you have less space to work in.
- Tongs. Ribber tipped works well, especially is used with your non-stick frying pan.
- Spatula – Wooden. Mine are Beech. More than one isn’t a bad idea.
- Spoons – Wooden. Again, Beech. Get more than one. One with a blocked out corner is a good idea, for stirring round a large pan.
- Chopping board(s). Have a few, in more than one color. That way you can keep one for raw meat, one for veg, and so on.
- Knives. A few knives are good. The main one you’ll want though, is a decent chef’s knife. I’ve got a kitchen devil professional one, which has lasted me years. As for the size, go for at least a medium. Go larger if it feels comfortable in your hand. All other knives are optional. A paring knife is handy. Those are the two I use more than any other.
- Peeler. Pick the type that works for you. I’m using a Y peeler. (because the blade is held in a y shaped handle).
- Measuring Jug. Pyrex or similar.
- Measuring spoons. Teaspoon and tablespoon are the important ones.
- Oven Gloves. While you could use a tea towel, a decent pair of oven gloves is really a must.
That’s pretty much the basics covered. There are a few Electrical small goods that I really like having though.
- Slow Cooker – 3.5ltr. Ideal for a lazy cook. Bung stuff into it, turn it on, and several hours later, you have a meal.
- Hand Blender – I don’t use this much, but good for soups, and making sauces less chunky. Or working out the flour lumps you accidentally made in a gravy.
- Food processor – I don’t like the coarseness of most mince, so this lets me break it up further. Also for chopping onions, mixing batter, etc, etc.
- Microwave – For reheating or defrosting things, this is hard to beat, speed wise. These days, on the other hand, I don’t use it much.
Food in your store cupboard/freezer/fridge
Store cupboard first. These are the core ingredients for cooking with. you’ll buy stuff to use with them, but they’ll be sitting there, day in, day out.
- Chopped Tomatoes. Or Passata. I normally have at least 4 cans. You could just buy the canned peeled tomatoes and break them up yourself, but that’s just far too much work for me 😀 Passata’s sieved crushed tomatoes, so it’s basically just a sauce. For when you want liquid, but no lumps.
- Tomato Puree. Normally have a couple of jars sitting. I buy this in jars, and then store in the fridge when I open them. Cans are a bad idea, if you’re not using the whole can at once. Tubes are just too much work and are harder to judge how much is left.
- Tuna chunks in brine. If you like tuna, this is the core of a whole number of meals. Normally 4 or 5 cans. Depends on the deals on at the time 😉
- Stock cubes. Chicken and beef. Handy for bumping up the ‘meaty’ flavour of something
- Pasta – Spaghetti and some other shapes. I tend to buy in large bags(3kg), as it lasts. Different ones for variety.
- Rice – easy cook white rice. The 15 minute or so cooking time one. Again, large amounts. This works well in a slow cooker.
- Herbs and spices. Go nuts here. These are what move food from bland to interesting (normally. Some foods don’t need them, like a decent steak). Premixed works too, like the Italian herb mix I use, from Just Ingredients. Chili powder. Curry powder. Cumin. Ginger. Paprika. Thyme. Rosemary. Get a basic selection to start with, and expand it as you need to.
- Worcestershire sauce. This is to bump up the umami (meaty) flavor of things.
- Soy Sauce. Dark for cooking, light for garnish.
- Beans. Baked beans. Kidney Beans. Black eyed beans. That kind of thing. Canned rather than dry, as dry takes ages to rehydrate. This is for lazy cooks 😉
- Chopped onion. Lasts well, cooks from frozen, and you just pour it in.
- Chopped mixed peppers. Add a handful to a dish to pep it up. Means you don’t have a half pepper just lying around in your fridge
- Kidney Beans. Even easier than canned, you just dump in a loose handful.
- Other vegetables. Green beans, mushrooms (if you like them), that kind of thing. They last well in the freezer.
- Mince. I’d buy it fresh and freeze it yourself. while you need to defrost it, that’s a ‘take out before work, and it’s done when you get back in’. Beef and pork.
- Bacon. As above. I’d suggest unsmoked.
- Chicken. Breasts or diced. I’d say, don’t buy the ones that come in cubes, as that’s really not particularly nice looking meat. Fresh and freeze it yourself.
- Chopped garlic.
- Chopped Ginger
And that’s about it. This isn’t prep for a particular recipe, but just general living. You can get by with just a couple of saucepans, but having different sorts makes life easier. Or buy a cheap set of pans, and replace then with decent ones as time passes.