When talking about cooking on this site, we will try and keep things as simple as possible, and avoid the use of specialized equipment. With that said, there are times when some equipment can really help. On this page, we will maintain a list of useful things to have around when cooking.
Cast iron skillet
Cast iron cookware can be useful when roasting things in the oven (think potatoes, onions, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes). If it’s a vegetable and tastes good with a crispy, caramelized exterior, then cast iron is your friend.
Plus, cast iron skillets age like nothing else, and you can buy them a hardware store. What’s not to love?
Decent Spice Selection
No need to go crazy here, but having good spices on hand can help add a layer of complexity to a meal that would otherwise feel tired. Useful spices to have on hand include:
- herbes de Provence
- rosemary (dried or fresh)
- fresh garlic (while garlic powder can be good in rubs, fresh cloves that can be diced and roasted are just damn good)
- smoked paprika
- ground chipotle pepper
- peppercorns and a pepper grinder – fresh pepper adds a depth of flavor you just can’t get otherwise. Coarsely ground pepper also adds a nice texture to some dishes
- coarse kosher/sea salt (a while back, friend of mine gave me sea salt that they harvested themselves as a gift, and I was hooked)
- harissa – this North African paste has a kick, and is just plain amazing
- gochujang – depending on the type of gochujang you get, it will vary in spice level and smokiness. Gochujang is a key element in Korean cooking, and it adds an amazing depth of flavor when used.
- gochugaru pepper – these pepper flakes are also staples in Korean cooking, and add a depth of flavor to just about anything
- fish sauce – there are many different varieties of fish sauce. Don’t go crazy with it, but fish sauce adds a depth of flavor that is hard to get otherwise.
Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list, and feel free to add/augment with spices that you like, but this is a good starting point. I like shopping at Asian markets for spices, but if you don’t have a good Asian market nearby Kalustyan’s is a great starting point for shopping online,
Decent oils and vinegar
Having good olive oil (extra virgin, first cold pressed) and smoked sesame oil will be handy. If you want to get really fancy, get some truffle oil and use it sparingly.
For vinegar, having some balsamic, sweet rice wine, and apple vinegar will cover the basics (from salad dressings to sauces to marinades).
Tupperware, Pyrex, aluminum foil, plastic bags, or plastic wrap are fine for most things. However, if you want to have an additional level of food geek, vacuum sealing stuff can be fun. Vacuum sealing lets you freeze stuff for extended periods of time without affecting flavor (think meatballs and red sauce, or fresh strawberries, or fish, or steak), and you can also vacuum seal things that are getting marinated to speed up marination times. There are a range of options out there; I’ve been using a low end Food Saver for years and it’s been great.