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Cooking Basics

You can't get started until you have some basic supplies and gear—stock your pantry, stock your refrigerator/freezer and invest in some basic tools and you will be ready.

Stocking your Pantry

Canned Food

The first step to cooking more is to make sure you have the supplies you need to cook well.  Many of these supplies are obvious, others are not so intuitive.  But to start, you really need the following:

1. Basic Spices: salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, basil, oregano, bay leaves and cumin. Extra Credit: dried dill, whole peppercorns, tarragon, thyme, sage, smoked paprika, etc. 

2. Basic canned foods: Whole tomatoes (28 oz. and 14 oz), diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, black beans, garbanzo beans, evaporated or condensed milk, tuna in water and canned chiles. Extra Credit: Hatch green chiles, other assorted canned beans, anchovies, and bottled peppers.

3. Basic Rice/Beans/Sauces: Jasmine rice, Arborio rice, Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, dried pinto beans, split peas, boxed or convenience rice (if you use), and whatever basic sauces you like. Extra credit: Polenta or grits. .

4. Condiments: Ketchup, yellow mustard, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, red and white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.  Extra credit: fish sauce, oyster sauce, Siracha, chiles in oil, sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc. 

4. Oils: Olive oil and neutral oil like Canola to start.  Extra credit: Sesame oil, grapeseed oil and peanut oil. 

5. Basic Flours and Baking Supplies: Flour, unbleached white, Sugar, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Cornstarch, Confectioner's Sugar, and Cornmeal.  Extra Credit: Self-rising Flour, Cake Flour, Chocolate Chips, Walnuts and Pecans. 


Stocking your Refrigerator/Freezer

Things you need on hand: 

1. Basic Dairy: Milk, sliced American or mild cheddar cheese, plain yogurt, a chunk of Colby or other mild cheese, Parmesan cheese, and butter (salted and unsalted). Extra credit: cream or half-and-half, dried or fresh buttermilk and cream cheese. Note: If you don't eat dairy, stock up your substitutes instead.

2. Basic vegetables and aromatics:  celery, garlic, carrots, and onions (sweet, green, shallots or red).

Extra credit: ginger root and galangal. 

3. Other:  Eggs (best you can afford) and mayonnaise. Extra Credit: Tofu, (firm or extra firm), miso paste, dried shrimp, and lemongrass. 

1. A good chef's kitchen knife, and a paring knife.

2. A cutting board, wood, plastic or other.

3. A nonstick frying pan.

4. A large pot or saucepan.

5. A hand grater.

6. Several cookie sheets or quarter or half sheet pans.

7. A rack that fits inside your cookie sheets.

8. An immersion blender, or a standard blender.

9. A handheld mixer, or a stand mixer, if you are lucky.

9. An assortment of cooking tools, including a spatula, ladle and whisk.

10. Containers to store ingredients and leftovers.

11. A crockpot or Instant Pot or both.

12. A garlic press.

13. A set of hot pads, silicone mitts or similar, for safety for hot pans. 

14. A 13x9 inch roasting or cake pan, hopefully with some type of rack inside. 

15. Lots of other convenient stuff, but this will get you started. 

Basic Kitchen Gear

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