It’s been a while since we’ve talked about cooking for one so I thought it was time to fix that. If you’re new around here, you might be interested in some of the previous posts in this (very infrequent) series.
In the past I’ve given advice on menu planning and grocery shopping for one, as well as shared some easy ways to cook bolognese and roasted chicken for one. But now I’d like to backtrack and start from the beginning. Before you can throw out those takeout menus and cooking up a storm, you need a properly stocked kitchen. Cooking for one doesn’t require a lot (or any) fancy equipment, but there are definitely a few basics that will make your life a lot easier.
I’ve broken this up into three parts: the essentials, the helpful, and the not-all-that-necessary-but-fun-to-have things. I’m not a professional cook in any way, but I have been cooking for one for 5+ years. My first apartment’s kitchen was tiny so I got used to cooking with limited space and equipment pretty fast.
Heads up: this post does contain affiliate links, but I would never recommend a product that I didn’t think was of good quality and useful in a single’s kitchen.
A good chef’s knife: you don’t need to spend a lot of money, but make sure you like the way it feels in your hand. You’re going to use it for everything; you should really like it. I use this Cuisinart chef’s knife but there are lots of good brands out there.
Cutting board: go with plastic. You can run it through the dishwasher and you don’t have to worry about it smelling.
8 to 12 inch skillet: preferably cast-iron or stainless steel, but non-stick will do if you’re partial to it. If you’re going for cast iron, I like Lodge’s skillets. For stainless, Cuisinart or Calphalon is the way to go.
Medium covered saucepan: save yourself the trouble and the potential ingestion of Teflon and get the stainless steel. I have this Cuisinart 1-1/2-Quart Saucepan with Cover, but if you want to invest in your pots and pans, get the Calphalon.
Bake ware: a cookie sheet (great for roasting too!), muffin tin, 8×8 baking dish, and an 8 inch round pan should get you through almost anything. You can do a lot in baking dishes that isn’t actually baking, so don’t ignore this. If you’re a baker, go ahead and invest in good quality tools that will last. If you’re not, get some basics. Bed, Bath, and Beyond usually has a good selection.
Basic utensils: wooden spoon, spatula, slotted spoon, whisk, vegetable peeler, can opener, wine opener, and a simple grater. Nothing needs to be nice, but it does need to be durable.
Colander: how big you go is up to you. A small strainer should be fine unless you do a lot of batch cooking and freezer or you throw a lot of parties.
Measuring cups and spoons: truly essential when it comes to paring down recipes. Get the Pyrex cups; they’re the best. Make sure you get measuring cups for both wet and dry ingredients.
Storage containers: one of the principles of cooking for one is making enough for leftovers, but not so much that you eat the same thing for a week. You need good storage containers. You can get the plastic ones from the grocery store, but I’m partial to glass ones. But that’s just me.
Mixing bowls: If you’re smart, you’ll get bowls that come with lids so they can double as storage containers. You could also get nice looking ones so they’ll do triple duty as serving pieces. Or you can just do what I did and buy basic plastic ones.
Paring and serrated knives: you can do a whole lot with a chef’s knife but it’s not so great when it comes to cutting very small things or very soft things. It’s nice to have options when you need them.
A second cutting board: if you’re cooking meat and something else at the same time, it’s a pain to have to stop and wash your cutting board after it’s had raw meat on it. I like thin, plastic cutting boards because they don’t take up too much space.
Additional skillets and saucepans: what you get is up to you and your cooking habits, but don’t buy large pots and pans if you never cook for large groups. If you’ve got the room, get a boxed set of pots and pans (see above for my brand suggestions), but if you don’t, only buy what you know you’ll use. You can always add to your collection later.
Extra utensils: silicon stirrers and a pasta spoon are super helpful. Not something you need to spend a lot of money on; just get ones you like and that seem durable.
Hand mixer: if you do any sort of baking, you need a mixer. If you have the space and the funds, get a stand mixer, by all means, but it’s really not necessary. A hand mixer will get you through almost anything. KitchenAid is the best and quality means it will usually last a long time.
Blender: this really depends on what you cook. If you like smoothies, mixed drinks, or soups, you probably need a blender. I use mine maybe once a month, but that’s me. Get a brand that goes with your level of use. A VitaMix is not necessary; I promise.
More baking dishes: casserole dishes, larger pans, extra cooking sheets, loaf pans…whatever it is that you cook a lot of, you probably need additional equipment. Stay away from uni-taskers (doughnut pans, tart pans, muffin tins in the shape of Christmas trees, etc); they take up space and you really never use them. Trust me.
Microplane Grater: this is honestly one of my favorite kitchen utensils. I think it’s because I feel like Rachel Ray when I’m zesting a lemon. 😉
Cast iron dutch oven: enamel cast iron is very nice. It goes from stove top to oven easily and it looks really nice. It’s also heavy as hell and can double as a weapon if needed. I like to use my dutch oven when making soups, braising something, or when I need another medium saucepan but don’t have one. Martha Stewart’s brand is really nice; it’s what I have.
There you have it folks – Lizy’s guide to kitchen tools for the single cook. What do you consider essential in your kitchen? Did I leave anything off?
Thanks to My Everyday Life Blog for my great graphic!