Author Topic: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments  (Read 6480 times)

cosmie

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Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« on: February 28, 2012, 09:52:52 AM »
I know many of you make your food from scratch (i.e. don't buy processed foods, make your own bread, etc). What do you guys (and gals) consider essential investments in your kitchen to aid in this process? What could you not live without?

stigto

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2012, 09:59:06 AM »
A sharp knife, a French press and a meat slicer. A coffee grinder. A few pots and pans. A mortar. A few wooden utensils. An oven and a gas burner. Make stuff from scratch and you don't really need that much. A smoker for making bacon is nice, but hardly essential.

adam

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2012, 10:12:22 AM »
A dutch oven. 

A sharp knife doesn't have to be an expensive knife.  I fell into the 'premium' knife thing and spent $100 on a Wustoff chef knife but it turns out when you look at most professional kitchens they might just be using a $6 plastic handled knife that they keep very sharp.  I do love that chef's knife, but it was definitely an extravagance.  (this was purchased in my old life)

I've seen more than once that a good pressure cooker is popular, but a question, for someone who doesn't eat rice or beans, what would I use it for?

poko

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2012, 10:27:03 AM »
I've seen more than once that a good pressure cooker is popular, but a question, for someone who doesn't eat rice or beans, what would I use it for?

The thing I've found I use our pressure cooker most for is for making stock. We save veggies scraps/ends/peels in a bag in our freezer, and once its full it goes into the pressure cooker with some water. After an hour -- fresh veggie stock! Then I freeze that for later use, or use it right away for some soups or whathaveyou. I'm vegetarian, but I bet you can use it for making meat stocks as well.

Matt K

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2012, 10:42:14 AM »
I cook a lot (I am the primary cook in the house, and we eat out one or two nights a month).

My current essentials are:
  • A good quality bread machine. We make at least one loaf of bread per week, usually more. I've had a cheap Black and Decker and it didn't even last 6 months (30 day warranty). I now have a $200 Panasonic SD-TD250 (I had to search on Amazon to find that model name, not exactly memorable). It has worked flawlessly for pretty close to two years, probably having made more than 100 loaves of bread.
  • Proper Knives. I use a set of Henckle knives. They require very little maintenance and make cutting anything easy. For a basic set I'd have a pairing knife (short, fine edge, easy to control), a carving knife (long fine edge), a butchers knife (long and heavy, strong edge that can handle cutting through bone and tough vegetables), a vegetable knife (long and tall, with a very fine edge) and a bread knife. With those you can do pretty much anything.
    • If you cook fresh fish, Rappella make a great filletting knife for $15. My dad has had his for 30 years, mine is three years old and pretty much identical. It makes filleting a fish a joke - really handy if you live near a chinese grocere and can get fresh fish for $2/lbs.
    • A tip for buying knives - Henckle sells factory seconds over ebay. I got a $100 knife for $20 because the profile was barely off. It doesn't change how well the knife works, but it isn't good enough to pass their stringent QA either. Great for me.
    • There are plenty of good inexpensive knives out there, but they aren't found in Walmart. Lee Valley makes a carbon chef's knife that does pretty much everything well (it could replace most of my set), and it costs $30 (http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?cat=2,40733,40738&p=52770). My parents have a carbon steel knife similar (but lower profile) to this that is now 40 years old and still sees regular use. Even after I used it to split kindling one camping trip...
  • Copper based pots. Pots with a good thick (5mm or more) copper base provide a very even heat. The difference in ease of cooking with heavy based pots versus the cheap all aluminim ones is amazing. Burnign something in one of these takes effort on your part. Best of all, these pots last a very long time. Mine are 7 years old and look brand new (I paid $250 for a full set). You can probably buy them used pretty cheap on craigslist. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a nice set that was ten years old.
  • A proper non-stick frying pan. Not some thin Martha Stuart POS, a proper heavy based frying pan. I have an iron frying pan by Henckle that cooks pretty much like a cast iron frying pan, but is non stick. Yes the pan alone cost more than $100, but seven years later the non-stick coating is still in perfect shape. The time it has saved me in washing is immeasurable, it lets me cook with very little oil, and it heats incredibly evenly (jsut like the pots, if I burn anything on that pan I *really* screwed up).
  • Electric Kettle with automatic off. Last thing I want to do is worry about boiling water first thing in the morning.

We have a blender (which gets used very rarely, I just chop everything by hand), we have a slow cooker (I never use, but my better half does once in a while). We don't have a food processor, but it is one the "someday" list. I have a french press and grinder for coffee, which lets me make a mean coffee for next to nothing, but I could live on instant coffee if I had to. Aside from my breadmachine I wouldn't consider any gadget essential to my cooking.

Things to avoid: glass cutting boards. They look nice but they dull your knives. Why have super fantastic knives and then slowly kill them with your cutting board? Wood and plastic are both fine in my books (we now use plastic because we tend to leave our cutting boards in the sink, which warps and cracks the wooden ones).

Schwartz

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2012, 10:55:16 AM »
My exhaustive list of essentials is below, but you could do a hell of a lot with a good sharp chef's knife, a dutch oven and a wooden spoon. Almost all of the items can be found used. If I were to "splurge" on any items they would be the chef knife (guilty of this myself) and the dutch oven.



Knives:
Chef knife
paring knife
serrated bread knife (optional, but very handy)
Whetstone (to sharpen them- or have them professionally sharpened once or twice a year for a dollar or two each)
Honing steel (to keep them sharp)

Prep:
measuring cups and spoons
at least one big mixing bowl (I like stainless)
cheese grater (don't pay the grocery store to grate it for you!)
BIG cutting board


Cookware:
Stock pot- stainless w/ lid
smaller pot (2 qt or so)- stainless w/ lid
cast iron skillet
Dutch oven
roasting pan
french press

Utensils:
Wooden spoon(s)
spatula
tongs
ladle

Appliances that are not essential, but totally worthwhile (buy used):
Bread maker- if you eat bread or like sandwiches
Stick (immersion) blender
Slow Cooker- if cooking time is a concern for you, this is a very easy way to up your culinary game

AJ

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2012, 11:06:07 AM »
I've seen more than once that a good pressure cooker is popular, but a question, for someone who doesn't eat rice or beans, what would I use it for?

I don't know if you're ruling out all legumes, but we use our electric pressure cooker to make large batches of spit pea soup and lentil soup for weekly work lunches. I'm sure it would be easy enough to make on the stovetop, so I probably wouldn't buy one if it hadn't been a gift, but it is super easy to just throw all the ingredients in, set the built-in timer, and come back when we're ready to bag it up. It builds pressure on its own, times the cooking, then shuts off to warm-mode when it is done. I really love it, but I can't contend that it would have been Mustachian to purchase.

I think what items are essential is going to depend mostly on your diet. I use my VitaMix every day, and it was well worth the $400 cost. We blew the motor our of three regular blenders before biting the bullet with that one, and we picked it for its 7 year warranty. OTOH, when our fridge went out we replaced it with a mini dorm fridge. It was hella-cheaper ($40 vs $800-1000) and all we really store in it is condiments and leftovers, so we really didn't need the space of a standard-sized fridge. If we wanted to be more judicious about which condiments we kept we could probably ditch the fridge altogether. My point is just that what one person considers a necessity (like a fridge, or a Vitamix) another person thinks is a luxury. If we ate much meat or dairy, a fridge would be an essential. If we made smoothies twice a year rather than every day, a Vitamix would be overkill. If you absolutely looovvvee fresh-baked bread, but work a full-time job, a bread-maker is a must-have. If you only use bread for occasional sandwich or toast, you're probably better off buying it from the bakery outlet.

If you're thinking in terms of what might save you money (rather than convenience or time) my vote would be for the chest freezer. Also, maybe canning supplies.

slugsworth

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2012, 11:09:42 AM »
Most of these are good- My short list would be a good cast iron pot, stainless steel cookware (I too like ones with a heavy bottom) and sharp knives. . . One item that wasn't meantioned was an immersion blender. I have a $20 one and use it a lot, it is the only electric device other than appliances and a coffee maker in my kitchen.

Gutless Bastard

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2012, 11:13:31 AM »
As far as chef knives go, I would stay away from Wustof and Henckle and their ilk.  In my opinion, the only chef knives they make that are worth owning are their expensive ones and, at that price, you're better off getting a Blazen or Hiromoto or other quality japanese gyuto.  I would recommend Victorinox for most people's knife needs.  Good quality and low price, hard to beat that.

I would also stay away from non-stick pans and, instead, get a good cast iron.  A teflon coated pan is not going to last you more than a year or two if you use it regularly.  If you use it a lot and care for it properly, a cast iron will become damn near as non-stick as a teflon coated pan and you will probably never have to replace it.

Danielle

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2012, 11:18:56 AM »
I also use my pressure cooker to boil potatoes - it takes half the time that boiling in an open pot does.  I also cook beans, lentils, rice in it; but it came with a book of recipes that I haven't even looked at yet, so there's probably a lot more handy uses.  I recommend getting one with a lid that seals from beneath the edge of the pot, so that it will implode rather than explode if the pressure is too much.  Lots safer that way!

Eristheunorganized

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2012, 11:35:19 AM »
The cooking supply list is pretty good- to someone looking to bake as well, I would add:

Measuring cups and spoons -dry and liquid
2 mixing bowls
Desired bakeware- cookie sheets, or bread pans, etc.
An instant read thermometer- for bread making. (yes, you can learn the correct temp. of the water and yeast without one. But before you know the right temp, you can ruin your loaf and waste your time).


I have only used one bread machine in my life, but I found it to be a little lacking. The bread tasted great, but with oster's recipes, the bread seemed to rise too long. This resulted in a very hard to cut, kinda spongy, fluffy  bread. Good for snacking, bad for sandwiches. Bread made by hand didn't have this problem.

kolorado

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2012, 11:43:08 AM »
Just a few of my favorite stuff off the top of my head:
I have a basic Henkle's knife set too and second the recommendation. Though I've been using glass cutting boards for 11+ years with absolutely no noticeable dulling. I do always use the smooth, not textured side of the boards. ~shrug~
My KitchenAid mixer is indispensable. I have the large size with two bowls. I have the grinder, puree and slicing attachments(all were wedding gifts btw). I use it 4-6 times a week for bread and baked goods, processing garden surplus for the freezer and canning, grating economical block cheese and grinding my own meets from roasts for the leanest option with no mystery additives.
Our upright, manual defrost freezer saves me $100's every year. I'm able to big batch cook and store prepped ingredients for quick cooking later, stock up on loss leaders, keep baked goods fresh and store organic produce from my garden.
Waffle iron. Do you know how much money I would have given to Eggo if I did not have one of these? My 9 year old son eats 6 huge homemade waffles every time I make them. At this point in his life I know I've saved well over $1000 by having the iron.
French press. We have an insulated 32 ounce stainless steel one. Pressed coffee has more body and flavor than drip coffee. Plus, I can pour more hot water over the used grounds and get a couple free cups of decaf.
Silicone spatulas. Being able to scrap out that last few tablespoons each time amounts to dozens of cookies and muffins, and pints of gravies, soups and sauces over the course of a year.
Powerful blender. I have an Oster ice crusher with all metal drive. It isn't top end or anything($30-ish 10 years ago) but it's a workhorse. I use mine often for smoothies(which is a great way to save overripe fruit!), to make bread & cracker crumbs, for mixing homemade banana pudding, making almond and rice milks and grinding oatmeal and flax seed into flour for baking.
I get a big kick out of our Forman type grill. Double sided heating elements make cooking faster. It's also cheaper to own and "maintain" than an outside grill although it isn't exactly an apple to apple comparison. We had an outside grill and weren't using it. This I use. I use it most for burgers(meat, brown rice and veggie), bacon, chicken breast and french toast. One of these days I'm going to try fruit in it. I got my grill for $3 at a yard sale. We sold our unused grill.
If you like beer, a Mr Beer brewing kit. You can make beer for half the price you can buy it and it's very easy to do.

Matt K

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2012, 12:11:17 PM »
As far as chef knives go, I would stay away from Wustof and Henckle and their ilk.  In my opinion, the only chef knives they make that are worth owning are their expensive ones
Mine are the expensive ones. As I said, there are ways to get them cheaper. Also they have two lines of Chef blades, one with wood & rivet handles ($$$) and the other with heavy plastic handles (still expensive, but less so). I have the later. I'm at seven years on my knives (I got most of my kitchen stuff all at once when I moved out), and they haven't aged a day.

Quote
I would also stay away from non-stick pans and, instead, get a good cast iron.  A teflon coated pan is not going to last you more than a year or two if you use it regularly.  If you use it a lot and care for it properly, a cast iron will become damn near as non-stick as a teflon coated pan and you will probably never have to replace it.
I also have a cast iron pan, but only use it for specific tasks. The non-stick Henckle (I think it is steel on reflection; the base is a full cm thick and the sides at least half so - it cooks as even as my cast iron pan) is, as I said, 7 years and used daily; the non-stick still works perfectly. I only use wood and plastic utensils in it. I've got a hefty Cuisinart Wok that is also non-stick. We're at two years on it without any scratching or loss of teflon. Quality non-stick stuff exists, but it isn't cheap and you have to take care of it (absolutely no metal in it).

I've never managed the trick to easy-cleaning cast iron pans (I've been told I need to wash it right away while it is still hot, but I never manage to do that - I'm too busy with the rest of the cooking and/or feasting)

michael

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2012, 12:34:53 PM »
Crockpot! $40 and perfect for turning shitty cuts of meat into gourmet!

Mrs MM

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 02:07:58 PM »
Very interesting!  It's neat to see what people consider essential.

We have very little kitchen stuff, I think.  Here's what we use regularly... we have more stuff but don't use it as much:

- one pot for soups, rice, pot-type stuff
- 2 frying pans - one big, one not as big
- spatula (somehow we accumulated 4 of these from rental houses and whatnot, but we only need one)
- toaster oven (the boy eats a tiny homemade pizza every day, so this gets used often)
- grater
- measuring cup
- cutting board
- mixing bowl
- BBQ for meat, kebabs, veggies

We also have a used breadmaker that we mostly use for pizza dough for the boy these days (I am gluten-free) and the very important coffee machine for making fancy lattes.  MMM makes me a lovely latte every morning. 

We tend to eat a lot of raw food (salads, plates of veggies and cheeses) and most everything else can be made in a simple pan.


Parizade

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2012, 02:49:01 PM »
The appliances that get the most use in my house are the microwave, Ninja food processor, and the George Foreman Grill.

The Ninja almost never makes it back to it's storage spot, it's either in use or drying in the dish rack (unwritten family rule, if you use the Ninja you wash the Ninja). I use it for daily for smoothies, my son uses it for his protein shakes, and future DIL uses it for her health food detox shakes. I used to have a blender and a food processor, neither one of them got used as much as the Ninja does now.

I've gone through at least 3 GF grills, and I've purchased a bigger one each time. So easy for cooking meat, and so easy to clean up.

zinnie

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2012, 06:08:10 PM »
A sharp knife, a French press. A coffee grinder. A few pots and pans. A mortar. A few wooden utensils. An oven and a gas burner. Make stuff from scratch and you don't really need that much.

This exactly. I'd add a large wooden cutting board, and quality, will-last-for-the-rest-of-your-life stainless pots and pans. I've quite enjoyed the dutch oven that was gifted to me recently, too. That's all I use frequently enough to justify owning quality pieces. There's definitely value for me in learning older-fashioned techniques with simple tools instead of buying a lot of appliances, and using elbow grease instead of electricity where possible. Other tools used most: a grater, a colander, and a corkscrew :). Appliances I have: hand mixer, toaster, electric grill, and blender.

Unnecessary kitchen gadgets seem pretty anti-mustachian to me--have you seen some of these wedding registrys nowadays?!


shedinator

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2012, 06:41:47 PM »
Stand Mixers make things a lot easier- I <3 our Kitchenaide
Bread Machine, if you're into bread.
Slow Cooker
Pots of various sizes (4-6 cup, half gallon, 1-5 gallon/stock pot)
Frying pans- we need 3 for Mexican night.
Measuring equipment
Blender
Coffee Grinder and French Press
A loaf Pan or two
Baking sheets
Pizza pan (or pizza stone, if you prefer)
Durable spatulas- rubber AND metal.
Wooden Spoons
Stone/Porcelain bakeware
Glass bakeware
Metal bakeware
Good knives- At least one each of serrated, non-serrated, and bread. Possibly more than one if you plan to cook multiple dishes at once.
Pot holders and/or trivets, unless you have stone counters
Well-stocked cupboards

Also, while a rice cooker is not "essential" it's certainly handy. If you're just moving into the realm of cooking from scratch, and not sure which small appliances to get first, I'd recommend starting with the slow cooker and the blender. It's very nice to know you can put some ingredients in a pot in the morning (or the night before), press a button and, barring power failure, come home to a fully cooked meal. One of the most frequently cited reasons for going out instead of cooking is a lack of time. If you're confronted with dinner when you get home, that excuse goes right out the window. Then when you're full, you can wash the pot, prepare it for the next day, and press the button on your way to work the next morning- cheapest ones at Wal Mart ar like $20 on sale, and you can probably find one for even less on CL, or free on freecycle. A bread machine will offer you the same luxury for fresh bread.

Oh, if you live in a climate that has non-rainy summer days (ie, NOT Oregon :{D ), I highly recommend a grill of some kind, but I can't bring myself to deem it essential.

onehappypanda

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Re: Essential Mustachian Kitchen Investments
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2012, 09:19:52 PM »
Totally depends on the kind of food you like to make and how much you're willing to improvise. The others have already covered everything. Currently, I have:
Pots and pans (yard sale finds mostly)
Decent knives- mid range is fine, just learn to sharpen them.
Cutting board- large and small
Blender- I have my grandmas from the 60's and it's indestructible. Also a cheapy single serve blender that I use daily.
Spatulas, soup ladle, wooden spoon.
Corkscrew. Very important (though I have used a screwdriver in a pinch, heh).
Baking sheets
Glass bakeware
Leftover glass nut butter jars and canning jars for storing things.
Mixing bowls of various sizes- I like the nest ones because they stay neater.
Measuring spoons and cups
Can opener.
Slow cooker- not strictly necessary but it saves me a whole lot of time.

Seriously I think that might be it. Nothing fancy. I'd love a bread maker and a juicer some day but I have neither the money or the room to justify it at the moment, so I make do. I think the only thing I'm missing is a good cast iron skillet. Noting that one down for my next birthday ;)