DIY Food

First Kitchen: Taking Inventory

January  7, 2013

Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: where we stand.

Cast iron pan

We've built a lot of things together at FOOD52: two cookbooks, a Holiday iPad App, a Shop, a Hotline, a network of people, of recipes, of stories, of ideas.

Shop the Story

And, since May, we've been building a kitchen together.

It certainly won't look like this -- that will come later. But thanks to your expertise, I've been piecing together a kitchen -- a lifestyle, really -- that will serve me in some of the most novel, the most exciting, and the most important years of my life.

Here's where we stand. What else do I need? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


On the stove:

A cast-iron pan
A Dutch oven
A 3-quart and a 4.5-quart saucepan

Casserole pans

In the oven:

A casserole pan
Baking sheets
• A cake pan and a loaf pan

Paprika-Scented Manchego Chorizo Puffs

On the table:

Forks, knives, spoons, and plates
Serving dishes

Cutting boards

On the counter:

A cutting board
Mixing bowls
A food processor

Sharp tools

In the drawer:

A chef knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife
A microplane, a mandoline, and a box grater
Measuring spoons
A whisk, a rubber spatula

Ideal Bookshelf

On the bookshelf:

• Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer 
• Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
• How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
• The Silver Palate by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo
• The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
• The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
• The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser
• Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
• Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
• Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Barbara Weiner
    Barbara Weiner
  • amgchem
  • kstallbe
  • Sauertea
Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


Barbara W. February 6, 2013
Many cookbooks more than a couple of years old can be bought very reasonably on Often for under $5.00.
SBMCW February 5, 2013
Patricia Wells is excellent at demystifying French Cooking in a series of cook books hard and soft cover. James Peterson also has an excellent series of cook books. Some cook books are like small dogs in your lap – such a satisfying feeling on a drizzly cold morning – they can take you away. If you are feeling particularly lazy there is always YouTube – a great source for those of us that learn visually.

Global knives are recommended by a number of women cooks I know who have small hands. I think pots and pans are like children and they should be brought into the family when the time is right. I think the environment can dictate the types of pots and pans that work best. My daughter lives in Brooklyn and has a very small stove so pans referred to as a “rondeau” have merit because of the lack of a long handle. Very recently you could buy a 2 qt. All Clad Copper Core rondeau at Bloomingdales normally priced at $260 for $99. Be patient. Four long handles on a small New York apartment stoves can be very risky game of pick-up sticks.

A small roasting pan offers huge functionality but start small with a good brand like All Clad, Mauviel or Viking but not non-stick. Keep it simple and think lasagna for parties, bain marie for pate, poaching salmon or putting your potted plants in it for a deep watering.
Barbara W. January 27, 2013
One of my favorite new tools is a pressure cooker. I started using one when I began planning my personal chef business. I didn't want to spend all day at a clients home but I wanted to make homemade stock and braised dishes. Now I can't believe I went so many years without one. I use it all the time at home. It makes the best stock, you can turn inexpensive cuts of meat into delicious stews in under an hour and you can cook beans without soaking. My son, a sophomore in college, now has an electric one in his dorm room so he can cook some real food. Since you have a kitchen I would recommend a stove top one because they are much more efficient and achieve higher pressure. If you want to make stock I recommend an 8 quart size. I bought the Fagor rapida which came with an 8 quart and a 4 quart pot. And to go with it Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. More for the general pressure cooker information than the recipes.
amgchem January 21, 2013
One of the best books I own is James Beard's On Bread. It is an awesome little book. I bought eons ago and refer to it for many of my bread recipes. Also Pierre Franey & Brian Miller's Seafood Cookbook. I don't know if these are available since I bought them a loooong time ago.
kstallbe January 16, 2013
I think you need to get the knives out of the drawer!! A wall mounted magnetic knife strip is space saving and super handy.
Sauertea January 9, 2013
Probably a Santoku knife and a couple of pairing knives. A generous grandmother is helpful. Mine bought me my first food processor and my kitchen aid.
Hunter W. January 8, 2013
An immersion blender (the one with multiple attachments for blend, whisk, and food-process) was one of the best purchases I made last year. A probe thermometer for chicken or steak, at least one non-stick all-clad saute pan, and a pizza stone. All good to have in college. Also, maybe not in the kitchen, but one of the mini-weber bbqs was crucial when I was at UCSB they're like $10... Tritip tacos anyone?

Cookbooks: This is a Cookbook by the Sussman's, The Flavor Bible for making things up and subb'ing things in, Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller - Brined fried chicken?, Small Plates by Cindy Paulson (my favorite), and the Food52 Cookbooks?
Sauertea January 8, 2013
One other thought, if you are buying cake pans, the Fat Daddio pans with the removable bottoms are great.
Sauertea January 8, 2013
Actually I admire Fante's from afar. Found their website and the rest is history.
fiveandspice January 7, 2013
A kitchen scale! I didn't have one until our wedding last year, and I wouldn't have thought I needed it before, but I'm becoming a complete and total convert. Especially as I bake more and more of our bread myself.
Sauertea January 7, 2013
a good set of stainless steel measuring cups and measuring spoons. A vinaigrette whisk (try fante's ) You should have Joy the Baker and both the Food 52 Cookboosk. Also Laurie Colwin's home cooking books are a delight to read and have lots of helpful hints.
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Are you in Philly? Love Fante's!
Susige January 7, 2013
I would suggest measuring cups (both dry and wet), a great pair of kitchen scissors (I use my scissors to cut up meat for stews instead of a knife - I find it quicker and easier), at some point a digital meat thermometer, a metal potato masher, a small rice cooker (again a multi-tasker that can also be used for steaming fish and vegetables and is inexpensive), a pancake/hamburger flipper (what else are they called?), some wooden spoons, and a ladle for soups. Oh and don't throw out your wooden chop-sticks from take out dinners, they are so handy to reuse for cooking and stirring!
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Thanks Susige! Great advice. Never thought about the scissors for that -- makes so much sense.
Susige January 7, 2013
I used my scissors just tonight to cut up a pot roast into chunks for beef stew....a good, sharp pair of scissors is just as important to me as a set of shart knives!
Susige January 7, 2013
sharp! Ugh. I wish I could edit a post after it is posted. ;0
AntoniaJames January 9, 2013
Chopsticks also are great for leveling off dry ingredients. I keep a clean (never used) one in each of my large flour canisters for this purpose. The really cheap ones can be snipped with kitchen shears to size. I use extra long chopsticks a lot for various kinds of stove top cooking, most often for sauteing and flipping items that I'm pan searing.
erinlk January 7, 2013
On the stove:
1 qt saucepan (So useful.)

In the oven:
Two casserole/baking pans: an 8x13, and a smaller 9x9--mine come with lids--super nice for covering leftovers.
Bonus: a set of assorted pyrex dishes with lids (to bake, store leftovers, and bring lunch to work)

On the counter:
A colander for washing fruits and veggies, draining pasta, etc.

On the table:
Chopsticks, if you and your company enjoy them

In the drawer:
A wooden spoon
A spatula (i.e. "pancake turner")
A good, reliable can opener
A set of tongs
Measuring cups (liquid & dry)
Bottle opener & a good corkscrew
Pastry brush
Citrus reamer (Didn't have one for a long time, but use it a lot.)
A ladle
Susige January 7, 2013
Too funny! I was pulled away from my computer for almost an hour while I was writing up my suggestions and just now saw your response.... very similar! And I agree with the colander (mine is silicone and collapsible), the can opener (indispensible), the pastry brush and the citrus reamer (I even finally bought an electric version and love it for large quantities of lemon, lime and orange juices).
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Thank you so much -- this is so helpful!
lloreen January 7, 2013
All I can say is that you are way ahead of the game! I didn't learn to cook until the year after college when I was living in a tiny apartment in Japan with the bath tub in the kitchen. Really! I had a toaster oven, a rice cooker, and one gas burner. I could make dinner and tqke a bath at the same time. Stir fried veggies, tofu, rice, and a long hot bath every single night. My eating and bathing habits have evolved a lot from then ;)
What you add to your kitchennow is really dependent on what you like to eat. I eat a lot of salad, so a spinner is an everyday necessity. No Asian kitchen would be complete without a rice cooker, which gets used several times a day. Or are you the type of person to bake, in which case maybe you want a spring form cake pan and a tart pan? No need to add anything right away...just see what you cook often and buy accordingly.
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Love that advice. And the bathtub. Thanks lloreen!
Panfusine January 7, 2013
I find myself mentally checking off this awesome list.. (checked all, except for the selection of books, which depends upon the individual cuisine you consider as home food)
I'd say up the loaf pans to 2.. Just discovered that one may not always be enough & they stack up, so no extra space needed, and yes an immersion blender stick would be a great asset as well!
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Whenever I make quick breads I always make a second loaf pan is definitely needed :)
Waverly January 7, 2013
You are off to a great start, Brette. I have to suggestions to add to your list:
1. 1 or 2 stackable metal colanders and 1 or 2 hand-held strainers
2. A good assortment of all-in-one covered dishes that can go from oven to table to fridge. I find these especially indispensable for feeding my family.
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Thanks so much, Waverly!
Sekkyo January 7, 2013
Yeah, On Food and Cooking cannot be left out. Harold McGee is the man.
_alyssa January 7, 2013
I think you could add Ruhlman's 20 to your cook-bookshelf. Oh and a muffin pan or two, for muffins, popovers, and Dorie's Jammers...
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Been wanting to try those Jammers...
Toots M. January 7, 2013
you definitely need "on food and cooking" and a few james beard books
Brette W. January 7, 2013
Next on the list! Thanks!