Food

The California Cook: The well-stocked kitchen

'Smalls'

These are the little things you'll want in a readily available place. In most cases, you'll find that the more you have of them, the better (I'm looking at you, wooden spoon!).

Stainless steel mixing bowls

Flat-end wooden spoons

Tongs

Heat-proof silicone spatula

Frying spatula

Instant-read thermometer

Whisk

Kitchen towels

Pastry brush

Microplane grater

Liquid measuring cups, at least one 2-cup

Dry measuring cups

Metal measuring spoons

"Spider" skimmer

Vegetable peeler

Pepper grinder

Can opener

Metal ruler

Digital scale

Kitchen twine

Rolling pin

Kitchen timer

Knives

Maybe the most common mistake new cooks make is buying those big knife sets. I'll bet 98% of your cutting will be done with three knives. Rather than getting a bunch of mediocre blades, it's far better to spend the same amount of money but concentrate on three good ones. They'll last your lifetime.

8- to 10-inch chef's knife (6-inch Santoku, if preferred)

3- to 4-inch paring knife

Serrated bread knife

Wood or composite cutting board

Ceramic "steel"

Carving fork

Pots and pans

This category is where being a careful shopper pays off most. There are some cases — a good sauté pan and saucepans — in which it's worth spending the money to get the best quality you can afford. There are others — nonstick skillet, pasta pot — in which you're safe bargain-shopping. Because, really, who needs a $200 pot for boiling water? Generally I find baking equipment is much less variable, both in price and quality. The good stuff isn't all that expensive, and the cheaper stuff doesn't work that much worse.

8-inch nonstick skillet

10- to 12-inch (3 quart) sauté pan

2-quart saucepan

3-quart saucepan

5- to 6-quart cast-iron Dutch oven

8-quart pasta pot with steamer and liner

2 jelly roll pans

1 loaf pan

1 9-inch tart pan or pie plate

2 9-inch round cake pans

13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic casserole

Disposables

I'd almost consider these to be more part of the pantry than equipment. You'll need lots, and you'll always run out just when you need them most. Buy backups.

Aluminum foil

Plastic wrap

Waxed paper

Sealable plastic storage bags in various sizes (especially 1 gallon)

Paper towels

russ.parsons@latimes.com

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