Tips for Rookie Cooks

Cooking Toolkit

Cooking Toolkit

  • Ceramic ramekins

“Let’s put it in a ramekin!” We say it so often it’s practically our official motto. But over and over again we prove to ourselves that just about anything seems more sophisticated when it’s baked and served in individual portions in cute little pots. A soufflé is lovely, but personal mini soufflés served hot right from the oven to your guests’ plates, will have them marveling at your style and mastery. Ramekins come in a range of sizes, but for your first purchase, we suggest buying a set of six 8-ouncers. If you shop carefully you can find them for a couple of dollars apiece—it’s a small investment that will more than pay for itself in dividends of diner appreciation.

Don’t risk it. The $5 or $10 you shell out on a good timer will prevent you from ever again having to scrub a scorched skillet or dump an incinerated entrée straight into the trash. If you’ve never lost yourself in a fine bottle of wine and a riveting “Stars Who Have Cellulite” exposé only to be jolted out of your euphoria by the smell of a forgotten dinner turned to ashes, consider yourself lucky. But as any card player knows, luck never lasts for long.

  • An immersion blender (aka hand-held blender)

Dazzling color and satisfying flavor make homemade soups one of the surest ways to impress dinner guests. A hand blender lets you purée your soup right in the pot—no waiting for it to cool down, no transferring in small batches, no dirtying extra dishes. You can also use your hand blender to make milkshakes and smoothies right in your glass.

  • Garlic press

Mincing garlic cloves with a knife can be tedious and dangerous for novice fingers. A simple, handheld garlic press makes this frequent task a snap by squishing the cloves through a small grid of holes like a Play-Doh machine. claiming it changes the garlic’s flavor, but unless you can detect the difference yourself we suggest you save your fingers and your time and press away.

  • Food processor

This is probably the most controversial kitchen tool. We won’t name names, but one of us swears by her food processor, lazily choosing the quick press of a button over manual chopping, while the other banishes hers to the dark depths of her tallest cabinet, lazily choosing manual chopping over washing appliances. Whether you’re a lover or a hater, the food processor undeniably speeds food prep—chopping, puréeing, shredding, and grinding foods in seconds flat. It’s the retrieval and cleanup that give rise to debate. Yes, it takes a little extra time to pull it out (if you keep it hidden away, that is) and wash (though most are dishwasher safe), but give it an honored position in plain view in your kitchen and you just may find it makes your cooking loads easier.

  • High-quality knives

High-quality knives are sharper and maintain their cutting edge longer than their cheap counterparts, and sharp knives make cutting food easier (and safer!). Do yourself a favor and invest in a few good knives. We recommend a good-sized (6-inch or 8-inch) chef’s knife, a small paring knife, and a proper bread knife at the very least. If you’ve got extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, treat yourself to a delightfully sleek and sharp santoku knife and a good carving knife as well. When blades begin to dull, spring for a professional sharpening.

  • Kitchen shears

These super-sharp all-purpose kitchen scissors come in handy for everything from snipping herbs to dicing chicken to opening packages. Look for a pair that comes apart into two pieces so that you can get into the crevices for thorough cleaning.

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