The Tools of the Trade
Like any other job, cooking requires tools. I've divided this section into parts for the most basic cookware you will be needing and for more specialized tools for people who cook a hell of a lot.
The Basics
Stock Pots Spoons, Spatulae, and More
Chef's Knife Cutting Board
Steel Sharpener

Stock Pots

From making soups to a gallon of pasta sauce to sautéing large quantities of meats and vegetables, you can do just about anything with a stock pot. I have 8- 12- and 16-quart pots, but if you are strapped for cash, I suggest you get the 12-quart model, as that is the size I use the most. I also suggest that you invest in stainless steel pots without a non-stick coating; I've found the non-stick feature to be more trouble than it's worth. The non-non-stick (how's that for a double negation?) pots clean up just fine with a little Bar Keeper's Friend as long as you don't put a pot of sauce on to simmer and forget it for five hours.

Spoons, Spatulae, and More

You literally can't do a thing in the kitchen without these. I keep several spoons, spatulae, ladles and whisks, the spoons and spatulae in bamboo and stainless steel. The bamboo is useful for general use, and the stainless steel is great for heavier work. As you get to some serious cooking, you'll find yourself collecting these pieces almost constantly.

Chef's Knife

If you have no other kitchen knife, you need this one. It is the ultimate general-purpose knife, useful for slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing. You can even pare with it; I use a chef's knife for paring apples. Keep it clean and sharp, and it will serve you for decades (My trusty chef's knife recently turned 26).

Cutting Board

This is an absolute necessity. Most everyone recognizes a cutting board's protection of the countertop from damage by a knife, but many (moi included) overlook the cutting board's value in protecting the knife from damage by the countertop. Knives are sturdy, but the edges of the blades can be fragile. My choice of material is wood; it's not as difficult to maintain as it looks. Clean with hot water and a bit of soap, disinfect with white vinegar, and season every month or so with a food-grade mineral oil, and you're there.


This is for touching up the edge of your knife every (and I mean every) time you use it. Using it requires a bit of practice, but the effort is well worth it.


While the steel is for everyday touching up of the knife's edge, the sharpener is for periodic sharpening, every couple of weeks or so. Using the steel and sharpener faithfully will prevent the knife's turning from the chef's best friend to the chef's worst enemy.

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