Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Top Ten Kitchen Essentials

For those of you who, like me, don't have access to a fully-stocked kitchen, here are my ten essentials which will enable you to cook pretty much anything.

While at university I had a small kitchen with limited equipment, meaning what I had, had to be versatile.  This was taken to the extreme when I moved to Germany for a year with just two suitcases.  In that year I learnt that you really don't need masses of fancy equipment, it sure does make life easier, but it is by no means essential.

So here you go, my ten kitchen essentials:
  1. A plate - this is without a doubt one of the most important things you'll need.  You can use it not only to eat off but also as a chopping board and preparation surface.  During my time in Germany I didn't have a work surface, just a ridged draining board, meaning I needed my plate for pretty much all food preparation as it was the only flat surface I had.
  2. A bowl - the bowl should be large enough to hold a can of soup.  Great for mixing ingredients, beating eggs and generally holding anything for which a plate it too flat.
  3. A can opener - on the topic of soup, this really is a must.  You can force your way into most packaging but cans really are a nightmare without a can opener, especially as they don't always have ring pulls.  Given how many of my basic ingredients come in cans (since they last a lot longer in this form meaning I waste less) a can opener is definitely high on my list of essentials.
  4. Cutlery - this is technically three items; a knife, a fork and a spoon, but they tend to come as a set.  They are also useful for more than just eating.  For example, a spoon can be used to mix ingredients while a fork can be used to beat eggs (although I would not advise trying meringues without a whisk or mixer). 
  5. A vegetable peeler - I know that you can peel veg with a knife but I always find I waste way more when I do, so this is another item which I couldn't live without.  You can also use it to cut very fine strips of veg such as carrots and courgettes when making salads and side dishes to add a bit of interest.
  6. A mug/cup - essential when you want a drink and with many other uses besides.  If you don't have access to a set of scales then a mug is a life-saver.  Ok so you can estimate how much of an ingredient you need but with a mug you can be a little more accurate.  I knew the volume of my mug as I acquired it from a Christmas market meaning the 200ml line was marked on it.  I suggest finding out the volume of your mug if you can (borrow some scales/a measuring jug) as you can then convert quantities into volumes and measure them using your mug.  Alternatively you can use American recipes which do everything by the cup anyway.
  7. A chef's knife - nothing fancy, just a sharp knife which can be used for all forms of prep, from chopping vegetables, to slicing meat.  There is nothing more dangerous than working with a blunt knife so if you're not able to keep your knife sharp yourself just buy a cheap one and replace it when it gets blunt.
  8. A saucepan - so you've got everything you need to prep your food, now onto the actual cooking.  The saucepan doesn't have to be anything fancy, just big enough to prepare your food.  I was also grateful to have one which had a strainer on the lid to make it easier when draining water from food such as pasta (although this isn't essential as a plate can also act as a strainer).
  9. Frying pan - although you can fry things in a saucepan it is useful to have a frying pan, especially if you have two hob rings as it means you can have two elements of your dinner on the go at once and it gives you a bit more flexibility.
  10. A box grater - this would probably be my luxury item.  You never really need to grate things, but I really love grated cheese as it's so much easier to use in sauces and as a topping, so I always like to have a grater to hand.  I've recommended a box grater as it has a different texture on each side meaning you can also use it to grate things more finely, such as lemon zest or garlic, and given that a garlic crusher hasn't made it onto my list this is a very handy tool!
Don't underrate the basics
There you have it, my top ten kitchen essentials.  With these in your cupboard I think you can make a huge variety of recipes.  Remember, just because you've got limited space or money, doesn't mean you can't cook varied and interesting food, you just have to be a little more resourceful.

If you want any other tips on cooking with limited equipment or space just ask me in the comments below.


  1. When I was living in Student accommodation I remember keeping my plate, bowl, mug and cutlery in my room otherwise it would have went missing! Good times lol. If I am being honest I was the only one who used pots and pans etc everyone else was all about takeaways. Angela x

    1. I've found that food is a great way to make friends, I loved doing group dinners at uni :)