Now that’s a well-equipped kitchen


What makes up a well-equipped kitchen? The answer must surely change from cook to cook and house to house and depends somewhat on available resources. I recently saw a real estate listing for one of the giant beachfront houses on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which also is our favorite escape location.

The beach is quiet, there are usually dolphins swimming by and you get to try all the nearby restaurants. The house was priced in the “who in the world has this much money?” category, but the kitchen actually had a feature I’ve always dreamed of.

On one side of the room was an Aga cooker while the other side housed a big French black with brass trim LaCanche gas range. Agas are British-made things constructed entirely of cast iron, which must be assembled onsite over a reinforced floor. They’re lit once, and all three ovens and the cooktop are always hot and ready with radiant heat. In just about every picture of an Aga I’ve ever seen, there are a couple of sleeping dogs lying in front. Since they’re always on, they radiate constant warmth, like a parlor fireplace you never need to replenish with fresh logs.

Between these two very expensive ranges was a marble-topped island you could land a helicopter on. Now that’s a well-equipped kitchen, the kind of dreamy luxury that sells Powerball tickets.

Back here in real life, I appreciate not having to stop to wash something before moving on to the next step. A well-equipped kitchen to me is one with several measuring cups in different sizes. Multiple sets of measuring spoons are a time-saver when one set is gummed up with honey and you need to measure salt.

I was once visiting a small restaurant kitchen, mainly getting in everyone’s way, when I realized I had more mixing bowls at home than the pros at work did. I am pretty certain my mom had a single green Pyrex mixing bowl when I was a kid, and I don’t know how she managed.

In that one bowl, she made pie dough, cookies, frosting, pancake batter and everything else. I still have that bowl, and it still gets plenty of use, but it has a big, mixed family now.

I picked up a couple dozen stainless steel bowls in every size imaginable for pocket change. There also are pottery bowls and specialized bowls, like the round-bottomed copper one for beating egg whites, all sourced cheaply. Thrift stores are your friend.

Just like that one lonely bowl, Mom had two cookie sheets. They were enough because Grandma also had two and my older sister had two. That gave them six for Christmas cookie baking sessions every December. I have at least three in each size the restaurant supply store carries. There, I learned the big, full-size sheet pans won’t fit in a home oven, or I would have one.

Multiple whisks, wooden spoons, spatulas, bench scrapers, small ramekins, vegetable peelers, graters, tasting spoons and bar towels also are ready to go.

Many well-respected chefs say you only need two knives: a paring knife and an 8-inch chef’s knife. That’s absolutely true, but I don’t know how a cook keeps from accumulating plenty more. Eventually, you’ll find the need for a bread knife, a boning knife, a flexible fish knife, a cleaver, a carving knife and a long, thin slicing knife.

I don’t like gadgets or specialty appliances, but they pile up anyway. If you get a rugged stand mixer, you’ll probably start collecting attachments for it or your friends will see such things as no-brainer gifts. The other countertop appliances that are a must are a food processor and a serious blender.

Too much? Mom and Grandma would say yes, way too much. But if they cooked with me, I bet they would appreciate having everything they might need ready to go, even if it’s all in a jumble in overstuffed cupboards. All I can say is to open those doors carefully and be prepared to catch whatever tumbles out.

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