Kitchen Tools: Cookware and Bakeware

1. Cookie sheets. These are great for the obvious, making cookies, but also will work for roasting vegetables or even cuts of meat.  They’re also great for reheating foods, like Gavin’s favorite, pizza.  I have a lot to say about these, so hang on.

I had some kind of like this that were Wilton and dark and had giant handles and were a terrible size. I could only fit in one on a rack even though the cooking space was pretty small. They also burned things on the bottom really quickly. And finally, they had some kind of nonstick coating that started flaking off. Mmm. Oh, and my nonstick baking mats wouldn’t really fit in them.  Their one redeeming quality was that they have lips or edges.  Without those, making anything but cookies and maybe pizza is going to result in a giant mess.

Now we got some of these Nordic Ware half sheet pans (this is what I got for my birthday — thanks Gram!) and they are so much better! They remind me of the ones I used when I worked at Potbelly and made cookies all the time (and might have sometimes snuck raw cookie dough). These sheets are bigger, I think cheaper, and so far way better.

My mom has some stainless steel ones I really like, but I just couldn’t find anything like them anywhere.  She has two little ones that fit on a rack together and one big one that can only sit by itself.  Those are great too.

2. Non-nonstick pots and pans.  This is kind of a big category, but I think one 6-quart pot and some kind of pan that has the potential to stick are really important.  One smaller pot is nice to have for making sauces or hardboiling a couple eggs, but is less important than having a big pot. I didn’t actually have a nonstick skillet when I lived in Madison and got by just fine with this set of affordable stainless steel pots and pans (that I still use and love) and the next item on my list.

3. Cast iron skillet. This can totally replace a nonstick pan if you treat it well (although nonstick is so nice to have for certain things!).  It works for eggs, bacon, pancakes, on and on.  This is also something that can be found in good condition at yard sales or second-hand stores.  People get freaked out about cleaning it but it’s not so bad.  The other secret is to really avoid getting it wet unless you have to.

4. A 9×13″ dish.  We have an aluminum cake pan and a glass Pyrex baking dish, and I think the glass one is way more versatile. It’s what I use when I make brownies andcasseroles.  This could be substituted for an 8×8″ baking dish if you live alone or hate leftovers.  We have both. 

Our Pyrex also has lids, which makes putting the leftovers in the fridge much easier.  Or saving that pan of brownies for later.

5. One nonstick pan.  You’ll want this sometimes for making pancakes or scrambled eggs or something.  Not totally necessary if you know how to use your cast iron and regular pans, but definitely a nice thing to have on a busy morning.

Honestly anything after this is bonus, in my opinion.  We have a lot more than this, like cupcake pans, round cake pans, loaf pans, a roasting pan that gets much abuse and Gavin hates washing, two Le Creuset dutch ovens (again, thanks to Gram for hauling those out of her basement), and a cast iron griddle/grill pan.  But if you don’t do a lot of baking, the above five things will get you pretty far.

What do you guys think? Is this enough cookware and bakeware for the basic kitchen?

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Dresser in the Kitchen

We have a dresser in our kitchen.

On purpose.


Well, our kitchen is good-sized (especially for a rental!), but it just doesn’t have very many cabinets or drawers for how big it is.  Especially for the weird stuff, like platters, mason jars, or our lunchbox containers.

So we put Gavin’s childhood dresser in there, and it has become a lovely place to set flour canisters, non-refrigerated fruits and vegetables, and a speaker to play music on.  It holds tons of stuff and earns its keep daily.

I like it.

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Sunroom or Slow Cooker Room?

It’s been HOT here.  We bought a patio table at the beginning of the summer and haven’t used it since June.  HOT.

One nice thing about our old-fashioned house layout is the door to the kitchen, which lets me trap my cooking heat in there (and also the smoke when we make chicken or pizza in the oven so we don’t set the smoke detector off…but that’s another story).  Sometimes even that is too much, so we’ve been using the slow cooker more often.  How do we keep that from heating up the house too?

Solution: use the slow cookers in our sunroom, which is already un-air-conditioned (and also unheated).  It doesn’t heat up the house, which is awesome.  And they’re not totally outside, which a lot of other people say they do, so they’re safe from the crazy squirrels in our neighborhood.  (Seriously, crazy.)

Additional bonus: the table they’re on cost $5 at a garage sale. Score!

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OXO Cast Iron Brush

There are very few “unitaskers” as Alton Brown calls them that I allow in my kitchen.  We just picked up the OXO Cast Iron Brush this weekend while trading in gift cards from the wedding and I’m already enamored with it.

The brush part is actually sturdy enough to scrub the pan with.  Normally I clean my cast iron pan with salt and hot water, but this let me use significantly less salt and best of all, my hands weren’t black at the end of the cleaning process.  It also has a scraper end which is great for things like pancake batter or baked on cheese.  After the first time I used it, I told Gavin “if we ever give a cast iron pan as a gift, we should give them one of these too!”  I highly recommend this if you love your cast iron cookware but hate cleaning it or if you want to try cast iron but the cleaning process scares you.


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