Outfitting Your First Kitchen for as Cheaply as Possible
One of the most important rites of passage someone can go through is living on their own for the first time. When this actually becomes a reality, though, many people find that actually being responsible for their own laundry, shopping and especially cooking is a bigger burden than they had thought.
In addition, many single-bedroom apartments have a kitchen the size of a shoebox and money is likely to be tight. Never fear, though: it really is possible to create a compact kitchen on a budget by knowing what is important and what you can do without, and opting for substance over hype. The main criteria for the appliances and equipment listed below are space-efficiency, ease of cleaning and having multiple uses – all issues that will be close to the heart of anyone creating their own home for the first time.
Mise en place, or cutting stuff up, almost always takes up more time and effort than the actual cooking and stirring. For this reason, the best possible investment you can make in your kitchen is paying a few dollars extra for a set of knives you’ll be using for years to come.
Everyone’s requirements are different, so read some detailed reviews at Cut it Fine before making your choice. Keep in mind that having more knives doesn’t automatically make your life easier: most professional chefs only use a wide-bladed knife, a paring knife and perhaps a serrated blade for all but the most specialized tasks.
An Induction Stove
Unless your new home comes equipped with a cooker, your best bet is likely to be buying a countertop model with two burners (so you can use one to cook, say, pasta while the sauce simmers in the other). There’s a strong temptation to go for the cheapest option, namely a $30 to $40 stove with spiral electric elements.
This is really not economical in the long run. It’s a virtual certainty that you’ll end up replacing it within three months. Even worse, they often break not by the element burning out but by the switch fusing shut, meaning that it will just keep getting hotter and hotter until something gives. Induction cookers, by contrast, are safe to leave on unattended, inexpensive and can usually be cleaned just by wiping with a damp rag.
A genuine cast-iron skillet and a heavy-bottomed saucepan are very nice to have, but in reality aren’t worth breaking the bank over. The best advice here is actually to buy crap and replace items when you can afford it. For most people, a frying pan, a small (18 cm) and large (24 cm) pot will be all that’s needed. If you’ve chosen to go the induction route, just make sure a magnet sticks to them, or they won’t work.
A Toaster Oven
If you plan on cooking for yourself without going to a lot of trouble or getting bored to tears, a tiny electrical oven is a necessity. These typically cost under $50 and can accommodate a quite respectably sized pizza, casserole tray or cake mold. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like cold cereal for breakfast, you’ll also be happy to know that muffin batter can take only 5 minutes to mix and another 15 to bake.