College Cooking Series: Chapter 3 - Gearing Up

You have the equipment needed to cook; now you need something to cook your food in (or on). When Dom and I were starting out in our first kitchen, we were given a complete set of Corning “Visions” cookware. We used them until we could replace each piece with a higher grade pieces (All-Clad, Le Creuset, Calphalon). Since most college students are on a budget, consider a visit to your local thrift shop or Goodwill where you can find cookware and full dish sets for little money.

Sauce pan – Choose a size that is bigger than you think you’ll need (with a lid). It is better to have a little head room, so your sauce doesn't boil over. Also, you should never assume that you will always be cooking for one. This will become the work-horse of your kitchen arsenal, so we recommend buying the best pan you can afford. We don’t recommend purchasing a non-stick version.

Stock Pot –A 12-quart pot comes in very handy for cooking pasta and stocks. A multi-pot with a pasta basket and vegetable steamer is ideally versatile. And the steamer can double as a colander.

Non-stick pan – Because they are inexpensive and convenient, non-stick pans are the mainstay of most collegiate kitchens. They are truly indispensable, but don’t last very long unless you give them some special attention. A non-stick pan should never be put in the dishwasher and only non-metallic utensils should be used to avoid scratching the finish. 

Cookie sheet – You may not plan on baking a lot of cookies, but a cookie sheet is almost as indispensable as your non-stick pan. You will use it to roast vegetables, cook bacon, place under a baking dish so it doesn't drip onto your oven floor or to heat a frozen pizza. Getting a separate pizza pan may seem like a cool idea, but they are impractical as well as difficult to store. 

Baking Dish – an inexpensive 9 X 13 baking dish or casserole pan is a must-have for emergency brownies and scalloped potatoes. Works well for banana pudding too.

Mixing bowls – these are a necessity. A set of nesting bowls is inexpensive and will save space. You'll have the right-sized bowl for anything from mixing to serving. If you purchase the type with tops that seal, they can also serve as food storage containers.

Serving pieces/dishes – There is nothing worse than having a meal ready to serve and nothing to put it on! Whether you prefer to serve buffet style or serve food on individual plates, you should have a basic set of dishes. Many chefs prefer plain white dishes to better feature their creations. Regardless of color, indulge in a set of matching ceramic plates and bowls. A hodge-podge collection of cafeteria melamine plates or Corelle pieces will not enhance your dining experience. A set of flatware is a very good idea as well; it is very difficult to eat linguini with a soup spoon you got from Panera Bread.

Homework:  Keep a list of the cookware that you and your family use this week. Which of these pieces would you actually use? Pay special attention to the size of each piece. In the event you have limited space, which pieces are most versatile for the meals you prefer? Tell us in the comments what will be on your college shopping list.