This section is still evolving. Thank you for your patience … And sorry for the Barney Stinson reference.
Cooking equipment is a lot like cars. You can get by with something very basic without spending a lot of money pretty easily, but there will always be something fancy dangling in front of you that seems like it would at the very least make your life magically simpler and look incredible sitting on your counter. I have known people who have spent a small fortune on small appliances, knives, and enough gleaming copper in pot form to wire a small mansion but whose refrigerators are almost exclusively filled with half full take out boxes and a few bottles of wine.
I’ve split this into sections: pots and pans, knives, bakeware, small appliances,
General rules of thumb:
- Buy things in sets whenever possible. (See “Pots and Pans …” for more on this).
- The more frequently you will use a piece of gear, the more you should spend on it (I’m looking at you chef’s knife).
- There are some things that just seem to be better when you buy the cheap ones (hello, big woks).
- Pay attention to the small appliances you buy as they take up valuable counter or shelf space.
- Don’t be afraid to buy things that are 1 size bigger than you think you will need. We got a 6 qt stand mixer instead of a 5 qt. At the time, our daughter was 1 year old. We’ve discovered its utility now that we’ve graduated to making larger batches of pizza dough and quadruple batches of brownies for school bake sales.
In the end, you will adapt to accomplish amazing things without “the proper equipment”. Don’t let the lack of a specialized pan/knife/mixer/whatever prevent you from trying something. If I don’t have a piece of equipment in a recipe, I figure out what I do have the I can use in its place. If I find myself making that recipe once a month, I’ll start shopping for the gear. Otherwise, improvisation is your friend.