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Gather your tools

Obtain the basic cookware needed to start cooking

Before you begin actually cooking, first you need to make sure you have some basic tools that cooks need. The great thing about cooking is you can make most recipes with just a few basic tools, and add more specialized tools later if you find you like cooking and want to get more complicated.

To complete this challenge, you will need the following:

1. A chef's knife - a chef's knife is usually 8 inches long and has a curved blade.  This is the knife you will use the most for cooking.  These come in a big range of prices.  Look for a knife with a decent heft (it should feel substantial in your hand), but it does not need to be expensive.  A decent knife can be found for $20, and a really nice one for $50.

chef's knife

2. A sharpening steel - you will use this to keep your chef's knife sharp.  You can buy one for around $15.

3. A paring knife - a small knife used for trimming and cutting small things. You will want a 3 to 4 inch paring knife.  They start around $10.

paring knife

4. Cutting board - You will need a cutting board or two.  Plastic cutting boards are easy because they can be thrown in the dishwasher.  Wood cutting boards are nice to cut on, but can absorb odors if not cared for carefully.  I use a wood cutting board for most things and a plastic cutting board for meat.  Cutting boards used for cutting meat should not be used for cutting vegetables without being washed in between, so having two is nice.

5. A big pot with lid - you will want a pot somewhere around 5 quarts in capacity with a lid.  Cookware comes in a variety of materials, and which you get is really up to you.  If you are just experimenting, check secondhand stores or yard sales for cookware - you can often get it for very little money. I have a cheap stainless steel one that works great.

6. A small pot - a one to two quart saucepan in the material of your choice.  Once again, I have stainless steel. One strange thing about buying pots is it is often less expensive to buy a set than to buy things separately, so you may want to find a small set.

7. A larget skillet - I would suggest a 10 inch skillet.  Many people use non-stick cookware, but there have been some concerns about the health and environmental effects of the coatings used, so I prefer to use a plain cast iron pan. Non-stick is also a reasonable choice - do the research on your own and never heat a non-stick pan without anything in it and it should not be a concern.  Plain cast iron (not cast iron coated in enamel) takes some extra care to keep it rust-free.  Be sure to read the instructions that come with any piece of cookware you buy to learn about the proper care and cleaning of your pots and pans.

8. A set of measuring cups - Most beginning cooks don't know that there are two kinds of measuring cups.  The ones that look like cups on a stick are called dry measuring cups because they are used to measure dry ingredients like flour or rice and look like this:

A liquid measuring cup is used to measure liquids like water and milk, and looks like this:

You should buy one set of dry measuring cups and one 1 or 2 cup liquid measuring cup.  You can find them at the dollar store.

9. Measuring spoons - You need one set of inexpensive measuring spoons that include a 1/4 teaspoon (abbreviated tsp.), 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp, and 1 tablespoon (abbreviated Tbsp). You can get these at the dollar store too.

10. A plastic spatula flipper - plastic doesn't scratch non-stick and enamel cookware.

11. A wooden spoon - wood also doesn't scratch cookware.  It is best to avoid metal utensils.

I made a Listmania on of some basics to get you started if this list is overwhelming.  I picked items that were a good value - not too cheap, but also won't break the bank.  If you are starting out with nothing, you can get started for less than $50 if you find some stuff secondhand, and around $100 if you buy it all new.

Task Discussion