February 2, 2012

A Cook's Tools: Cooking School

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A few days ago, I shared a list of prep tools I compiled at the request of a friend whose getting married.  She wanted to know what items she should include on her bridal registry.  Today, I want to share my list of cooking must haves.  These are the items I rely on once the measuring, chopping, peeling, juicing, pounding, grating, straining, mixing, whisking, rolling and cutting have been done.  Once again, I'm including links to recipes that use those items.  The list isn't all inclusive but, like the prep tools, this is what I rely on when I'm cooking for three or twenty three.

The Eyes Have It:

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Saucepan:  I have this in a one and two quart size.  The one quart is the perfect size for boiling three eggs, cooking a serving of grits or oatmeal or heating a can of soup.  If you cook for several people, you might want to add a three quart saucepan.  Make sure to buy saucepans with lids.

Dutch Oven:  This covered pot is good for stewing and braising.  I also use it to cook potatoes, pasta and boil a dozen eggs.

Stockpot:  I use this whenever I cook chicken breasts or make a double batch of soup.  It's also the only container I have big enough to mix up a batch of Cornbread Dressing.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Skillet:  It's a good idea to have a large 10 or 12-inch skillet with a lid and a smaller 6 or 8-inch skillet.  The large skillet is great for browning ground beef or pork chops and cooking a one dish dinner.  The smaller skillet is handy for small jobs such as omelets, scrambled eggs and sauteing chopped vegetables.

Baker's Dozen:

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Roasting Pan:  Although this isn't something I use very often, it's the only pan I have that's big enough to roast a turkey.  Some roasting pans come with a wire rack to hold the meat.  When you put the pan in the oven, you may need to lower the oven rack to keep the top of the meat from being too close to the heating element.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Pizza Pan:  I use this for more than pizza.  It's great for chicken nuggets, French fries and biscuits.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Muffin Pan:  These come in sizes ranging from miniature to jumbo.  I have a 6 cup, 12 cup and two mini muffin pans.  The 6 cup is ideal for muffin mixes that only make 6 servings.  I use the 12 cup for muffins, cloverleaf rolls and Baked Salmon Patties.  The mini pans are good for muffins as well as mini quiche or other bite size appetizers.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Cookie Sheet:  I have these in three sizes.  The quarter sheet pan, the smallest one in the picture, is the perfect size for a batch of Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.  I also use it to bake Little Corn Dogs and Baked Mozzarella Cheese Sticks.

The cookie sheet pictured in the middle is a standard size cookie sheet. It's a good idea to have two of these.  That way, you can have one pan ready to go in the oven as soon as the other pan comes out.  You can buy cookie sheets without rims, but I prefer rimmed ones.  That way, I can also use them for bar cookies.

The last cookie sheet pictured is known as a sheet or jelly roll pan.  It's larger than a regular cookie sheet and is used for sheet cakes and jelly rolls.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Layer Cake Pan:  You'll need at least two of these for making a layer cake. I have these in both the 8 and 9-inch size.  The 9-inch pan makes a thinner and wider cake.  

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Bundt Pan:  This fluted pan is for cakes other than angel food or sponge cake.  To keep the cake from tearing up when it's removed from the pan, be sure to thoroughly grease every crevice.

Tube Pan:  This pan is used for angel food and sponge cakes.  Some tube pans -- like the one pictured -- have feet so the pan can be turned upside down for cooling.  If the pan is large enough, you can use it to bake other cakes too.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Square Cake Pan:  Just like layer cake pans, these are available in 8 and 9-inch sizes.  They're good for things other than cake.  I use mine to bake cornbread, meat loaf and Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole.

9 x 13-Inch Pan:  I like to bake cakes in this pan that need to be frosted. That way, I can bake, frost and store all in the same pan.  Cakes baked in this pan can also be removed and sliced into layers before being filled and frosted.  This pan isn't limited to just cake.  I use it for potato casserole, goulash and Stuffed Breast of Turkey.

Loaf Pan:  This is good for baking bread as well as meat loaf.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Spring-Form Pan:  This pan has a clamp that, when opened, removes the collar which allows for easy cutting.  It's especially good for cheesecake.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Pie Crust Shield:  This sits on top of the pie crust and shields the edges from getting too brown.  It's available for regular and deep-dish pie pans.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

Wire Cooling Rack:  Once you've baked cakes, cookies and bread, they need to be removed from the pan.  The wire rack is elevated which allows air to circulate so the item can cool.  It's a good idea to have two or three of these racks, especially if you do a lot of baking.

Dishing It Up:

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

For easy cleanup, I like to cook and serve out of the same dish whenever possible.  For that reason, I have a variety of glass bakeware in various shapes and sizes.  One advantage of glass is it can be used in the oven as well as the microwave.  I use the round casserole dish to bake Sweet Potato Souffle a day or two before Thanksgiving.  I let the souffle cool and then store the covered casserole dish in the refrigerator.  When it's time to heat the souffle, I put the casserole dish in the microwave and reheat it while the double ovens cook the other food.

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

The square dish is the perfect size when I halve the recipe for Green Bean Bundles.  I use the deep-dish pie plate when I make Chicken Pot Pie. The rectangular dish is just the right size for four servings of Marinated Baked Chicken.  

What a Crock!

Margaret's Morsels | Cooking School

I absolutely love crock-pot cooking!  I have three crock-pots -- small, medium and large -- but each one is good for different things.  The small crock-pot is the perfect size for melting almond bark.  The  medium size crock-pot is the one I use most often for entrees like French Dip Sandwiches and Barbecue Chicken.  I use the large crock-pot when I cook pot roast with vegetables or make double batches of chili or spaghetti sauce.  A crock-pot needs to be at least half full so keep that in mind when selecting a crock-pot size.

If you don't have all the items I've mentioned, don't feel as though you need to go out and buy them.  The tools you need in your kitchen depend on how much cooking you do and what kinds of food you cook.  If you eat a lot of steamed vegetables, you'd probably find it useful to have a metal steamer basket.  If you love to bake and decorate cakes, you might want to purchase different shaped cake pans and lots of decorating tips.  If you're like me and like to make congealed salad, you might want to invest in some Jell-O molds.

Stocking a kitchen is a gradual process that evolves over the years.  I've been cooking over 20 years and I still find gadgets to buy that make work in the kitchen easier.  Just last year, I bought a pineapple slicer that makes slicing and cutting pineapple a breeze.  No matter what you're looking for, chances are -- to paraphrase a popular phrase  -- there's a tool for that!

© Margaret's Morsels


  1. I am constantly invstigating online for ideas that can benefit me. Thx!
    Portlandia Women's Seattle Slingback Pump

  2. I envy your tools friend. Those wares are just awesome! Someday I would buy some of that! Thanks

    1. Thanks! Believe me, it wasn't bought at once! Everything was acquired over 20+ years of cooking. If you're just starting out, my advice would be to buy the best kitchen equipment you can afford. It may cost more, but it will last a lot longer -- and quite possibly perform better -- than something less expensive.