What’s In Your Kitchen

Whats in My Kitchen

Food choices are political, emotional, cultural, and heated… acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all. If you get food on the table, shop with intention, and spend your funds thoughtfully, all the while accommodating the realities of your own personal lifestyle, schedule, food preferences, priorities, challenges, and budget: high five. You’re doing it right.

Cheryl Sternman Rule, Kitchn column

I started to write about what I thought belonged in the essential kitchen: equipment, pantry items, what to have on hand in the refrigerator and the freezer. However, I soon realized I needed to divide the list into the essential kitchen and the well-stocked kitchen. I also wanted to share some of the things that are almost always on hand in my particular kitchen, the additional items that give me the maximum flexibility to embrace the culinary world.

Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?

Michael Pollan, Cooked
  • Mortar and Prestle
  • Pressure Cooking
  • Wine
  • Knives
  • Pans
  • Library
  • Colander
  • Library
  • Pots
  • Dishes
  • Spices
  • Garlic
  • Dishes
  • Pots
  • Dishes
  • Pots
  • Library
  • Pantry Collage

While trying to think about what equipment is truly essential in a kitchen I was reminded of something I heard on NPR in 2004. At that time, the Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, had a series called Hidden Kitchens. The first piece I heard was on the George Foreman grill. Along with that electric grill’s place on suburban apartment countertops it also has its place in unexpected kitchens…. in SROs and nursing homes and even under the bridge on Wacker Drive in Chicago. The Kitchen Sisters contacted George Forman who had personally struggled with bone crunching poverty and hunger as a child. He was surprised and delighted to hear that his grill was being used in these ways and he participated in the radio story. I play this radio piece to every group of cooks I train. It reminds each of us what essential and what improvise really mean. It’s also a great introduction to this brilliant series on kitchens.

Bare Bones Kitchen

  • 8-inch chef’s knife and sharpening tool. A knife you feel comfortable with is the single most important tool in the kitchen.
  • cutting board
  • sauce pan – size depends on the number of people for whom you cook
  • sauté pan- size depends on the number of people for whom you cook
  • stock pot for cooking noodles, soups, etc.
  • universal lid
  • grater
  • colander
  • whisk
  • peeler
  • Kosher or coarse salt
  • fine sea salt
  • black peppercorns and grinder
  • sugar
  • onions
  • garlic
  • coffee
  • assorted teas
  • oil

Well Equipped Kitchen

Pots and pans
  • 12” and 8” skillets
  • 1-quart and 3-quart saucepans
  • 8-quart and 16-quart stock pots
  • 5-quart enamel covered cast iron casserole that can go on top of the stove or in the oven
  • 6-quart Dutch oven
  • assorted lids
Small hand tools
  • chef’s knife, bread knife, paring knife, knife sharpener
  • cutting boards
  • grater
  • peeler
  • digital kitchen scale
  • ladle
  • large and small whisks
  • spider or large perforated spoon
  • large metal spoon
  • scissors
  • silicone basting brush
  • tongs
  • heat resistant spatula, several sizes
  • flexible metal or fish spatula
  • wooden spoons
  • micro planer
  • hand held juicer
  • garlic press
  • large colander
  • measuring spoons, measuring cups
  • nesting bowls (2-quart, 4.5-quart and 9-quart)
  • ½ sheet trays (2)
  • 9 x 13 baking dish
  • fine mesh strainer
  • can opener
  • instant read thermometer
  • salad spinner
  • electric kettle
  • coffee pot and tea pot
  • storage containers, plastic wrap and heavy duty foil
  • tart pan
  • loaf pan
  • layer cake pans
  • spring form pan
  • rolling pin
  • pastry blender
  • off-set spatula
Also in my own kitchen
  • 5-inch sauté pan for toasting spices, cooking a single egg, testing a small sample of seasoned meat
  • silicone hot mitts
  • parchment paper
  • 14”, 12” and 8” sauté pans made of different materials; cast iron, non-stick and carbon steel
  • latex single- use disposable gloves
  • spice grinder; I use a small press-button coffee grinder. Buy whole spices as often as possible, store in glass jars and grind as you need the spice.
  • mandolin (Benriner Japanese brand) and cut resistant glove. DO NOT use a mandolin with out the glove. It’s easy to take a nasty slice out of your hand and end up basting whatever you are preparing in blood!
  • vertical roaster
  • wire cooling racks
  • nest of large, small, and medium plastic colanders, as seen in all Asian kitchens
  • pounder
  • pizza stone
  • pressure cookers, 2.7-quart and 10-quart
  • Swiss Diamond flat bottom wok, 12.5” and 14”
  • mortar and pestle
Some luxuries
  • standing KitchenAid mixer
  • meat grinder attachment for KitchenAid
  • 12-cup Cuisinart food processor
  • small bowl attachment for Cuisinart
  • microwave
  • toaster oven
  • blender
  • juice extractor
  • ice cream maker
  • cayenne pepper
  • Hungarian paprika
  • smoked paprika, sweet and hot
  • chili powder
  • cinnamon (if possible Saigon cinnamon from Vietnam)
  • dry ginger
  • vanilla extract
  • kosher salt
  • fine sea salt or popcorn salt
  • turmeric
  • cumin seed
  • coriander seed
  • sesame seeds
  • black peppercorns
  • white peppercorns
  • mustard powder
  • dry rosemary
  • dry thyme
  • dry tarragon
  • dry oregano
  • dry sage leaves
  • dry dill
Also in my own kitchen
  • Maldon salt flakes
  • Aleppo chili
  • truffle salt
  • star anise
  • canned chipotle peppers
  • dry mente leaves
  • tahini
  • tamarind
  • saffron
  • sumac
  • Mixed spices:
    • ras al hanout
    • Back of the Yards spice blend from the Spice House
    • Chili powder, medium heat
    • 5 spice powder
    • za’ taar
  • onions
  • garlic
  • fresh ginger
  • coffee
  • assorted teas
  • assorted crackers
  • neutral oil with a high smoke point like grape seed, canola, sunflower, or rice bran
  • extra virgin olive oil- one brand for sautéing and one brand for finishing dishes or making dressings
  • olive oil spray
  • red wine vinegar
  • champagne vinegar
  • sherry vinegar
  • honey
  • white sugar
  • brown sugar
  • raw agave
  • bread flour, white and/or whole wheat
  • all-purpose flour, white and/or whole wheat
  • cornstarch
  • cornmeal
  • oatmeal
  • capers
  • Dijon mustard
  • olives
  • hot sauces (Favorite brands: Cholula and Sriracha)
  • mayonnaise
  • long and short grain rices, white and/or brown
  • quinoa
  • couscous
  • canned or dry beans
  • lentils
  • anchovies
  • canned tuna
  • peanut butter
  • jams
  • different shapes dry pastas
  • commercial chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth (Swanson or College Inn)
  • tomato paste
  • canned plum tomatoes (Muir Glen or San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy)
  • soy sauce or tamari (San-J brand recommended)
  • bittersweet chocolate
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
Also in my own pantry
  • dark peanut oil
  • dark sesame oil
  • special soy sauce, barrel aged Kishibori Shoyu
  • apple cider vinegar
  • white vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • rice wine vinegar
  • Oloroso or amontillado sherry
  • BLiS bourbon barrel aged fish sauce
  • Wondra flour
  • panko
  • chickpea flour
  • pastry flour, white or whole wheat
  • jasmine rice
  • basmati rice
  • brown rice
  • Japanese or short grain white rice
  • rice for risotto and paella (arborio or carnaroli)
  • farro
  • pearl barley
  • Spanish ventresca tuna (Consorcio brand)
  • Peanuts (Feridies Salted and Unsalted)
  • coconut milk (Chaokoh brand )
  • fish sauce (Three Crabs and Red Boat brands)
  • unsalted butter
  • milk
  • Greek yogurt
  • eggs
  • fresh herbs: parley and cilantro
  • Parmesan cheese
  • lemons and limes
  • hot fresh chilies
  • carrot
  • celery
  • capers
  • Dijon mustard
  • olives
  • hot sauces (Favorite brands: Cholula and Sriracha)
  • mayonnaise
Also in my own refrigerator
  • yuzu juice
  • spicy yuzu kosho paste
  • miso
  • mirin
  • clarified butter
  • Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise
  • hoisin sauce (Recommended brand: Lee Kum Kee)
  • oyster sauce (Recommended brand: Hop Sing Lung) or
  • vegetarian oyster sauce (Recommended brand: Golden Boy)
  • Weichuan brand dumpling sauce (hot and regular) for noodles, stir fry, vegetables
  • CO-OP poblano mustard sauce
  • ginger honey syrup (Recommended brand:Solar) or ginger juice (Recommended brand: Ginger People)
  • shallot oil (see recipe)
  • House made salt-free chicken stock
  • assorted nuts (selection of pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachio or pine nuts)
  • peas
  • corn
Also in my own freezer
  • edamame
  • pistachio nuts
  • hazelnuts
  • beef stock
  • shellfish stock
  • white fish stock
  • lamb stock
  • saved bits and pieces of meat, poultry, bones, and shells for stock


  • Lisa your cooking instruction has improved the quality of my broths tremendously, thank you! This winter French/Vietnamese soups you shared using nouc mam rather than salt, interesting. I’ll try it.

  • Janet Braun says:

    Lisa, you just described my kitchen!!! There are only a few things on your own kitchen list that I can’t find in mine – or have never heard of! What a wonderful website you’ve created – I’m diggin’ it. And I haven’t even got to the recipes.

    But I’m starting to salivate!

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