More than ever these days, you can buy really cheap kitchen gear. This is great because it means anyone should be able to get all the essential bits of equipment they need, no matter what their budget is. One thing I never realized until now was how big a problem bad or inappropriately sized equipment can be. I think it's probably one-third of the reason cooking in this country is in the state it is; for me, that's a really big deal. So the fact that you can buy yourself an extra third of success in the kitchen in terms of cooking and consistency is really quite cool.
I'm giving you a list of the bare minimum items you need to have in your kitchen to be a well-rounded, efficient cook. When it comes to things like knives, food processors and wooden chopping boards, it really is worth scrimping, saving or borrowing money to get the best equipment you can afford. You'll be much better off with three good-quality knives—for example, a 12-inch chopping knife, a 12-inch serrated carving knife and a 6-inch paring knife—than you will be with a whole set of rubbish knives that won't last long at all and will make your chopping worse. When you're buying a knife, check that it's a good weight, the blade is nice and rigid and doesn't bend and the handle feels good in your hand. I personally like I.O. Shen knives, Victorinox, Henckels and Sabatiers.
When I'm buying frying pans for my home, I always go for really good-quality nonstick ones. When it comes to saucepans, as long as they've got sturdy, thick bottoms, I think they're all about the same. All the other stuff on the list you can spend as little, or as much, money on as you wish.
Stuff to Buy Right Now: Extra-large, nonstick frying pan Set of thick-bottomed saucepans (large, medium, small) Good, sturdy sheet pans Nest of mixing bowls Knives (chef's knife, serrated carving knife, small paring knife) Can opener Speed (vegetable) peeler Pestle and mortar Weighing scales and measuring cups Large colander Large measuring cup Box grater/Microplane grater
Stuff You Can Pick Up Later: Large grill pan Extra-large casserole pan or dutch oven Wok Metal tongs Wooden spoons Metal whisk Potato masher Ladle, slotted spoon and slotted turner Plastic spatula Rolling pin Strainers Salad spinner Thick, sturdy wooden chopping board and a small plastic chopping board Food processor