Hobbyist cooks are almost by definition equipment and gadget freaks. This is one endeavor where the latent object has great power.
Therefore, as a public service, I’m here to tell you what I think you really need, and what is just stuff that’s nice to have.
You really need one good knife. I suggest a 8-10 inch chef’s knife depending on how big your hands are. I have a soft spot for my mom’s old chinese cleaver, but I never use it. A couple of good expensive paring knives also help, but are not critical.
You really need one good non-stick pan. I used to think non-stick pans were for girlie-men who didn’t know how to season a decent cast iron skillet. But I find that a 10 inch silverstone-lined frying is perfect for almost everything. I use my pan for
- Stir fry and saute of all types.
- Pan roasting steak and potatoes.
- Making reduced sauces.
- Anything else that is small enough to fit.
For bigger jobs you of course need a bigger pan, but I hardly ever use by larger frying pans anymore, so I think bigger jobs are rare.
You really need one good soup pot. I suggest a 6-8 quart soup pot/dutch oven. Perfect for soup, stew, oven roasting stuff and making pasta. I recently tried one of those tall stock pot things with the pasta insert and it blows. I like my dutch oven better.
You really need a decent cutting board. Make it big enough so you have room to work. I like the wood ones best. But I’m getting old and have started to use lighter plastic ones that are easier to clean.
You really need a good oven. By good I mean, at least even. Sadly, you are usually stuck with the oven you have.
That’s really it. You don’t need a Wok. You don’t need a huge flame thrower stove burner that can char a whole turkey in 20 minutes. You don’t need a suitcase full of knives. You don’t need three ovens. You don’t need a bread machine, Cuisinart, 9000 horse power mixer, or all the rest. But damn they are nice if you have them.
Also, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on cookware to get good stuff. Buy it on sale. Go to a restaurant supply house. In particular, don’t buy super expensive frying pans. Frying pans, if you are using them right, get destroyed. Buy a $30 pan every couple of years instead of a $100 pan every couple of years.
Oh right. You need a rice cooker.