How to stock a kitchen: You're only as good as your tools

I wrote an article some time ago for the Washington Post on how to equip a kitchen. And I learned that good kitchen tools make for a much nicer kitchen experience: Easier to work with, better results, easier to clean. So let me give you a few tips on how to get good kitchen tools.

But before we dive in, you need to accept that it can be expensive. Really expensive. But you know you get what you pay for. So if you can’t afford a new suite of pans, for example, then just get one good one, until you can afford more. Or one good knife. Or one good ... whatever. Remember, it is probably cheaper in the long run to build a kitchen of quality items that will likely last a lifetime than to buy cheap junk and have to replace it year after year.

Pots and pans
The only thing you have to know is that good pots heat food evenly while cheap pots heat food unevenly, which results in uneven cooking. (For those of you tired of scrubbing - which is all of us - you may also want to know that cheap pots are much, MUCH harder to clean.)

So which pots are best? Copper. But these can be incredibly expensive (think $100+ per pot). So I'd go for the next best thing, such as anodized aluminum.

For anodized aluminum, you can look at companies such as All-Clad. They are not cheap, but what you can do is get a set (you're looking at $500+ for a set) which usually works out to something like one pot free, as opposed to the open stock route (where you buy one pot or pan at a time). Even better, home and kitchen stores such as Linens 'n Things and Williams Sonoma often have specials, especially around the holidays (and isn't mother's day approaching?). Of course, buying a set only works if you get one that contains what you need. If not, go the open stock route and pick and choose the exact pots and pans you want.

Cut to the quick
When I went the almost vegetarian route, I really learned the value of a good knife. So I suggest you look at one of the better knife manufacturers, such as Wusthof. I’d recommend going to the store to test drive the knife - how does it feel in your hand? If it is not comfortable to use, it doesn’t matter how good a knife it is, it is not the knife for you. Then figure out what knives you need. I probably use the bread knife and the paring knife more than anything else, but then I have a Cuisinart to do my heavy chopping.

And don’t forget to get a good cutting board. I like John Boos boards because they are so sturdy and beautiful. But they cost. A lot. I also like pretty boards which I display. Actually, this is becoming a wee bit of an obsession with me. But I don't have any farm animal boards as of yet. But I will. Oh yes, I will.

Good gadgets
Certainly you’ll need everything from a vegetable peeler to a grater. But these are fairly inexpensive, so I’ll leave it to you to make your list and experiment with different items. Personally, I just try to find items that are comfy and look like they are well-made and easy to use.

Apt appliances
This, too, depends on what you do. I’m forever chopping vegetables, so my Cuisinart is a lifesaver. And I like to make bread, so the KitchnAid is helpful. I also make a lot of salads, so the salad spinner ... erm ... is this a gadget? It’s not plugged in. So, move along, then. I also can’t live without my blender. In fact I use it daily for my morning smoothie. And my evening margaritas. Oh dear, did I say that out loud?