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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Essential college cooking ware

What every cook, even an amateur should own

Published: February 8, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

dc02070809.jpgJUST THE BASICS

I recently received a beautiful chef’s knife and I started thinking about all the equipment that cooking requires, especially when baking. So for those of you who are putting off “real” cooking because of the equipment cost, have no fear, Gabe is here. Here’s the list, with each section followed by the college-price option and the more-expensive option:


You need at least one knife, preferably two. The necessary one is an all-purpose chef’s knife (6″ is about how long you want it) and a paring knife for peeling vegetables or chopping small

There are a lot of (very) expensive knives out there, but you don’t need a Wusthof or a Ken Onion to cook. You can get a decent chef’s knife for $10-15 and for $30 you can get a great knife that performs as well or better than the $200 ones.

There are basically two types of knife: forged and laser-cut. Forged are more expensive because they are made of a single piece of steel alloy folded over and over again. They don’t bend as much and hold a better edge longer. They are also more expensive. Laser-cut knives are just what they sound like: a laser cuts a knife-shaped piece out of steel. These knives vary more in quality, but you can still get a perfectly good one for under $30.

College: Any knife from the supermarket. Try to look for one that will fit your hand, and isn’t too heavy. Remember, you’re going to be using it.

Splurge: Target carries many fine knives, and has a wider selection than the supermarket. A friend has the Farberware Pro Forged 3-piece set ($20) and it works great.


A big plastic bowl. It’s great for salad, bread, holding stuff…just get one.

College: The supermarket. They’re pretty cheap, and very useful.

Splurge: You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a bowl.


This is the other big moneysink after knives. Fortunately, Brandeis is kind enough to provide them for your cooking needs at the quad office. Unfortunately, they’re often dirty and from time to time just not there; either in use or someone forgot to return them.

For those of you who need their own pans, you need two types: a saucepan and a pasta pot. If you can only get one, I would say get the pasta pot; you can use it as a saucepan. But if you don’t make pasta that often, or just use the dining halls’, get a saucepan; it’s much better suited for e.g. eggs, pasta sauce, rice, broth.

If you’d like, get a skillet, though you can usually use a largeish saucepan instead. Again, if you’re willing to buy both, buy both, but the saucepan will work fine.

The other question is what size? I have two oven-safe 12-quart pasta pots that work perfectly fine. I’ve made pasta and soup in them, and I’ve baked bread in them. The saucepan should be able to hold at least 6 cups of liquid. A 12-inch skillet will do fine for anything you want to do, from chicken breasts to pasta sauce. An 8- or 10-inch is also fine, though if you make chicken breasts, you’ll be able to make fewer at a time. If that’s fine with you, then go for the smaller ones.

College: Who cares? Woooooo, quad office!

Splurge: Target. You shouldn’t spend more than maybe $10 per pasta pot; I got two for around $20. I recommend getting ovenproof (usually all-metal ones are ovenproof, but double-check) for making pot roasts or bread.

And there you are. Everything you need to start your own kitchen in college: knives, a bowl, and pots. You’ll be surprised at how much you can make with just these three pieces of equipment.

Editor’s Note: Gabe Berke-Williams runs a cooking blog at