Thus far we’ve kept our kitchen series focused on the food. Naturally, of course, since it’s the food that’s the most essential part of living away from home and ensuring you’re getting the right nutrients. But, an essential aspect of university life and food comes with what you put the food into, and what you use to prepare it – utensils!
Kitchen utensils provide a legitimate issue that does not come to mind immediately, and it’s a problem that differs depending on whether you’re a local or international student. For home students, if you can manage to just choose a few choice utensils from your family home (a good pot, a steamer, a blender) it would save you having to shell out money and having to make the decisions on your own as to which is best. If you live too far from university, though, or are travelling from overseas, you need to start thinking about what utensils to buy very early on in your college life. Are you doing a one-year programme or a three-year programme? Are you living with people you know or strangers? How often do you plan on cooking? These are the questions you have to ask yourself before you commit to spending money on any sort of kitchen utensil or appliance.
First, there are the obvious essentials: flatware. You will need plates, bowls, mugs, cups and cutlery just to ensure you have something to eat in. It’s wise to stock up on at least three of each, and they come fairly inexpensive. The bigger worry comes with buying things to cook with.
Chances are you’ll be lucky enough to be in a flat which comes with a kettle, if not investing in a cheap one is a wise and essential decision. Then there are some items you don’t realise you want until you’re halfway through cooking: wooden spoons, a grater, a spatula, a chopping board (the larger the better), a colander and a sieve (preferably a metal one). Each student will make pasta at least a few times in their student life, the colander will be particularly essential in that. This part of the list comes with other knickknacks you’re liable to forget you want until you need them – kitchen scissors, lemon squeezer, a bottle opener, and a can opener.
The most essential bits are in this part of the article, though: you need a good, large frying pan; two good stainless pots (different sizes, preferably); a strong, large knife; two smaller knives; and a large baking pan. Next to your eating utensils – these will be the saviour of your kitchen. Think long and hard before you make a purchase here. Stainless steel options tend to cost a bit more than aluminium ones but the investment is worth it, especially if you will be at university for a bit.
A blender (or liquefier) is a good item to have if you’re a devoted cook. Our next article in the series is on using the blender in cooking. However, if you’re unlikely to make full use of an item like this you’re better off not buying it. As a student getting your money’s worth is essential, so ensure that every item you buy is well used so you’re actually spending your money wisely.
Try to avoid going out and buying every nifty utensil you see, though. Even some mentioned above are not absolutely essential if you’d prefer to cut back on money. Here are some tips for if you’d rather not dole out the cash for extra utensils:
- Cans can be easily opened with a large knife instead of a can opener (though this isn’t great for the knife!)
- Bottle caps can be pulled back on window sills
- In place of a vegetable peeler, a small knife does the trick
- Lemon and citrus can be squeezed with your hands
- A grater can be avoided if you devote time to just chopping your items finely
- If you’re tempted to buy a steamer, consider using a colander to steam food in a pot
- A thick cloth can be used as a colander in hard times
- A good spoon can flip your eggs and pancakes in place of a spatula
- If you ever get a ready-meal for lunch, many of them come in disposable bowls. Keep them! Wash and reuse for storage instead of buying bowls or tupperware.
If you are buying items, always buy after you have moved into your flat. It’s always tempting to buy everything early, but it’s good to have a look around and see what your flat comes with. Better yet, if you’re moving in with people you know there’s no need to have multiple items – for example, no house needs four kettles or four steamers, let alone four blenders. If you get on well with your housemates, opting to share larger items (or pooling resources to buy one for the entire flat) is a great option.
And, don’t forget to buy some oven mitts and some kitchen towels! Safety from burns is an important part of cooking, and you need your hands for writing those essays.
By Andrew Kendall