Whether you’ve just moved out on your own for the first time, or are just brushing up on your kitchen skills and want to be prepared to whip up something tasty at a moment’s notice, it’s important to make sure that you’ve got everything that you’ll need in your kitchen. While there are countless things that might be useful (pasta strainers come to mind), there are 6 essentials that every pantry should have so that you can relax knowing you’ve got everything you need at home, whether you plan on entertaining guests, or just grabbing a bite to eat before calling it a day.
Having a variety of drinks on hand will ensure that you’ve got something for everybody. Having a few beverage staples in the pantry such as a pack of 20oz soda for when you need something sweet but refreshing, or when you have relatives with kids coming over, some coffee to start the mornings right, and a selection of teas can help you get through any afternoon slump. Of course, a bottle of cooking wine is always useful in a pinch and can add some flavor without watering down your dish. When deciding on what sort of drinks you need to have in your pantry at all times, consider your household and who you’ll be entertaining, and go from there.
Having a cabinet well stocked with the basics of baking is a great idea, especially since these are the non-perishables that will provide you with the most options when it comes to preparing food. For starters, having cake flour, all-purpose flour, as well as some gluten-free options for when you’re feeling a bit more health-conscious is a great start. Apart from that, you want to make sure you always have baking powder, baking soda, some starter dough (if you like to bake bread), and something with which to sweeten your treats (cane sugar, of course). Cocoa powder, pure vanilla extract, and cream of tartar are all a must for those with a sweet tooth. With these baking essentials, you’ll be able to create pretty much anything that comes to mind.
3. Everyday Basics
Every cook needs to have a few basic essentials on hand that can be used in almost anything. It’s a good idea to always have a bottle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil on hand. Depending on your preference – whether you like to cook with it, or use it as a finishing oil, you might want to go with something that has a stronger taste or milder, but either way, you’ll always want to have one at the ready. It’s important to note that olive oil is not like fine wine – it will not become better with age, so make sure to use it and enjoy its flavor while it’s still at its peak. Besides that, you’ll want a more neutral oil for deep frying and other instances where you don’t want the extra flavor in your meals. Kosher salt and black peppercorns are also great additions to the pantry, but if you want to go a bit more esoteric with your cooking essentials, you might consider picking up some pink peppercorns as well. When it comes to the must-have spices, it really depends on what kind of cuisine you’re more used to. Thyme, basil, and oregano will always come in handy for a more western palate. However, ginger, chili, cinnamon, and curry powder/paste will make sure that you can cook anything from a Chinese to an Indian dish. Apart from that, having a few onions, cloves of garlic, as well as some potatoes on hand will ensure that you have the basis to create a variety of great dishes.
For many, there’s not much that beats a great dessert. However, aside from the obvious fact of having some chocolate on hand to satisfy any craving or melt into your hot cocoa for a sweeter version of the classic drink, it will be useful to have some more traditional sweeteners in your pantry at all times. While sugar should always be taken in moderation due to health concerns, you can hardly make a delicious treat without it, so your pantry should always have – granulated sugar, brown sugar, as well as confectioners’ sugar. On top of that, maple syrup, simple syrup, honey, and molasses (great for gingerbread) will come in handy for cooking and baking. Of course, if you have a diabetic in your family, or just prefer to watch your sugar intake, having an artificial sweetener (like Splenda) on hand is always a good idea.
5. Grains & Legumes
We all know that pasta is delicious when done right, but there are plenty of other great uses for simple grains. When it comes to starch-based items, it’s always good to have some rice on hand since you can use it in soups, fried rice dishes, and even for sushi. Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice or couscous (which is also great when cooked) to provide texture and bulk to soups and salads. Bulgur wheat can be used interchangeably with rice, but it’s also great when added to soups and stews. Beans and legumes are also essential to the pantry, though they might require a little more preparation than some of the other staples. Dried options like chickpeas, lentils, and black beans will always be a good choice. These are especially good to have since they are incredibly cheap and can be used in so many dishes.
6. Canned Food
Finally, you’ll want to have some canned goods on hand. While it’s advisable to buy fresh ingredients whenever possible, having a few of these items at the ready can help you whip up great dinner options when you don’t feel like running out to the store or just don’t have time. Tomatoes are likely one of your best friends in this case, as they can be turned into a variety of sauces for pasta and other dishes. Beans are also great because you can make a simple chili or soup by adding them to some vegetables and spices. While making them from scratch is admirable, it does take hours, and the canned variety will save you a lot of time without compromising on the flavor. Finally, if you’ve got a big family to feed, having a few cans of tuna or salmon will ensure that you have enough variety in your pantry to cater to everyone’s tastes.
So, when it comes to basic cooking essentials, these are the top 6 ones that you should always have in your pantry. Keep in mind that they don’t directly imply any specific kind of cuisine, so feel free to experiment with flavors and spices to create something delicious for any palate using the ingredients you already have on hand. Remember to always stock up on the things that have a long shelf life, and only buy the fresh produce you need as you need it – in order to avoid food waste.