There are two ways to look at cooking from home: custom meals every day OR a banal chore demanded of every adult for the rest of their lives.
Cooking from home is a great way to save money and be sure your food is as “clean” as possible, meaning restaurant foods are often higher in sodium and pre-made foods are often loaded with preservatives and additives. There isn’t exactly a skill that makes some people better at cooking from home. They just do it more often and it becomes a habit. You can explore recipes and experiment with flavors, or you can stick to what you know works (or others tell you will work) and run with it ad nauseum until you die. Sounds dramatic but really as an adult we’ve been asked to figure out what’s for dinner every single day for the entirety of our lives. Sorry, my Millennial slipped out there.
The right tools will make cooking at home super simple. Here are 5 of what I consider necessities:
I wanted an InstaPot but I also wanted an air fryer. I’d never had either but friends and family raved about them. Instead I landed on a small Ninja Foodi. It does all of it! And I mean ALL OF IT. I started off air frying anything I could think of. Now some of my favorite meals are egg rolls or salmon steaks. You can take them straight from the freezer and have fully cooked meals in 15 minutes. Once I got comfortable with it I popped on the pressure cooker lid and made a batch of black beans. From dry in the pantry to fully cooked and flavorful in less than an hour! The family made frozen fries in it and they come out much crispier than oven baking them.
TL;DR: The Foodi has quickly become my most used kitchen appliance.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
I was gifted a stand mixer as a fully grown adult and I use it all the time. I don’t just use it for baking — which it is awesome at — but I have the shredder attachment that makes shredding cheese absolutely simple. I can go through a block of cheddar in less than a minute. Plus if you really want to flex you can leave it out on your counter and tell your mother-in-law “yeah, you see me.”
Stainless Steel pots and pans
Nonstick coatings may seem like a great choice for home cooks, but I’ve been through the cheap ones and the really not-cheap ones. I can tell you they are only as good as the coating, and once that is gone the pans are trash.
I now have a full set of IKEA stainless steel pots and pans. Small sauce pots, medium pots, steamer basket inserts, large pots, stock pots and sauté pans. I use them every day. They clean up easily and take a lot of abuse. If they get stained I can clean them up with a one-two punch of baking soda and a lemon.
Cast Iron Skillet
There is no substitute for what cast iron can do to meats. Cast iron skillets take a little more love to keep singing, but it is well worth the effort. Look up cleaning and storing videos before getting started with your first cast iron. Once seasoned, I take my used pan and run it under water with a scrub that has never touched dish soap. Then I return it to the heat and give it a quick rubdown with canola oil. Let it dry completely and store it for the next use.
Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Your soups and chilis will be forever changed once you get your hands on a Dutch oven. This one has the same concept as the cast iron skillet, only it has a ceramic coating on the inside that allows you to wash it with soap. Plus they are beautiful. If you get used to using a Dutch oven you’ll never need a slow cooker again.