Having food allergies is no fun, especially when it gets so bad that you cannot even eat a loaf of store-bought bread. It makes you rethink a lot of things in life. Sometimes you feel so sick, that fun stuff like, like playing online poker is no longer fun. And everyday stuff, like how to set up your kitchen, take on a whole new level. If your stomach is not happy, you are not happy.
Some things are going to remain the same, while other things will be different. Since you are going to be spending a lot of time in your kitchen, even for the basics, you want good quality stuff.
Pots and Pans
Basic starting set
The first major item is your pots and pans. My favorite pots and pans set is the Magma 10-piece Gourmet 18/10 stainless steel Cookware Set. It comes in both unstick and the regular variety, but I just went with the regular variety and I have not had any problems. But then I don’t really use the fry pan as an actual fry pan. I just use it as another pot.
For your fry pan, but 1 very good quality 12-inch frying pan. I prefer one with very deep sides and a riveted handle. Since I use this pan for cooking meats, I do not use a non-stick one.
We also brought one standard non-stick 10-inch pan and a small frying pan.
Finally, a good hand-hammered wok is needed to finish off your pots and pans.
For your regular flatware, Oneida 18/10 stainless steel is the type to get. These will last you a lifetime. These are the type of flatware you can pass onto your grandchildren. That is how well they last. If you buy from their “Patterns for a lifetime”, Oneida makes the commitment to always have these available. So 40 years from now, when you decide you need to add more place settings, you will still be able to go to Oneida’s website and buy them.
This is something that you want to find ones that feel comfortable in your hands because it is something that you will use a lot. These are the major items to include in your set. Some of these items are must-have, while others can wait if money is tight. But I would recommend going to a restaurant supply store for the best selection in this area. The bottom of the line in a restaurant supply store is going to be the top of the line in a regular store like Walmart or Target.
For this, you want to start out with a basic set that includes a pasta spoon, a slotted spoon, a regular spoon, and a ladle. Add to this set, tongs, a peeler (Y shaped handled is my favorite), ice cream scooper, dough cutter (some have measurements on them), a kitchen scale, and a stainless steel spider strainer. Don’t forget a good quality pizza cutter and a stainless steel cheese grater.
If you plan to buy big blocks of cheese (like they sell in a restaurant supply store), buy a rotary cheese grater. Pregrated cheese has corn starch added to it to prevent the cheese from sticking.
A grease splatter screen, a set of mesh strainers, and a colander are also useful.
For your measuring cups and measuring spoons, buy stainless steel ones where the measurements are indented directly into the metal. If the measurements are just printed, they will wear out when they cleaned in the dishwasher. Finally, you will need a pyrex measuring cup. Get a 1 cup one and a 4 cup one.
Go to a restaurant supply store to buy this. You will never get as good of quality in a regular store. In a restaurant supply store, they come in three sizes: Full sheet (18” x 26”), half sheet (13” x 18”), and quarter sheet (9.5” x 13.25”)
The full sheet one is definitely worth getting because it makes an excellent place to things outside of cooking. Do you need to knead dough? You do it on this pan and the mess is contained. Do you want a place for your preschooler to play while you are cooking dinner? Set up this pan, and they can play with water to their heart’s content.
As for actual cooking, make sure that the pans can actually fit into your oven. In our old oven, the half-sized pan fits fine, but in our new oven, they do not. On the other hand, they do fit into our fridge, so we use these pans all of the time to defrost meat, and if the meat leaks, the mess is contained.
We have found that the 15” x 15” deep dish pan is the largest size that fits nicely in a smaller oven.
On other good tip is that in the restaurant store, they sell cooling racks that are designed to fit into the full, half, and quarter-sized pans. These racks can also handle fried foods, so you can use them for your fried chicken and chips to drain the oil.
For mixing bowls, go for stainless steel or high-quality glass ones that can go into the oven, microwave, and dishwasher. The metal ones are lighter, but they are usually not able to handle be placed in the oven for actual cooking. For reheating food at a low temperature, they are fine.
I had brought the plain basic ones, but fancier sets come with lids (nice), and hand graters, so you can grate cheese or vegetables directly into the bowl (again, nice).
If you are cooking a lot, you are probably going to want to do some simple canning. But what I did discover in my research is that if you plan to eat the food within 6 months, you can just put the prepared jars into the freezer and you are fine. If you plan to keep the jars for more than 6 months, then you need to use more proper canning methods.
The first thing that you need is freezer-safe canning jars. These are the jars that have straight sides. My favorite size is the 24 oz wide mouth jars. I can never have enough of those. If you are just using the freezer method of canning, you do not need the metal lids and you can swap them out for plastic wide mouth lids. Since you need to keep track of when the food was put into the freezer, you will need dissolvable food labels.
As for utensils, a canning ladle is a must-have. It is shaped differently than a soup ladle, so it makes it easier to transfer liquids into the canning jars. My husband likes the canning funnel over the canning ladle, but either one should work.
A good quality chest freezer is worth the investment. I don’t remember the exact size I brought, but I had 3 layers. The bottom layer, the middle layer with removable baskets, and the top layer with removable baskets. The freezer came with 4 baskets, but I just went online and brought two more replacement baskets for a total of 6.
A good quality bread maker is nice. Make sure that it can handle the full cooking of bread, as well as quick bread (banana bread), and doughs (shaped dough and pizza dough).
Mixer and Blender
It used to be that you had to buy the mixer and blender as two separate appliances, but now, some companies sell them as different attachments that use the same motor.
Depending on how much you will do the cooking from scratch, you will also need food storage containers. Definitely pick these up at a restaurant supply store. At one point, we were buying 50 lb bags of flour and sugar, so we needed food-grade 10-gallon food containers to store flour and sugar. They may look like regular garbage cans, but the plastic that is used is food grade.
What you might now think of as kitchen items
Last, but not least is the 3 ring binder with page protectors. As you go on, you are going to find your recipes that you love and you are just going to want to print them out. If you put them into a 3-ring binder with page protectors, you will not have to worry about them getting ruined or forgetting how to find them online.
Shopping list pad, a pen holder with a magnet to keep on the fridge, and of course, pens/pencils. You can also get smaller square and circular storage containers with lids with measurements on the side. They come with lids and the quality is much better than what you will find with plastic storage containers from a store like Walmart or Target.
Finally, printing and laminating measurement conversions are worth the effort.
Dealing with food allergies may at first seem overwhelming, but once you get into the groove of things, it just becomes a part of your lifestyle.