I am a kitchen gadget junkie, I admit it. I have a large collection of gadgets assembled over many years, but I know I could get away with a lot less. If I was starting out I would looking at the following:
(TIP: Always get the best equipment you can afford, but I have to be honest, I’ve tasted wonderful meals cooked in enamel pots!)
Essential knives: Chef’s knife 25cm blade is a useful size; paring knife with a 10-12 cm blade, a bread knife and a narrow-bladed tomato knife. Carving knife and Fork.
A very good knife sharpener. There is nothing like cutting and chopping with a super-sharp knife; it’s safer too, because it gets on with the job, whereas at best, a ‘blunt’ knife can slip and although not sharp enough for the veggies or meat, will still be sharp enough to hurt you if it slips. (Also you can throw them across the room in frustration and hurt someone else. Only kidding :)
Essential Cookware: Non-stick Skillet (30cm); small saucepan (17cm); saucepan 25-27cm; Stock Pot (8 litres). All of these without long handles (except the pan of course) as these can be a hazard if they stick out, easier to bump or catch and tip the contents, or for children to grasp. Not essential, but I was given a 25cm cast iron pot for Mother’s Day. In America they are called a Dutch oven, we use it for potjie (Afrikaans for small pot) bread and I have made sublime stews and casseroles in it. It is simply a heavy iron pot with a lid, useful for outdoor and indoor cooking, stove top and in the oven. Try not to use aluminium pots as it can be hazardous to your health. You also don’t need to splash out on a set of pots, because sometimes you are forced to get yet another pan because it’s in the set. Buy individual pots and pans and you can get exactly what you need.
Essential Gadgets: Wooden* cutting board, med. sized sieve, colander, spatula, whisk, measuring cups, measuring spoons, grater, 2 wooden spoons, egg lifter, soup ladle, large stainless steel spoon.
An assortment of old flat ware such as teaspoons, forks, dessert spoons and round tipped knives for butter spreading ( I keep my nice stuff in the dining room and what a pain to gallop there to get a teaspoon or a fork for some small job.)
* There is a lot of controversy about which type of cutting board is safer for use in the kitchen. I have a wooden, a plastic and a glass cutting board and use them for different things. Always the glass one for chicken though. Check out this link for more info: Wooden versus Plastic Cutting Boards.
Baking pans: A muffin pan, a large cookie sheet or Swiss roll pan, a square cake pan, and jam tart or Christmas mince pie pan.
So start with the basics, buy the best you can afford and add to your equipment gradually as and when you can.
P.S Here is a checklist that you can print out to help you find everything you need: Checklist