A Minimalist Bridal Registry: Tools for a Lifetime of Fabulous Food

minimalist bridal registryImage by JD Hancock

I don’t believe in owning a lot, but I do believe in owning some good kitchen tools. Being able to cook for yourself is, in my opinion, the most important step in self-sufficiency. It will save you money, it’s good for the planet, it’s good for your health, and will provide a lifetime of delight and satisfaction. Having a kitchen stocked with quality tools will make cooking that much easier and more enjoyable.

In my last post on creating a minimalist bridal registry, I suggested some of guiding principles when putting together a registry:

  • Look for durable items.
  • Look for classic styles that won’t quickly go out of date.
  • Avoid plastic.
  • Avoid items that only serve one purpose.

I also offered a list of common kitchen items I don’t really recommend. Today, I’m diving into the top kitchen items I do recommend, with suggestions for quality brands I’ve used and loved. (Disclaimer: contains affiliate links).

I explained in my last post that I regretted most of the items I registered for nine years ago. If I could go back and register all over again (and if my guests weren’t all frugal Mennonites — *ahem*), here are the items I would choose. They are what I use on a daily basis now, as a seasoned home cook, and I love them all (and hope to use them for many years to come).

Since I am trying to be a good steward of the planet, and aim for a minimalist lifestyle as much as possible, these items follow a certain set of criteria that are important to me:

  • They are made to last a long time, so you’re not constantly throwing things out and replacing them. Often, they are much more expensive than conventional options, but should save you money in the long run.
  • They are as multi-functional as possible, enabling you to keep the number of items to a minimum (For example, I include a toaster oven, which can do the job of both a toaster and a microwave, eliminating the need for either). This reduces clutter and keeps things simpler.
  • They are generally the least toxic and most energy-efficient options I know of.

Cooking and Prep

Minimalist Bridal Registry: the 3 knives you need

Knives: Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a whole big set of knives. I have found that with three good knives, you can do just about anything.

Chef’s Knife. You guys: getting a proper chef’s knife changed my life.  I’m listing this first because it is, in my opinion, the most valuable and important kitchen tool.  I got a Wusthof 8-inch Chef’s knife two Christmases ago and will never use anything else. Nothing else compares in terms of versatility, balance, control, blade sharpness, and (according to Amazon reviews) longevity. I highly recommend that every home cook get the best chef’s knife they can afford.

While I used to use a variety of cheap knives every day, I now use this one for virtually everything. Chopping, mincing, slicing, you name it. Every single day. I still have my old knives but never touch them. For me, this knife worth the extra cost because you’ll never need another knife. I also prefer to use it over fancy chopping and slicing gadgets. It’s faster and tidier.

It’s nice to have a good knife sharpener to maintain it. I have this one, as recommended by a professional chef.

Paring Knife.  Even though I do almost everything with my chef’s knife, I occasionally need a small knife for things like trimming and coring fruits and vegetables. I currently just have a cheapo and it does the job; eventually I would like to get a Wusthof.

Bread Knife. Another essential. I think brand and quality are less important with this one (I just have a department store brand), but you still want something that will last (like this J.A. Henckels Stainless-Steel Bread Knife.)

Cutting Board. I recommend wood or bamboo — it’s gentle on your expensive knives; and more hygienic, durable, and eco-friendly than plastic. Although one lightweight, flexible plastic cutting board in addition to the bamboo one can come in handy when you need to whip out an extra one.

Minimalist Bridal Registry: pans

Cast Iron Skillet. I can’t say enough about my 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. It’s inexpensive. It’s heavy-duty. It will last you the rest of your life — you might even be able to pass it on to your children. You can use steel utensils in it. It’s safe (unlike Teflon pans). It’s multi-purpose — wonderful for frying, sauteing, braising, grilling, you name it. I use mine every single day, for almost every meal.

It takes some getting used to, learning how to use and care for cast iron (e.g. you never wash with soap, to preserve the seasoning); but once you get the hang of it, you’ll never go back. You also have to get used to the weight.

I recommend getting two — a 12-inch and a 10-inch.

Stainless Steel Saute Pan with Lid. In addition to my cast iron, this versatile pan with a lid gets near-daily use, especially for sauces.

Pot Set. Surprisingly, I have no opinion here. I had a fairy cheap set for the first 8 years or so and found it fine.

Surgical Huck Towels. Forget traditional dish towels. Surgical huck towels are super-absorbent, durable, and lint-free. They dry quickly, which means they don’t get stinky. They dry glass without streaking. You can use them in lieu of oven mitts or pot holders — just keep them neatly folded a few times and tucked into your apron strings. I love them.

I recommend choosing a colour besides white, so the stains don’t show so fast. (I have the orange.)

Toaster Oven. I use my toaster oven for SO MUCH: for reheating leftovers (instead of a microwave); for toasting bread (anything from standard sliced bread to baguettes); and for baking small items like cheesecakes and pies (this uses much less energy than your oven). I highly, highly recommend this item. I’m sure they’re all great, though I own the Oster convection toaster oven.

Blender or Food Processor. I still haven’t found the One Food Processor to Rule Them All. I started out with a cheap Costco blender. I do not recommend it. If I had to choose between a blender and food processor, I’d choose the latter.

I own and love my Ninja Master Prep Professional — it’s super-versatile (it can function as a blender and food processor), it can blend anything, and works quickly. I use it for anything from smoothies to salsa to my date and nut balls. I can make my own peanut butter, and it will blend frozen banana chunks into a creamy, dairy-free ice cream. It’s very affordable, too. I just worry that the construction isn’t very sturdy and it won’t last long. I’ve had it for a couple of years without issue, but I’m noticing fissures in the containers which vexes me.

If I had the money, I’d buy a Vitamix. Apparently it’s the bee’s knees of blenders.

Basic Box Grater. I’ve used fancy food processors with grating and slicing discs; but unless I’m doing huge bulk amounts, I find a box grater (like this Norpro)  much more practical because it’s easy to clean and take up less space. Plus, something in the motor of my stupid Hamilton Beach food processor broke and I had to throw it in the garbage. Sometimes manual is just better.

Measuring Cups. Glass for liquid and stainless steel for dry ingredients. Please.

Silicone Brush. I use it for all kinds of things, but especially spreading fat (butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil) onto bakeware. With this little tool, I avoid all cooking sprays. Aerosol cans (like Pam) are horrible for many reasons; and I’ve never found a good reusable spray-can (I’ve tried a few). I prefer solid fats anyway for health reasons, anyway.

Silicone Spoon. I love love love my silicone spoon, though of course a regular rubber spatula works (almost) just as well.

minimalist bridal registry: stainless steel utensils

Cooking Utensils. Growing up, my mom always kept a drawer bursting full with innumerable broken, half-melted plastic spatulas and utensils. I have since learned the value of a few quality items — I recommend one stainless steel whisk, ladle, serving spoon, slotted spoon, spaghetti server, tongs, and spatula. (Duplicates are nice, of course.) You can use stainless steel with my suggested pans (above) without worry. A few wooden spoons round this out nicely.

Vegetable Peeler. I haven’t found my peeler soul-mate, but I have used a lot of crappy ones, and they make life miserable. A good one is hard to find. I am happy with my newish KitchenAid peeler.

Large (Metal) Colander. For draining pasta, homemade stocks, etc.

Baking and Roasting

minimalist bridal registry: baking pans

Baking Stone. I got two of these Pampered Chef cookie sheets for Christmas two years ago and I am CRAZY about them. Nothing sticks to them. I bake crackers, cookies, buns, pizza, anything on these stones, and they bake beautifully and evenly. LOVE.

Glass and/or Ceramic Bakeware. For baking, you’ll likely need at least one of each: 9 X 13-inch pan; square 8 or 9-inch baking pan; 9-inch pie plate; and loaf pan. (I like to bake bread in bulk, so I actually have 8 pans).

Electric Mixer. A hand mixer is totally sufficient for whipping cream and mixing batters if you don’t have a stand mixer. It’s all I used for the first eight years, and I can’t say upgrading to a stand mixer has made that big a difference.

Metal Cake Pan and Muffin Tin(s). I prefer a springform cake pan (I have this one). My muffin tins have a nonstick coating, which i don’t love, but I usually use paper muffin cups.

*I haven’t found the ideal solution for rimmed baking pans (when baking something roll-y, like roasted chick peas). I currently use cheap nonstick baking sheets. I would someday like to own one of these Pampered Chef stoneware bar pans.

Serving, Eating and Storing

Corelle Dinnerware. This is one bridal registry item I don’t regret. Corelle dishes are affordable and incredibly durable — I still have almost every original piece from 9 years ago. I got the plain white (“Winter Frost“) set. Yes, it’s kind of boring. But it matches with everything, never goes out of style, and individual items are easily replaceable if broken — this style will never be discontinued. I can get funky napkins if I want to spiff things up.

Drinking Glasses and Stemware. I have nothing to say except choose sturdy over pretty. (Ideally, they’ll be both.)

Mason Jars. I use all different sizes of mason jars for storing all kinds of things, from dried beans in my pantry to homemade yogurt in my fridge. I can jams, tomatoes, and pickles in them. Mason jars are so versatile, I adore them (and they look cute, too!). It’s great to have a nice collection of every style and size, from half-pints to quarts. And I absolutely LOVE having the plastic caps (regular and wide-mouth sizes) for storage.

Minimialist Bridal Registry: storage containers

Plastic Dry Foods Storage Containers. It’s also handy to have some larger, plastic, rectangular storage containers for bulk dry foods. Buying in bulk can save money and decrease packaging waste. I like my Rubbermaid Modular containers for storing things like flour, rice, and sugar. They’re affordable, durable, and more space-efficient than mason jars.

Other Storage Containers. I always cook enough food at dinner to have leftovers for lunch. I have a variety of storage containers for that purpose. I personally love the Tupperware brand — it’s spendy, and you have to buy from a buy it from a consultant, but it lasts forever (with a lifetime guarantee). It also doesn’t contain BPA. I like to use glass containers, too, so that leftovers can go directly into the toaster oven to reheat.

 Well, I’m probably forgetting something, but these items come to mind as the most essential items.

Do you agree? What’s missing from my list, in your opinion?

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  1. This is a great list. Mine’s a little different than yours, enough so I considering stealing this post idea! The thing I love that isn’t on this list is my 8 inch skillet. I’ve forgone a 12 inch and I am going to get one of those saute pans instead because the things I need a 12 inch for the most is making shepherd’s pie filling and things like that. My 10.5″ is just way too big for my morning eggs.
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  2. Wonderful tips! I had decided not to register for a basting brush, but I never thought to use it to spread oil on things. Your knife advice is super useful, we have a JA Henckels utility knife that’s still going strong after years of frequent use. We have a pampered chef muffin pan and we love it! Non-toxic and no muffin cup waste. You should add that to your wish list. :) I registered for a bunch of mason jars so I’m glad to see it on a list! I was thinking it was probably an uncommon registry item. I’m curious about these huck towels, I want to see them in action cause I keep reading about their awesomeness. Thanks for writing these posts!

  3. Really enjoyed reading these posts…love all the ideas to simplify the kitchen by having less clutter and more quality, useful items!
    I LOVE cast-iron skillets. They may just be my favourite kitchen things! I even find the food tastes better in those compared to the non cast-iron alternatives. However, I don’t think I have ever learned to care for them properly (and I didn’t know you’re not supposed to use soap on them, which I have been doing all these years.. GASP!!) I have read different articles about how to season/care for cast-iron pans but frankly I have found them to be inconsistent and therefore confusing. I wonder if you might consider writing a blog-post about how to season, care for, wash, etc. iron skillets? I would just “eat up” all the information for sure!! :)

    • Cynthia, I agree that there’s a taste difference (improvement!) with cast iron. I’ve read that cooking in cast iron actually increases the iron content of your food, which is great if you’re deficient (or pregnant!).

      It would be fun to go further in depth with cast iron care. For now, though: after it’s been seasoned (i.e. coated with oil, baked, and wiped down), I generally clean it one of two ways. For everyday cooking, I generally just wash it out with hot water. If I was just frying, I just wipe out any crumbs and/or excess fat, and leave it on my stove as it is. If I want to scrub it down, I pour on some kosher salt (dry) and scrub it with a dry scouring pad, then dump in the garbage and rinse. Does that make sense?

  4. I’m so with you on the knives. We actually registered for three specific Wuesthof knives (that same 8 inch chef’s knife, the paring knife, and a santoku-style knife (it has a flat blade instead of a curved one if that makes sense, so you can’t rock it the way you can a chef’s knife, but it’s the DDH’s preferred style)). I actually rarely even use my paring knife, honestly; I just use the chef’s knife for everything. Oh, and we just have the bread knife from the block my husband had before we married. We don’t eat bread that often, so that doesn’t get used too much either.

    One thing I would add for cutting tools is a good pair of kitchen shears. We have Wuesthof shears here as well. Sometimes you just need scissors! They make short work of shredding chicken and snipping herbs, for example. But of course you CAN use a knife or your fingers, too, so I suppose it’s personal preference.

    I love my enameled cast iron Dutch oven (Lodge, like 80 bucks at Target). Like I said on the previous post, I wish I had gone with stainless pots and pans instead of nonstick, but the ones I have are holding up well and so I’m sticking with them. I do use the Dutch oven often–it can go on the stove and in the oven, and is safer than nonstick, and you don’t have to worry about seasoning it. My college roommate had a cast iron skillet, and I could never get the hang of using and cleaning it. Also, I have carpal tunnel and super weak wrists, and so the weight actually is a serious problem. But I think stainless mitigates most of those concerns.

    Those towels sound amazing, though we have such a collection of rags already and have never had a problem with normal dish towels. I NEED oven mitts, though–every single time that I have used towels to grab things from the oven, I have burned the back of my hand or my wrist. Without fail. I guess I’m clumsy, or spoiled, or something, but those mitts are an important item! I have cloth ones with silicone grips; they can be machine washed and have lasted 5.5 years so far.

    Toaster oven FTW.

    I go back and forth on how useful the blender and food processor are; my blender is also a cheapo one, but I’ve had it since college and it still works. Not great, usually leaves ice chunks in the smoothie, but technically functioning. I pretty much only use it for smoothies. The food processor…well, I stick it in the dishwasher, so cleanup isn’t terrible, but usually I do just end up using a knife instead. But when you need it, you need it.

    On that note, however, you can definitely forego a blender and possibly a food processor if you have an immersion blender. That is definitely one of my Must Have kitchen gadgets. Puree soup right in the pot! Make tomato sauce right in the pot! Make mayonnaise right in the jar! The thing is genius. The cheap one works fine; I’m researching to see if an upgrade is worth it.

    I actually would nix the box grater in favor of a couple flat microplane graters. The handle on our box grater broke practically the first month (we still use it, of course), and it takes up so much room to store. If I’m grating a large amount of cheese (say, an entire block for pizzas), I use the grater blade on my food processor (that is one occasion where it is DEFINITELY worth it to haul it out); if I’m grating just a small amount, I grab the microplane since it can be stored right in the silverware drawer that’s right where my workstation is, rather than up in a cabinet somewhere like the box grater. So. My two cents. And the superfine one for zesting is also awesome.

    Oh man, the DDH used to use the dry measuring cups to measure liquids. -_- I have three sizes for liquids: 1 cup, 2 cup, and 4 cup, and use them all frequently, though technically you just need one. My dry measures are plastic, sorry, but again, I’ve had them for ten years now and they’re still going strong. They’re marked at the halfway point, which I find useful, both because I can measure an 1/8th cup and just in general. They’re molded all from one piece, which is a failing of many metal ones–I use mine as scoops, not just measures, I guess, or something, because I broke the handles off the DH’s metal ones. And the measurements should be etched or molded into the cup (and measuring spoons), not printed, because the ink will rub off eventually with washing.

    I <3 my silicone brush, too.

    For cooking utensils, I bought several spatulas molded all in one piece from silicone, so the silicone goes all the way up the handle and there's no join where the head meets the handle. No melting, no getting food caught in that nasty little impossible-to-wash crevice, no having the head fall off in the middle of stirring a thick batter. GENIUS. These are my housewarming gifts to everyone: a little half-size one, a normal size, and a big "spoontula." I have several in each size and rarely use any other utensil other than my ladles, tongs, and spaghetti scooper. Seriously. They do everything.

    I do have a spoon, turner, and some of the other standards in that same design, as well as a mishmash of nylon, wooden, and metal ones. I use all of them for at least one specific task, but I seriously could toss them all if I needed to in favor of those spatulas.

    Oh, and whisks. I have a metal whisk and a silicone coated one (remember I have nonstick pans so I can't use the metal whisk in them). I use those a lot, too, though mostly when baking.

    You have to decide if you like the U-shape or the long shape. I'm a U-shape. I think mine is Oxo? I'll check, because it's held up for years. Admittedly, I also don't peel most vegetables, since that's where a lot of the nutrients are. But sometimes you have to.

    In addition to the large metal colander, I'd recommend a mesh strainer. Some things just need the fine mesh.

    I'm with you on the bakeware. Love my baking stone, though I just have a random brand round one. I use reusable silicone cups in the muffin tin. I guess if silicone is bad, I'm in trouble, but I hate cleaning muffin tins and hate buying disposable things, plus I always used to run out of the paper cups and forget to buy more and never had them when I needed them.

    Pretty much yup to the rest of it. We didn't bother registering for dishes at all and the Target ones we bought have lasted fine, but Corelle ware or Pfalzgraff would be more grown-up, I suppose, and durable. I bought us some stemless stemware for Christmas a few years ago and will never go back–see clumsy, above, and also, they fit in the dishwasher, hallelujah.

    My mother-in-law used to have a HUGE Tupperware business so our whole kitchen is actually fitted out with it. It is nice, even if it's not as pretty as all the fancily-labeled Mason jars on Pinterest.

    Ok, sorry for writing my own post to accompany your post. It's such an interesting topic, though, isn't it? ;-)

    • I walked into the kitchen to make breakfast and realized we did forget something: mixing bowls! I have two sets, one plastic with sort of rimmed sides that make them easy to hold and pouring spouts, which is super handy, and one set of Pyrex ones with lids. I heart the Pyrex, especially when I had a microwave. Glass, durable, pretty, you can pop a lid on it if you have leftover whatever. But they’re HEAVY (remember I have weak wrists), and that pour spout feature on the plastic ones is awesome. Plus the biggest in my plastic set is bigger than the biggest Pyrex one.

      I also have a stainless steel one, and that’s a good option if you want lightweight but not plastic. My mom had a set of stainless mixing bowls that went from truly ginormous to pretty tiny, and only as an adult do I realize how awesome that was. I’ve never seen anything comparable, but would buy it if I did see it and it wasn’t too expensive.

      Oh! I also really like my salad spinner. I know that’s kind of a one-use wonder item, but once I cut up and wash the lettuce (because I buy heads either at the farmer’s market or to be cheap), it seems to last a lot longer if left in the spinner than in any other container. I actually wish I had two, so I could keep one with the lettuce I’m using in the fridge and still have one available to wash other produce (like kale or whatever). So that’s something to consider.

      Ok, sorry, bye.

    • It IS an interesting subject! And I appreciate the input. Also: YES to a mesh strainer. Forgot that one. I use mine almost every day!

      • They are surprisingly handy, aren’t they?

        Making dinner and I remembered another essential for me: a garlic press. Depending on your knife skills and how often you use garlic, you might not need one, but I use mine just about every day, AND it’s somethingwhere surprisingly you should spend extra on a nice one, so it’s perfect for a gift list. We went through several cheap ones that were hard to use, hard to clean, and eventually straight up broke, even though they were from fairly good brands like Oxo and KitchenAid.

        Then a couple years ago I asked for a Kuhn Rikon press for Christmas, and wow. All metal, presses the garlic perfectly with very little hand strength, flips open for easy cleaning (and so you can easily scrape off every little bit of garlicky deliciousness), dishwasher safe… it’s like thirty bucks, but if you use a lot of garlic and are not a great mincer, it is worth every penny. But that’s definitely one of those “know thyself” tools that’s either pointless or indispensable. :-)

        • I didn’t think of microplane graters but that’s a good idea. I’ll have to look into that.

          I usually chop garlic with a knife, but I found a garlic grinding plate on etsy that looks cool. https://www.etsy.com/listing/174888429/garlic-grater-kitchen-tool-radiant?

        • Great thoughts, Katie. I waffled on listing the garlic press — I grew up never owning one, so I’m used to just mincing; I tried a few cheap ones in my early adulthood and they completely sucked. I now have a good one (from Ikea, of all places — all-metal as well), and I really appreciate having it. I just wasn’t sure whether I would list it as “essential.” Helpful, definitely; but I agree — it’s only worth it if you get a good one.

  5. Great list! I would add a few things – i second the suggestion(s) for a cast iron duct oven. I use mine often, and it’s super handy for soups and bechamel sauces. To go with it, I really love my silicone whisk SO MUCH, and I love that I don’t have to worry about it killing the enamel finish.

    I also have a deep, deep love for my Norpro tomato corer/strawberry huller (http://ow.ly/u0dY7). It’s small and snazzy, and while I bought it on a whim, it’s turned out to be a tool I pull from the drawer surprisingly often. Aside from coring and hulling, it’s good for getting eyes out of potatoes and weird spots out of pears.

    The other tool I love is my immersion blender. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it’s so handy for pureed soups and soup bases. If you’re cooking for people who have issues with texture in food, it’s a worthy pick. It’s also small and fits in a drawer, which is an excellent virtue for a kitchen tool :-)

  6. I agree that you don’t need a huge set of knives. I want to put carbon steel knives out there though, which I recently discovered. A couple of these (cheap!) and a water stone for sharpening and you are good to go. I really love my carbon steel knife, way more than my wusthof or calphalon
    k ives

  7. Choosing a toaster oven is stinking frustrating. The reviews seem to tend to be super positive or super negative with mostly 1 or 5 stars and fewer in the middle. So half the people think it is the best appliance ever and the other half say they’ll never buy anything from that particular company ever again! I think I’ll go ahead and register for the same one we have at home which has lasted about 3 years thus far and hasn’t caused us any problems even though it has like 2.5 stars on-line. Maybe they’re just very temperamental appliances, and you need to find one that likes you.

  8. I have this vegetable peeler, and it is awesome. No plastic to break. https://www.lehmans.com/p-456-rada-vegetable-peeler.aspx

    I use my 6 inch Santoku knife for 90% of my knife needs.

    I love Corelle too, because it is break-resistant and compact storage-wise. I collect different patterns from thrift stores, but white is the way to go for a set.

    I had never heard of surgical huck towels, but they are on my wish list now. I need something fast-drying.

  9. I LOVE my Pampered Chef garlic press plus mandolin. I have the Pampered Chep variation of the �Slap Chop� that I�ve watched about TV. I�ve tried the cheap one however the Pampered Chef 1 is greater created and works wonderfully. Makes chopping onions thus much less painful! The Pampered Chef can opener is amazing too. I�ve bought TONS of will openers from stores, all different kinds plus styles nevertheless NONE have worked, or worked for a brief time before they didn�t work anymore.

  10. Great list! As noisy and/bulky mixers can be, they really service their purpose in multiple ways that it’s a bit senseless not to bring them along. There are a lot of models to choose from, anyway. Awesome list!!

  11. Interesting to read everyone’s perspectives on this issue. What follows my basic list of cooking essentials for a four person household after more than twenty years of cooking for a family. These are the items that have made the cut after multiple cross county moves.

    For food preparation: 5-qt. Dutch oven; large SS skillet w/ lid; 2-qt SS saucepan w/ lid; kettle; collapsible SS steamer; sturdy jelly roll pan; metal cooling rack; loaf pan; rectangular casserole dish; 2 mixing bowls; SS slotted spoon; SS balloon whisk; SS tongs; SS ladle; SS spatula; olive wood turner/spatula; olive wood mixing spoon; rubber spatula/scraper; chef knife; serrated bread knife; kitchen shears; 2 cutting boards; peeler; metal strainer; box grater; set of SS measuring spoons; set of SS measuring cups; Pyrex liquid measuring cup

    The one electric appliance I can’t do without is an immersion blender.

  12. Great lists
    thank you

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