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Cook Like a Dad

What are the standard items I should have in my kitchen, pantry, refrigerator and freezer?

It took me a moment to realize that this was a question I have been asked a lot over the years. So this article is for all single parents who want to a properly stocked kitchen that will easily feed a family of four.

The Kitchen Is Your Tool Box
Every man can relate to having a tool box. Some guys like to keep an assortment of tools just lying around the garage with no real system or inventory of their tools. Some guys keep their tools very organized, clean and accessible.  You need to think of your kitchen like a tool box that has to stay clean, organized, and accessible. Why? Because cooking is messy and it takes time. If you do not have an organized kitchen, you are going to waste valuable time and that is something we can’t afford to waste.

Your Tools
What I have discovered over the years is that many newly divorced or widowed people think that they have to buy the “top of the line” pots, pans and cooking gadgets to equip their kitchen. There are actually very few items that you need to invest a lot of money in to make cooking easier.

Pots & Pans:  Make sure you purchase heavy gauge (preferably three-gauge), stainless steel pots, and pans. You don’t need any copper versions, just make sure these pans have a long stem handle and they come with a lid.

2 Quart and 4 Quart Pots: These are two sizes I recommend for any kitchen. Pots are measured in quarts and pans are measured by the size of the cooking surface. The smaller 2 quart version is great for a quick boil for rice, soups and just about anything. The larger 4 quart will be used for your favorite spaghetti sauces and is great for reheating anything for a family of four.  I bought the additional steaming pan attachment for my 4 quart pan. It looks like another pot with holes at the bottom and it rests on top of the 4-quart pot. I use it to steam my favorite frozen vegetables and I can simultaneously use the steam while I am cooking something in the pot below.

8 to 10 Inch Frying Pan AND 12 to 14 Inch Deep Dish Pan:  the smaller frying pan is another universal pan that has many functions in the kitchen. The larger “deep dish” is going to offer you a variety of functions as well. Make sure you get matching lids for these pans.  Bigger is not always better when it comes to a frying pan. You have to keep your stove heating surfaces in mind. Make sure you buy the pan that is going to fit your stove’s heating surfaces. Make sure the pan you buy is not hanging over too much. This will cause uneven heating and could make cooking more difficult and your results may vary from tasty to not so good.

Love Your Crock Pot
I am always learning new recipes for cooking meals in my crock pot and I love how easy they are to use. I truly believe that the inventor of the crock pot must have been a single parent because this is one great cooking tool for the person who is juggling a family, career, and social life. For a family of four, a 4 to 6 quart pot is plenty. Just make sure you have an area to store it in and an open area on the counter to place it when you are cooking. The crock pot must have a timer. When you set the timer, the crock pot will automatically adjust the heat to a warming temperature. This will keep vegetables in stews from evaporating into mush. For more crock pot recipes, go to and check out my Fall Crock Pot Recipe.

Other Tools
The other important things I recommend to all kitchen rookies is the importance of having a good kitchen knife, hand blender, meat thermometer, kitchen scissors, and casserole/lasagna pan.

Choosing a kitchen knife is like dating the perfect woman; it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. I prefer the strong, confident type in both my women and my knife.  However, here’s where the comparisons should stop; some chefs prefer two knives. The best advice I can offer is to buy a knife that is at least 10 inches, a boning knife to a paring knife and a full sized tang (that would be the handle end, fellas).

The hand blender is one of my best friends in the kitchen. Not only is it my go-to tool in the kitchen, (making  my morning protein shakes or whipping up some egg-whites for an omelet) this little tool takes care of last minute mixing in a snap. Make sure to buy one with a removable end piece that is dishwasher safe.

The meat thermometer is a great thing to have around because you will be cooking many different types of meat at various sizes and thicknesses. Most recipes will list a core temperature that your meat will have to maintain. Just because your stove says it’s cooking at the temperature, it doesn’t always mean your meat is maintaining that temperature. To avoid all of the confusion and possible exposure to harmful bacterial, just get the simple, analog version (I don’t recommend the digital ones).

Kitchen scissors are great for any items that need a quick cut. Make sure you keep these away from your kids and they are not to be used on homework projects or opening any of those hard to open, vacuum packaged items. Make sure they are stainless steel and dishwasher safe.

The casserole/lasagna pan that I use has rarely seen casserole or lasagna. I like the large cooking surface and I have been known to use it for roasting a prime rib, baking cookies, and ideal for braising meats. Anyways, if you have the storage space, you need this versatile pan in your kitchen.

Originally published on Single Dad