Indian Cooking 101

Indian Cooking 101: Kitchen Essentials

This post is part of the series, Indian Cooking 101, where I discuss how to make basic Indian food. We will begin with the essentials and slowly move up to a point where you will be confident enough to throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that. Hopefully, through this series, you will see that once you know the bare minimum, the rest from then on is smooth sailing. And then maybe, just maybe, I will finally be able to dismiss the myth that Indian cooking is just too hard. Yes, you heard it right again, a myth!

Over the past couple of months, I’ve received a slew of emails from readers asking me to share with them all the tools, equipment and staples in my kitchen. So instead of replying individually to each and every one of them, I thought it would be better to share it here on my blog with all of you. I’ve decided to break up this list into instalments, each time concentrating on a few particular components. The following list is one that I’ve designed based on my preferences and what I actually use on a regular basis. Most of them, if not all, can easily be found in regular kitchen stores or kitchen sections of any department store.

What I list here are items that I mostly can’t imagine cooking without, but that doesn’t mean that you have to go all out and grab each of them for yourself. Think of what will work for you and what simply won’t fit into your cooking ritual. We all have our own style of cooking and there’s nothing worse than trying to imitate one that just isn’t cut out for you. As an enthusiastic cook, I love sharing kitchen and cooking ideas with like-minded folks, so don’t hesitate to leave a note on your kitchen staples in the comments section. The kitchen Gods surely know how much I would enjoy reading them!


Cooking Utensils

  • Two deep pans, with lids, and preferably one of them non-stick. It’s always best to get two different sizes, one small (1 litre/quart) and one large (3 litres/quarts). When selecting, I would go with a smaller non-stick one and large regular pot.
  • One heavy bottom pot, 6 to 8 litres/quarts, for all those wonderful slow cooking soups, stews and curries that we seem to fill ourselves with during the colder months. Also perfect for that big pot of Biryani you’re planning for your next dinner party.
  • One pressure cooker, 3 to 6 litres/quarts in capacity. I love my pressure cooker and don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s amazing in cooking lentils, dried beans and meat in considerably lesser time. If you need to avoid this purchase, I’d suggest investing in a good heavy bottom pot to enable the long, slow cooking process for these ingredients.
  • Two round skillets, or frying pans, preferably one non-stick. I would go with one medium and one large size, both with lids.
  • One non-stick flat skillet, or tawa: perfect for flipping rotis, as well as frying parathas. If you need to improvise, you can definitely go with the non-stick frying when making rotis and parathas, but in that case, try and get one that’s flat at the bottom as opposed to a more rounded one.
  • Two deep kadhais, or the Indian wok, one preferably non-stick with lids. These are perfect for deep frying as well as stir-frying. Classic dishes like Kadhai Chicken got its name due to the cooking method that explicitly requires it being cooked in a kadhai. For deep frying, I personally love thick aluminium ones, that give out perfectly crisp puris, kachoris and samosas. If you have to choose between the two, I would definitely stick with the aluminium one since it is the more traditional option.
  • One small saute pan, perfect for tadka or tempering.

Other utensils in my kitchen that are not essential, but definitely nice to have, include,

  • A cast iron skillet, perfect to sear meat on high heat and shoving it into the oven for a slow cook wonderful flavour.
  • A steamer. Before I bought one for myself, I easily did with placing a round baking dish on a small grill stand inside a large pot, tightly covered with a lid. Worked perfectly!

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Anita
    June 2, 2014 at 5:18 AM

    This is my first time visit at here and i am actually happy to read everthing at
    one place.

  • Reply
    Eugene Hall
    December 18, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    A pal encoraged me to look at this website, great post, fanstatic read… keep up the nice work!

  • Reply
    WT
    November 29, 2007 at 10:44 PM

    Thanks for your articles; your voice cheers my day and excites my desire to explore the world of foods, techniques and cooking.

  • Reply
    Mary
    November 24, 2007 at 11:46 AM

    i love this post, this is exactly what iam looking. thanks for posting this, take care….

  • Reply
    Mallika
    September 24, 2007 at 3:14 PM

    I feel the same way about my pressure cooker. Buying one was sooooo liberating… but do you find that food tastes different when cooked in it?

  • Reply
    Aaron C
    September 23, 2007 at 9:48 PM

    Hmm, have you ever found a good place to pick up some of these items? I wouldn’t want to hit the local discount store, it’s hard to really know the quality of things there.

  • Reply
    Paula
    September 18, 2007 at 1:09 AM

    I’d have to say that I love stainless steel pots and pans most of all but they have to have a copper or aluminum base. I would love to have all copper cookware because I just love the look of it…but I know that I couldn’t see myself sitting there polishing them every day to keep them looking good. I also like grill pans as I like to see the grill mark on meats and it also stops the meats from stewing in their own juice.

  • Reply
    wokandspoon
    September 17, 2007 at 9:38 AM

    I feel incredibly ignorent. I’ve never seen or heard of Kadhais before! I’ll have to check out kitchen shops more often!

  • Reply
    preeti bhandari
    September 15, 2007 at 5:01 AM

    Hi, I have all of these appliances except cast iron thing coz am hard core veggie, I love having appliances in my kitchen too 🙂

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    September 13, 2007 at 3:52 PM

    I’m definitely a cast iron cook. I have 2 on my stove top that seldom put away because I use them daily…for almost everything. I’m curious about the Kadhai. Is it much different in circumference or depth to the Chinese wok? Or, maybe what I think is a Chinese wok is actually a Kadhai?!

  • Reply
    Maninas
    September 12, 2007 at 3:28 AM

    speaking of scary kitchen gadgets, does anyone know what to do with a crockpot? 🙂 i’ve ‘inherrited’ one of a friend 2 months ago, and i’m still unsure how to use it… many recipes require adding cans of soup, which i don’t find appealing at all… any good recies? pls leave them in the comment section of my blog, if you can, and if that’s ok with meena. thanks.

  • Reply
    Maninas
    September 12, 2007 at 3:26 AM

    A friend of mine has a kadhai, so i tried cooking in one: they’re fantastic!

    As for copper, my scientist hubby-to-be says they’re very good beause they conduct heat well.

  • Reply
    Rasa Malaysia
    September 11, 2007 at 10:27 PM

    I got myself a pressure cooker many months ago but haven’t used it…because I am scared of it disfiguring me…I heard people got burned because of the powerful steam. 🙁

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    September 10, 2007 at 9:20 PM

    I love it when people share info on their kitchen tools and gadgets, seem our kitchen equipment is similiar.

  • Reply
    Pooja v
    September 10, 2007 at 3:25 PM

    I am a kitchen gadgets and tools etc freak. Copper bottomed utensils are gr8. We use them bk home but i dont have ne of those here in US.

  • Reply
    Mona
    September 10, 2007 at 2:14 PM

    Hi Meena, I’m a gadget freak too, my poor hubby knows tat better than anyone 😉 Well, Jaden, Kadai is similar to wok, using to deep fry food. Hmm Looking forward for the Part 2 and so on Meena 🙂

  • Reply
    Planethalder
    September 10, 2007 at 2:40 PM

    Meena, what sort of metal do you recommend for pans. My parents cooked with aluminium; I cook with Le Creuset and stainless steel; but I’ve also heard of people cooking in copper or copper-based pans. Do you have a preference?

  • Reply
    Steamy Kitchen
    September 10, 2007 at 12:48 PM

    I’ve never used a Kadhais before – I’ll have to check it out – I’m addicted to kitchen gadgets, appliances and equipment. How big is yours?

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