Wednesday, March 9, 2011

5 Kitchen Registry Tips

There are few things I long for more than a well-stocked kitchen, and so building our registry was something akin to picking out the gates of Heaven (less heavenly? The four-hour schlep through Bed, Bath, & Beyond). I've pined for, researched, and finally decided on my ultimate kitchen dream list, and these are a few of the tips and tidbits I've picked up:

#1 Avoid sets
The pots and pans section can be confusing. Copper, anodized steel, non-stick, aluminum--not to mention sizes, weights, colors. It can be tempting to avoid the mess and go with a set. The problem with sets? All those different metals are good for different jobs and when you get a cookie-cutter set, you end up with big gaps in your cooking. Pick and choose what you feel most comfortable with, but in general you want a huge nonstick pan (upwards of 12"), a small nonstick pan (8"), and a medium cast iron pan (10"). Pots should be in a variety of sizes in a sturdy material like steel--non-stick is usually not necessary. You want at least 1 oven-to-stove pot (a Dutch oven), one very small pot (1qt), and one medium size pot (at least 4.5 qts).

Onion goggles, for all your onion-cutting, eye-protecting needs
#2 Get your gadgets to do double duty
Kitchen stores are full of gadgets that promise to save tomatoes, peel garlic, and cut your corners. What they really do is take up space in your drawer. Some gadgets will definitely be worthwhile, depending on how much you use them, but it can be hard to weed out the superfluous ones. The trick? If the item it's supposed to work on is part of its name (lemon zester, nutmeg mill), you can usually substitute something else (microplane grater will get both those jobs done). Unless you only eat lemons and nutmeg. Then have a ball, weirdo.

Liquidize your 401k in this copper-plated tea kettle!
#3 Most expensive does not equal best
With the resurgence of gourmet home cooking, it can be easy to drop a bundle on the most expensive tools and trappings on the market. For the most part, though, a lot of this expensive cookware isn't necessary and cheaper, just-as-good alternatives can be substituted. Which makes sense! Unless your kitchen feeds into Per Se, you're not going to need full professional sets of anything. Splurge on the few things you really want and plan to use regularly (my big-ticket item? A high quality ice cream maker), but otherwise you don't need Le Crueset cast iron cookware (there are cheaper alternatives from celebrity chef lines like Rachel Ray, Emeril Lagasse, and Martha Stewart) or Japanese sashimi knives (good German steel will get you through most situations).

Still good!
#4 But, at the same time, go for quality
There's a temptation, especially when other people are doing the buying, to edge towards the cheaper versions of things. Remember that this is your time to stock up on the items that will last you for the rest of your lives, and, unsurprisingly, that will cost more than what it took to fill your dorm room kitchen. Before you decide on anything, research it, read reviews, pay attention to the brand and history of a product. Avoid plastic and go instead for wood, metal, or ceramic. Take a look at your parents' kitchens and ask them what was on their registries that they still use--and stick with those brands.

Happy Wedding!
#5 Online shopping is a godsend, but check it out in person
I loooove me some online shopping. And online registry shopping is genius. You have more choices, less pressure, and the ability to look up consumer/professional reviews with the click of a Google. I spent weeks honing our registry list, but in the end I knew I was going to have to check everything out in person, so one snowy evening with Dave in tow, I trekked out to Bed, Bath, & Beyond where I spent the next several hours running down the list and Dave curled up in a corner with his iPod like an abandoned child (every half-hour or so I would pat his head while I walked by, and he seemed to enjoy that...). And as much as I loved the ease of the online registry, seeing things in person clarified a lot and helped me realize what was really quality, what was misshapen and poorly designed, and what everything actually looked like (like, don't buy shotglasses thinking they're drinking glasses...).

Special #6, for the wedding guests!
Remember that everything on your registry that your guests asked for, they want. I get it, you want to be the cool wedding guest who buys the mini deep-fryer (no, Dave made me take it off), but think about the things people will really need. I promise you, a full set of cookware will make more people happy than a cotton candy machine (no, again!), and if you come on the registry late and there's still some essential piece of cookware--a pot or pan or a knife--on the list, your to-be-wedded friends will love you for filling the gap.

Good luck, and happy registering!

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