The Hipster’s Cookbook: Cooking Essentials 101


Cooking a nice meal is so easy once you know how to do it, but the biggest thing that discourages learning how to is not having the right tools available. These first couple of columns are going to concentrate on cooking essentials  – things that if you are interested in cooking something more than eggs and ramen that you need to have in your kitchen.

Cooking Essential #3: A set (or a duo) of knives

I have the urge to make a Crocodile Dundee reference in this edition of The Hipster’s Cookbook, but I’ll refrain. This is cooking and jokes about hunting knives have no place in it, unless you plan on hunting some big game and making some venison jerky. I didn’t get a good, solid knife until this year and it has changed my life. Like most college kids the knife I’d have for the past five years was an all-purpose knife that I got at Ikea for maybe $5. It was somewhat sharp and got the job done most of the time. But when it came to doing more complicated tasks such as cutting the fat off of meat, chopping harder vegetables, slicing through a squash, et cetera, it failed miserably. Ikea knives aren’t cut out (not pun intended) for adult cooking.  So I figured it was time to upgrade.

Apartment kitchens are small and I have zero counter space to have a nice knife set, and I’m sure most of you guys don’t either. Who needs 11 different types of knives when you’re only going to use three? For the most basic cooking stuff all you need are a chef’s knife and a decent santoku knife. Ok, now what’s the difference? A chef’s knife is probably what you have in your kitchen now. It’s an everyman’s knife and is especially useful for cutting meat and heartier fruits and veggies. A santoku knife is another common chef’s knife, but because of it’s shorter, wider design it’s better for chopping. You can get both in a set, along with some other knives, from anywhere between $30 to $200. It’s really up to you how much you want to spend and how much you’ll be cooking with it. A set that’s under $50 and good quality should get you a long way.

One thing that my new chef’s knife comes in handy for is cutting sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a bitch to cut because they’re so firm, but they taste so good once you do end up hacking through their interior and cooking them up. They also make for an awesome, healthy side dish. The recipe from Bon Appetit‘s Food Lover’s Cleanse this year is an excellent to your side dish repertoire.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes (from Bon Appetit‘s Food Lover’s Cleanse)

1 or 2 large sweet potatoes, skin on
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 red pepper flakes

Other stuff you’ll need:
A large-ish bowl
A baking sheet
Aluminum foil
Olive oil (about 2 tbsp)

– Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside

– After scrubbing your sweet potatoes to remove any dirt, slice them into 1/2″ rounds. Put the slices into a large bowl and toss with olive oil, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.

– Put the sweet potatoes rounds on your baking sheet and cooking for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges are crisp but the center is soft. Serve with chicken, beef, or really any meat or fish that is tasty.