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Kitchen Basics for College Kids

Updated on March 27, 2013

When I was a child way back in the 70's and 80's eating out was a huge deal. Just going to Burger King or Long John Silver's was a special treat. My mother cooked most meals for my family. Boy have things changed. Fast forward to 2013 and eating at a restaurant or a fast food joint is the norm with most families.

Most families today are so busy working and participating in outside activities there is simply no time to cook. As a result many of the young people who are leaving for college or leaving to start their own families don't know their way around a kitchen. I wrote this hub because my own son is leaving for college in the fall and I wanted him to have a good foundation in the culinary arts. If you or someone you know is leaving home for the first time I hope you read this hub and find it helpful- and please feel free to ask me any questions you may have or add any information I may have left out.

Stocking Your Kitchen

Just like a successful builder has a myriad of tools at his disposal successful cooks need to have a toolbox of basic cooking supplies. It isn't necessary to buy expensive brand name products-you can pick most of these items up at your local dollar store or discount store. I've coded these inexpensive items with a *:

  • A set of dry measuring cups *
  • A set of measuring spoons *
  • A liquid measuring cup (a liquid measuring cup differs from dry measuring cups because it has a pour spout) *
  • A set of wooden or plastic mixing spoons *
  • A plastic or metal spatula *
  • A plastic bowl scraper *
  • A variety of mixing bowls in different sizes (You can pick up plastic bowls at the dollar store-but I recommend getting either a set of metal or ceramic bowls. The plastic bowls aren't as sturdy and different foods can stain them.)
  • A pitcher *
  • A cutting board *
  • Tongs *
  • A whisk *
  • A can opener *
  • Kitchen scissors*
  • Knives: paring, serrated, steak
  • A set of pots and pans (this is one item that you should splurge to get good quality)
  • Cookie sheets
  • A meat thermometer
  • A loaf pan * (great for things like breads, sweet breads, and meatloaf)
  • Potholders *

Small Appliances

  • A coffee maker-it isn't necessary to spend a lot of money on a coffee maker. You can pick one up fairly inexpensively. If you want a single serve maker like a Keurig you will spend at least $100.
  • A small mixer
  • A toaster
  • A blender
  • A crock pot (nothing is better than coming home from a long day at school to a hot pot of homemade chili, soup or stew)
  • A panini maker (this is a splurge-if you can afford it get it)


Measuring dry ingredients like flour or sugar is fairly simple-just remember to measure above either the container the ingredient came in, a bowl, or the sink. You can make a big mess if you don't. Use a spoon to fill the measuring cup to almost overflowing then take the back side of a knife and scrape the excess back into bag. It's really important you get into the habit of measuring this way especially when making baked goods like muffins. Recipes call for exact measurements-if you don't measure accurately your recipe will not turn out.

Measuring brown sugar is different. Brown sugar is simply white sugar mixed with molasses and when you measure it you have to pack the ingredient into the measuring cup. Packing it takes out the air and gives you an accurate measurement.

Measuring ingredients like salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda is done the same way as measuring flour and sugar-you simply use your measuring spoons instead. By the way-it takes 3 teaspoons to equal one tablespoon (just thought I'd throw that one in there)

If you need to measure liquid ingredients use a liquid measuring cup. A liquid measuring cup has the different measurements marked on it. When you are checking to see if you have the right amount of liquid set the cup down on a flat surface and look at it from the front. If you look from the top you may get an inaccurate measurement.

Measuring butter or margarine: The outside wrappers of butter or margarine has cup measurements on them. One stick of either equals one half cup. The same thing goes for Crisco you buy in sticks.

Simple Substitutions

If you are in the middle of a recipe and discover you don't' have an ingredient don't panic. Here are some common substitutions you can use:

  • Butter, margarine, and shortening are interchangeable. If you don't have one just substitute the other.
  • If your recipe calls for oil and you don't have any simply use melted margarine or butter. Use the product wrapper to measure the correct amount, plop it in a cup and pop it in the microwave-presto oil!
  • Baking Soda and Baking Powder: Both of the items are leavening agents but you CAN'T substitute baking soda for baking powder. You can, however, substitute baking powder for baking soda if you have cream of tartar. Simply mix 2 parts cream of tartar with 1 part baking powder.
  • If your recipe calls for heavy cream simply substitute 1 cup whole milk plus 1/3 cup unsalted butter.
  • You can make your own buttermilk by mixing 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon or vinegar. Or you can substitute 1 cup of sour cream or 1 cup of plain yogurt for the buttermilk.
  • Need breadcrumbs but don't have any? Crush up crackers or potato chips to use instead. Better yet toast day old bread and crumble it into pieces.

Kitchen Tips and Tricks

  • Always grease your cookie sheets and cake pans when you are cooking and baking-even if the recipe tells you that it isn't necessary. Nothing is worse preparing a meal then having it stick to the pan.
  • Bake with room temperature ingredients. Let your butter soften before you try to mix it with the sugar-it won't combine correctly if it is too cold. The same goes for eggs. Be sure they are room temperature before you add them to your mixing bowl.
  • Brown sugar will turn hard if you don't keep it in a sealed bag. If you find your brown sugar has solidified put it in a container and place it into your microwave next to a cup of water. Zap it for a minute-if it is still hard zap it again for 30 seconds.
  • Baking chocolate is not the same as the chocolate bar you buy at the store. Don't eat it.
  • Buy inexpensive spices at the discount store. You can get things like italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, cinnamon, and lemon pepper seasonings for less than $1.

I hope you enjoyed reading this hub and found the information it contained helpful. It doesn't begin to really scratch the surface of the information you will need to become a successful cook but it does give you a jumping off point. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them-I look forward to hearing from you.


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    • mikicagle profile image

      mikicagle 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      SallyTX thank you so much. I appreciate your voting. When I wrote this hub I thought it would be useful and go over well-but noone seems to want to read it :(

      Hopefully you will the first of many readers.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 5 years ago from Only In Texas!

      Great, practical advice! Most people don't have the first notion about stocking a kitchen and cooking a meal. It's definitely something we all need to learn as times get tougher and the cost of living goes through the roof! Voted up & useful! ;D