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Pantry Advice

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I’m just beginning to explore the culinary world. I grew up learning how to cook from my mother, but it didn’t become a major interest until recently. Now I have bits and pieces of knowledge that my mother taught me (mostly southern cooking), but know little about other types of cooking.

I’m also looking for info on what to stock for a small (due to limited space not by choice) kitchen in terms of a pantry, spices, and such.

NOTE: I want to learn and expand my culinary skills, knowledge, and experiences.
post #2 of 8
Thread Starter 

Stuff to have around

I'm specifically looking for stuff that are good to keep around. So if I have to cook on an unexpected budget shortfall, i can come up with something.
post #3 of 8
Go slowly, don't overwhelm yourself, there are literally hundreds of cuisines to try out.

With herbs and spices, buy as little as frequently as possible. All herbs and spices contain volatile oils, which have the flavour. These are affected by long storage (stale), damage from sunlight, humid or too dry conditions. Stay away from those teensy $4.00 glass bottles at the mega market, as well as the bulk spice bins at the mega market. If there's ethnic stores around, you'll find the good stuff there. If you have a few windowsills, there's no reason why you can't grow some common herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano. I've got a bay tree growing out in front, nothing like nipping out with a pair of scissors to snip off some fresh herbs with all four burners going full blast....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #4 of 8
Foodpump is right go slow, because you can get bombarded with all kinds of stuff. I don't know if foodpump will agree with this but I would home in on one particular cusine, the one that interested me most and go from there.Because take it from me you will be tempted to buy every gadget and item you see. I have the wrong name here actually I should be called Mr Gadget because my kitchen is full of them. Thing is I use them all and some are multi taskers which makes them even more valuable. I am not much on the hot side of things my main thing is pastry so that is how I stock my pantry.
post #5 of 8
I'd recommend meal bases such as pasta, rice, couscous and grains like kasha, quinoa and corn meal. Right there you have the possibility of making pilafs, polenta and pasta dishes (didn't plan the alliterations).

Other things that are good to have on hand:

Italian/mediterranean: olives, capers, anchovies, olive oil-packed tuna, water-packed red peppers, cannelini beans, chick peas

Asian: Sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili paste, fish sauce, udon noodles and other Asian noodles, canned water chestnuts (I don't like bamboo shoots, but those are useful), fresh ginger (wrapped tightly or vacuum packed and stored in the freezer), coconut milk, curry paste, dried shrimp

If you've got freezer space, some of these vacuum-packed or tightly wrapped goodies can help: pancetta, prosciutto, pork tenderloin, fish fillets, chicken breasts. Broth or stock (chicken, beef, veggie, veal, fish) frozen in small amounts or even in ice cube trays can give you the basis for sauces and soups. Some frozen veggies can be used in pasta dishes, stir fries and soups.

As for spices: I recommend buying small jars from Penzey's. You can get them online at reasonable cost if you don't live near a store. Their site is very informative and they're a reputable company. Here's their link:http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/shophome.html

I have a FoodSaver vacuum machine that I like very much. This can give your dry pantry items and freezer-stored items longer life. The prices are coming down, so if you can swing it, I'd recommend it. I use it almost every day.
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post #6 of 8
Make sure you get what you're going to use. No need to use space for things you aren't sure of.

Here is a Pantry Basics Checklist you can download. Use Acrobat Reader to view.
post #7 of 8
Try to buy whole spices and herbs as much as possible, and get a little coffee bean grinder (like a mini-food processor) and use it to grind the whole spices as needed, and crumple/crumble the whole herbs as needed.

As much as possible, I try to grow fresh herbs in the window, or fashion yourself a little greenhouse using clear vinyl from the hardware store and a plastic box or something to which you can cut/drill holes in for ventilation and drainage.

Mezzaluna is right, the Foodsaver vacuum sealer is indispensable and her quote "use it almost everyday" is not an exaggeration!

post #8 of 8


Similar circumstances here...only it was my Grandmother and Iowa fare. Home Cookin' during the depression. (lard and onion sandwiches...urch)

You use the same basic techniques in anything you prepare. You'll discover that you have all kinds of learned talents. Different spices, different ingredients, but it's all good.

How much space do you have? Are you asking about all types of dry ingredients or just types of spices?

Spice racks are good when you have a lot of vertical space. Your spices need to be kept out of heat and humidity. I've converted closets into pantries. It might be something to consider. There are tons of nice adjustable racks. (But then my focus isn't particularly on clothing...just jeans and my chefware)

What you put in it is entirely up to you based on what you intend to prepare. What you need depends on what you plan to cook.

Focus on one type for awhile, then when you're comfortable with it, move on to another.

I would also suggest getting some locking SS canisters for larger masses of ingredients that you'd buy in bulk, like flour, sugar, kosher salt.

Personally I don't like to use anything that is pre-ground if I don't have to. Whole grain seeds, mustard, cumin, corriander, juniper, peppercorns (all colors). Growing your own fresh herbs is a great idea, providing you have the space. Or you can put nice plant racks in windows. Fresh basil and tarragon is much more interesting than an Ivy plant I think.

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