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The Modern Man’s Kitchen Essentials

A lot of men look at cooking like an extreme sport. They think it takes hours of practice to master and that you’ve got to have a lot of specially designed equipment just to get started. But the truth is the list of kitchen essentials is surprisingly short. With a couple of essentials and a little know-how, you can make short work of cooking tons of tasty dishes. To get you started, we’ve compiled this quick guide to the kitchen essentials. We’ll help you trim down your list of cooking paraphernalia so that you can save your budget for some awesome fitting suits (just sayin’).

If you’re a regular Compass reader, you’ve probably got that essential suit that works for just about every situation from a wedding to a funeral, a board meeting to happy hour. Well, think of these kitchen essentials the same way. And we start in the same place that we start when looking for essential suits – with the materials: carbon steel and cast-iron.

Kitchen Essential 1 – A Carbon Steel Knife


Suisin High Carbon Steel Gyutou by Korin

Good cooking starts with good food prep and good food prep starts with a good knife. Selecting a suitable workhorse blade is the difference between slicing and dicing with more precision than Tom Brady or blowing it like the Seahawks in the kitchen (too soon Seattle fans?).When you are starting a knife collection, a single 5” to 8” chef’s knife is all you need to cover all sorts of duties, from carving roast chicken to chopping carrots. Though a small pairing knife and serrated bread knife can be very useful, start your collection with one really well-made chef’s knife. We like carbon steel for the job. Here’s why. The metal of carbon steel means a knife that, with some TLC, stays razor sharp for a very long time (we’re talking decades).
On the other hand, carbon steel is not the knife to bang around, leave wet, and throw it with a heap of dishes to be done the next day. First, be sure to keep it dry. After a series of chops and slices, give it a quick towel dry (while doing your best impression of a sword wielding gladiator). You should know that even with your most diligent efforts, little splotches may start to develop along the blade and dots of rust may appear. This will happen more rapidly if you chop lots of citrus and onions, but that doesn’t mean to leave this sports car in the garage. A certain amount of visible aging is not only to be expected, but should be embraced. The spots are just affirmation of a tool well used. Just before putting your knife to bed after an evening of use, take some olive oil, or better yet, a neutral mineral oil, and lather your blade down to protect the metal.

Kitchen Essential 2 – A Cast Iron Pan


9″ Frying Skillet by Borough Furnace

A fresh cast iron pan is like your grandfather’s exquisite tweed jacket that was passed down to you. Cast iron cookware will follow you from home to home and outlive just about everything else in your kitchen.Why this pan? When cast-iron warms up, it thoroughly distributes and retains heat. So, it can handle everything from beautifully searing meat on the stove to slow roasting vegetables in the oven. Okay, what’s the catch? The pan needs to be seasoned before it is used, and then slightly maintained throughout its life. To do so, turn the burner on high and lightly oil the pan. Let it smoke, cool, and repeat this process a few times. This helps create a thin layer of broken down oil, which renders your pan virtually non-stick. All it takes is a gentle cleaning (never using a very abrasive brush), and your work will last. Do this every year or so and, over the years, the pan will develop a patina like your favorite brown leather shoes.

Eat In In Style

Kitchen duty calls for off-duty style, and that means essentials like a classic Oxford shirt. Versatile as always, an Oxford will get any job done, including those in the kitchen. So loosen your top button, avoid direct contact with the oils mentioned above, and your Oxford will put you on your way to looking effortlessly cool in the kitchen.

Have we inspired you to get cooking? What’s on your menu for this Valentine’s Day? (Yes, we realize you could read that question a few different ways. Keep your responses PG-13, please.)

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6 thoughts on “The Modern Man’s Kitchen Essentials”

  1. Jim Wood says:

    Skip the 6 inch Chef’s knife if you are starting out with your first knife. An 8 inch knife is much more versatile, and, in fact, if you really mean business in the kitchen go for a 10 inch knife. All in all, that was a nice article.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks for the kudos, Jim. Glad we could offer up some good ideas.

      For some, like a guy who likes to buy whole chickens and cut them into pieces or roast them whole and then cut them up, a smaller knife can actually be an advantage for jobs like getting the wings and thighs off the carcass. For those who need to cut up bigger pieces of meat or large, thick skinned vegetables, like acorn squash, a larger knife can be more effective. Our philosophy is the same as our philosophy on clothing, we’re proponents of tailoring your stuff to your needs.

  2. Blake says:

    Can you recommend a good value knife and pan?

    1. Black Lapel says:

      The knife and pan highlighted above are exceptional pieces of cookware and have appropriately high price tags. They’re great investments, and for a carbon steel knife, you’re going to have to fork over about $100 for a good one. As for the cast iron, you can find quality at a lower price point. Check out Lodge brand cast iron pans for budget-friendly alternatives.

  3. Dwayne Brown says:

    As a single father, I love this! I am a fan of simple, classic style and these cooking suggestions conform to that idea.

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Glad we could be of service to you, Dwayne.

      Single parents have to have game in the kitchen. The most important thing kids ask you for is your time and your attention. If keeping everything in a single pan can save precious time and let you give them more attention, a cast iron pan and carbon steel knife are worth their rather hefty weight in gold.

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