Essentials and basics for new cooks


Nicole Hasek

Cooking oils are an essential part to a beginner’s kitchen. Cooks’ Emporium has a tasting table.

Cooking meals without burning the food or over-salting sauce may seem intimidating to some college students. A study from the University of North Carolina shows that 14% of college students don’t cook.

Being equipped with basic cooking utensils and supplies can make this skill easier to get into. Locally, Cooks’ Emporium in Downtown Ames is filled with anything someone starting out could need. In the past few years, owner, Mindy Bergstrom, has seen more and more students coming to the store.

“Lately, I’ve been using a Get It Right Spoonula for a lot of my everyday cooking and baking,” Bergstrom said. “It is a matchup of a spoon and a spatula, so it has enough scraping capabilities to grab everything off the sides of bowls, but it also can scoop well for how it is shaped.”

The Get It Right Spoonula is curved and can bend to best scrape around pans.

Bergstrom also recommends that everyone have a pan, chef knife, All-in-One Epicurean cutting board, stainless steel measuring cups, a can opener, and a strainer.

All-in-One cutting board from Epicurean.

“These are important because if you have the essentials, you would be able to create some delicious meals at home and share with others,” Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom recommends buying products that will last a long time for people who will be cooking regularly. Some brands they carry include Hestan Cookware, Le Creuset, Wusthof Cutlery, Get It Right and Nordicware.

For cheaper but potentially less durable options, culinary science club Vice President Izebele Jaime gets many of her pots and pans from Walmart or Target.

“You don’t really need anything fancy starting out. It’s all creativeness,” Jaime said. “Inexpensive is a good way to go when you’re first starting to cook, considering you may not know how to correctly take care of your equipment when first starting.”

Along with Bergstrom, she also highly recommends for anyone who is interested in cooking get a chef’s knife.

“A lot of people who start out cooking use a paring knife, which you don’t have as much control as when you use a chef’s knife,” Jaime said.

Above is a paring knife, and below is a chef’s knife. (Nicole Hasek)

According to Jaime, pasta is a meal that is versatile and easy for beginners. There are a variety of sauces, meats and noodles that can be used. This also gives new cooks practice in making different sauces and meats that can be added to other dishes.

Simple ingredients, such as butter and cooking oils, are important to always have in the kitchen. Jaime also recommends having lemons, salt and vegetables that can be added to many dishes.
Some of the top-selling items at Cooks’ Emporium are their on-tap Olivelle Olive Oil and Vinegars. They provide free samples so buyers can find what they like the best.

Both public and private cooking workshops are offered at Cooks’ Emporium, where all ages are welcome. They see high schoolers, college students and families with their kids attend.

“We offer cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops, so depending if you just want to watch, learn and taste or want to learn better with a hands-on approach, we offer both options for what is most comfortable with our customers,” Bergstrom said.