Cleaver/vegetable knife and cutting board

The one back home looks more like this.

Similar to the knife I'm using now.

For meat and melons, big vegetables, a knife with more weight is more comfortable/useful. Or, if you’re just violent like StephenandRicoandme, big knives are just more satisfying comfortable in their elevated danger level strength and potential. For peeling, picking out pits etc, smaller knives that are easier to manipulate work better.

Cutting board- if you’re using a heavy knife, don’t use a plastic cutting board because it’ll bounce the knife back up at you. Big circle blocks of wooden boards are super comfortable, but they require some initial maintenance (soaking in water, soaking in oil) and constant maintenance from then on (soaking in water, wetting it often), and if you’re not using it properly, it will split and crack (and no longer be usable). My mom bought for me this special board made of some specialized rubber. BTW- do not handle food that needs to be cooked on the same cutting surface with food that will not be cooked.
Tip from the seller: to choose a knife, there’s no point in clinking it against things or playing hokey pokey. They’re all cut from the same thing of metal. What you check for after you’ve decided your ideal weight, grip and size, is the straightness of the blade. Kind of like how it sucks if you step on your sword and it won’t straighten out, you obviously wouldn’t buy a bent sword either. Sword -> knife, you wouldn’t buy a bent knife.

Fan
Not exactly something you’d go and buy in a houseware section, because hopefully it’s built into your kitchen. Still, remember to use it! Some friends only turn it on when the smoke is intense. (I frown upon this.) Turn it on as soon as you know you’re going to have steam/smoke/etc.

Pots/pans
Elementary~ ^___^ If this dorm kitchen and I could handle a wok well enough for the purchase to be worth it, I’d totally go for it. But for now, just some simple pots and pans from Kmart and Chinatown supermarkets serve quite well. Careful with nonstick- don’t use scratchy scrubbing pads to wash them or metal utensils to handle whatever you’re cooking inside. No such problem with stainless steel, but your food would tend to stick more to non-nonstick stainless steel.

Rice cooker
MY LOVE. Zojirushi and Sanyo are good household brands, but while the computerized cookers make good rice, they also take half a lifetime to finish cooking. If you don’t care much and just want to whatever this, then any old rice cooker does the trick. So does a pot, actually. And I did cook rice in a frying pan once, so that’d work too. Ah, and be careful with nonstick inner pots! If you scratch it, you cannot use it! (scratched teflon = really bad…) My friend had to buy me a new rice cooker when her housemates scratched mine up ><

Spatula
Well, the only reason this needs mention is because I need to emphasize that you do not lean the rubber/plastic, meltable spatula on the edge of or inside a hot pot/pan. A lot of the time though, I’m just lazy and grab some chopsticks for the task. (With those, just make sure they don’t catch on fire!)

Steamer/steaming racks
For steaming food! I actually steam food quite often, and it’s always a hassle getting my food in and out of my tiny little pot. I’d probably be a lot happier with a dedicated steamer. However, space and sharing issues… *sigh*. So, when that’s out of the question, just steam things in a pot using steaming racks to separate your dish from the water.

Vacuum Cooker
Another love. I use my vacuum cooker for soup, both regular soup and dessert soup. Here’s a wiki about vacuum cookers. They cook on their own, keeping the temperature near constant, so it saves energy and you’re able to leave it unsupervised for hours.  The picture is of the one I have, and is linked to Amazon. It’s pretty expensive, but using it as often and as carefully as I do, it’s totally worth it. I don’t let anyone else borrow it, though.

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