Any cook's essentials Boston.com
Any craftsperson will tell you that having the right tools and materials is crucial for getting the job done. The same goes for a cook - pots, pans, and utensils get you part of the way to dinner, but you also need the right ingredients. But where to begin? Even if you have just learned to boil water, every home cook should have on hand a few fundamental ingredients. These are the basic items that will get used day in and day out. They are building blocks for a wide variety of dishes and last-minute meals, and if you keep them in stock, you'll save yourself a frantic dinnertime trip to the grocery store - or the pizzeria. Let's start with the short list of must-have items.

(Photos by Heath Robbins)

Beyond that, you will find yourself customizing your pantry to suit your own style of cooking. But for experienced and newbie cooks alike, we have some recommendations for staples both essential and versatile.

Basic Fridge Foods
Carrots
Celery
Parsley
Scallions
Milk
Unsalted butter
Plain low-fat
yogurt
Cheese
(Parmesan, plus a good melter like
Monterey Jack or
Colby)

Extras in the Fridge
Bacon, prosciutto
(or good ham)
Heavy cream

Vegetables
Potatoes
(both russets and
Yukon Golds, if you have the space)

Red onion
Ginger
Jalapeno peppers

Freezer Foods
Shrimp
Peas
Spinach
Corn
Fruit (peaches or blueberries are good)
Nuts (walnuts, slivered almonds, and pine nuts, if you have space)

Packaged Goods
Tomato paste
Chipotle chilies
in adobo
Chickpeas
Black beans
Cannellini beans
Raisins and/
or dried
cranberries or
apricots
Anchovies
Capers
Roasted red
peppers
Kalamata and
green olives
Honey

Dried mushrooms
Toasted sesame
oil
Rice vinegar
and cider
vinegar
Soy sauce
Worcestershire
sauce
Mayonnaise
Dried spaghetti
Dried egg noodles
Dry bread crumbs
Hot pepper sauce
(like Tabasco)

Dried Herbs and Spices
Thyme
Oregano
Bay leaves

Ground cinnamon
Ground coriander
Ground cumin
Sweet curry
powder
Ground cayenne
pepper
Ground allspice
Ground cloves
Nutmeg
Chili powder
Paprika
Fennel seeds
Granulated garlic

Alcohol
Red wine
Vermouth
Dry sherry
Brandy

-- Adam Ried