So, you’ve been watching My Kitchen Rules and you’ve decided that hey, you like cooking! And hey, if those muppets can cook for a dozen people, you certainly can! Well hold on just a second, Nigella. Have you taken a look at the kind of equipment you’re going to need first? Your mum’s kitchen isn’t going to cut it. We’ve made it easy for you with this list!
The equipment you need depends on the type of catering you plan on doing. Not to mention, you’ve got the option of renting or buying your equipment. Before you start shopping, take a look at our other article: What to Avoid When Renting or Buying Commercial Kitchen Equipment. Below, we will give a general overview of the basic things you’re likely to need…the rest is up to you.
Tools of the trade
Knives. Spatulas. Roasting pans. Storm Trooper oven mit. (Trust us, it’s a thing, you need to click here. Do it.) Depending on the kind of cooking you’re going to do, you’re going to need lots of knives, and a myriad of other utensils. Remember—quality counts when you’re trying to record those YouTube videos of you slicing tomatoes mid-air. Don’t cheap out.
Pans, pans, pans and pots
There is no lack of debate around Teflon versus stainless steel in this department (just quietly, go the stainless steel—you can’t scratch it off when you get a bit too frisky with the steel wool!) Whatever your preference, you’re going to need frypans, woks, saucepans, crockpots, stock pots and cauldrons etc.
Crockery, cutlery, glasses and serviettes
If you’re doing the full-service catering events, you’ll not only need to prepare the food but serve it too! When buying your crockery, cutlery and serviettes you want to make sure that you can replenish your stocks when the inevitable breakages happen. A few too many chardonnays and guests will throw caution—and plates—to the wind. Plain, easily replaced items are your best bet here.
Serving trays and storage containers
You’re going to need something to store your lovely culinary masterpieces in, and then you’re going to need something to serve them on! You can hit the commercial kitchen stores, or your local supermarket for these things. Best to keep cost in mind here—don’t go spending your whole budget on Tupperware.
A what?! We hear you, if you’ve never been involved with the catering trade before, you may not have heard of this gadget. A bratt pan can braise, boil, steam, poach, roast and fry! Huzzah! These big boys can cost you a pretty penny, so shop around to make sure you get the best buy. Unless of course, you’re a Pete Evens paleo convert, in which case you won’t need to cook anything, let alone deep fry it (save your money for kale. Lots and lots of kale).
Cook Top and oven
Your bratt pan can do a LOT—but it can’t do it all. If you’re catering to quite small events and running things out of your home kitchen, you may be able to get away with using your current fixtures. However, as the business grows (as of course, it will!) you are going to need to expand your operations. If you’re moving into a larger premises, this is one of the largest pieces of equipment you’re going to purchase. Take a look at how much space you’ve got, and what you can fit in here. Do a floor plan up, including measurements, and make sure you take it along on your shopping expeditions. There’s nothing worse than buying a shiny new piece of culinary wizardry, only to find it doesn’t fit into your alcove!
Nobody likes a cold fish (and we’re not talking about your mother in law). Seriously, keep your food hot for those catering events, or people will start to wonder if you really know what you’re doing. A bain-marie is an affordable piece of equipment (you can pick them up at your local large-format department store for next to nothing) but you need to make sure you are getting a reliable machine. Once again, shop around and make sure you get the size you need at a price you’re willing to pay.
Your regular fridge is not going to do the job—unless you clear out all that leftover spag bol you’ve been hoarding (no, just me?) The size of the fridge and freezer you need will obviously depend on the amount you’re catering, but suffice it to say that you’ll need a chest freezer and a commercial-size refrigerator to be safe.
Blender, mixer, Thermomix?
The several dozen counter-top appliances that are already crowding your kitchen (juicer for that juice cleanse you never actually did because…donuts) may finally come into their own! Again, depending on the amount of people you’re catering for at a time, your standard appliances may well be good enough for the job. If they’re not quality though, you’re going to need to upgrade to some heavy-duty versions. These are a few of the least expensive items, in the grand scheme of things, but make sure that if you’re buying new ones, you’re investing in quality.
Coffee Machine/Urn/Tea Station
Are you planning on catering events on-site? You’ll need to keep the masses not only fed, but watered. A coffee machine is a must, as are urns for keeping water hot, and milk cold. You’ll need tea and coffee cups, saucers and all of the hot/cold beverage paraphernalia such as tea bags, such, stirrers, water glasses and the like.
Again, if you’re catering to on-site events, you’re going to need some extra equipment. If you’re dishing out plates of food to the hungry crowd, you’re also going to need to collect those plates. A plate stacker is a handy little trolley you can use to collect your crockery and transport it for cleaning.
Unless you fancy giving your kids new pocket-money earning potential (not a bad idea) you’ll need to invest in a commercial sized dishwasher. Nobody wants to spend several miserable hours cleaning dishes, emptying and refilling a standard dishwasher, after they’ve just expended all their energy pulling off a huge catering event.