I don’t care what the ad says, the kitchen at your rental place will not be “fully stocked.” I’m a travel minimalist whose happiest vacations required only a pair of shorts and some flip-flops, but even I bring a few things to rental places if I’m going to do any cooking at all. What follows are my recommendations for the absolute drop-dead minimum gear you’ll need at the little cottage you rented for the holidays this year, as well as what you can probably leave at home.
Four kitchen items you absolutely must bring to an Airbnb
A single sharp knife
I’m not sure if it’s part of Airbnb’s terms-of-service, but every vacation rental unit, from the highest priced to lowest, contains exactly three knives. Two have broken handles, and all of them dull as hell. So you must bring your own sharp knife wherever you go. But you only need one. You actually only need one decent chef’s knife at home. Pairing knife? Please. Just work on your knife-skills. Make sure you pack it safely: Tape some cardboard around the blade.
A good frying pan
There’s nothing worse than trying to fry something with a the scratched-up non-stick monstrosities that come standard in all rental properties. It isn’t going to heat up evenly, and will shed tiny flakes of Teflon into your morning eggs. So you have to bring your own frying pan on vacation. But again: You only need to bring one. I like stainless steel, but some people like cast iron. (The fools!)
Rental unit kitchens are often full of half-full olive oil bottles from previous short-term tenants, but bring your own anyway. You don’t have any idea how long that olive oil has been sitting there, and many disgusting people cook with cheap arse olive oil I wouldn’t use to lube an engine. (Bonus tip: Don’t use olive oil on your car’s engine at all!)
Salt and pepper
People often leave spices behind on their vacations, so salt and pepper might be stashed somewhere in the kitchen, but still, since you basically can’t cook anything without these two culinary staples, you should pack some up just in case.
A bajillion to leave behind
Most rental properties I’ve stayed at have corkscrews, sometimes many of them, left behind by previous tenants, but if they don’t, opening a bottle of wine without a corkscrew is not the most difficult thing in the world, as you can see in this ancient Lifehacker video. Really you just need to push the cork in with something. Plus: Remember what happened the last time you had to improvise to open a bottle of wine on vacation? When Gary spilled it all over his shoes trying to do that smash-it-into-the-wall-in-a-boot thing? Hilarious vacation highlight!
Spices (other than salt and pepper)
People often leave spices behind on their vacations, so I like the challenge and innovative thinking it takes to create a meal with them. Make chicken breading with red pepper flakes, cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, and Sugar Corn Pops? Why not? I’m on vacation!
A coffee maker
Most places have a coffee maker, but if they don’t, brewing a cup without a Keurig or whatever is really easy. You’re just pouring boiling water through some ground up beans, not reinventing the wheel. So just boil some water in a pot, throw in some coffee, and pour it in a cup without the grounds getting in there. Civilisation has made us weak.
Everything else Bon Appetit recommends
Speaking of civilisation, this Bon Appetit list of “essentials” to bring to a vacation rental is similar to many internet-bring-this-lists: Wildly overinflated. It includes a micro-planar, two different kinds of frying pans, two rimmed baking sheets, a digital thermometer, and a blender, as well as a big plastic storage bin to transport it all. I get that they’re more civilized than I am over at their fancy cooking magazine, but a blender? As an essential item? Why not just stay home?
Bon Appetit’s list of essentials also suggests you “create a shared Google doc and get pairs to sign up for dinner and cleanup duty.” They probably weren’t going to ask me, but I’m not going on vacation with Bon Appetit. It really wouldn’t work out.