Fortunately, most south Indian cooking can be done with equipment that you already have in your kitchen. When my mother-in-law was young, she cooked in stainless steel or brass pots and served meals with stainless steel plates and cups. The introduction of non-stick pans has revolutionized Indian cooking making cooking and clean up a breeze.
I have grouped the equipment into different categories so you know if I think it is a necessity before you go out and buy it:
Skillets, large and small
Round bottomed, deep frying pan to fry puris and pappads
Sauce pans, large and small
Dutch oven or large pot
Stainless steel mixing bowls, medium and large – steel is recommended because batter rises better during fermentation in steel
Sieve – a large strainer used to filter our solid particles that may be in flour
Grater – used to grate coconut and ginger
Blender or food processor - since Indian cooking requires so much chopping, these can save a lot of time.
Coffee grinder- used to grind spices into powder and saves time. Just don’t use it again for grinding coffee.
Masala dabba spice box - a round wooden or stainless steel container with several inner compartments that is used to provide quick access to the most commonly used spices. The outer lid fits tightly to keep the spices fresh.
Mortar and pestle - used to grind spices and herbs.
Pressure cooker- this dramatically reduces the time it takes to cook food, frequently used for rice, potatoes, lentils and meat as well as for steaming.
Steamer - either a steamer basket that fits into a pan or an electric unit.
Tandoor - to be complete, this is a traditional round clay oven that is used to barbeque meats and breads over charcoal. These are most often found in restaurants but a few models are available for home use.
Idli maker - a set of trays with indentations in them that fit in a rack that is used to steam idlis
Murukku press - a device into which dough for various styles of murukkus is placed and the dough is extruded through holes of different sizes. Old ones used a wooden plunger while new ones have a trigger that do not require as much strength.
Decoction coffee maker - a stainless steel coffee maker with four parts that is used to make delicious south Indian coffee.
Belan - a rolling pin
Chakla- a flat round platform of wood or marble that is used with a belan, rolling pin, to roll out dough for chapattis
Chimta - flat tongs used to roast rotis or papads on an open flame
Coconut grater - a hand held scraper that is dragged across the flesh of a coconut to create coconut scrapings.
Degchi - a short, flat stainless steel pot that has copper on the outside used for cooking. It is short and doesn’t have a handle.
Handi - a stainless steel or aluminum pot with a heavy bottom used for cooking. It is unique because the neck is narrower than the base and it doesn’t have a handle. Its shape helps retain the flavor of the food.
Jhajri - A round metal spatula with holes in it that is used when frying foods and allowing the excess oil to drain.
Kadhai - a traditional cast iron pan, shaped like a small deep wok that is used for frying.
Katori - a small bowl that holds about a half a cup used to serve dals and curries.
Pakkad - heavy duty tongs that are used to remove hot pots from the stove.
Parat - a metal plate with sides that is used for kneading dough.
Sarashi - a pair of metal tongs used for turning hot food and bread while cooking.
Tava or Dosakallu - a cast iron skillet used to cook Indian breads and some shallow frying.
Thaali - a stainless steel plate from which food is eaten usually seen in restaurants for Thaali meals.