A well-equipped kitchen makes all the difference when you’re making meals at home. Here is a narrowed-down list of the essentials for food prep. These are the true workhorses of my kitchen – the things I reach for every day and are always up for the job.
So, if you’re looking for just the basics for your first kitchen, crafting a wedding registry, or wanting to minimize your current cookware supply, this is a good place to start!
Cutting Boards – Plastic is the most utilitarian option. They’re super durable and easy to care for. Get a set of 3 and use one for raw meat, one for fruit/veggies/bread, and one for cooked meat. We also have a wooden one which I keep on the counter partly because it’s pretty, and partly so it’s always easy-access for frequent tasks like slicing fruit or making pb+j’s. It’s also nice for cheese or snack boards!
Knives – Sharp knives are a definite essential! The three listed below can handle just about everything, so I’d recommend starting with those and adding more to your collection as needed:
Measuring Cups – One set of measuring spoons and cups gets the job done (though occasional handwashing is required if lots of recipes are being made). I also LOVE and highly recommend glass liquid measuring cups. They’re useful for everything from heating up milk or water in the microwave, reserving pasta water, scrambling eggs, and the bigger sizes can be used for mixing cookie dough or making these overnight oats!
Utensils – Everything you’ll need for all the grabbing, mixing, flipping, scooping, and stirring that happens in the kitchen.
Essential for mixing, but can do double-duty for serving, too. If you get a set with lids, you can even use them for easy leftover or food prep storage. I recommend at least one set. Glass is the most versatile (and convenient that they’re oven/microwave safe), but melamine is nice as a lightweight, low-maintenance option.
A simple box grater is an all-around great tool for shredding cheese or produce or chocolate. They can even be used for slicing mandolin-style. I also love a microplane for zesting citrus and getting the most perfectly grated parmesan to sprinkle on pasta.
It’s really hard to drain pasta without one, they’re also useful for washing produce.
By far the easiest way to safely open a can! A good, easy-to-use can opener will spare you so much frustration in the kitchen.
Salt + Pepper Mills
Having easily-accessible salt and pepper makes it so easy to season food well as it’s cooking. A salt cellar is nice for pinching salt or measuring out salt easily. Also essential: good salt.
A definite need for handling hot pots, pans, and baking vessels. Regular pot holders are a good starting point, but go for oven mitts too if you want more protection.
Take all the guess work out of perfectly cooking your meats! You can also use a thermometer for temping baked goods and baked potatoes, and getting these homemade marshmallows just right.
Grilled cheese, stir fries, eggs, pancakes, seared meats – it can all be done in here! If you only have one, I recommend nonstick. 10- or 12-inch is a good size.
For sauce-making, reheats, boiling water, or anytime you don’t need the big stockpot.
For making soups and stocks, boiling noodles, making stews. A Dutch oven can do it all and even handle braising, casseroles, and roasts. But a basic lidded stockpot will work, too!
Glass baking dish set
A 9 by 13 and 8 by 8 will cover so many baking needs, and can even do casseroles! Love the kind with lids for easy storage, and since they’re glass, you can even use them for marinating meats.
A must if you’re going to be making round cakes. Can even be used for pies or deep dish pizzas. I recommend starting with 2 for tiered cakes.
WHERE TO SHOP
- Amazon – Easiest for most items. They’ve got it all, and it’s hard to beat the convenience of 2-day shipping.
- IKEA – We have a decent amount of their kitchen stuff, and it’s all quality. Definitely worth the trip for the combination of low price + good quality.
- Upscale home goods stores (like Crate&Barrel or William Sonoma) – Fun to shop in person and they’re good for bigger purchases (Dutch ovens, mixers, etc.) since they don’t usually go on sale more at other retailers.
- Home Goods or TJ Maxx – The kitchen section has lots of good deals on miscellaneous kitchen tools and gadgets. If you go in knowing what you want, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find it!
- Restaurant supply stores – Really inexpensive items that are made to hold up to years of use. Good for the unglamorous basics like baking sheets or whisks.
WHAT IS “ESSENTIAL”?
Important caveat! This list is by no means exhaustive. So much depends on what you like to eat and how you like to cook. You will probably have things that you use and love and are essential in your kitchen that aren’t on this list. Your kitchen should have what you need!
And while the items listed here can get just about any basic kitchen task done, there are definitely some tools that make the job easier. For a full, frequently-updated list of all of my kitchen favorites, check here.