A well-equipped kitchen makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. With the right tools, you can prep ingredients quickly, cook food evenly, and clean up efficiently. While some specialty gadgets come and go, these are the timeless, must-have utensils and appliances that every home cook needs. Read on for our expert picks for building your kitchen arsenal.
High-Quality Chef’s Knife
A good chef’s knife is arguably the most essential kitchen tool. This versatile workhorse can neatly chop vegetables, slice meat, mince herbs, and more. When selecting a chef’s knife, opt for high-carbon stainless steel blades. This material resists corrosion and holds a sharp edge well. The knife should feel comfortable and balanced in your hand. An 8-inch blade is generally ideal for most tasks, but you may prefer a 6-inch or 10-inch option. Choose a full tang design where the blade extends fully through the handle for durability. Honing regularly with a steel rod and sharpening annually will keep your chef’s knife in peak form.
Reliable Nonstick Frying Pan
A trusty nonstick frying pan makes cooking eggs, pancakes, and other foods effortless. When the pan’s surface is in good condition, food releases easily with minimal oil or butter. Opt for a heavy-duty anodized aluminum pan with a firmly bonded nonstick coating. Ensure the nonstick material does not contain dangerous chemicals like PFOA. Avoid using metal utensils and opt for silicone, wood, or plastic instead to extend the life of the nonstick surface. Choose a pan with an ergonomic handle that remains cool on the stovetop. An 8 to 12-inch pan with gently sloping sides provides ample cooking surface for everyday meals.
High-Heat Sheet Pans
From roasting vegetables to baking cookies, sheet pans are workhorses in a home kitchen. Look for heavy-gauge aluminized steel pans with a corrugated surface. The grooves allow air to circulate under food for even browning. Thick construction prevents warping at high temperatures. Choose pans with a reinforced, rolled rim to provide durability and easy handling. Standard quarter and half sheet sizes (about 13 by 18 inches and 18 by 26 inches) provide maximum versatility. Larger sheet pans come in handy when cooking for a crowd.
Sturdy Wood Cutting Board
A good cutting board is a must for protecting your countertops and providing a stable, knife-friendly surface for food prep. While plastic boards are gentler on knife edges, wood offers antimicrobial qualities that make it the better choice for raw meats and vegetables. Select a thick, end-grain or edge-grain hardwood board made from maple, walnut, cherry, or teak. The wood’s natural resistance to bacteria helps protect against cross-contamination. Choose a large board at least 15 by 20 inches to provide ample workspace. Maintain your wooden cutting board by cleaning with mild soap and water, treating monthly with food-grade mineral oil, and replacing warped or heavily scarred boards to prevent bacteria from hiding in crevices.
High-Heat Silicone Spatulas
From scraping batter out of bowls to flipping pancakes, silicone spatulas are invaluable kitchen tools. Their heat resistance and flexibility make them ideal for almost any cooking task. Stock your kitchen with a variety of spatula shapes and sizes. Large flat spatulas excel for folding batters and transferring cookies from pans. Spoonulas with curved edges reach into the corners of bowls and jars. Mini spatulas are perfect for frosting cupcakes or tasting sauces. Opt for solid, medical or food-grade silicone construction that can withstand temperatures up to 600°F without melting or releasing chemicals. Avoid bargain spatulas labeled as “silicone-like,” and confirm they do not contain potentially hazardous plastics.
Multi-Purpose Bench Scraper
A bench scraper is one of the handiest kitchen tools that many home cooks don’t realize they need. The versatile stainless steel blade serves many purposes. Use it to portion dough, scrape up chopped vegetables, transfer sliced foods from cutting board to pan, divide ground meat, clean counters, and more. Opt for a scraper with a comfortable handle and a straight front edge that allows clean slicing. Many models also feature a handy ruler along the side for measuring tasks. This inexpensive tool increases efficiency and makes cooking easier and less messy.
Nesting Mixing Bowls
Every kitchen needs a good set of mixing bowls in an array of sizes. Stainless steel provides durability, but heat-conductive metal can chill ingredients. For versatility, choose a set of nesting glass or ceramic mixing bowls. The nesting design maximizes storage efficiency. Options range from three to seven pieces, with bowls spanning 1-quart to 5-quart capacities. The broad range of sizes supports everything from whipping cream to mixing a salad for the whole family. Tempered glass stands up to frequent use. Bowls should have a comfortable rim for easy handling. Matching lids are useful but not strictly necessary. Cleanup is easy since most nesting bowls are dishwasher safe.
Washing and drying salad greens is quick and easy with a salad spinner. These handy tools use centrifugal force to separate water from leaves, preventing soggy salads. Simply load washed greens into the basket, lock the lid, and pump the handle or pull the spinning cord to set the basket spinning rapidly. The outer bowl catches excess water flung off the greens through the perforated basket sides. Spinners are available in hand-powered and electric models. For most home uses, a hand-operated spinner provides sufficient spinning force and is inexpensive. Models with a brake make it easy to stop the spinning basket when greens are dry. Choose a spinner with a wide, stable base and ergonomic handle for comfort and safety.
Instant-Read Digital Thermometer
Taking foods’ internal temperatures is the only sure way to ensure meats and poultry are fully cooked. An instant-read thermometer provides quick, precise readings to take the guesswork out of determining doneness. Choose a food thermometer with a narrow stainless steel probe that can slide easily into roasts and chops. Models with 1 to 3-inch probes work for most foods. Units with probes on a cable provide greater versatility. Look for an easy-to-read digital display that provides temperature readouts rapidly. The thermometer’s range should span at least 0 to 220°F. For safety, opt for a unit that is waterproof and dishwasher safe for thorough cleaning. Having an instant-read thermometer on hand instills confidence in new cooks while preventing overcooked, dry foods.
A Dutch oven is the ultimate pot for slow simmering stews and braises, frying foods, boiling water, and more. These heavy, thick-walled pots excel at distributing and retaining heat evenly. Choose an enameled cast iron or stainless steel Dutch oven with a minimum 6-quart capacity. The lid should fit tightly to lock in steam and moisture. Stainless steel models conduct heat more efficiently for quick heating. However, cast iron retains heat exceptionally well for longer cooking tasks. The enameled surface prevents cast iron from reacting with acidic ingredients like wine or tomatoes. Look for larger loop handles that stay cool while cooking. With proper care, a quality Dutch oven will provide a lifetime of use.
Grating cheese, vegetables, and more is fast and easy with a box grater featuring four interchangeable slicing surfaces. The fine grating surface is ideal for producing fluffy grated cheese or zesting citrus fruits. Use the large holes for grating firm vegetables like potatoes or carrots. The slicing surface creates long shreds perfect for cabbage slaw or grating chocolate. Finally, the broad blade excels at shredding leafy greens and herbs. Choose sturdy stainless steel or enamel-coated graters with rubber bottom pads to prevent slipping. Replace graters with bent, blunt, or rusty grating surfaces, as their rough patches can leave metal shards on food. With all grating options in one convenient tool, a box grater offers excellent versatility.
A high-powered blender takes smoothies, soups, and sauces to silky new heights. When equipped with a sharp blade and a powerful motor, a blender can quickly pulverize fruits, nuts, and ice into smooth purees. Look for a model with a minimum 3 horsepower motor and laser-cut, stainless steel blades. The blender should have manual variable speed control, allowing you to start slowly and increase speed as needed. Models with pre-programmed settings provide one-touch convenience for common tasks like smoothies and ice crushing. Choose a large-capacity pitcher that is shatterproof and BPA-free. While pricier than average blenders, high-performance units are worthwhile for home cooks who regularly prepare smoothies and pureed recipes.
With its adjustable blades, a mandoline slicer makes short work of slicing, julienning, and crinkle-cutting firm fruits and vegetables. Its thin, sharp blade provides precision that is hard to achieve manually with a knife. Interchangeable straight, crinkle, and julienne blades accommodate many slicing needs. The platform’s height adjusts to varying thicknesses from paper-thin to thick waffle cuts. Choose a sturdy stainless steel mandoline with a hand guard for safety and nonslip feet for stability. Electric mandoline slicers provide cutting ease, but classic manual models offer sufficient functionality for most home cooks while being easy to clean. This simple tool helps accomplish tedious slicing tasks with speed and consistency.
Quality Kitchen Shears
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good pair of kitchen shears. Sturdy shears excel at cutting meat, snipping herbs, opening packages, splitting poultry, trimming vegetables, and more. The unique pivoting design provides more power and control than a knife for many tasks. Look for strong, stainless steel shears with micro-serrated blades that grip food well to cut cleanly. The handle should provide a comfortable, nonslip grip even with wet or messy hands. Models with a built-in nutcracker and bottle opener offer added functionality. Shears’ compact size, safety, and ease of handling make them ideal for kitchen use. Investing in a durable, ergonomic pair of kitchen shears ensures you have the right cutting tool for every job.
Flexible Silicone Turner
From flipping pancakes to turning fillets, a flexible silicone turner makes cooking easier. The thin, beveled edge slides easily under foods, and the surface flexes to gently lift them. The smooth finish prevents brittle or delicate foods like fish from breaking apart. Solid one-piece silicone construction provides durability and heat resistance up to 600°F. Unlike rubber or nylon turners, silicone does not melt when encountering a hot pan. Its nonporous surface makes it naturally nonstick as well as stain and odor resistant. Choose a turner sized appropriately for your needs, from small shapes ideal for eggs to large flat designs that handle burgers with ease. This inexpensive tool simplifies cooking in nonstick pans.
Set of Measuring Cups and Spoons
Baking success starts with accurately measuring ingredients. Having an ample set of measuring cups and spoons eliminates the need to wash dishes mid-recipe. Stainless steel provides durability, while heatproof silicone or nylon ensure safety. Measurements should be legible despite repeated use and washing. Cups and spoons should have flat, straight edges that sweep ingredients level. Avoid cups with pour spouts, which compromise accuracy. For convenience, store cups and spoons together on a ring. Opt for a set that includes smaller fractional sizes like 1/8 teaspoon and 3/4 cup to expand your measurement precision. With the right tools, achieving the ideal measurements becomes quick and easy.
Freshly ground pepper provides incomparable flavor over pre-ground peppercorns. Investing in a quality pepper mill ensures you can enjoy flavorful pepper at a moment’s notice. When selecting a mill, consider the grinding mechanism and the material. Manual and electric mills both get the job done well. Opt for stainless steel or ceramic mechanisms that won’t corrode and can be easily cleaned. Durable wood, stainless steel, or acrylic construction will withstand years of use. Adjustable grinders allow you to tailor the coarseness levels as desired. Having freshly ground black or mixed peppercorns on hand lets you season dishes perfectly right before serving.
Liquid and Dry Measuring Cups
For accurate baking and cooking, it’s essential to have separate liquid and dry measuring cups. Dry measuring cups come in nested sets to allow leveling off ingredients like flour or sugar. The cups have straight edges that let you sweep off excess for precise measurements. Liquid measuring cups have spouts for neatly pouring out milk or oil. Their clear material lets you monitor the liquid level. Look for durable stainless steel dry measuring cups. Select glass or plastic liquid cups with etched measurement markings that won’t fade over time. Measurements should be easy to read even when the cup contains dark-colored ingredients. Investing in quality measuring cups provides essential accuracy.
For reliable precision in cooking and baking, a kitchen scale is invaluable. Volume measurements can vary based on humidity, settling, and scooping techniques. A scale provides exact measurements of ingredients down to the gram. Digital scales offer ease of use and efficient cleanup. The display should have large, easy-to-read numbers with metric and imperial units. Look for a tare feature that allows resetting the zero point to add multiple ingredients in succession. The platform should have a nonslip finish and accommodate bowls for weighing messy ingredients. For convenience, choose a sleek, slim design with automatic shutoff. Whether following a recipe or splitting ingredients evenly, a kitchen scale takes the uncertainty out of measurements.
An immersion or stick blender offers versatility for pureeing soups and sauces right in the cooking pot. The compact handheld design eliminates the need to transfer hot liquids to a blender. The stick shape and detachable blade make it easy to immerse the head directly into pots, bowls, or pitchers. Look for a model with a powerful 200 to 400-watt motor. Stainless steel alloy blades should be sharp and durable. Many feature variable speed settings from a slow start to maximum power. Additional attachments like blending cups, chopper bowls, and whisks expand their functionality. Immersion blenders’ portability and ease of use make them a smart addition to any kitchen.
A food processor is an indispensable tool for slicing, shredding, chopping, pureeing, and more. The work bowl provides ample room for ingredients. Sharp, interchangeable blades make quick work of labor-intensive prep tasks. Look for a model with at least 10 cup capacity, 500 watts of motor power, and a pulse function for controlled processing. A large feed tube accommodates most whole fruits and vegetables. Many feature multiple blades and discs like a metal chopping blade, dough blade, shredding disc, and slicing disc to expand functionality. Durable construction built to withstand frequent use ensures it will be an essential kitchen assistant for years. With the simple push of a button, a food processor eliminates tedious chopping and slicing tasks.
Freshly squeezed citrus juice is invaluable for both cooking and beverages. A dedicated citrus juicer makes it easy to extract the maximum amount of juice from fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges. Manual juicers have a handle you press down to squeeze the halved fruit onto the reamer. The ridged, cone-shaped reamer pierces the pulp and releases juice into the vessel below. Some electric juicers feature an auto-reversing reamer for efficient juicing. Select a model with a stainless steel strainer that separates out seeds and pulp. Dishwasher safe components simplify cleanup. Having a juicer on hand ensures you can quickly transform citrus fruits into sweet, tangy, refreshing juice any time.
A basic yet essential kitchen tool, a colander makes quick work of draining pasta, rinsing produce, and straining canned foods. The perforated bowl captures solids while allowing water to flow through freely. Sturdy stainless steel offers durability. Opt for a metal colander with extended legs or feet to allow a bowl to fit below for catching liquid. Colanders come in a wide range of sizes, from small designs ideal for draining a single serving of pasta up to large 15-quart models suitable for big batches of foods. Wide, shallow shapes work best for rinsing fragile berries or leafy greens. Deep colanders excel at draining dense, heavy pasta. An inexpensive yet versatile kitchen staple, a colander simplifies daily cooking tasks.
Reusable Storage Containers
Having a selection of reusable storage containers on hand saves you money while minimizing waste. Look for BPA-free plastic containers in an array of sizes to accommodate everything from individual meals to large batches of leftovers. Matching lids should seal tightly to maintain freshness. Square and rectangular shapes maximize fridge storage space. Microwave and freezer safe options provide added convenience. Opt for clear container walls so you can easily identify the contents. While glass baking dishes also work for storage, plastic containers are lighter weight and less prone to breaking. Reusable containers allow you to quickly store, transport, and reheat homemade meals and leftovers.
Even well-maintained ovens can run hot or cold. An oven thermometer allows you to confirm the true internal temperature for accuracy when following baking recipes and roasting meats. Select a thermometer with a wide, easy-to-read temperature range from at least 100 to 600°F. Look for a unit with large numbers and markings to read from a distance. Models on a hanging cord or with a magnetic back allow quick viewing during cooking. Place the thermometer in the center of the oven preheated to the desired temperature. If it differs significantly from the set point, adjust the temperature setting accordingly for optimal results. This inexpensive tool can help improve cooking consistency.
Glass Liquid Measuring Cup
When recipes call for liquids like milk, stock, oil, or juice, a glass liquid measuring cup provides precision. The clear, graduated glass allows you to see the liquid level clearly to measure accurately. Look for heatproof borosilicate glass with etched measurement markings that won’t fade or discolor over time. A sturdy pouring spout allows you to neatly dispense the liquid. The stainless steel base provides durability. Common sizes range from 1 cup to 4 cups, with 2-cup designs ideal for most tasks. The enduring popularity of glass Pyrex liquid measuring cups speaks to their value as an essential, multipurpose kitchen tool.
Bamboo Steamer Basket
A bamboo steamer basket provides a healthy cooking alternative