Last Updated on November 27, 2023
Kitchen utensils are not only essential for unlocking different recipes in your cookbooks, but they also make your life easier.
Needless to say, you don’t have to spend your paycheck on countless kitchen gadgets to be a good cook. A good cook knows it’s not all about gadgets. But some kitchen must haves really come in handy in a lot of situations.
Let’s talk about what kitchen essentials you need for a complete kitchen that’s ready to rock. In this list, you’ll find the absolutely necessary stuff, along with a few fun extras that will make you enjoy cooking even more.
A knife set often includes a variety of knives specialized for specific tasks. However, these specialized knives may not be used frequently and can take up unnecessary space in the kitchen.
Instead, a few multipurpose knives, such as a chef’s knife, a serrated, and a paring knife, can handle most kitchen tasks and are more practical for everyday use. Additionally, owning a few high-quality, well-maintained knives can be more efficient than owning a large set of lower-quality knives.
We know that chef’s knives are universal kitchen essentials, but we wanted to include them in our list to underline the importance of a good one. It’s super obvious, but if you don’t have it, you might be in trouble because a good chef’s knife is essential for a) getting consistent results and b) safely chopping. If your knife isn’t high-quality, it can work against you when cooking.
And since it’s so important, it’s worth spending some money to get a nice one. But the price is not the sole indicator of a quality chef’s knife. The best blade for you should also feel comfortable in your hand as it’s the one tool you’ll be reaching out for the most.
A paring knife is not just a tool – it’s a trusty sidekick in the kitchen, a versatile and essential tool that can make all the difference in your cooking adventures.
It’s the go-to weapon for peeling, trimming, and precision cutting tasks such as mincing herbs, peeling fruits and vegetables, and deveining shrimp. It’s also the secret to making perfect little carrots flowers for your salad or peeling that apple in a spiral shape to make a fancy dessert.
Overall, a paring knife is a great tool to have around when making a quick fix. It’s one of those multitasker kitchen essentials.
A bread knife, or a serrated knife, is specifically designed to cut through crusty bread without crushing the soft, fluffy interior. The serrates on its edge grip and saw through the bread, allowing you to make clean and precise slices.
A bread knife can also be used to cut other foods such as cakes, pastries, and even soft fruits and vegetables. The serrated edge is perfect for slicing through foods with delicate exteriors and soft interiors, such as tomatoes or grapes.
2. Knife Sharpener
A sharp paring knife, bread knife, and chef’s knives are essential for precise cutting, slicing, and dicing, and a quality knife sharpener will ensure that your blades remain sharp and in top working condition. Not only does a sharp knife make food preparation easier and more efficient, but it’s also less likely to slip while cutting, reducing the risk of injury.
Most kitchen knives are stainless steel blades, but specialty knives, such as a santoku, might be made of carbon steel. If you have a comprehensive collection, having a heavy-duty sharpener that can taper all your sharp edges is a good idea.
Serrated knives can be difficult to sharpen with regular sharpeners, so having one that does this is also a plus.
3. A Knife Storage System
If you have a habit of throwing your knives randomly into the drawer full of other tools, you can dull your blades and risk hurting yourself. Properly storing knives in the kitchen is crucial for ensuring safety, longevity, and ease of use.
Having a set of multi-tasking knives is often more practical than owning a large collection, and it eliminates the need for a knife block which can take up valuable counter space.
A magnetic knife strip is a great option for storing knives as it keeps them visible, easily accessible, safe, and dry (important to prevent rusting). It also keeps your knives sharp – as they are not being banged around in a drawer or block – organized and always close at hand.
4. Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is a reliable kitchen equipment, ready to simmer, braise, and stew your way to culinary bliss. It can be a secret weapon and accompany you from a harried morning to a cozy, comforting dinner with just the flip of a switch.
With a slow cooker, you say goodbye to the hassle of last-minute meal prep and hello to delicious, home-cooked meals that are ready when you are. It’s a kitchen multi-tasker, allowing you to chop and prep in the morning and come home to a fully cooked, mouth-watering meal. That’s because when you slow cook, it’s easier to tenderize the meat and bring out the flavor in the food.
It’s especially good equipment if you have a tight schedule and want to enjoy a warm and comforting meal without the fuss.
5. Food Processor
Having a food processor in your kitchen can revolutionize the way you prepare food, making your tasks faster, easier, and more efficient. With its powerful blades, it can chop, grind, puree, and mix ingredients with ease — especially in larger quantities — taking care of time-consuming tasks in a matter of seconds.
Food processors are particularly useful for tasks such as mashing chopped ingredients like vegetables and fruits, making it easier to create delicious and healthy meals. A processor can turn hard-boiled eggs or egg whites into mayonnaise and make spreads, sauces, and dressings.
Even though we always recommend using a set of mortar and pestle for more authentic and flavorful results, there will be times when you’re short on time or have to cook for the whole family, and this powerful machine can save you a ton of time.
6. Immersion Blender
By Sammic SL
Just like an electric processor, an immersion blender can puree and blend ingredients with ease, taking care of time-consuming tasks in a matter of seconds.
It’s particularly useful for tasks such as pureeing soups and sauces right there in the pot. It can also help you make whipped cream, smoothies, or even mayonnaise.
A blender also can be used interchangeably with a processor, so it can be a great tool for single-person households or for people who can’t equip themselves with a food processor.
7. A Wooden Cutting Board
There are many different options to choose from when shopping for a brand-new cutting board. There are plastic, bamboo, or even marble cutting boards. But trust us when we say – none of them can compete with a good, sturdy wooden cutting board.
A wooden cutting board takes the cake for a couple of reasons: first, it allows you to chop food without dulling your knife. And second, they’re not only aesthetically pleasing and look decorative on your counter, but they also give you a nice big and hygienic surface to work on, thanks to the antibacterial essential oils in the natural wood.
Plus, a good wooden cutting board can practically last forever if you take proper care of it, such as hand washing it, oiling it from time to time, and storing it clean and dry to prevent mold.
8. A Microplane
Unlike regular graters that can produce uneven and chunky shreds, a Microplane grater produces delicate and consistent shreds that can elevate the taste and presentation of your dishes. Whether you need to grate garlic, ginger, citrus zest, hard cheeses, chili peppers, chocolate, or any other ingredient, a microplane grater is the perfect tool for the job.
Using a microplane yields fine and fluffy pieces of parmesan that will melt in your mouth, providing a more intense and delicious flavor than if you were to use a regular grater. Get a microplane that’s easy to use and clean, has a non-slip grip handle, and is dishwasher safe, and watch it step up your cooking game. Once you use a Microplane grater, you’ll never want to go back to a regular grater again.
9. Salt and Pepper Mills
Salt and pepper mills are essential for any home cook who appreciates the difference that freshly ground spices can make. While pre-ground spices may be convenient, they simply can’t match the flavor and aroma of freshly ground salt and pepper. A manual mill is a very easy way to get just the right amount of seasoning, pinch by pinch. For more complicated spice grinding tasks, a mortar and pestle can be a great option.
10. A Kitchen Scale
If you consider yourself to be good at eyeballing when cooking your usual weekly menu – that’s great, kudos to you! But if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you might not be able to follow some exquisite recipes that require strict precision.
A kitchen scale is a must-have tool for any home cook looking to elevate their dishes. It allows for precise ingredient measurement by weight, which is essential for recipes that require strict precision. Measuring volume with a measuring cup may not be as accurate.
The scale is especially useful for fermented foods and bread-making, where the ratio of ingredients is crucial, and a small mistake can prevent those friendly bacteria from growing. It also helps track food intake and make coffee with precision.
11. Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls are used for everything from mixing ingredients to marinating meats. Having a set of mixing bowls on hand allows for flexibility and spontaneity in the kitchen, whether you’re whipping up a batch of cookies or trying a new recipe.
A good set of mixing bowls will make the process smoother and more enjoyable. You can also use them for serving, and some mixing bowls are even oven safe, making them a versatile addition to any kitchen.
12. A Nice Salad Bowl
How a dish looks and is arranged can make a huge difference in its success, and a well-presented salad is no exception. A beautiful salad bowl sets the tone for a meal and contributes to the overall good vibes at the table
In addition to making a stylish statement, a good salad bowl should also be functional: large enough to serve bigger portions of salads and made of a durable material that can withstand regular use so that your delicious salads don’t ever get overlooked.
13. A Pair of Kitchen Tongs
Kitchen tongs allow you to easily grab and flip a wide variety of foods, such as meats, vegetables, pasta, and more, without a spatula or fork. With their long handle and scissor-like design, they allow you to reach into pots, pans, and deep fryers with ease and safety.
Tongs are great for flipping meat, mixing salads, serving pasta, or picking up noodles from boiling water. They are like having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen and can help you be more creative with your cooking. They are made of heat-resistant materials like silicone or stainless steel, making them safe to use with hot foods and easy to clean.
14. Pestle and Mortar
A pestle and mortar made from natural stone is an essential tool for any home or pro chef, plus it’ll look fantastic on your shelves. It’s an ancient kitchen tool, but it’s still used today for a bunch of purposes, like crushing nuts, grinding dry herbs, or preparing nicely textured pastes and dips, such as this Thai green curry paste we love. You can also make pesto, guacamole, hummus, and many other amazing recipes.
The grinding releases all of the flavors and aromas from the ingredients and you’re always in total control of the smoothness or chunkiness of everything you’re preparing. That’s why salad dressings, pestos, and salsas all taste fantastic when made with stone-to-stone action.
There are mortar and pestle sets made of stainless steel and natural rocks. So, if you’re wondering what kind is best for you, check out our review on the best mortar and pestle sets and our guide to choosing the best type of mortar and pestle.
15. Cast Iron Skillet
A nice cast iron skillet can be a real game changer in the kitchen. It will give you an evenly heated surface, perfect for all kinds of culinary acrobatics — sautéing, searing, braising, pan-frying, broiling, roasting, and high-heat cooking in general. Nothing compares to a cast iron skillet’s heating capacity. It makes everything juicy and delicious, especially meat.
If you’ve heard that it’s hard to maintain a cast-iron skillet, you might be reluctant to get one. However, you’ll see this won’t be much of an effort once you experience the benefits of using the skillet. If you’re worried about the seasoning process, you can get a pre-seasoned cast-iron pan.
16. Stainless Steel Skillet
A stainless steel skillet is a durable and long-lasting kitchen tool. Stainless steel is non-reactive, meaning it won’t react with acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus, making it safe to use with a wide range of ingredients and food prep, unlike a cast iron skillet.
They are made for even heat distribution, which is ideal for sautéing, searing, and browning foods. It’s not exactly the same thing as a sauté pan, which has straight sides and a larger surface area, but you can definitely use it to saute.
Additionally, stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain, making it an easy-to-use option. It’s dishwasher safe as well as stovetop, oven, and even broiler safe.
17. Non-Stick Skillet
A non-stick skillet is a must-have kitchen tool for its unbeatable ability to keep food from sticking to its surface. This makes cooking tasks like eggs, pancakes, cheesy dishes, seafood, or even toasting nuts much easier and less frustrating.
With this non-stick ceramic fry pan from Caraway, you don’t have to worry about your food burning or breaking apart during cooking. You can also enjoy healthier cooking as you don’t need to use much oil or butter and enjoy a pan that’s incredibly easy to clean, which is a big plus in any kitchen. And if you need a bit more space or a lid, check out Caraway’s sauté pan as well.
18. Baking Dish
Baking dishes are great for making many tasty dishes — comfort foods like lasagna and baked mac and cheese included. They are functional, practical, and easy to clean, and you don’t have to get too fancy with them as any material will work well, though typically, tempered glass and ceramic ones perform best.
19. Baking Pan
If you want to bake, roast, or broil your way to delicious perfection, you definitely need a good baking pan. A high-quality sheet pan is essential for achieving consistent, evenly cooked, and beautifully browned pastries. This ceramic-coated one from Caraway will also prevent sticking, which means you don’t have to worry about lining parchment paper, your baked goods will release easily, and cleanup will be a breeze. They are also usually dishwasher safe.
If you’re extra serious about your baking game, having a variety of sizes is a good idea. Round pans are ideal for cakes and cheesecakes, while rectangular pans are perfect for brownies and bars. Loaf pans are perfect for bread, while a sheet pan or a jelly roll pan are great for cookies and sheet cakes.
20. Dish Rack
A dish rack is an important kitchen essential for especially apartment dwellers who don’t have a dishwasher.
A dish rack not only allows dishes to air dry but also helps keep them organized and out of the way while they dry. Without one, drying dishes can be a hassle and take up precious counter space. A dish rack frees up your counter for other kitchen tasks by keeping your clean yet wet utensils organized.
21. Fine Mesh Strainer
Fine mesh strainers are not just for straining liquids. They also come in handy for sifting flour, steaming vegetables, poaching eggs, or even making homemade fresh cheese (yum!). A good fine mesh strainer should be made of stainless steel to keep it durable. The ones with a hook on the opposite side of their handle are great for placing over pots when you’re steaming vegetables.
22. Measuring Spoons
There’s a saying that goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.” Measuring spoons or measuring cups are pretty standard tools to have in a kitchen, but they are especially important if you want to follow precise recipes.
Sure, you can make a Spanish omelet by eyeballing the ingredients with no hustle after some trial and error, but if you ever get the itch to make something more elaborate or bake the cake of your dreams, measuring spoons are essential. They’re also great for calorie-conscious meal preparation.
23. Silicone Spatulas
Have you ever seen a person cooking with a metal spoon on a non-stick pan? Well, we know the pain of realizing that your brand-new pan has been ruined, so we’ll do our best to keep anyone from approaching a non-stick skillet with a metal spoon.
Instead, a silicone rubber spatula is a great tool to have in the kitchen. Not only are they heat resistant, but they’re also gentle on non-stick surfaces and come in handy when mixing cake batter.
A silicone rubber spatula also works wonders for scraping the bottom of pans and pots to eliminate waste, and the best part is that they are dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze. You can use them to stir and mix ingredients, fold delicate mixtures, and scrape every last bit of batter from the bowl without worrying about scratching your cookware or melting in high heat.
24. A Wooden Spoon
A wooden spoon is a hardy and heat-tolerant tool that’s great for thicker recipes that require a little muscle. They are great for scraping bits off the bottom of a pan without breaking, and they’re also soft enough not to scratch the pot. Plus, they don’t conduct heat, so there’s no need to worry about a hot handle.
The versatility of wooden spoons is unmatched. They work with almost everything and are well-suited for all types of cookware, from nonstick pans to cast-iron skillets, and can be employed for canning, cooking, baking, and anything in between.
A recipe may call for a wooden spoon if you’re cooking something sensitive to sudden temperature changes since wooden spoons are insulated.
25. A Slotted Spoon
A slotted spoon features a perforated or slotted large spoon that allows liquids to drain away from the food. It’s ideal for tasks like straining, skimming, and serving. It’s also great for scooping up foods like pasta or dumplings and draining excess water before plating.
Slotted spoons are usually made of stainless steel, but you can find plastic and silicone ones with non-slip grips too. They can be used with a wide range of cookware, from non-stick pans to cast-iron skillets. They are also easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and can be your sidekick when frying, sautéing, or simmering.
26. Ice Cube Trays
A good host always has some ice cubes ready on hand for drinks, coolers, and other uses. Ice is essential when hosting parties or events, especially during hot, summer months.
Apart from the obvious, you can use ice cube trays to make flavored or scented ice cubes to add a touch of flavor and interest to drinks. Just add fruits, herbs, or other ingredients to the water before freezing.
You can even freeze broth to quickly add a splash of flavor to any cozy dish.
27. A Can Opener
A can opener is a necessary kitchen tool that easily opens canned goods without risking injury or leaving sharp edges. It is available in different styles, such as manual hand-held openers and electric openers.
Manual can openers are the most common type and are typically less expensive than electric openers. They are easy to use, and some models come with additional features, such as an integrated bottle opener. Electric can openers are more convenient and can be used with one hand. They also come with a variety of features, such as automatic shut-off and a built-in knife sharpener.
28. Salad Spinner
By Alan Levine
A salad spinner helps you wash and dry salad greens and other delicate vegetables. It consists of a colander-like basket placed inside a bowl or a lid with a spinning mechanism.
When you turn the handle, the basket spins rapidly, removing excess water from the greens and leaving them clean and dry. This is a great way to wash green leaves and herbs without damaging them.
One of the benefits of owning one is that it allows you to wash, dry, and store your greens in an airtight container. This might help you increase your weekly intake because they’ll stay fresh longer.
29. Vegetable Peeler
A vegetable peeler obviously allows for quick and easy peeling of fruits and vegetables or removing blemishes and imperfections, which is a real time-saver compared to peeling them manually with a knife.
You can also create unique and attractive presentations for dishes by making thin ribbons of vegetables for salads or garnishes or thin slices of fruit for desserts. Visual interest makes anything more appealing to eat.
30. A Kitchen Thermometer
If you’re a cook who likes to play it safe, then a kitchen thermometer is a must-have tool in your kitchen arsenal. It can save your dishes from being undercooked or overcooked and can help you achieve culinary greatness.
It also opens up a new horizon of culinary adventures — that happen to require strict precision. Have you ever wanted to make your own candy, make perfect macarons, or deep-fry french fries or chicken wings to the perfect crispiness? A thermometer will be your best friend in those scenarios, allowing you to monitor the temperature of liquids like oil or sugar and ensuring your creations turn out just right.
An oven-safe digital meat thermometer is what you need if you’re known for your whole chicken roasts or briskets. But if you’re looking for a more versatile option, check out infrared kitchen thermometers that allow you to measure the temperature of an apple pie in the oven without even opening the door.
31. A Colander
Efficient draining can be useful for a variety of cooking tasks like rinsing fruits and vegetables and draining pasta, rice, quinoa, lentils, beans, peas, and other small legumes. With a colander, you don’t need to use a separate strainer or a slotted spoon.
In short, whether you’re washing legumes or straining broths or stocks, a colander in the kitchen saves you a lot of time and makes things easier and more efficient.
Steaming is considered a healthy cooking method because it helps to preserve the nutrient content of food. When food is steamed, it is cooked with hot steam instead of being submerged in water or oil, which can leach out some of the vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, steaming is quite an easy cooking method and doesn’t require added fats or oils, which can contribute to a lower calorie and fat content in the final dish. Plus, this method retains the food’s natural color, texture, and flavor.
You can get a bamboo steamer that’s traditionally used in East Asian cuisines, but it’s a bit harder to clean them and get rid of that lingering smell. Alternatively, there are electric steamers and stainless steel steaming baskets you can combine with any pot with a lid.
33. Mason Jars
These versatile containers are excellent for storing a variety of items — as well as other DIY projects around the house — thanks to their sturdy and non-porous glass construction. When outfitted with airtight lids, they are perfect for holding ingredients like snacks, dry goods, and other essentials.
In addition to their functionality, mason jars are also a great option from a health standpoint. Glass is preferable to plastic as it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA). Plus they are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe — just don’t fill up to the rim to give the liquids some room to expand.
34. Container Set
We talked about all the tools you need to prepare amazing meals at home, but storing leftovers is just as important as meal preparation. That’s why you need a set of plastic containers.
The ones we think work the best are reusable BPA-free plastic ones because you can just purchase them in bulk. They fit perfectly together, so they are easy to store on their own, too.
Over and Out!
Today we shared what we find to be the essential utensils to make your life easier in the kitchen. We know that a poor craftsman blames the tools, but with the help of some of these high-quality, general-purpose tools, you can make your cooking experience more enjoyable and quickly improve the quality of the dishes you prepare.
And it’s always inspiring and encouraging to have good results to share with your family and friends or enjoy what you prepare yourself.