I believe you start from where you are, with what you have.
As you venture into making food you love (and loves you back), you learn and grow. And with growth comes an appreciation for fine tools that not only save time, but make eating a life-long adventure. I’ve learned to fully embrace the art of preparing and eating food I love.
With that in mind, I present to you a list of kitchen essentials to help with your cooking adventures. I’ll admit that I worked my way up, meaning I didn’t and don’t always have all the tools I need or the most expensive version of a tool, however having high quality tools like a good knife, a reliable food processor, and powerful blender became essential for me. It will come down to how often you find yourself needing a tool and what kinds of recipes you make the most. I’ll add to this over time, but here’s enough to get you started.
I’ve linked to brands and products I use and trust, but things do change over time. To help you figure out which brand or model to buy, I sometimes use Wirecutter for reviews, and read shopping site reviews to find any consistently good comments or obvious warning signs. You can also go into kitchen supply stores, like Williams Sonoma, to see the tools in real life to get an idea if it will truly fit your needs.
Good for: chopping vegetables, fruits, and other food.
An 8 inch chef knife is my workhorse in the kitchen. I currently like and use this one, and having more than one is really handy so you can have someone alongside you helping with chopping and meal prep.
Wood cutting board
Good for: chopping and slicing all kinds of food.
Wood is my favorite surface to chop and collect food on. It’s naturally antimicrobial, easy to clean and care for, and easy on your knives. I have two solid wood cutting boards (cherry and walnut) from this really cool independent seller, which is also on Etsy. I also love their instructions on how to clean and care for wooden cutting boards. I clean my wooden cutting boards with a bit of warm soapy water and a sponge, let it air dry, and then I oil it every few weeks when it’s dry.
Good for: mixing ingredients and storing food.
A few mixing bowls with tops helps with food prep and storage. I like Pyrex glass bowls with lids, but any will work. Glass is the least reactive and is easy to clean.
Good for: Pulsing and blending muffin and cake batters, dough, and shredding, dicing, grating, and ricing vegetables.
This is the food processor I have. There are a variety of brands and sizes. I recommend at least an 8 cup size if you want to make muffin batters, cake batters, salsas, and grate vegetables.
Good for: Baking, soups, sauces, and other recipes when measuring in teaspoons and tablespoons.
I like metal measuring spoons, because they’re easy to clean and stand up well over time. Oxo or any other brand that is solid and won’t bend easily will work well.
Good for: baking, cooking, measuring dry and wet ingredients
I prefer measuring cups that are metal for the same reasons that I prefer metal measuring spoons, but any material will work. I also have one or two larger measuring cups. It’s nice to have one or two larger glass measuring cups when you’re working with larger volumes in cups and liters.
Good for: Roasting veggies and fruits, baking cookies, pies, and making sheet pan meals.
I use baking sheets almost daily. I roast veggies on them, bake cookies, make sheet pan meals, and so much more. They’re great for prepping food on as well, and I pair them with parchment paper (see the next thing I recommend).
Parchment paper and baking cups
Good for: Baking, roasting, crisping, and preventing sticking of all kinds of food.
Parchment paper is not technically a gadget, however it goes well with baking sheets and find it indispensable for all kinds of baking and roasting. It prevents sticking, allows crisping and browning, and make things crunchier, if you’re after that. I also love parchment baking cups for muffins, cupcakes, and mini quiches.
Silicon Baking Sheet
Good for: Roasting, baking, prepping food of all kinds
Along with parchment paper, I use silicon baking mats instead of parchment when I either don’t need to crisp as much or I’m baking something that is easier to clean up.
High speed blender
Good for: Smoothies, soups, sauces, pulsing, making nut milk, and other types of blending.
I love my high speed blender, which I purchased, refurbished over 10 years ago, and it’s still going strong. I had to replace the blade once, and it still works as well as it did when I first got it.
Good for: Storing raw and cooked food, ingredients, and freezing food.
Cast iron skillet
Good for: Frying pancakes, vegetables, fruits, eggs, omelettes, and stir frying.
My cast iron skillet is my go to for almost all my sautéing needs. It takes a bit of care to keep it seasoned, which results in great flavor and browning of all kinds of food.
Good for: Steaming, stews, and soups.
A large saucepan is great to have for all kinds of steaming, boiling, and making and reheating soups. I have a large enamel saucepan and a metal saucepan that work equally well for soups, stews, and steaming veggies.
Good for: Steaming cut veggies and other food.
I have a silicon steamer and a metal steamer. The most important thing I’ve found is to make sure it fits the saucepan you want to use it with. Also make sure it’s fairly stable and will stay so while steaming food.
Good for: baking, mixing, scraping batters from bowls and mixers, flipping pancakes and other food, and removing food from baking sheets.
I have spatulas for baking, mixing, and scraping out of bowls mixers, blenders, and my food processor bowl. I recommend having at least 2 spatulas, one that’s curved for scraping bowls and another that’s flat for flipping and removing baked goodies from baking trays.
Good for: Mixing, stirring, straining, and blending ingredients.
While I’ll admit I take advantage of silicon and other synthetic materials in the kitchen, I prefer natural materials like wood. Wood spoons are ideal for mixing, stirring, and straining things. While I have a mixture of sources for my eclectic collection of kitchen utensils, here’s a wood set of three essentials.
Tongs come in really handy for moving food from one place to another, grabbing individual pieces of food, and shuffling food across baking sheets, pots, and pans.