Kitchen Essentials Checklist: The Top 25 Cooking Items Every Home Needs
It’s time to treat yourself to some proper kitchen tools. To get you started with your kitchen essentials checklist, here’s a list of the top 25 cooking items.
Whether you're moving away from your family or roommates for the first time, or you've been using the same dollar store finds for longer than you can remember, it's time to treat yourself to some proper kitchen tools.
The key to assembling a comprehensive collection of utensils and gadgets for the kitchen is thinking of using each item in the long term. Will they last? Or will you need to replace a bargain item so often that it's no longer a bargain?
To help get you started with your kitchen essentials checklist, we've compiled a list of the top 25 cooking items every home needs.
What are the must-have kitchen gadgets?
To help get you started with your kitchen essentials checklist, we’ve compiled a list of the top 25 cooking items every home needs.
1. Nonstick pan
2. Cast iron pan
These heavy-duty pans are durable and conduct heat evenly. They give a mouthwatering sear to your food on the stovetop, they’re safe to use in the oven, and when it comes time to serve your meal, they look pleasing on the tabletop.
3. Stainless steel pots and pans set
Stainless steel makes durable pots and pans with excellent heat conduction. While they take slightly more time to clean than your nonstick pan, they’re easier to care for than a cast iron pan, and they last ages when used correctly.
4. Kitchen knives
You can get away with owning four types of kitchen knives: a paring knife, a chef knife, a santoku, and a bread knife. Each knife is essential to your kitchen and has its own job. A paring knife is small and easy to handle, making it great for details and garnishes. Santoku, which translates from Japanese to “three virtues,” handles slicing, dicing, and mincing with its near-straight blade. The chef knife can handle just about any dicing or chopping. And the bread knife is the only one able to cut your fresh loaves without squishing them flat.
5. Knife sharpener
Whether you cook at home every day or you’re an occasional chef, eventually, your knives are going to need a bit of care. While more experienced chefs use a sharpening stone, you can find sharpeners that do the job without the learning curve.
6. Cutting board
Cutting boards come in various materials such as wood, rubber, plastic, glass, and stone. While you want to choose something durable that can stand up to scratching, you also want to avoid using glass or stone for much more than decorations as they dull your knives quickly. Wood is one of the top choices in cutting boards as it’s durable and not as damaging to blades. Rubber and plastic are ideal for cutting raw meat, as they’re not as absorbent and dishwasher safe. However, of the two, rubber is the more long-term purchase.
While you may think a spatula is relatively straightforward, it’s possible to own the wrong spatula for the job. For flipping and grilling, you’ll want a hefty metal spatula that can withstand heat. You also want a quality plastic or silicone spatula for flipping that’s not going to scratch your nonstick cook or bakeware or peel apart as you cook with it.
8. The other spatula
A rubber or silicone spatula is one of the best kitchen tools. Until you use one, it’s impossible to know just how handy they are. These make spreading frosting a breeze, and they do a fantastic job of getting every last bit of sauce or batter from the sides of a bowl or pot. You can even use them to reach the last bit of peanut butter in the jar. Be sure to get a spatula that can stand high temperatures to avoid melting it into a hot vat of sauce.
This kitchen tool is sure to whisk you away. But all dad-joke puns aside, whisks are what you need for mixing eggs, salad dressings, sauces, soups, whipping cream, and the list goes on. Look for stainless steel options that are light enough not to tip your bowl if you let go but sturdy enough not to get bent out of shape easily.
10. Wooden spoon
A kitchen classic, wooden spoons are strong, yet they’re less likely to scratch your pots and pans. What’s more, wood cannot conduct heat, so you can avoid burning your hand if you leave it in the pot. Additionally, they’re neutral, which means no adverse reactions to your food, such as tainting it with a metallic taste.
One of the handiest kitchen tools, tongs make flipping quick and simple for jobs where a spatula is a challenge. While a quality pair of stainless steel tongs will meet most needs, including grill use, a second silicone tipped pair will be handy for use with nonstick pans.
12. Box grater
This old-school multipurpose tool will meet all your grating needs and shreds more than cheese. Avoid gimmicky tools and gadgets when shopping for a new grater, and go with this classic. If you want to clean it in the dishwasher, be sure to opt for a stainless steel grater, as they’re rust-resistant.
13. Vegetable peeler
Are you still peeling your fruit and vegetables with a knife? While sometimes it’s the way to go, you can speed up the process using a vegetable peeler. It’s the safer option, too.
14. Kitchen shears
While a quality set of knives will get you far, sometimes you come across a job in the kitchen that’s done more effectively with kitchen shears. They make cutting meat, herbs, greens, and dough a breeze. They’re also excellent for slicing pizza and save you the search for another pair when you need to cut open a package in the kitchen.
15. Manual can opener
This underrated kitchen tool is valuable. Avoid the frustration of trying to open a can without one, and be sure to add it to your shopping list.
16. Wine bottle opener
Have you ever tried to remove a cork without a wine bottle opener? This tool need not be fancy to get the job done.
17. Dutch oven
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Dutch ovens work on the stovetop or in the oven and are the perfect pot for stew, soup, and large amounts of pasta. You can also use your dutch oven to make a crusty loaf of homemade bread. While they’re traditionally cast iron, dutch ovens come in a variety of materials. You may already own one as part of a set of pots and pans.
18. Measuring cups
Measuring cups are another seemingly straightforward kitchen tool, but you want to ensure you have the proper ones for the job. Dry measuring cups come in a nested set for optimal storage. These are the tools suitable for solids like flour and sugar and usually come in metal or plastic. Liquid measuring cups are typically glass or clear plastic and have multiple measurements up the side.
19. Measuring spoons
Measuring spoons typically come in nested sets made from stainless steel or plastic, complete with a ring to keep them together. While they’re slightly more expensive, stainless steel spoons are more durable, especially if you place them in the dishwasher, and can save money as they’re likely to last longer.
Plastic colanders are lovely because they’re inexpensive and lightweight, but if you think you may accidentally leave them on a hot burner, stainless steel is the way to go.
21. Instant-read thermometers
This must-have kitchen gadget is excellent for beginner chefs or those who simply want to ensure their turkey dinner comes out perfect. An instant-read thermometer will let you know the internal temperature of your food, so you’ll see if it’s ready or if it needs a bit longer.
22. Large nesting bowls
These versatile bowls are great for mixing, stirring, and storing food. They typically come in metal, glass, and plastic but are also available in several other materials. Metal bowls are highly versatile, glass is microwavable, and plastic is lightweight and can handle drops and bumps.
23. Food processor
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While you can go without one, food processors cut down prep time immensely and can chop your food into fine bits or puree it. They’re also effortless to clean and maintain.
A blender is an essential tool to have on hand if you’d like to start making smoothies and sauces. If you’re wondering how they differ from a food processor, blenders are suited for wet ingredients and a food processor for dry foods.
25. Immersion or stick blender
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When you want to bring the blender to the pot, this must-have kitchen appliance will do the trick. This versatile tool can tackle many jobs and is easy to clean.
Shopping for new kitchen tools is exciting. While you’re doing so, you may also want to stock up on kitchen towels, cloths, oven mitts, and bakeware such as baking sheets, muffin tins, and an ever-handy 13-by-19-inch casserole dish. And keep in mind, you may not require all the items on this kitchen essentials list. If in doubt, wait until you truly need the item before purchasing to avoid overdoing it.