This list of essential kitchen tools includes my favorite items I use on a daily basis. Some links within this article are affiliate link that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
Whether you’re starting in a brand new kitchen or looking to expand your expertise, this guide has the essential kitchen tools you’ll use. AND why you’ll use them.
It can be so overwhelming if you’re new to cooking or if you’re trying to furnish a new apartment. There are so many options that it’s hard to know where to start to create a functional kitchen.
This helps if you have too many kitchen gadgets and aren’t sure which ones to keep and which ones to toss (hint: your corn butterer can go). The goal for just about every item in your kitchen is for it to have multiple uses, and these fit the bill perfectly to save you space and money.
When you buy, you may not be quite ready to break the bank on the most expensive brands or gadgets with the most cool features, but don’t buy cheap. When you pick up cheap tools, they don’t work well or last long, and you have to replace them quickly.
It’s not only frustrating when you try to cook, but it’s more expensive than buying quality kitchen tools from the start.
Think about how you cook and bake and start with what you need today and build your collection over time. There’s nothing wrong with that, and with the money you save by cooking at home, you can buy even more of the essential kitchen tools.
Pro tip? If you have a foodie in your life who loves to cook and don’t know what to get that person, his is a perfect gift guide to help complete that perfect kitchen. Sometimes there are gadgets and tools that you didn’t know existed and become hands down favorites once you gift them (see the measuring spoons I love!)
Kitchen Tools I Can't Live Without
When you cook, there are often tools you can "make do" with, but there are also those that make your life so much easier and make cooking and baking much faster in addition to just easier.
These are the favorites I have in my own kitchen - and ones I use constantly. I almost always believe in the mantra that a tool should do more than one thing, and there's only one exception to that in this list.
Pots and Pans You Need to Own
A quality set of pots and pans is a no brainer. Thicker and better quality implements mean that your dishes are less likely to burn or scorch, they'll last you much longer, and they are appropriate for the job you're doing.
Some of the items I own here I've had for well over 20 years. So yes, that ceramic coated cast iron pot might not be the cheapest one out there, but I bought it in 1998, and it's nowhere near the end of its life.
The cheaper nonstick pots and pans I've bought? Those I've replaced, sometimes more than once, which adds up fast.
A large heavy pot is perfect for making soup - and so much more. The thick pot makes it harder to burn anything and holds the heat in once you finish cooking. I use this pot for everything from making sourdough bread to boiling pasta and more.
I'm sure you probably have a frying pan. Maybe even two. A nonstick fry pan is a staple.
But it's a teflon coating, isn't it? Get rid of the ones with teflon. Please.
These fry pans have a ceramic coating with no PFOA or PFOS. They are much safer to cook with, and their nonstick ability is fantastic.
You still need to take care of them: don't cook more than medium heat, don't use metal tools on them that might scratch them, and while you can use them in a dishwasher, you're better off washing by hand with a soft sponge and non abrasive soap.
I am a huge fan of cast iron cooking. There are so many delicious things to make in this from oven roasted potatoes to cinnamon rolls and more.
Make sure you know how to care for your cast iron pan, and it will last you forever. And yes, it makes fantastic bacon, too. If you aren't baking it in the oven in a jelly roll pan with a rack (see below).
General Kitchen Tools
There are some things you just can't cook or bake without. We all need cutting boards. And knives.
These are the ones I recommend, again because they are they are the quality that will last over time so you don't have to replace them again and again.
A good cutting board is a must for any kitchen. I love bamboo cutting boards. This one has a juice ledge, which is perfect for cooking meat and catching the juices. This is perfect for cutting your onion, smashing your garlic, or anything else you need.
To make your crostini, you need to use a proper bread knife. Ok, anytime you cut bread you need a good bread knife. I love how well this one is balanced, and it lasts - I've owned it for over 20 years.
I also use my bread knife to cut everything from cinnamon rolls to tomatoes, in addition to bread. The serrated edge is perfect for foods that don't want to cut like those.
If you use canned beans, you always need to rinse them before you use them. This colander is perfect, and it works just as well for cannellini beans as it does for grapes or strawberries or lettuce for salads.
Small Gadgets and Tools
There are some items you just can't do without, whether it's spoons for stirring, spatulae for scraping, or peelers for well peeling.
These are often less expensive than many items in your kitchen, but go with a quality version to - sat it with me - make them last so you don't have to replace them as often.
I love silicone for so many of these tools because it stands up to heat well, but I don't use it for everything!
I am sure you probably own a liquid measuring cup already, but you still want to buy this one. I promise. It is hands down my favorite.
This measuring cup has angled markings to read how full it is. Forget having to bend down over the counter to try to guess whether you have a half cup or not. You can look straight at this one and see exactly how much you have.
And yes, I just might own this version in one cup, two cup, and four cup sizes. I use it constantly.
Just like the liquid measuring cups, you probably have measuring spoons already, but hear me out.
These are my favorite for a few reasons, and I just might have you swapping out your measuring spoons for these. And yes, I own three sets of measuring spoons.
When I'm baking, I often need to measure liquid and dry ingredients for the same recipe, so I need to use multiple sets, but this one has dual sides so you can do a teaspoon of vanilla on one side then a teaspoon of baking soda with the other side.
This set is magnetic, so it's easy to store so you don't lose them, too. Plus, it fits inside spice jars, which most of my teaspoon and tablespoons do not.
The bench scraper may be the most used tool in my kitchen. In fact, I own two of them and still sometimes have to remove one from the dishwasher to wash it by hand.
While this is great to scoop up chopped fruits and veggies from your cutting board to put them in a bowl or pot without making a mess, it's also fantastic to scrape a counter to remove detritus from a countertop before you clean it - especially when it's dough or anything stuck on.
And it is perfect for cutting and portioning dough from everything from homemade crescent rolls to scones and more. I use it to cut brownies in the pan, to, because I can gently press down and not use a knife that can damage a nonstick surface.
A stand mixer is one of those "adult" purchases that pays dividends forever. It makes it so much easier to make anything with a dough, whether it's bread or cookies.
And frosting for cakes, not to mention cakes. And it's fantastic to shred chicken, too.
I own a KitchenAid, but they have changed the motor on this to make it less powerful, so they don't last the same way my 20 year old mixer does.
I had mine repaired this summer because the only repair shop in five states (seriously) is an easy drive from my house. Before I learned I could repair it, I did a ton of research, and this is the mixer I would hands down buy if my mixer stopped working again.
An immersion blender is fantastic for cooking. It lets you blend your items in the pot where you cook them, which is so much safer than a traditional blender for hot items (though yes, there are safety precautions you can and should take if you use a traditional blender).
This is fantastic for blending soups, making beans, pasta sauce, and more. You can use it to make mayonnaise and salad dressings and whipped cream with the whisk attachment, too.
My Instant Pot is one of the most used appliances in my kitchen. It's perfect for the nights when I need to run kids around and can't babysit the stove.
It makes amazing soups and the carnitas I can make in it is amaaaaaazing. And of course the ease of making chicken stock and more.
If you love to bake as much as I do, your kitchen just might have as many items for baking as it does for cooking. Some go across both genres even when they're traditionally designed for baking purposes.
A pastry brush is a great example, but I use it to baste meat in addition to brushing on egg whites for homemade pretzels.
These are the tools that may wear out over time since they're exposed to high heat more often, but again buying a quality tool still saves you money in the long run, especially when it comes to your pans!
Whether you plan to make donuts for frying or biscuits, biscuit cutters are fantastic for any dough. And an actual biscuit cutter works to create a better edge than a knife that actually improves the rise, too.
I use my pastry brush for everything from brushing egg white on homemade pretzels to adding olive oil to the top of crostini to basting meat as it cooks. It's a perfect way to control how much you use and where it goes.
Odds and Ends
There are always items that don't fit into a neat category, and this is true in your kitchen, as well. That doesn't make them any less necessary.
Storage containers? Mason jars? Trust me, you need these, too!
When you have leftovers, you need to store them - and these are my favorite. They're leak proof, so I can use them for liquids (hello, soup!) or for marinating meats - and everything in between - and never worry.
Mason jars are another one that I collect in multiple sizes to use for a variety of projects. I prefer the wide mouth mason jars simply because it's easier to get everything both into and out of the jar.
I use different sizes for everything from homemade blueberry syrup to holding leftover pasta sauce to making egg bites and more. Make sure you clean them thoroughly and store food in them properly, and they'll last.
If you see a lid start to rust or become otherwise damaged, you can purchase new lids without replacing the whole jar, too.
How many recipes do you have that require you to juice an orange or a lime or a lemon? If I'm going to have to do that, I want to get as much juice from it as possible with as little effort as possible.
The orange juicer really works just on the orange, but you can get a lemon juicer that you can use for both lemons and limes. The size just doesn't work to use the orange squeezer for smaller citrus.
Which of these essential cooking tools do you use the most?
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