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Emily Henderson

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by Arlyn Hernandez
emily henderson kitchen utensils kitchen essentials2
photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: modern deco kitchen reveal

As a 34-year-old “elder millennial,” it strangely feels like I’m one of the only people I know my age who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen. Sara on our team and maybe two of my friends seem to be the only exception. So, of course, that makes me the token advice giver when anyone needs help distinguishing between a zucchini and a cucumber or knowing what to buy when you suddenly get tired of eating out and want to cook more than frozen Trader Joe’s go-tos.

Even our dear, sweet Emily told me she was pretty helpless in terms of knowing what she needed to buy to set up her kitchen when she got DEEP into souping. She compared herself to a baby vampire from the Twilight franchise…she “rabidly, maniacally bought all the things, yet didn’t actually have any of the things I really needed.” I hear that. That was me about 9 years ago. While I learned how to cook at a young age out of (sort of) necessity (neither of my parents was very, uh, good at it and I liked to eat good, varied food), I didn’t get a chance to really dive into the world of kitchen tools for myself until I moved into my first apartment in my mid 20s. I BOUGHT EVERYTHING. If it looked cool or was pretty or I even sniffed that I could need it, I bought it and stupidly spent money I could have used as a “rainy day” fund on lemon zesters, ALL the pots and pans, only the best-looking vegetable peeler. Do not do this. Learn from me. After nearly a decade of cooking in my own kitchen, here’s what I learned: just because something looks good doesn’t mean it’ll work well and probably better yet, you do not need a special tool for everything. All that does is clutter up your counters and drawers. That Yonana machine you thought was a good idea can only do ONE thing: smoosh frozen bananas. Guess what can do the same thing and also a ton more? A really good food processor.

So, if you find yourself always asking your friends/coworkers/strangers on the street/the internet for what knife you should buy, or never having on hand what you need when meal prepping (or souping) or even just moving into a new home and starting from scratch, I hope my personal experience using (and not using) items in my kitchen will help guide you to getting what you really need that will hopefully last you a long, long while (instead of rusting over and cracking at the first go in a dishwasher…here’s looking at you KitchenAid can opener).

First up, my every day (as in, I use them every day) kitchen essentials:

Before diving in, I want to say something, though. My biggest tip for ANYONE just starting to cook or outfitting a kitchen is to know how and what you like to cook and start there. If you’re a souper like Emily, you’ll want to get a great chef’s knife for all that veggie chopping, a cutting board and a big stockpot. If you make a ton of family meals or want more hands-off cooking, invest in an Instant Pot or the large half sheets and Silpats I mention below. 30 minutes in, you have yourself dinner with very few dishes to wash. Make eggs or pancakes every morning? A non-stick pan is where it’s at. If you want to be the kind of person who makes a smoothie every morning but you know you never will, you do not need a fancy blender. You can always add more as you need it, but I bet you’ll find yourself not needing as much as you think. Okay, let’s get into my tried-and-true must-haves.

emily henderson kitchen utensils kitchen essentials2

1-2. Silpats + Half Baking Sheets: I honestly use these 3-4 times a week for just about everything. Veggies, potatoes, chicken, fish. I love a one-pan meal on a weekday and the half sheet is large enough to accommodate both protein and veggies (but still fit in my rental oven). I used to have those little dinky dark-coated non-stick cookie sheets and one day for my birthday, I gifted myself these larger versions (with the Silpats) and my cooking completely and utterly changed. I thought both of these things were more for whipping up tons of cookies or macarons, but I was so, so wrong. My Silpats, in particular, are probably one of my top “never be without ever again” kitchen items. These are “name brand” but people have told me the ones from the Amazon Basics line are also great.

3. End Grain Cutting Board: I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, so a quality cutting board is a MUST for me. This one is considered “end grain” (looks like it was made from lots of little wood blocks). These tend to be a little more expensive, but there’s something magical about the end grain that self-heals after coming in contact with a knife so it actually lasts much longer than an edge grain board. Just be sure to oil it often and DO NOT PUT IT IN THE DISHWASHER.

4. Dough Scraper: This little doohickey looks pretty unassuming, but man is it useful basically every day. I use it to scrape up, say, all the garlic I cut on my board (but because my stove has no counter space around it, I’d rather not walk my heavy cutting board across the kitchen with other veggies rolling off the side just to transport said garlic). It’s called a dough scraper, but it’s a little kitchen tool I find myself using regularly for far more than dough.

5. OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler: Repeat after me—Invest in a quality peeler even if it isn’t “cute.” For years, I fell victim to the need for “cute” things in the kitchen. That’s almost embarrassing to admit. My candy-colored KitchenAid peeler looked nice (in a drawer, where NO ONE SAW IT), but that thing rusted over, cracked, and the “metal” coating chipped off…TWICE). I finally wised up and got a VERY good peeler that’s so sharp, it’ll split a fingernail as easily as a hot knife through butter so be careful.

6. OXO Good Grips Can Opener: Same goes with a can opener. I also went the “attractive” route here and had the same issues with rusting, cracking…ugh. This one from OXO is fantastic and very high quality. No more jankily opened cans of crushed tomatoes in my kitchen.

7-9: J.A. Henckles Zwilling Gourmet 10-Pc Cutlery Set, Zwilling Kitchen Essentials Set, Zwilling 8-Inch Gourmet Chef’s Knife: Okay, so I have three different varieties of knives here. When I got my first apartment, I bought a very similar knife block as #7 one (I couldn’t find the one I had online anymore). Zwilling knives are my favorite for the price point. Very solid, well balanced and LONG lasting. I’ve had my set for 9 years and they still look and cut like new (with a little sharpening here and there). But, you absolutely positively do not need a 10-piece knife set. Honestly, I really only use my chef knife and paring knives, and I promise, unless you’re constantly deboning chickens and fish, you also do not need more knives than you have fingers. Budget hack: Look for these at HomeGoods and TJMaxx because they often sell this brand for WAY less than retail (same goes for A LOT of the stuff on this list).

10. Anchor Hocking Glass 4-Cup: I’m pretty sure even my 90-year-old Puerto Rican grandma used Anchor-brand measuring cups decades ago so I learned to trust the brand. Yes, I also have dry measuring cups and spoons, but this baby is a regular protagonist in my home cooking show. I bought the set of 3, but the 4-cup is the only one you need. I NEVER use the 1-cup or 2-cup because, uh, the 4-cup also has those same measurements.

11. Snapware Glass Food Storage 24-Piece: I have a household of two, but cook for four so we have lunch for the next day, and these are the best storage containers I’ve found. I bought mine at Costco for about the same price.

12. 10-Piece Glass Mixing Bowl Set: My glass prep bowls are like my right hand in the kitchen. I’m not a huge mise en place-er (too much to wash), but I use these for almost everything. There’s a size bowl for basically anything you need, plus they neatly stack into each other to save a ton of space.

13. OXO Locking Tongs: Tongs that pinch you or easily open are a huge pet peeve of mine. I love these and recommend you get two (one of each size) to avoid having to rush to wash raw chicken juice off before turning your asparagus. They’re also great for tossing and serving salad (so you def don’t need a specific serving set for that).

14. Sur La Table Flex Core Mini Silicone Spatula & Spatula Spoon Set: I’ve had my fair share of beautiful rubber spatulas with pretty wood handles. Guess what? You can’t put that in the dishwasher (or at least, it’s not recommended that you do…they will dull, crack, fall apart). These are all rubber and one-piece construction, and ideal to throw in the dishwasher over and over again.

15-18. All-Clad Hard Anodized 8″ & 10″ Nonstick Frying Pan Set, Cuisinart MultiClad 5 1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Lid, Cuisinart Stainless Steel 3-Quart Cook and Pour Saucepan with Lid, Cuisinart Stainless Steel 8-Quart Stock Pot with Lid: I have a lot to say about pots and pans, but mostly it’s this: just like knives, you likely do not need a set of 6-10 pieces. I cook A LOT, and consider myself a pretty adventurous cook as in I make lots of different varieties of things, and even I only really use these four things. I make eggs about 4 times a week, so a non-stick pan is clutch for me and these are GREAT. I also use these regularly for sauteing without too much added fat. Aside from these that basically just sit out on my stove because I use them that much, I use a higher walled saute pan with lid, a 3-quart sauce pan for almost everything (rice, small servings of pasta, sauces, beans, etc.) and a stock pot for large batches of pasta, boiling corn, making soup, etc.

Next up is my list of “nice to haves.”

These are things I have in my kitchen that I don’t necessarily use EVERY day but still think are very good to have on hand if you have the space to store them.

emily henderson kitchen utensils kitchen essentials2

1. Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor: This is another scenario where “Arlyn picks the cute kitchen appliance” turns out to not work all that well. I had a KitchenAid food processor which was perfectly fine, but the lid broke on it after not much use (and yes, I took great care of it). It also didn’t come with the attachments I needed and found it collecting dust on the shelves of my laundry room. BUT THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT. My friend who is another avid cook recommended it to me and man I love it. It’s pretty no-frills in that it only has a “pulse” and “on” button (i.e. no speeds), but it’s powerful, can fit a whole head of cauliflower (or, let’s get real, block of cheese), comes with three blade attachments and is just generally awesome.

2. 6-Quart Instant Pot: I know the Instant Pot has a lot of devotees, but also, on the other side of the fence, people who are like “why?!?!?” (Emily being the latter). But as someone who has a habit for collecting small appliances, this thing has helped to replace my slow cooker and rice cooker, plus I probably use it for a VERY fast weeknight dinner about 2-3 times a week. It’s a one-pot wonder, people. The 6-quart is a great size for my smaller household, but if you’re cooking for more than 4, you might want the 8-quart. 

3. Cuisinart 9-Speed Handheld Mixer with Storage Case: I have a KitchenAid stand mixer. It is a prized possession (a 30th birthday gift), but I am here to tell you that YOU DO NOT NEED A $400 STAND MIXER. It looks good, yes, and I have fun attachments for pasta and whatnot, but it’s a pure luxury. If you whip up a batch of cupcakes like…3 times a year, a hand mixer is all you need. I have this one and I love it because it has a ton of speeds and has a snap-on case that stores all the attachments.

4. Staub Round Cocotte, 5.5-Quart: Okay, so a $340 cast iron French/Dutch oven will not make your chicken taste better than a $50 Dutch oven. But I understand wanting a “status” kitchen item. I’m personally a Staub girl (instead of Le Creuset) because the black interior doesn’t stain and scratch like the white ceramic interior of LC. Plus, I just like the dark inky colors of Staub better. OH, and Staub lids have these little raise dots on the underside that help to better distribute steam and juicy goodness that LC does not have (good for braising). I was lucky enough to find my first oval Staub for $60 on clearance at HomeGoods (check often because they have them), and my other two as “landmark” birthday and anniversary gifts. I will have them likely longer than I’ll be alive, which is why they’re worth the steep price tag.

5. Lodge 10″ Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet: “Hands and pans” videos will have you believing you can’t survive without a cast-iron skillet. You can. However, they are fantastic but high maintenance, which is why they are on my “nice to have” list instead of my everyday essentials. The time I spend scraping, oiling and re-seasoning my skillet makes it too annoying to use on a daily basis, but Lodge makes a great one (I have a 10″ but 12″ is also great) for very little money that, as long as you take care of it, will probably be found fossilized in your home because it’ll last THAT long.

6. OXO Good Grips Salad Spinner 4.0: I tend to not like “single purpose” kitchen items, but I have a few exceptions, including a salad spinner. It literally does nothing more than dry my greens, but I eat a lot of salad and detest wet sopping water messes at the bottom of my bowl so…this is a must in my kitchen. OXO makes a great one for under $30.

7. Microplane: Yes, I have a standard cheese grater, but I probably whip out my microplane more. I use it for, well, cheese (hard cheeses like parmesan only), ginger, fresh turmeric, lemon and lime zest, garlic (sometimes), nutmeg and beyond.

8. Orblue Garlic Press: The only other single-use item on my list is a garlic press. It’s a “nice to have” because you can absolutely just chop up garlic with a knife and be done with it, but if you have a recipe that calls for anything more than 3 or 4 gloves, a garlic press will be your best friend. This is my favorite one I’ve ever owned (I’ve had several that have all snapped) and I feel like it’ll last me a very long time, hasn’t rusted, has an easy-to-clean compartment and inflict brute force on those cloves.

9. Flexible Cutting Mats With Food Icons: These are probably more of a “you do not need these” item but I like to use them in conjunction with my wood cutting board (better for your knife) so I don’t have to spend time washing between cutting chicken and slicing carrots. Plus, if you’ve ever cut garlic on a wood cutting board and forgot, then went to cut up some luscious strawberries and were unpleasantly surprised…these will save you every time.

As if I haven’t written enough words here today, I can’t finish without telling you what, from experience, I have learned you absolutely do not need (some I’ve already touched on but want to revisit as a reminder):

  1. Niche one-use tools, like an avocado slicer (use a knife and big spoon), spiralizer (you can use that good-quality peeler I just recommended to you instead), lemon zester (use a microplane or fine cheese grater), Yonana (yes, I’ve owned one of these banana ice cream machines) or any other novelty items. They will take up space, collect dust, and you do not need them.
  2. A Vitamix. This is another one of those things. The internet will have you thinking that you are NOTHING without a luxury blender. I could never bite the bullet on one of these and bought this KitchenAid blender (after MUCH research, not just because it was pretty and blue…I promise I’ve learned my lessons) for like 1/4 of the cost and it’s EXCELLENT. I use it about two times a week for my homemade almond milk and it has never failed me. Wait, why didn’t I include it in the “nice to haves” roundup from above? Let’s pretend I did.
  3. A big knife block set. I already talked about this, but it’s a nice reminder. You really need 1-2 good quality knives and that’s it for most daily cooking. Save yourself the money and space if you’re short on both.
  4. A big, beautiful stand mixer. I love my KitchenAid mixer, I do, but I probably use it like 4-5 times a year and it really is more of a “status” item than anything else.
  5. All the pots and pans from a set. Look, buying a set is typically a VERY good value, but when I think about the space all the sauce and fry pans I rarely use take up, I would have been better off just buying the three things I NOW know I only ever use. In general, unless you have a plethora of cabinet storage, I’d recommend starting with just a few pieces and building from there as you find the need for something else. But honestly, I think most of the time, you’ll find you are 100% fine with less.
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: arlyn’s dining room makeover takeover

I hope this was useful. I know it’s a lot, and you definitely do not need everything. Your life will go on without a microplane, it will. Mine is just made easier in the kitchen with these things without feeling like too much or kitchen “fluff.” P.S. that is a peek into my kitchen. It’s really not much bigger than what you see there (the stove is over to the right kind of on its own, and the fridge is alone on the opposite wall…awesome). Most of the stuff I included in here is stored inside that gray IKEA unit you see to the left of my dining room, FYI. That and a little console table I brought in next to my fridge.

Now, my inner cooking and kitchen tool enthusiast wants to know ALL about your must-have everyday essentials or best brands you use. Please spill all the details because I am not an expert, just someone who cooks a lot and is relatively proficient behind the stove.

  1. This was such a great post! Always love your voice, Arlyn, and I think your tips were spot on! You really truly don’t need that much and also I feel you on the garlic-strawberry thing….whoops.
    My favourite kitchen tool is my knife that I use to slice everything except herbs and bread – it’s made out of super thin corroding steel and yes you read that right.. Apparently because they’re made of corroding/corrodable (how do you say?) steel instead of stainless one they can be made much thinner and much sharper than most other knives. They truly last foreveerrrr and are just the absolute BEST.

    Not sure if they’re sold in the US but they’re called Windmühlenmesser (windmilll knives) in case anyone wants to check them out and are made by small manufacturer in Germany since like the 19th century and we’ve seriously had our family ones for more than twenty years and they’re great!!

    1. My Mum is German. As a child, I remember my Oma, various Tanten and Mum using these small vegetable peeling knives with their wooden handles. They were usually peeling potatoes!

      When my Oma passed away, Mum took hers and it’s still going strong despite having a curved blade by now. The only thing is that it shouldn’t go in the dishwasher otherwise they rust.

      1. OOh. this is very tempting. brian is TERRIFIED of how I use knives, he can’t even watch so not sure if I’ll ever be able to peel a potato with it but I want to check them out. thank you!

        1. You should take a knife skills class if you haven’t already! My husband and I took one together at Sur la Tab as a date (with dinner after) and it was a lot of fun. Plus I prep so much faster now.

          1. Arlyn, your list is spot on. And this is weirdly something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I do think a food processor is more of a must but like you said it depends on your cooking routine. Also, I have a larger food processor and a really cheap small one for when I’m making smaller portions of things and I use them about equally.

            As a beginning cook out of college, I bought a “slap chop” because mincing garlic was the bane of my cooking existence. It was such a hilarious waste of time and money! I literally LOL when I think about it. It drove me and my now-husband to take the Sur La Table knife skills class and it totally changed my cooking trajectory. It made me so efficient at fruit and veg prep! I STILL rep this class to anyone who mentions they struggle in the kitchen. Knife skills class graduates unite haha!

          2. HA my mom bought me a Slap chop and yes, it was hysterical (hysterically pointless really). I also have a small $40 mini food processor I use for smaller sauces and dressings because my large food processor would just have NOTHING to work with at some volumes.

    2. We bought Wusthoff knives 19 years ago….who knew that you can love knives?! I do, now. They cost so much, but were on a big sale and my partner went to buy a few (?), but a retired chef was looking at them and told hkm which ones we’d actually use and he bought those. He bought a “sandwich knife” too and we never use it! That chef knew his stuff! 🙂

      1. Aw that is such a sweet story about your Mum and family, Bea, thanks for sharing! 🙂 And I’m so excited somebody else knew what I was talking about 😀

  2. This is a great roundup! I totally agree with avoiding single use gadgets with one exception: my lemon/lime squeezer! As someone who is always making lemon-based vinaigrettes or margaritas, this tool is a game changer. My other go-to gadget is my immersion blender – which is great for soups and sauces.

    1. Yes to both of these! I actually USE all the citrus I buy now because it’s so much easier to juice. And anything that decreases the time and effort between myself and a margarita is essential. The immersion blender is so much easier to clean than a normal blender – because there’s not a separate carafe. And it’s easier to store!

    2. Yes, I use my squeezer so much. I have one that is attached to a measuring cup and its so nice to have it easily pourable after. Its one of those things you don’t think you will use until you almost use it daily.

      1. Yes, moving to one of these with the measuring cup attached from a wooden reamer (though I still use that too) was a game changer for me.

    3. Yes to both of these! I like to make large batches of soup (more tomato bisque and potato soup, not just EHD healthy soup) and HATED having to transfer it into a blender in batches to get a nice puree. My immersion blender is a lifesaver – and it’s something that doesn’t take up much space or cost a ton of money. If you’re living alone, I would even say just get an immersion blender INSTEAD of a normal blender – you can easily make a smoothie with one!

      My other single use item I love love love and will never regret – a marble cheese slicer board (it’s a small cutting board with a wire slicer handle attached – I got mine from Crate & Barrel, but I’ve since seen them at Target). I know a knife is usually sufficient for slicing cheese, but you just can’t get as thin or uniform of slices. Making a cheese and cracker board for a party takes half the time and looks so much better! Plus, if you just buy a cute one, you can leave it out on a countertop with your pretty wood cutting board or use it as a pretty “slice your own” station when hosting.

      The other everyday essential that I would add above is a 9″x13″ pan. A glass Pyrex one that comes with a lid is a kitchen staple that you can use for everything from lasagna to brownies, and can be a nice alternative to cookie sheets when those are dirty or if you don’t need quite as much space. It can also hold larger quantities of leftovers. I love multi-use kitchen tools, and this is about the most multi-use one I have!

    4. My lemon/lime squeezer (which I use all the time – also for watermelon! ha) is from the Dominican Republic so it’s well-made, beautiful and has a great patina now. But, it’s small. It’s so hard for me to think about buying another, bigger one that works better because I love mine so much!

    5. UGH How did I forget my favorite citrus squeezer? I DO use that almost every day. I have this one (https://rstyle.me/+e5JgwaaYOdJvM21u6k92Hw) and it is a beast (in a good way)!

    6. Yes to both of these! I consider them essential items in my kitchen and use them frequently.

    7. Yes! I primarily cook Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food and I go through 10-12 lemons a week at the very least, so my lemon squeezer is probably my most-used kitchen tool after my knives!

  3. Great advice Arlyn! My husband and I cook often and I agree with nearly everything on here, my list would look pretty much the same! The only thing I’d add off the top of my head is a small hand-held lemon-lime squeezer (gets more juice out and prevents my hands from being burned by the acid – game changer) and a digital kitchen scale, particularly if you’re into baking. Happy cooking!

    1. I tend to use my digital kitchen scale for baking more but I do love it. I should add a “kitchen 2.0” board with all the other “fancy” tools I have that are great!

      1. Yes please! Would love to also see your baking suggestions (imagine many will overlap, but maybe not!)

        Loved this post, and agree with almost everything, except I would suggest instead of two 1/2 sheet pans a 1/2 and a 1/4. I use my 1/4 sheet pan all.the.time! And the citrus juicer, but you already addressed that.

        1. You know, I really should get a 1/4 sheet, too for smaller things like asparagus. I do tend to use both my 1/2 sheets at once because I guess I make an enormous amount of food for 2 people? hahaha who knows. I absolutely have baking suggestions (probably been baking longer than I’ve been cooking). Sara, who also is our resident baker, probably has other fantastic baking must-haves. Maybe she and I should team up for that post!

    2. Oh 100% agree with the scale. We make aeropress coffee every morning and I bake, so our scale is definitely a daily essential.

  4. This is a great list Arlyn!! I’m a lifelong home cook and I also happen to own a small kitchen supply shop (I opened it almost 12 years ago). The microplane, enameled Dutch oven and of course great knives are absolutely at the top of my list of must haves. And the USA Pan sheet pans that you’ve commended are the best out there! They’re made in PA and they’re an awesome commercial weight so they bake evenly and won’t buckle in the oven under high heat, like when roasting veggies. Just my professional two cents here: beware of some of those hard-anodized nonstick pans, like the skillets that you linked. They won’t always stand the test of time (go, team cast iron!).

    My store is in a tiny city of 8,000 people (Montpelier, VT) and I’ve continued to thrive because locals here are committed to shopping locally. I don’t sell anything online, just an old-fashioned brick and mortar operation! I know not everyone has access to an independently owned kitchen shop in their neighborhood, but there are lots of us out there who do! Just a little reminder that if we only shop on Amazon, someday we’ll only be able to shop on Amazon!

    Thanks for the fantastic round up!

    1. YES I’ve long suffered from pans that make a loud POP/CLANG past 400 degrees, and most things I’m putting in the oven go in at 425 so…that’s every time. These have been fantastic.

  5. Personally my cast iron skillet takes the place of the need for ANY other frying/sautee pan. The key is to find a vintage one. So much better than Lodge! Vintage pans have a smoother finish than Lodge pans, hence easier to clean and season as needed.

    1. I second this! A couple of years ago I started finding old no-name cast iron pans at goodwill for about $10. They’re usually in pretty rough shape, with a lot of baked on nastyness and/or rust, but that all comes off with some elbow grease and oven cleaner. You can re-season them with flax oil and they are the BEST nonstick pans i have ever found. So if you’re in for a project with excellent payoff to effort ratio, i’d recommend keeping your eyes out for those when you’re thrifting. Or, you know, spend the money on ebay for an old one that someone has re-seasoned for you.

    2. OHH that sounds like a great idea. Someone once told me they always buy their cast iron at thrift stores but I thought it was a product of wanting to be thrifty, not that they were actually better/smoother.

      1. I’ll chime in for vintage cast iron. I have my grandmother’s — it’s at least 70 years old — and I use multiple times a week. Fritatas, jambalaya, baked cornbread, cobblers, pancakes, baked chicken, you name it. Of course, the best is what it was born to do and my southern grandmother excelled at — the best fried chicken on Earth. It is SO seasoned I rarely have to reseason!

      2. I went the thrift store route with cast iron and have found several pieces that I use for all my skillet needs. It takes practice to use them and clean them properly.
        I have 2 full kitchens (house and summer cottage) so I found many of the duplicates thrifting, because I refuse to haul cast iron around anymore.
        Personally I prefer several wooden and bamboo cutting boards to plastic, because I find they shift when cutting.
        On a separate note, I really agree with holding back on the stand mixer. I go for a fork a whisk or (if I must) the handheld. Many recipes can be easily overmixed.

    3. How do you know if they’re vintage? I’ll be on the look out next time I go to Goodwill but want to make sure I pick up a good one.

      1. There’s usually markings on them that don’t make a ton of sense (letters and numbers) that you can look up online. I’m not super sure since i don’t really care about the pedigree (Griswold pans are going to be $$$), but I think most of mine are originally from around the 30’s-50’s! If it’s a Lodge, it probably isn’t old, but I’d look up any markings you can see on them. Also, you can really see the difference in the old vs the new ones in the quality of the surface (bumpy or not). If it’s smooth, snag it.

    4. I bought my vintage cast iron pan at the Rose Bowl Flea, and it’s awesome! I had to reseason it, of course, but I find that it actually requires very little maintenance. I cook in it and then I scrub it clean with hot water and some sort of abrasive item – you can use a scrubby sponge (NO SOAP), nifty chain-mail scrubbers (found on Amazon), or even balled up tin foil. Every time you use it, you’re adding to the “seasoning”. The maintenance is different than other pots and pans but not necessarily MORE. And it’s true these pans will last a lifetime or longer (literally).

  6. Looks good…but everyone needs a strainer too, right? PASTA!!!!!

    1. Oh for sure! There are definitely a TON of other things I use regularly in the kitchen (like a strainer) that I didn’t include in the list because they are more just things anyone can go out and buy and not really make a mistake with. But I did forget to include my fine mesh strainer which I use for almost everything (rinsing beans, rice, quinoa…draining pasta, sifting flour, etc). It’s this one if anyone is interested: https://rstyle.me/+zZbCh_h7HvXo-RxUn43JLw

      1. I recently picked up a mesh strainer that fits my InstantPot – it’s good for all of those things plus hard-cooking eggs or stock straight in the pot – lift out and no extra boiling liquid fussing needed!

    2. Sil Pat’s are the best!
      Also we LOVE our Vitamix and have used it almost every day for 8 years. I’ve used it as a food processor (although it is harder to clean out)
      If you bake a lot I also love my Kitchenaid. You can gwt a stainless steel one on sale for a lot cheaper than the colorful ones. I store mine so the color doesn’t matter.
      ALSO I used to use my garlic press but now….I just buy a giant thing of pre-minced garlic at Costco. Saves me SO MUCH TIME. In mincing and cleaning. I know some people are picky about cutting it yourself but if you don’t love cutting or pressing garlic (probably 99% of people) I really haven’t noticed a difference in taste. Try it!!

  7. Love, love this post. I am an avid cook and I would put together an almost identical list, except that my food processor would go on the “must have” list. I have seriously considered buying dough scrapers as host gifts (so much better than flowers).

    1. DOUGH SCRAPERS FOR THE WIN!

    2. Most of this list is SPOT on. However, I whole heatedly disagree about the need for a *nice* spiralizer (i.e. not plastic). We got the attachment for our stand mixer, but I have seen other metal ones that look quality. Our family of 2 will easily eat one pound of zucchini in a single meal as a pasta substitute (we are both really active and tall, haha). You will never spiralize anything if you try to crank out a pound or more by hand with a handheld one (or even the crank ones out of plastic, it’ll fall apart eventually)… it takes up too much time and is exhausting. Our’s is automatic and takes minutes, rather than a half hour or more like it used to before we upgraded.

      1. Yeah I think if you eat a ton of this stuff, go for the full-on spiralizer. I bought one the first time I did Whole30 and then quickly learned I can’t stand zoodles. They kind of make me gag, sadly. So now I have a $50 spiralizer with all the attachments just sitting in a cabinet…

        1. I bought a spiralizer for Whole 30 as well and discovered that I dont like zucchini at all!! So no Zoodles for me either BUT they make great swet potato noodles and so much more. There’s even a blog for spiralizing called inspiralizing.com you can get lots of inspiration !!

          1. Oh!! I’ll have to check it out because blegh to zoodles.

        2. Try turnip or broccoli stems on a fine setting.

    3. Susan and Arlyn, can you clarify what you use a food processor for regularly? I didn’t grow up with one and am curious about it…what does it do/how do you use it that makes it such a key item?
      Thanks!

      1. A few examples of where it can be very helpful/indispensible.
        –Bulk production of baby food
        –Smoothies that involve anything frozen
        –Purees of fruits for jam or summer popsicles
        –Pesto in large batches for freezing (this is a family staple of ours in the rainy months
        –Shredding block cheese and vegetables (like when your standard mac and cheese recipe makes a 9 x 13 pan or more)
        –Making homemade bulk chorizo or Italian sausage where you know exactly what’s in there
        (freeze chunks of meat first)
        –Lightning kneading of bread or pizza dough (Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads outlines this technique)
        Immersion blenders are also very helpful especially for soup makers but don’t have the power/capacity to do all of the above. I have both and use them regularly.

  8. I completely agree with your “basics” recommendation, and the tip that you have to learn what you like is a great point. I personally use my cast iron and my Dutch ovens more than I use any other pot or pan, but that’s fully personal preference. I also love having a good bread knife. I’ll also add that I got a ninja blender as a wedding gift and I use it both as a blender and a food processor—it’s a beast and cleans up super super well (a must for me!!)

    1. Yessssssss! Good bread knife!
      My brother still uses our grandmother’s!

    2. My knife block comes with a bread knife but it’s tiny and not that great. Any recommendations?

    3. Yes, totally agree that a serrated bread knife is essential. It’s not only good for cutting bread, but for anything soft but with a skin that you don’t want to crush when cutting… like tomatoes. I also think wooden spoons and a colander are essential.

  9. Is there an avid baker on the team that could do this same thing? I feel like there are just a handful more items to add if you love to bake… rolling pin (is it a necessity or a nice to have, cause I’m using wine bottles currently, cause you know, I always have one of those), baking trays (how many do you REALLY need to efficiently make cookies for your daughters classroom?), and surely everyone needs measuring spoons!?!

    1. I’d recommend 3 half-sheet baking pans: one cooling off, one loaded with cookie dough ready to pop in the oven, and one baking in the oven. I may try Arlynn’s recommended pans, because I still haven’t found ones that will hold up to the Christmas baking marathons. And make them half-sheets, so your Silpats will fit on them.

  10. Love this post!! The only thing I would add to the nice to have list are prep bowls. They are the best for getting your veggies chopped and ingredients premeasured. My husband likes stainless, I like the anchor hocking glass ones. I am actually buying a smaller set this week!

    1. My favorite glass prep bowls are on the list! (#12). I LOVE THEM. I also have a set of stainless steel bowls that nest that I use regularly, but I like to do any marinating that involves citrus or acidic things (most of my marinades) in the glass bowls.

  11. Buy a set of Pyrex 8, 4, 2 and 1 cup glass measuring cups. They nest together so don’t take up too much space and the larger ones double as mixing bowls with pouring spouts. TWO sets of nice heavy measuring cups and measuring spoons (so you don’t have to rinse them while in the middle of a recipe). Zeroll ice cream scoop. And good potholders.

    1. I concur with all of these.
      Pyrex measuring cups can also be used for mise en place.
      The 8 cup one can also sub in as a casserole dish.

  12. I just got 3 Green Pan ceramic non stick pans and they have changed my life over traditional hard anodized non stick pans! Just use coconut oil not ghee. And as someone whose husband just got stitches from using a knife to get an avocado pit out, I’d say get the silly utensil. We walked into insta care and apparently it’s their number one injury. They had posters hung up all over saying go get the avocado slicer on amazon haha. My husband left with hearing about it a solid 10 times from every different employee that came in! So for the less knife skilled people…get that untensil.

    1. I had some Green Pans and for whatever reason (maybe my heat was too high?) their non-stick abilities only lasted like….2 months. Now EVERYTHING sticks to them and I had to get rid of them.

      1. I used spray olive oil even though they say not to, and yep, it’s ruined the non-stickness of it. Should have listened!

  13. I’ve got a digital must-have: the Paprika app. It has saved me so much time and so many dollars!

    Let’s say you’ve got a few mint leaves in the fridge that have a few days left. Or maybe your grocery store is advertising a super blowout special on mint. Go on Paprika and search your recipes for the ingredient “mint.” If you don’t have a recipe, grab any from the internet, copy-paste the link, and it will be uploaded for you instantaneously.

    Once you choose a recipe, add it to your meal plan calendar. Scan the ingredients and see what you’re missing. Press the grocery cart button and add it to your shopping list.

    I hit the grocery store with phone in hand, and the list is organized automatically for you by aisle. Makes shopping quick!

    Go to your meal plan calendar to pull up your recipe when it’s time to cook. There are timers built in for cooking time, and a scale converter for ingredients if you are cooking for more or fewer people than the original recipe serves.

    I usually plan out 5 meals at a time and then go shopping. Food in my fridge almost never goes bad, and I’m working with what I have, so there are money savings and eco-savings there. Plus, think of the salt and sugar one avoids from not eating out all the time!

    1. WOW. ok i’m going to try this. thank you!

    2. I had no idea this app existed and it is what I’ve always wanted in my life. I think I’ve even dreamed up this very app but never made it because, uh, I don’t know how to do those things. Ha. I’m going to download it right now.

      And YES. I plan out 5 specific meals every Sunday morning, make my list from there (plus anything I know I’ll want for breakfast or snacks like fruit, etc.) and I end up cooking nearly everything in my fridge every week. Plus that way, I can also plan out recipes that use up ALL the ingredients. I.e., if something calls for just a tablespoon of cilantro, I’ll pull a recipe where I can make a chimichurri or tacos or something that uses up the rest of that stuff.

    3. This app is a game changer for me as well! It’s a paid app; I have the iPhone and desktop versions (which sync to each other automatically). Worth every penny to me.

  14. Hi, this is great, thanks! I am not a new cook and have many of these items. First off, yes to one pan meals!

    Admittedly, I we also have the prestige items 😬- Staub (birthday gift for my husband), kitchenaid stand mixer (gift from my mom) and a vitamix (gets used almost everyday).

    The only thing I’ll disagree with is your opinion on cast iron pans! As someone who does not eat red meat and mother of a very picky vegetarian, we use our cast iron EVERYDAY! The iron from the cookware is great. My meat loving husband also loves it. Admittedly, we need a quality non-stick for eggs, but the cast iron is used all of the time. It’s easy to clean- NO SOAP! And easy to maintain- just cook with fat.

    1. I use my cast iron for eggs. They don’t stick at all. The trick is to be generous with your oil or butter.

      1. Maybe I need to go through another seasoning round with my cast iron skillet because my eggs ALWAYS stick (though I try to limit the oil/butter so maybe that’s also why).

        1. Give the pan a long pre-heat, and then turn the burner down before you put the eggs in. Works very well for me & my Lodge.
          This is just a great list. I have & use regularly almost everything here, except the Silpats. I must think that one over–might save me a fortune in parchment paper.
          Some of your tips I thought I had invented myself, like using the dough scraper to get veggies off the cutting board. Great minds…
          I bought my Chicago Cutlery chef & boning knves (I cut myself less with a boning knife than a paring knife) 35 years ago, when I was earning $3.35 an hour, and a $60 knife was a huge investment. Never been sorry.
          I like using thrifted Pyrex pie dishes for mise-en-place. They stack tighter on the draining board than bowls, and can be used to microwave veggies. Also nice for pies:<)

        2. I have some new one cast iron and also my great grandmother’s cast iron. My favorite maintenance trick: I’ll lightly grease it with lard (by far the best seasoning oil) and put it on the bottom rack while I’m baking something else. It evens out my oven’s temp and passively seasons my pans.

          1. OH! I’ll try this. My mom used to keep her cast iron skillet in the oven and I just thought it was an oversight. Genius.

  15. Heavy duty cook here.
    -You don’t need a garlic press. Use a knife to smash your garlic. Chop up if need be dependent on recipe. -Also don’t buy expensive nonstick pans. Buy cheap one. Nonstick wears out the same on all pans so why spend more money on the same worn out thing? I buy $20 or so farber pans, but there are multiple different ones you can get. They last at max a couple years if you cook a lot on non stick.
    -Don’t ever buy full sets of pots and pans. pick and choose.
    -You don’t need a knife block either. You should have a couple of good knives in different sizes that you sharpen regulary.
    -I highly recommend a box grater and a juice squeeze (just one of the cheapy ones)I use them way more than I ever though possible.
    -I also highly recommend a food processor. I waited so long to get one because my mom would tell me how she would never use hers and what a pain to clean they are. LIES. She also doesn’t cook like I cook.

  16. Great post! I’d add a non-wood cutting board for cutting raw meats. Also, inexpensive food grade mineral oil found at pharmacies works great to oil wood cutting boards. I think cast iron is super easy. Just rinse and wipe while it’s still hot and everything should lift right off. The residual heat in the pan will dry the water before it rusts. Must haves: a good chef knife, paring knife, tongs, large mixing bowls.

    1. I use those flexible marked cutting boards up top (the colorful ones) for cutting chicken and meat on top of my wood cutting board (to be nice to my knives) and it works great! As much as people will tell me wood cutting boards are antimicrobial…yeah no. I just can’t do it.

  17. On the KitchenAid mixer: if you do much baking, the mixer is great to have. I make a lot of cookies and use it every single time. Also great for cakes, etc.

    I also agree with a few other comments that the lime/lemon squeezer is a great item to have – we use ours all the time.

    Thanks for the list!

  18. Perfect list! Couldn’t agree more. Also: bullet blender is good for so many uses, and small! also a citrus squeezer. and an electric kettle for heating water (as the solo coffee drinker in the house, i make a lot of pour-overs…) 🙂

    1. We just recently added an electric kettle to the arsenal. I’m not a tea drinker (husband is) but I’ve found myself using it for so many other things. It’s a great add once you have some other things in place.

    2. It is so weird to me that an electric kettle isn’t in every household. I’m Australian, and everyone has one. Same goes for the Brits. Need to know why??

      1. I’m from Germany and everyone here has an electric kettle, too. It is because of the lower voltage in America, the water would cook much slower than in Europe or Australia. Hope this helps!

  19. This was a great post. Would love to get my daughter to read it. She’ One of the not cooking people. My son,however, cooks all the time. Go figure. I agree with you that starting small and building your arsenal of cooking equipment is a must. I am retired and am downsizing my everyday cooking items for 2-4 people now. Great idea with the spatula’s I will definitely get some. Mine just don’t hold up in the dishwasher. Thanks for such an informative post. I have to disagree 1 place. You DON’T need a kitchen aide mixer, but I use mine probably 1-2 times per week, sometimes more because I bake often. So it depends on what you cook as you said.

    1. I used to be a very avid baker, which is why I have one (well, that and because it was pretty and I couldn’t help but yearn for one for YEARS). If you make regularly, absolutely it is worth the investment. I’ve been trying to avoid the baked goods so really only ever use it with my pasta attachment, which isn’t that often. BUT I don’t think it was a bad purchase because I know I’ll have it probably FOREVER.

  20. EMILY and all other souping fanatics! If you’re ever tired of how long it takes to dice things, search Amazon for a Vegetable Chopper. The one I have is the Vidalia Chop Wizard, and my in-laws have the Pampered Chef version, but there are many other similar ones out there. You still have to slice your veggies, but seriously it takes like 1/4 of the time to dice an onion or other veggies on this thing compared to doing it by hand. It doesn’t take up a ton of space, it can go in the dishwasher, it’s not terribly expensive. I thought for a long time that I didn’t need it, I have nice knives (Wusthoff is my preferred brand) yada yada yada, but I was wrong. I love it.

    1. I should buy a chopper for my hubby. Bless his heart, when he tackles a recipe, it’ll take him like…two hours to do all the chopping (something I could do in 10 minutes flat). He’s learning, but moves SO slow. This could really help him!

      1. Be Nice!

        1. HA! I’m SO nice (and patient…???)

    2. I totally agree with this, but I use it for food prepping a lot of veggies at once. It has saved my life for onions. I chop up a ton, and freeze in single recipe portions because I can’t cut an onion without crying all my makeup off. But I also buy all my veggies for the week and precut them and out them in containers. It is much easier than storing different, odd sized veggies whole, and makes dinner during the week a breeze. I also love it for pre chopping veggies for juicing or smoothies.

      1. Here’s a tip I learned from Alton Brown: put your onion in the fridge to prevent tears. I honestly can’t remember if it “ruins” the onion the way cold ruins tomatoes, but it REALLY does limit the tear-inducing quality.

  21. I would add stainless mixing bowls to the must have. I have 2 in large and medium that I use practically every day. Gotta have a mixing bowl!

  22. Great round up! Investing in a quality chef knife changed my life in the kitchen forever. So along that same vein, I feel obligated to stress the importance of a KNIFE SHARPENER! I’d say it should absolutely be in there with the “essentials” list.

    Cue the long story to emphasize my point.

    My mom is a great cook, and growing up she made a delicious, healthy dinner every. single. night. Never a separate kid’s meal, we always ate the same thing my parents ate. Even when we were young, and she worked 40-60 hours a week and served as the main breadwinner. What a badass.

    And my dad is no slouch in the kitchen, either. Every Sunday, he’d get the pasta sauce going in the morning before church, then come home and make the pasta from scratch. He’s the king of breakfast. Currently, he’s obsessed with his Big Green Egg (talk about a luxury item) that my mom bought him for his 60th birthday, where he’ll cook up giant slabs of ribs, pork butt for pulled pork, steaks, beef tenderloin, you name it.

    So after my life-changing knife experience, I’m home for Thanksgiving and helping my mom cook, and it strikes me how TERRIBLE all her knives are. Thinking it was a problem with the quality level, I order her an expensive knife for Christmas on the Williams-Sonoma Black Friday sale. At the last minute, I pick up a basic, handheld knife sharpener at HomeGoods (not the round rod one that no one knows how to use, just the kind where you stick the knife into the slot and pull it back out over the inlaid sharpening stone, ya know?).

    So the knife goes over well enough, but what they were REALLY impressed with…was the $20 knife sharpener. My dad immediately took it to the rest of the knife drawer, and voila! An hour later, and it was like I gave them a whole new set of knives. Some hadn’t been sharpened since they got them AT THEIR WEDDING. I’m talking over thirty years of heavy use, and it was the first time they’d been sharpened. Whole pile of metal shavings left behind. Obviously the problem wasn’t quality, it was with their care.

    Which brings me to the drawn out point: it doesn’t matter how great the quality of your knives are, inevitably they will suck if you never take the time to sharpen them. And if you sharpen them semi-regularly, I’ve found they only need a few passes on the knife sharpener before they’re as good as new.

    The End. (But also, Cuisinart food processor: truly the best.)

    1. Ugh this is so true. Also, I 100% need a new knife sharpener. Alton Brown showed me how to use that sharpening stick on an old episode of Good Eats, but even he said it’s not so much a sharpener as a blade “straightener.” Meaning…our knives get little nicks in them and this helps to straighten them back out, but we should definitely get our knives sharpened regularly for performance.

    2. I had a very similar experience – my mom kept commenting on how nice my knives are. I bought her a good German one and a sharpener. The next time I visited & was helping with dinner, I couldn’t believe how dull it had gotten. Because… she uses a GLASS cutting board. And she won’t stop, which is why her knives all have terrible edges. Wood or plastic are so much better for a cutting surface!!
      For that matter, I see that knife blocks are on the “unnecessary” list, but I do think they help keep both blades and fingers safe. We got a magnetic one that accommodates blades of all sizes because I no longer was happy with my odd-shaped cleaver etc in a drawer when we were baby-proofing.

  23. Definitely agree with your list, besides one thing! My microplane grater is a definite MUST have! I use that thing daily!

    Also for sure don’t just buy a set of knives! If you have the time, go to Williams Sonoma – they will let you test every knife until you find the one for you! My knife block is a variety of different ones that fit my hands best, and then my husband has his own separate ones!

    1. Great list! I think cast iron should replace the nonstick pan on the basic list though! It’s so versatile since it can go into the oven as well, and it’s non stick. I bought most of it cast iron at an auction for (for $1!) so it was already seasoned. But I recently got a cast iron grill pan at Bed Bath and Beyond for $20 that was already seasoned too!

      Another benefit for anyone who is pregnant – cooking in cast iron naturally adds iron to your food.

  24. I agree- a few basic tools can do most things! I also have a kitchen-full and several closets and extra cupboards filled with things I don’t use much, or ever. For me, a couple of cutting boards, chef knife, paring knife, peeler and a big stainless steel mixing bowl are what get the most use. Also a couple of pairs of cheap tongs and several silicone spatulas and wooden spoons. I don’t even have Silpat mats, but use parchment paper instead. Good pans- I am loving the All Clad NS1 pans because I WILL have an induction stove one day!

  25. Ha ha, I bought a Yonanas machine. But I don’t feel too bad because I got it at goodwill for $5. Except that it’s cluttering up space.

  26. Cook’s Illustrated has a wonderful resource for a list just like this— they test kitchen equipment (extensively) and rank different brands’ versions! I used their equipment reviews to build my kitchen. There are a lot of overlaps here with Arlyn’s list, so I highly recommend checking it out!

  27. Great post but I have to argue the avocado slicer. We are a big avocado and guacamole house and i LOVE having one tool to cut, de-pit and scoop/slice the avocado. One tool to wash. Plus it’s cheap enough and takes up very little room. Just my opinion 🙂

  28. I recommend a Joseph Joseph garlic rocker in place of a press. Much easier to clean, and no moving parts to get gunky or break. Also it’s pretty:).

    1. Sometimes little garlic choppers and gadgets like that make it easier for your kids to help in the kitchen.
      We had a little chopper that you could “drive” across the counter and the wheels would turn the blades and chop the garlic. My daughter loved it.

      Personally, I take an unopened 15 ounce can and SMASH it with gusto (very satisfying) on unpeeled cloves of garlic. The skin comes off very easily and and the clove is already partially separated, and easy to mince or chop from there. It’s very easy to batch process garlic this way.

  29. I recommend the Joseph Joseph garlic rocker instead of a press. Much easier to clean, and no moving parts to clean or break. Also, it’s pretty:).

    If this is a duplicate comment my apologies, had a weird disappearing text box situation.

  30. Why have I never heard of Silpats? I’ve been putting cookie dough right on the cookie sheet. What am I missing? Will they change my life? Please advise.

    1. They will absolutely positively change your life. I used parchment paper for the longest time, which yes, is great, but it’s so wasteful. Silpats are made of like…a mesh covered in silicone or something and are super sturdy, nonstick and reusable for almost ever probably. They do tend to get a bit greasy for some reason, but eh, whatever.

      1. Thank you! I’m sold!

      2. Note: I compost my used parchment.

  31. I would add an instant thermometer to the must have list. For 15 bucks, it absolutely transformed my ability to cook meat, which I was never consistently good at before. Also, I’m a strong advocate for the y shaped veggie peeler and the humble $4 kiwi brand knife. The kiwi knives are super sharp, thin blades, and I find them in my local thai grocery store. 2x the price on amazon. I have Henckels and Wustof knives and except for serrated or paring knives, I always reach for the kiwi ones instead.

  32. This is a great post! It’s true it depends on what one cooks. For me, a Dutch oven and Kitchen Aid mixer will be in the Essential list. I love my Ninja blender too. I would add a good wok to the list for stir frying veggies as well as an instant-read thermometer when roasting/grilling meat. Other things for the kitchen: trivets (especially if you have quartz countertops) – I love those silicone collapsible ones so you can put them away when not in use , oven mitts/gloves, microfiber cleaning cloths – these helped me cure my paper towel addiction

  33. EXcellent tips, but I will go the my grave believing no one needs to own a garlic press.

    1. Hahaha I know I know. That’s why it’s in my “nice to have” list because no one needs this. A knife is perfectly fine but….you can pull my garlic press from my dead cold hands.

  34. Such a great post! In addition to knowing what gadgets to buy, something great for beginning (and advanced cooks) is to watch America’s Test Kitchen. You can find tons of helpful tips on their PBS shows and YouTube channel. They cover best equipment (they are like a Consumer’s Report for cooking), best food items (i.e. – what are the best canned garbanzo to buy in the grocery store) and tips and tricks (like best way to dice an onion). I have learned so much from them and am constantly impressed by their suggestions.

    1. ATK is my favorite radio show. That and Good Eats is how I learned most of the food science and the “whys and hows” of cooking. I’m so glad you brought it up!

      ATK taught me why chicken reheats horribly, but that if you place it in a little chicken broth in the fridge, something about the proteins helps preserve the original flavor. I mean, I didn’t explain that at all, but it works.

  35. Oh man, this is a great post!! My son is 22 and determined to learn how to cook properly, since he just graduated from college soup noodles!!

    I have the Williams Sonoma stacking glass bowls and I LOVE THEM. I use them for everything…mixing, marinating, serving, you name it! They are not that expensive for what you get. Also have the Silpat baking sheets and InstaPot and they are great. Nice post for the basic kitchen elements!!

  36. One tip on silicone spatulas with wooden handles. — usually you can just pop off the spatula part, put it in the dishwasher and then pop it back on the wooden handle when it’s clean.

  37. Great list! I love Zwillig knives, and a $30 sharpener to go with them. Epicurean cutting boards are made of engineered wood so easy on your knives, but can also be put in the dishwasher which is really reassuring when working with raw meat. The USA baking pans with the silicone coating are life changing. After buying one of their muffin tins I immediately gave my other muffin tin away, they’re SO MUCH easier to clean, no greasing or liners needed ever again! I also love my set of Rosti-mepal mixing bowls WITH the matching lids. I prep salads & all kinds of other foods in these bowls, and put them away in the fridge without having to transfer to another container or use plastic wrap. So awesome.

  38. Nice roundup. I would say that you can get a glass measuring cup at Target or even the grocery store. And Vitamix has good deals including a warranty on their refurbished blenders—I use mine nearly every day. A couple of things I would add to your list are an apron and a set of chef’s towels

  39. I use a KitchenAid stand mixer multiple times a month, so I’m ok that I have one. 😀

    Also, I have found that if you re-season or pre-season your cast iron skillet, really well, in the beginning, afterwards you can just wash it with hot water & Dawn (yes Dawn), with a scrubby, then put it on the burner (on high) to dry, then poor a little oil in it, let that sit for a tiny bit, when it starts to smoke, turn the burner off and brush or use a paper towel to wipe distribute the oil all over. It’s not difficult, and it doesn’t need to be reasoned.

  40. Great recommendations. I have one item that I cannot live without, it is a Joseph Joseph slotted spoon. It was a total impulse buy at Sur la Table years ago. But I end up having to hand wash it, since I use it every day. I love the rubber grippy handle, and the spoon is a flat round if that makes sense. So great for really scrapping the bottom of a pan if needed. I love this thing. My boyfriend know my obsession with “the spoon”, and regularly tries to hide it from me. I actually just bought a second one for fear of not being able to get another one if the first should disappear. Here’s a link for it: https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-10168-Elevate-Integrated-One-Size/dp/B07FMFD65J/ref=asc_df_B07FMFD65J/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=272009130200&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17981974304347127484&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9023908&hvtargid=pla-490479167178&psc=1

    1. OH I need a new slotted spoon. I’ll check this one out!

  41. Novice here. Great tips! Can someone help me differentiate between a blender and food processor? Whenever the recipe calls for a food processor, I’ll just use my blender and pulse. However, I’ve found that I usually need to add more liquid to get everything going. Will a food processor help? Do I need a food processor?

    1. So, I hope other people chime in because I do not have all the answers, but a blender is great for purees (say, a soup, a sauce, a dressing). I don’t like to put anything too liquidy in my food processor because it can get a little splashy. I prefer to use it for chopping, slicing, mincing. There are attachment blades that do different things (it can shred a block of cheese in probably 3 seconds flat with the right attachment).

  42. As someone who cooks almost every day, I would add a box grater as a basic and then, (like some of the other people have) a lemon squeezer as a must because it makes that job go so much faster and an immersion blender as a nice to have because you can blend in the pot if you’re making soups or tomato sauce, etc. To me, a garlic press is a must…and a little known fact, the one from IKEA is fantastic. I would amend your measuring cup to the pyrex version that has slanted numbers so that you can look at the measurements from the top. No more tilting your head to see the measurements…genius! You can get it at Target or William Sonoma or Crate and Barrel. Also, if you have a Home Goods or TJMaXX or Marshalls store, always check for everything you have listed. It’s the kind of thing they always have on sale. And there’s huge satisfaction in that!

  43. My new favorite kitchen item that changed my life and makes me so happy on a daily basis is a silicone ‘rollup, over the sink’ dish/fruit/vegetable rack – $30 on Amazon. You roll it out over part of your sink when needed and can dry dishes, rinse and drain fruits and vegetable etc directly into the sink – then roll it back up. And it comes in lots of colors (I like the white) and looks fine when left out as well. Love love love it. No more ugly dish rack or wet counter.

  44. Only thing I would change is replace the Silipats with parchment paper. I can’t live with out it

  45. I am also an older millennial and the serious cook/baker among my friends, partly because I’m a mom. Your list is mostly spot on for me, though I’d go with a few good knives over a whole knife block. Things I use constantly that aren’t on your list: a really good pepper grinder that won’t crap out in a month, an immersion blender (salad dressing, soup, pasta sauce, smoothies in a mason jar), and an electric kettle for French press coffee, tea, and hurrying up the boil of a pot of water.

    1. Yes to all these things. I have all of them, (also a salt cellar) but I guess I blanked until everyone starting mentioning things. Ha!

  46. Thank you for not recommending a set of pots. Yes, you can find great deals on sets. But most of them are the wrong size, or all stainless and you need a few nonstick skillets, and they never include a really big enough stockpot for soup or pasta. Buy the ones you really want individually, save up and get good quality, take care of them and you can pass them down.

    The best pans I have are a brand from Italy called Piazza. Decades ago you could buy them through Williams Sonoma. I’ve seen them recently new on eBay through a wholesale supplier.

  47. Great guide. I think I’d flip flop the silpat mats and the bench scraper (I have both as a baker, but cooked for years without either) with the cast iron skillet and the food processor. Also, I probably buy and destroy 3-5 rubber spatulas a year. 100% necessity, but man I’m hard on those guys.

  48. Perfect post! I have (and use) all of these items (maybe not same brand but same item). They really do encompass 99% of cooking and baking, and I appreciate the thought that went into finding quality items that aren’t outrageously expensive.

    The one thing you listed that I always forget to bust out are the Silpats, so thanks for the reminder; I’ll be using them tonight to save some cleanup!

    The one thing you don’t have that I use frequently is a silicone muffin tin (I food-prep egg ‘muffins’ for breakfasts each week and this thing was a Game Changer for sure). Read reviews – some have a tendency to stick more than others. I got mine for about $12 on Amazon and it was worth every penny.

  49. I love this list but I am a die hard luxury blender person. I make smoothies every single day as well as other uses for it. Nothing blends as smoothly, ha ha! I prefer Blendtec!

    1. Oh I’m ALL for a luxury blender if you are indeed the type of person that truly makes smoothies every day. I just know SO MANY PEOPLE (myself included) that wants to be a “smoothie a day” person, but never actually does it. All about knowing yourself and your eating preferences/habits! And yes! If I ever were to get a bougie blender, I think I’d go the Blendtec route because I hear they’re great!

      1. You can get a free decibel meter app-Blendtec is a hazard to your hearing. Measure a Vitamix and a Blendtec in use with the decibel meter, you want the quieter machine. Plus it will save you $$$ on hearing aids.
        Spatulas- the Oxo Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner (not the small) fits the Kitchenaid mixer bowls beautifully. You bakers will love it. Also good for Pad Thai and noodle dishes as well as eggs. On my wish list is Josephjoseph Elevate silicone utensils- built in tool rest to keep counters clean, heat resistant to 520 degrees. Dishwasher safe too.
        I use my Cuisenart food processor to chop the peeled garlic from Costco. Then freeze it in a thin layer in plastic freezer bags. When I need garlic I break off how much is needed. It thaws really fast. Use a tiny bit more as it’s less pungent from freezing. Oh and I put the bags of garlic in a gallon freezer bag to keep my ice fresh. If you don’t use garlic that much split it with a friend.

  50. I love this round up and agree with so many of the points here! The only thing I would add is that in addition to a chef’s knife and a smaller paring knife, a good bread knife is an excellent tool to have; I’ve got an 8″ bread knife from F. Dick (recommended by Smitten Kitchen) and I love it so, so much.

  51. Great list!

    My husband and I subscribe to America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated (the website, but they have shows on PBS/Create and an Apple TV app – definitely watch What’s Eating Dan!) and they have awesome equipment reviews, so we tend to buy all of our kitchen items based on their recommendations, and so far they haven’t led us astray!

    Our most used items include a plastic fish-spatula for non-stick and a metal Wusthof fish-spatula that we use for almost every meal, depending on the pan. We have the same food processor and loooove it. I use the shredding discs a lot for carrots and mozzarella cheese. We also have an Oxo digital scale and we use it all the time! I’ve started weighing my dry ingredients for baking for better accuracy and we even use the scale just to split dinner portions evenly.

    We’re kind of at a point where there’s not a whole lot that left we need to get for our kitchen… maybe just upgrading a few things (like our toaster – I pretty much hate ours). We probably have way more kitchen tools than we need, but oh well. I just have to make sure we never move somewhere with a smaller kitchen than we have now!

  52. Guys, as an old millenial and home cook of 8+ years/adventurous single cook for 5ish years before that… this is probably the best “what you actually need” post I’ve ever read. So if you are thinking about learning to cook, take heed!
    Also I put 5 or 6 items on my future purchases list because they look like they function better than what I’m currently using, or blew my mind with how practical they are! Props, Arlyn.

  53. Love this list. My kitchen is tiny, and I agree with most everything here. I have a Vitamix instead of a food processor, but I don’t mind chopping and like my soups and sauces really smooth. You can buy them factory refurbished for not much money. They are usually just models returned to places like Costco.

    Another reason I don’t mind not have a food processor or even a mini one (I did used to have one of those) is that I have a couple of mortars and pestles. The results are usually better than what a blade can do (I’m looking at you pestos and chili pastes), plus they look pretty.

    I see lots of discussion about non stick pans versus cast iron. I’d just like to throw blue steel pans into the mix. They require maintenance like cast iron but they are much lighter and more temperature responsive, which is nice in a skillet. And unlike nonstick, they will last forever.

  54. I clicked on this article expecting some design-y kitchen stuff that I would never use but enjoy looking at . . . and I was pleasantly surprised by this list! Thank you for the tried-and-true recommendations! So helpful!

    Something I would add to this list is a quality hand mixer with an immersion blender attachment. If you don’t have much space or money it can replace a food processor, blender and stand mixer. My Krups hand mixer (bought in Germany) is still going strong after almost 20 years. And making mayonnaise with an immersion blender is the best.

    1. WHAT! I didn’t know they made hand mixers with immersion blender attachments! I already have both separately, but that is a genius idea.

  55. I made the same mistake when I was younger and “collected” all the kitchen gadgets. What a mistake. I’m a better cook now (in my 40s) and have pared my kitchen down to basics. Nothing gains entry into my kitchen unless it is very multi-functional. You’re list nailed it! I even tried to get rid of my garlic press but the husband refused. I haven’t been convinced of the multipot yet, although the rice cooker aspect has me intrigued. Dumped the crock pot years ago because I thought it produced was the worst food ever.

    Anyway, only thing I would add to your list is the cuisinart smart stick hand blender. I’ve used mine for years and have about worn it out. It would be a great “starter” appliance before investing in the big boys. I use it for smoothies, chopping, and soup blending. It also makes great salad dressings. Can’t go wrong with this one!

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DYXUQLM/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_PDBoDbCE48T9D

    1. I have that one, too! I used to use it all the time for homemade mayo and pureed soups but haven’t whipped it out in a while (which is probably why I forgot to add it to the “nice to have” list!)

  56. What a thorough post! That must have taken a lot of work to put together; thank you! One thing did come to mind as I was reading it (other than being reminded of my sous-novice cooking skills; I once made a “bread” loaf so hard that to this day I still believe I could have sold it to the government for use as a weapon of defense) is that non-stick pans are certainly handy to have and use. I have, however, read concerns about the chemicals used to make them be non-stick and how they can leach into the food they’re used to cook. Anyway, thanks again!

    1. I know! Every time I make eggs and stop and wonder what I might be doing to myself. Sounds like, from the comments, I need to just prep my cast iron skillet better and use that as my “nonstick” situation.

  57. Arlyn! Great advice!

    Also, I find a good quality egg/fish flipper is a must have! Pan roasted fish, obviously AND the perfect over-easy eggs.

    Nice-to-haves: I’ll give a to shoutout the mortar and pestle for making dry rubs and sofrito, and the wok…I can make a fried rice in any pan, really, but the wok is the most efficient tool.

    And I had no clue about slip mats (not much of a baker)…I’m gonna buy a few if you’re saying they can replace foil/parchment for vegg and protein?!!

    p.s. – cast iron skillet is excellent for making pizza too …preheat to 500deg…form dough, oil in pan…get a bit of color from starting to cook on the stovetop….flip, add sauce/cheese/toppings and into the over for 8-10mins

    1. Leave it to the Puerto Rican to include a “sofrito” making tool. HA. I don’t use my M&P as much as I probably should. Typically just whip out the mini food processor but I know it’s a different result. and YES sil pats for the win. WAY better than foil and less wasteful than parchment for all the oven prep. They sell them in different sizes, so make sure you buy the one that will fit your pan (I do 1/2 sheets). And uh, sounds like I need to make a cast iron skillet pizza this weekend…

  58. I would add a fish turner to your must haves. I will never love another turner (nylon, metal, silicone, or anything else) as much as my $20 Dexter S846 1/2 bought off amazon.

  59. Great post! We traveled for the past 8 years, living in furnished rentals, bringing necessities with us in our packed out small SUV– minus the small appliances we traveled with most of what is on your list because furnished rentals rarely had well stocked kitchens and we’ve always cooked 85-90% of our meals at home.

    We’ve now settled down and haven’t felt the need to add anything other than the small appliances and serving/glassware we had in storage. We make it so much more complicated than it has to be!

  60. Hi Arynn, interesting to see your list. Always interesting to see what others must have compared to needs. After 35 years in my own kitchen (and cooking/baking everyday), I would certainly move some things from the everyday list to the nice to have and vice versa.
    Baking sheets, nice to have. You only need one good ‘cooks’ knife. More than that, nice to have. #16 and #17 questionable – couple of good saucepans, one good frying pan and a good stock pot is all I have.
    Hand mixer – been using mine for 35 years (a golf trophy my Dad won!), they are cheap now and needed if you love baking. Food processor – if you can afford one, get one. I use mine all the time. Same with a microplane, I use mine every other day. They come on sale all the time, a must for me. Just my thoughts. xx

  61. I was just in the kitchen … and have returned to share my thought. NEVER underestimate a good pair of kitchen scissors, like Wusthof’s. Dishwasher friendly, indestructible and slick. They’re the fingers we dream of; snipping fresh fruits, veggies, herbs from the garden, to (one of my parents’ GREATEST hacks) “chopping” up streaky bacon or any other smaller protein, when uncooked or cooked. Edward Scissorhands might possibly have been a star chef too. X, Fei.

  62. Wonderful post. I liked the post and love the comments. Everyone really responded well to this. Someone once gave me a pineapple cutter since I love fresh pineapple. It worked but cut off too much pulp with the rind. Last time I used that thing. I eventually managed to re-gift it to someone who actually wanted one. The other single use gadgets I’ve had; egg slicer (why?), strawberry huller (did use this a lot), citrus zester (now that’s a keeper for zesting limes for key lime pie) … think that’s about it.
    I used to use knife blocks but have switched to magnetic bars. The knives don’t get damaged in a drawer and no block to take up space on countertops.

  63. Great post!!
    I cook a LOT. Have for many years and weekly meal plan + prep family of 4. I have a teeny tiny kitchen but have almost the exact same list as you! – minus the insta pot. 🙂 (Have deluxe crockpot I use weekly so that’s that)
    Not ONE more thing is allowed to enter our kitchen.
    Wait I did cave and buy a Keurig to stop buying so much coffee out and that was worth it . Last I find I also use my citrus reamer constantly as I make a homemade lemon vinaigrette every week . Held off buying one for years (like $8 lol) and bought a gorgeous yellow ceramic one from Williams Sonoma. It happens to be “pretty “ :), high quality and super functional. Overall less is more and quality and function mean the most. Happy cooking

  64. Quality post !
    I cook a LOT. Have for many years and weekly meal plan + prep family of 4. I have a teeny tiny kitchen but have almost the exact same list as you! – minus the insta pot. 🙂 (Have deluxe crockpot I use weekly so that’s that)
    Not ONE more thing is allowed to enter our kitchen.
    Wait I did cave and buy a Keurig to stop buying so much coffee out and that was worth it . Last I find I also use my citrus reamer constantly as I make a homemade lemon vinaigrette every week . Held off buying one for years (like $8 lol) and bought a gorgeous yellow ceramic one from Williams Sonoma. It happens to be “pretty “ :), high quality and super functional. Overall less is more and quality and function mean the most. Happy cooking

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