If you’ve ever visited a kitchen store without a plan, you know how tempting it can be to buy everything in sight. But while garlic presses, cherry tomato cutters, and spiralizers seem 100% necessary in the moment, the fact is, there are only a few kitchen essentials you really need in stock at home — crepe pans, pizza stones, and all other fun-but-superfluous products not included.
And yes, that holds true no matter your level of expertise. It’s kind of like what the late Anthony Bourdain wrote in his 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential. “I wish sometimes I could go through the kitchens of amateur cooks everywhere just throwing knives out from their drawers — all those medium-size ‘utility’ knives, those useless serrated things you see advertised on TV, all that hard-to-sharpen stainless steel garbage, those ineptly designed slicers. Please believe me, here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chefs knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand,” he said in the book. Yes, Bourdain was talking about knives in particular, but the same holds true for many other tools. In reality, most of those gimmicky kitchen gadgets are useless, no matter how fun and ingenious they may seem.
So what does that leave? Fortunately, the list is limited. Yet, if you have no idea where to start, it’s understandable if you’re still feeling overwhelmed. In that case, continue on for a roundup of the absolute essentials. It may feel small, but once you’ve stocked up, you’ll realize just how simple creating a fully stocked kitchen should be.
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Cookware & Bakeware
Before you do anything, invest in a few high-quality skillets in various sizes — you won’t be able to start your cooking journey without them.
Cast-iron skillets can be daunting thanks to their somewhat complicated care, but they should still be a staple in every kitchen. They allow you to cook with high heat and even stick your food into the oven, which is often a must when making things like chicken.
If you foresee any kind of stew, soup, or bolognese in your future, don’t forget to add a large Dutch oven to your repertoire. It’ll allow you to cook those comfort meals in big batches.
A sauce pan is simply one of those fundamentals. You can use it to do everything from cooking rice to, well, making sauces. They come in various sizes, so choose what’s best for you depending on who you’re cooking for and what you like to make.
For roasting or baking of any kind, you’ll want to have a baking sheet (or five) on hand.
Some moments just call for a good casserole — and when those arrive, you’ll need a nice baking dish in which to make it.
Every chef and home cook will tell you the most essential part of your kitchen is a very sharp chefs knife. Find a good one and a sharpener, and treat it with great care.
A serrated knife is also a must — it’ll come in handy when slicing bread and even some meat.
Kitchen shears are useful for a never-ending variety of things. Need to open packaging? Break down a box? Cut some pizza? Snip flower stems? They can do it all and more.
When using knives, a cutting board is mandatory. Make sure you have one that’s non-slip and features a moat around the edges, so that juices don’t fall off the side when you move it around.
Tools & Prep
Yes, some people (*raises hand*) have an enormous crock of tools. But whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced home cook, the fact remains that a whisk, a wooden spoon, and tongs serve as the basis for everything. Add a spatula, and you essentially have all you need.
Let’s be real — you won’t get far in your cooking journey without a can opener. You could splurge on a fancy one, but a manual one like this (which has safety features so you won’t cut yourself) will definitely suffice and take up a lot less space.
It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a pepper grinder. But compare pre-ground black pepper with its freshly ground counterpart, and you’ll immediately realize you can’t live without it.
It’s rare to make any meal without having to mix something, so a set of mixing bowls should be high on your list. Bonus points if they come with lids; it’s a detail that will make your life infinitely easier.
Between rinsing lettuce and draining pasta, you’ll get use out of a colander nearly every day of your life. This sleek option features evenly distributed perforations over the side of the base, promising efficient drainage.
Though many cooks will tell you they never measure, not everyone has the confidence to eschew all recipe recommendations. However, you don’t need a lot in this area. Just get one simple set of measuring cups and spoons, and make sure they’re dishwasher-safe — you don’t want to be hand-washing tiny objects after every meal.
Sure, it may not seem plausible that you’ll be grating cheese often, especially if you’re not really into cooking. You’d be surprised, though, how often the need for a grater presents itself. Fortunately, this one is ready for all those scenarios, whether you need a fine grating of parmesan or lemon, coarse potatoes or apples, or even sliced zucchini or cucumber.
OK, you probably already know a vegetable peeler is important. Make sure you have one in your drawers with a comfortable grip — it’s guaranteed to get plenty of use.
To many, a blender sounds superfluous. But when you get a sudden frozen-cocktail craving or you need to blend a hot soup, you’ll realize just how important it is. Just make sure to buy one that can withstand hot liquids — that feature will ensure you get double the use.
Yes, the internet is a wealth of cooking information. But when it gets too overwhelming, it’s good to have a dependable cookbook in your library. Choose one with meals that are sure to please, such as this treasure trove of Missoni family recipes. It includes “recipes curated for the season and for the occasion,” and works for both small meals and big events.
If you happen to indulge in libations (or host people who do), a book of cocktail recipes will save you on nights when you just don’t know what to drink. This one by Mark Addison features twelve cocktails in twelve unique variations “for 144 signature takes on the classics.” In other words, it’ll never let you run out of new ideas.
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