Some people love to collect kitchenware (“some people” is me). However, truth be told you can make delicious, impressive meals with only a few things in your kitchen! Here I’ve put together my list of absolutely-essentials and the really-nice-to-haves.
If you’re starting to build your kitchen collection, start with the essentials, then put the wishfuls on next year’s birthday list.
There are so many different types of knives out there it can be completely overwhelming - and very expensive. It’s tempting to buy a $20 Oxo knife at Target, but I’m going to tell you: it’s not worth it.
Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a set of low-quality knives, I’m going to let you in on a secret: a good chef’s knife and paring knife are really all you need. Yes, yes, yes - a boning knife is perfect for removing flesh from fish, but how often are you really going to do that? Other knives are great for special occasions, but if you’re starting your kitchen collection from scratch this is where you should spend your money.
8-inch Chef’s Knife: I use my chef’s knife every. single. time. I cook. I even have two of them because one is always dirty from being used!
3.5-inch Paring Knife: For any hand-held cutting, this is the perfect size and shape. I cut apple slices, the rind off cantaloupe, and slice avocado with this knife. I use it far less than my chef’s knife (because I’m obsessed with that knife), but this is a great knife for a beginner cook who’s not as comfortable wielding a giant sharp object.
And because you have to have a cutting board, here’s a great option. I recommend more than one and prefer plastic so I can put them in the dishwasher after use (because I’m a little crazy about avoiding cross-contamination and worry about food safety).
Like knives, investing in a quality set of cookware will last years and bring you much joy. However, it’s easy to fill your kitchen with a lot of miscellaneous cooking dishes which you’ll rarely use. Here are the staples in my kitchen which I use all the time (you can tell by the cooking equipment required on the meal plan).
Cast-iron skillets are the BOMB-DIGGITY, YO. I went years. YEARS! Before a friend finally gave me a cast-iron skillet for Christmas.
I knew they were amazing, but o.m.g. I use my cast-iron skillet almost daily. It sears. It fries. It’s easy to clean. It’s really heavy and holds heat well. Heck, you can even take it camping and put it straight into the coals to make your dinner. You’ll want a lid to go with your skillet so you, too, can make perfect Kale & Goat Cheese Hash.
I’ll be honest - I’ve made plenty of quality meals on crappy skillets. Yes, it’s totally possible. But the pans warp, cook unevenly, often burn parts of sauces or skillet dishes and refuse to cook food evenly. A quality pan is made of quality material and it’s worth what you spend on it.
As you can see, my 9x13-inch baking dishes are well-used and well-loved. I use them so frequently I have FIVE of these dishes (2 of which are used almost daily; all five are in use during the holidays when I make Party Mix).
My favorite are my two glass 9x13-inch Pyrex baking dishes which have LIDS. The lids don’t go in the oven, but they are awesome for storing leftovers in the same pan I used to bake - because I hate doing dishes and love reusing pans.
I often use two pans in the same recipe or have one in the fridge storing said leftovers, so I definitely recommend buying these as a two-pack.
If you cook meat, you must have a food thermometer.
There is just no other way to make juicy, tender chicken or pork roast. Using a thermometer you can make sure your steak is cooked to perfection without cutting into it and allowing all the yummy juices to escape.
Yes, yes - a food thermometer will also ensure you don’t get food poisoning from undercooked meat, but more than this your friends and family will be amazed at the perfection you create with this simple tool!
This thermometer checks all the boxes:
Digital - meaning you can set a timer to alert you when your meat is done and it will remain more accurate than a mercury thermometer
Has corded probes which you can insert into meat inside the oven while watching the temp from the outside. No letting hot air out and reduce the risk of burning yourself (yay!)
Has TWO probes so you can place in different parts of a large roast or two separate pieces of meat so everything comes out perfectly!
Yes, you need all four of these silicone spatulas. Silicone is awesome because it doesn’t melt when you *accidentally* leave your spatula in the pan after stirring your eggs.
I loooooove my set of Pyrex mixing bowls with matching lids. They are nice enough to serve out of, functional in all kinds of ways (from mixing up cookie dough to whipping cream to storing cut fruit), and the matching lids mean I don’t have to dirty two dishes to store leftovers. I’ve had my set for 10+ years and would buy it again in a heartbeat.
It’s not very exciting, but a good colander is a must-have. In addition to the obvious draining of pasta, I use mine when washing vegetables (and actually use this instead of a salad spinner to allow water to drain naturally from my lettuce) and fruit.
Pro-tip: wash your grapes in your colander after bring them home from the store, then clip apart small bunches and leave in the colander in the fridge for an easy grab-and-go snack!
These aren’t tools you’ll use every day, but when you need them, you really need them.