What kitchen tools do you need at home? Use this list of essential kitchen knives, cookware, bakeware, and gadgets for a minimalist, fully functioning kitchen.
If you walk into a kitchen store, it can feel a bit overwhelming (and expensive!) to think about what you might need to stock your kitchen. In reality, you can make delicious, impressive meals with only a few essential kitchen tools!
I’ve put together my list of essential kitchen tools I couldn’t cook without. I provide links to products I use and love.
Note: this post includes affiliate links. I earn a commission for purchases you make using these. If you can, I’d rather you go to your local kitchen store and find these items. If you’re in a pinch or short on time, these links are here to help you out.
Knives: The Ultimate Essential Kitchen Tool
Instead of spending money on a lower-quality full knife set, I recommend investing in a quality pair of knives you need. High quality knives will last for years without becoming dull. Just make sure to sharpen and hone them regularly to keep them in top shape!
A quality knife is forged or stamped from a single block of carbon stainless steel. It’s best to hold the knife in your hand before purchasing so you can feel the weight of it. A good knife will be well-balanced and feel good when you hold it.
My favorite knife brand is Wusthof, followed closely by J.A.Henkel. Both companies make different qualities of knives, so make sure to purchase either the chef’s knife or paring knife I recommend. Better yet, go to your nearest kitchen store and hold the knife in person before buying!
Don’t forget to buy a cutting board, too. I recommend one with grooves around the edges to catch any liquid that might drip.
Essential Kitchen Cookware
Just like a knife set, it’s usually not necessary to purchase a full set of pots and pans. Instead, purchase high-quality versions of what you really need.
How to Choose Quality Kitchen Cookware
When you’re ready to invest in pots and pans that will last for the long-term, this is what you should look for:
- A minimum of 3-ply: this refers to how many different layers of material the pan is made from. At a minimum, the middle layer should be either copper or aluminum and the two outer layers should be stainless steel.
- Quality material: either copper or hard-anodized aluminum at its core which provides for even heat distribution for more even cooking with an exterior of stainless steel
- Where its made: especially if sustainability and working conditions for employees is something that’s important to you, you may consider where the pots and pans are actually manufactured. Heritage Steel is an ethical company who manufactures all their products in Tennessee. Brands like All Clad manufacture some of their products in the USA while some components are made overseas.
Don’t simply shop based on brand name. Manufacturers like Calphalon, All Clad, or Cusinart sell different quality levels of pots and pans. They have some very high-quality options, but if you’re not careful you can end up with a “cheap” feeling product.
I recommend purchasing pots and pans without a Teflon (nonstick) coating. Although there hasn’t been clear science linking these levels with detrimental health effects, there is evidence that chemicals used in the past to make Teflon build up in the body and can potentially poor health outcomes. Plus, stainless steel is quite easy to clean! I haven’t missed my Teflon pans at all, so I don’t find a reason to expose my family to a potential toxin.
Skillet or Sauté Pan
Of all of the pots and pans in my kitchen, my cast iron skillet sees the most use. This is an excellent bang-for-your-buck cookware item. Cast iron skillets last generations and are relatively inexpensive compared to high-quality pots and pans.
Because of my cast iron skillet, I rarely use my sauté pan. If I didn’t have a cast iron skillet, it would see much more use! The distinct right-angled sides of a sauté pan are better to keep foods and liquid in place. Recipes like one-dish meals generally work better in this pan.
A skillet also goes by the name of “frying pan” or “frypan;” these are all the same piece of cooking equipment. The sloped sides of a skillet allow for easier stirring, so foods which need to be flipped (ex: crepes or omelets) or stirred frequently (ex: fried rice or vegetable stir-fry) work better in this dish.
Essential Kitchen Bakeware
Sheet Pan (Baking Half Sheet Pan)
A sheet pan has a very small lip around the edge, about an inch deep. It’s traditionally made of aluminum and may or may not contain a nonstick coating.
The larger size and short lip of a half sheet pan make it perfect for roasting vegetables. These features allow air to circulate better between the pieces of food for improved browning.
I find a sheet pan is more versatile than a cookie sheet because you can bake cookies on it if necessary. A cookie sheet doesn’t have the lip around the edge so isn’t ideal for roasting, as veggies might fall off the pan!
9x13-inch Glass Baking Dish
A 9×13-inch glass baking dish is so versatile I recommend every kitchen has one. You can use this to bake a casserole or cake, roast vegetables, or simply store leftovers. Pyrex brand makes a very durable option, allowing you to bake, refrigerate, or even freeze food in it.
This dish is equal to a 3-quart baking dish and is the standard size used for most casseroles. The lid makes it easy to store leftovers or transfer baked dishes.
Saucepan or Saucier Pan
A saucepan is smaller than a pot with shorter sides and one long handle. It comes with a lid. It’s best for making sauces which can be reduced more easily with the larger surface area for evaporation.
I find a saucepan to be more versatile than a large pot. If you’re only going to choose one, I’d opt for a saucepan or perhaps a saucier pan.
A saucier is shaped like a saucepan except it has rounded corners instead of a nearly 45-degree angle. The shape allows a whisk to easily move around all edges and so I recommend this pan if you make sauces or gravy.
Essential Kitchen Gadgets and Tools
These tools aren’t fancy, but they are essential if you spend time in the kitchen.
Digital Meat Thermometer
If you cook meat, you need to have a digital meat thermometer. Not only does a digital meat thermometer help ensure food safety, it’s also the best way to ensure the quality of your meat is top-notch.
I recommend this thermometer because you can leave the probe in the meat while it’s cooking. It’s connected to the readout outside the heat source so you can keep an eye on the temperature from afar. It even has a temperature alarm so you can cook your meat based on temperature rather than time, which provides much more consistency in cooking.
Glass Bowls with Lids (for Serving or Mixing)
These glass bowls are attractive, but functional. If you only have one set of mixing or serving bowls, this is what I recommend!
They nest inside each other for compact storage and the lids allow you to easily store leftovers.
This set of silicone spatulas is heat resistant up to 500 degrees. I use these for everything in the kitchen, from mixing ingredients to scraping bowls. They’re safe for use on non-stick coating because they won’t scratch the surface.
They might not seem important, but these spatulas are some of the most-used items in my kitchen.
Metal Measuring Spoons and Cups
Especially if you like to bake or if you’re new in the kitchen, measuring cups and spoons are a must-have.
These metal measuring cups and spoons have the quantity stamped into the metal so it will never wash off in the dishwasher. This set includes an 1/8 cup and 1/8 teaspoon which aren’t used often but are handy to have!
Vegetable Scrub Brush and Peeler
Optional Kitchen Gadgets
Depending on your cooking style, you may or may not need these kitchen tools.
Slow-Cooker or Electric Pressure Cooker
I am a HUGE fan of slow-cooking as a way to save time with meal prep and get dinner on the table on busy nights. That’s why there’s a slow-cooker recipe included every week on the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides.
I’ve owned this Manual 7-quart Crock-Pot forever. It’s simple, sturdy, and gets the job done. The 7-quart size has been plenty big to feed a big crowd (up to 12 servings of chili, for example).
Once my current Crock-Pot finally bites the dust, I’ll probably upgrade to this programmable version of the 7-quart Crock-Pot which has the option of using a timer to turn off and on. This feature would be great for leaving for the day and coming home to a hot meal.
If you’re looking for a true all-in-one device, this Instant Pot Pro Crisp is a great option. This is a combo Air Fryer, Electric Pressure cooker, and Slow-Cooker. It has options to sauté, sous vide, and keep food warm. It also works as a mini oven, broiler, and dehydrator. It’s pricey but may be worth it instead of purchasing each of these items individually.
If you own a grill, you must own a vegetable grill basket. We use ours several times per week during peak grilling season! It’s the easiest way to make incredibly delicious vegetables. You can also use it to grill chickpeas or shrimp.
For more grilling tool recommendations, check out these 5 Must-Have Grill Tools.
For creamy soups requiring blending, an immersion blender is a necessity. The alternative is to blend soup in batches in an upright blender, but this can be very dangerous when handling hot liquid.
This immersion blender also comes with a milk frother attachment so you don’t need a separate gadget to make a latte in the morning. It also has a whisk attachment if you don’t have a hand mixer.
Food Processor & Blender Combo
Unlike other clunky food processors and blenders, this combo Food Processor and Blender device takes up much less space.
It’s not as powerful as a Vitamix, but it’s much less expensive and gets the job done! If you only use a food processor or blender occasionally, this is a great option. It comes with multiple attachments so you can take your smoothie to go or blend a batch for a crowd.
Do you have favorite kitchen tools that I forgot to include on the list? Leave a comment below to let me know what I need to add!
Happy kitchen shopping,
Dietitian Ann from Peas and Hoppiness
Spend Less Time Thinking About Dinner
“I love the balanced meals and variety of food choices the guides provide. The meals are filling, taste good, and are nutritious.”
-Rhonda, member of the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides