Kitchen Basics

I often get emails asking about what kitchen items people should put on their bridal registry or what tools and gadgets one would need to start a kitchen when moving out on their own for the first time. When I started this blog five years ago (!!!) I made a guide about How to Stock Your Kitchen, but it’s sorely out of date and I’ve learned a lot since then. I updated the list and included it in the Kitchen Basics section of my book (Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half), but I wanted to make the information available for everyone. Plus, this way I can actually link to the products, so you know exactly what I’m talking about (if you’re a Budget Bytes fan, my guess is that you’re a visual learner, like me!). :D

Kitchen Basics

Below is a comprehensive list of basic kitchen items that will help make a well run, efficient, no frills kitchen. You don’t need to purchase all of these things before you begin making meals at home. Instead, think of this as a goal list of items that you plan to acquire over time. The lists focuses on basic equipment that you can use every day and often for more than one purpose. These are my go-to items. These are the things that make my kitchen work.

The product links below are affiliate links and are for example purposes only. I took great care to chose products that I either own myself, or would pick if I had to buy them again.

Pots & Pans

Tip: When buying pots and pans, weight matters. Look for pots and pans that are thick, heavy, and don’t seem like they’d dent if you hit them with a mallet. Thin pots and pans will heat food unevenly and tend to cause scorching. I’ve had a set of these Calphalon pots & pans for over ten years and they have served me well. Glass lids are also very helpful!


Prep Tools & Kitchen Gadgets

Storage and Supplies


These are fancier items that I bought later in my cooking adventure. They’re by no means basic or necessary, but I get really good use out of all of them.

  • Slow cooker (Doesn’t need to be fancy, 5-7 quart is a good size)
  • Food processor (Again, doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. This is the one I use and it’s a beast!)
  • Dutch oven (It can be used on the stove top or as a covered casserole. Truly multipurpose cookware)
  • George Foreman Grill (I can’t believe there’s an infomercial product that I actually LIKE)

What are your “must have” kitchen basics? Share your knowledge and experiences in the comments below!


  1. Jamie says:

    Beth, I love your cheese grater! What brand is it? Do you remember where you got it? I’m not a big fan of the box graters.

  2. One thing I recommend if you’re just getting into stocking your kitchen is trying to find a restaurant supply store that’s open to the public. Nine times out of ten you will be able to find what you’re looking for at a fraction of the price or it’ll be durable enough that it’ll last you a lifetime. Granted they probably won’t be as nice to look at as some of the cookware in a store but by god they’ll last.

    Same thing with disposables like plastic wrap, aluminum foil and parchment paper. I picked up a box of 1000 half sheet pan sheets for about $30 and i haven’t even gone through a 1/5 of them a year and a half later.

  3. Doug says:

    Awesome! I also keep generic plastic spray bottles around from the hardware store in case I need to make something like a bleach-water counter top cleaner when prepping poultry, as well as kitchen brushes that hold dish soap in their handles.

  4. Endfinity says:

    Instead of a wok, I used a 16 inch stainless steel pan. The idea of a wok is that you’re supposed to be push food off to the side, while you’re cooking other items. This huge pan works much better. I bought this new so it was rather expensive. Then I found out that I had to buy a lid separately. Still, I use this more than any other pan when I’m making a ‘throw everything together’ meal.

    When you’re first buying supplies for your kitchen, the best place to get them is thrift stores. The basics, bowls, pots, pans, cutting board, even flat ware and good dinner dishes can be found for incredible prices at thrift stores.

    I occasionally drive to a very expensive suburb who has a Salvation Army there. Their donations come from the people living in the area. I found beautiful dinnerware, slow cooker, toaster ovens for incredible prices.

  5. David says:

    This list is good but incomplete. One kitchen item I would not want to be without is a carbon steel wok. It can do much more than stir fry. It is easily the most versatile pan in my kitchen. I have both flat bottom and traditional round bottom woks and I am ready to give away my flat bottom wok. The only advantage with a flat bottom is you can use it directly on an electric or flat top burner. The round bottom wok is easier to ude in every other cooking situation. Because I cook on gas or outdoors over a wood fire the round bottom wok works better for me.

  6. wait, my real name? says:

    The cutting board link seems to be fried, try adding an “h” to its beginning!

  7. Jared says:

    I’m a big slow cooker guy. While some consider them to be tertiary cooking tools, they are my go to. When I have to work all day, I want to be able to set it and forget it and know that my next meal and lunch for the next few days will be ready when I get home.

    • velvetanne says:

      I agree Jared – you’re so right – I’ve had my share of cooking and cleaning up every night with a family – my girls are grown now and its just me. I use the weekends to make large batches of whatever recipe I like in the crockpot, freeze part of it in small portions. Just an hour or so each weekend of work for a whole week or more of food. After a month or so, my freezer is stocked – cheap and healthy. I just zap in the microwave when I get home each evening.

  8. In addition to your list, I could not live without my stock pot, immersion blender, and my turkey roaster. I love your blob so much, I am in Canada so the prices of things are way off, but the recipes are amazing, As I am typing this I have a batch of the vegetable egg rolls in the fridge for dinner tomorrow night :)

  9. Rave says:

    The one thing I have in my kitchen that has saved me a ton of time and money is my Foodsaver. I buy meats on sale and don’t have to worry about using them up before they’re freezer burned. I package up leftovers with it. Many of which can be heated up in the bag in boiling water.
    Also, when I went to Europe for 3 months I used them to pack 3 months worth of yarn in my luggage without having to pay the fees for extra checked baggage.

    • Penny says:

      I totally agree! I couldn’t live without my Foodsaver!

      • velvetanne says:

        I have that on my list – especially after I move to a little bigger place. Any tips or suggestions would be welcome.

  10. Lynnette says:

    I’m seeing a lot of the ceramic non-stick cookware lately. Is that any better than the traditional (Teflon?) non-stick? Pricing seems pretty comparable…

  11. Ellen says:

    Colander. An inexpensive plastic one is fine — I buy mine at the dollar store — but indispensable for draining pasta, washing berries, and storing fruit if you don’t own a fruit bowl :-).

  12. Michael Gregory says:

    I think that more than anything else, the most useful kitchen tool I have is a mobile baker’s table. I live in a one bedroom apartment and kitchen space is at a premium. I didn’t even have room to roll out dough or shape a bread loaf until I got the baker’s table.

    They’re a hefty investment new, but they’re always on sale on Craigslist. The key is to get one with a work surface that is high enough to be comfortable. Too many I’ve seen have really low work surfaces.

  13. LizDee says:

    Love the mason jars.
    Recently I’ve been preparing salad ingredients in both quart and pint jars
    Each jar holds a different veggie.
    I dice up roma tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, etc. and then I have NO excuse for not making a salad for lunch because a sandwich would be so easy to grab.

  14. Andrea Hart says:

    I love this blog! This blog is the primary reason I’ve been cooking more at home and have loved everything we’ve tried so far. I’ve been adding to my cooking supplies and replacing some things that have worn out over time. My budget hasn’t exactly increased for kitchen goodies but I’ve found some great deals that hopefully can help others.

    When my trusty stainless steel pans finally bit the dust (plastic handles on pans is a terrible idea), I skipped the consumer-grade stuff entirely and got things I could use and abuse and not feel bad about.

    This is a very basic set but has everything to get someone started. We added an 11″ frying pan, 6qt saute pan (super handy for dishes with lots of liquid or veggies that need to be stirred since it’s got tall sides), and an 11″ lid to fit both but those pieces and any others could be added to the basic set as needed. This set it HEAVY DUTY. No, it’s nothing special to look at but they’re very durable, very well-made, and seriously heavy duty. The thick, heavy, clad bottom is AMAZING for cooking and distributing heat, unlike what my old thin pans were doing before.

    For cutting boards, if you have an Ikea nearby, these are perfect! They’re a lot thicker than the flimsy plastic ones you see often and they’re cheap to boot.

    Others have mentioned a kitchen scale and I can’t recommend it enough! It’s one of those stupid things you don’t really think you need but once you have, you use it for EVERYTHING. A lot of the recipes on here and elsewhere call of so many oz of pasta or cheese… just place whatever you need on the scale, zero it out, and add until negative however many ounces you need. No extra dishes to dirty and it’s quick! These can be picked up for $10-$15 so there’s no reason not to get this. You will be amazed at how much you end up using it.

    GREAT list! Thank you for putting this together, Beth!

  15. Michael Thompson says:

    To your excellent suggestions I would add:

    mandoline slicer A lot of recipes need even slices of veg or fruit, or sticks, or ‘pixie sticks’. Tedious and difficult to do with a knife, this makes it quick and easy. Mine cost about 15USD and has lasted years, though you can spend a bit less or a lot more.

    kevlar glove Better than the ‘hand guard’ which comes with the mandoline, at least mine, and gives you a good grip when deboning chicken & other kitchen ops. About 8USD, dishwasher-safe. That’s a lot cheaper than a mere 4 stitches in the emergency room, plus the nurses don’t snigger. According to unconfirmed rumor.

    oven thermometer More than likely your oven thermostat is way off, and temperature is critical esp low-temp cooking & baking. <10USD.

    • Michael Gregory says:

      Kevlar gloves are a must. I have a really nasty scar on my wrist from a paring knife accident while deboning a chicken. 15 stitches and I got to enjoy an endless parade of people who refused to believe I just got stupid in the kitchen. Definitely get the gloves.

      Additionally, I’d suggest a second work bowl for the food processor. I got a second one and I’m shocked that I somehow managed with just one.

  16. Mike B says:

    The two big things I use that are not on the list are a KitchenAid mixer, and a digital scale that reads metric. The scale has vastly improved the quality of my baked goods by making sure I use the correct amount of flour and sugar (I used to over-add flour because it would compact in the measuring cup!)

    Oxo makes a good scale:

  17. Allison says:

    Blender!! We have an immersion blender that is perfect for small quantities (it’s used mostly for salad dressing), and then a big blender for smoothies, soup, sauce, etc. We’re upgrading to a Vitamix at some point this summer, and I’m looking forward to it immensely!!

    Others: citrus juicer, rasp, silicone baking mats, fine mesh seive to strain flour, sauce or soup, a canning funnel (fits in the narrow or wide mouth mason jars, I use it constantly since I store anything remotely liquidy in jars)… We use a mandolin quite a bit!

    We have lots of kitchen gear, since my wife used to be a chef. Buying good quality pieces is TOTALLY worth it!! We’re slowly adding in more pieces (mostly really heavy duty small kitchen appliances, the last one up now is our blender, most likely replace with a Vitamix since it gets daily use).

  18. I much prefer a micoplane/rasp over a garlic press. My garlic is grated on it directly into the pot in about 5 seconds. It’s also used for ginger, nutmeg, Parmesan, zesting lemons and limes plus much more. It saves me tons of time!

    • velvetanne says:

      Thanks! So you peel the garlic and grate it from this? genius.

    • Lizzie says:

      The microplane/zester was recommended to me for garlic, however garlic is so small i found i was coming close to sheering off my skin within a few swipes of the clove… i’ve gone back to a press and find it easier… but that’s just me.

  19. Awesome! I love this one alot!

  20. rings99 says:

    Electric Steamer/Rice Cooker – for me its a summer essential instead of having to turn the oven on or waiting for the charcoal to heat up.

    Also my electric water kettle. Just had to replace my first one after 10yrs of use.

    I guess they would be go in the extras category, but I also think the steamer helps me to eat a bit healthier. I can put a piece of seasoned salmon in while I get ready for work & my lunch is healthy & ready to go with very little prep & time wasted.

    • velvetanne says:

      I agree – I use my rice cooker for so many things – boiling pasta, oatmeal, almost anything you can prepare in a pan. It saves so much electricity and keeps things cool too.

  21. Simona says:

    This is a great list Beth! I would also add a mixer to the extras list. I love my Kitchenaid mixer and even bought the meat grinder that goes with it. This is a pretty pricey item but there are some more affordable mixers too. Thanks for all you do!

  22. I LOVE my Dutch ovens and can’t do without them for soups, stews and curries. I’m also obsessed with my grill pan and pizza stone!

  23. I agree that a pizza stone is more versatile than a pan. You can also make scones or biscuits directly on the stone and they turn out wonderful.

    You can also make bread in the dutch oven if it’s big enough.

    I would add a cast iron high-sided frying pan/skillet. I Make cakes in mine :)

    If someone wants to spend money on you ask for an All-American Pressure Canner, minimum 6 quart-jar size. It will last for the rest of your life and it can be used to cook food, pressure-can and hot-water can.

  24. Teresa says:

    Instead of pizza pan, I recommend a pizza stone. I’m also a fan of stone for any other bakeware. The key is to preheat oven with your stone in it or it will crack from a sudden temperature change. Also do not wash stone with soap. Scrape and hot water.

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