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 I made a guide about How to Stock Your Kitchen, but it’s sorely out of date and I’ve learned a lot since then.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!

Bakeware

Prep Tools & Kitchen Gadgets

Storage and Supplies

Extras

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!

57 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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 :-).

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    http://www.foodservicewarehouse.com/vollrath/3822/p361412.aspx

    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! http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50153123/ 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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: http://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Stainless-Pull-Out-Display/dp/B000WJMTNA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402870006&sr=8-1&keywords=oxo+digital+scale

  11. 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).

  12. 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!

  13. Awesome! I love this one alot!

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Clarissa says:

    I’d add a pot holder/oven glove to the list! It’s sort of silly because it’s so basic, and you can get around buying them if you have dedicated kitchen towels. I find them to be cleaner/easier than towels, though.

    Something I’ve enjoyed using when cooking with others’ cookware is a mesh strainer. They’re great for rinsing rice, for example. I’ve generally been able to find creative ways to get around not having one, but it’s definitely on my to-buy-eventually list.

  20. This is a great list although I would add a pizza stone (and then there’s no need for pizza pans anymore!).

  21. Krysta says:

    Yes!!!! I have been looking for a list like this….there are so many options out there for cooking supplies I get overwhelmed. This is much easier I can just get everything I need of your list!

  22. Rachel S. says:

    This list is perfect! I’m finally finished with school and will move out on my own in the next few months. Great timing, Beth!

  23. What a great post!

    Silicone spatulas are my must have. They can withstand lots of heat, are very nice to non-stick pans, and are a breeze to clean.

    Kitchen shears and a garlic press are also big items in my kitchen. I have carpel tunnel and am developing arthritis in my fingers so they make my life much easier.

  24. I use my pressure cooker a lot, because as a brazilian I cook beans very often and its so much faster in a pressure cooker.

    By the way, the easiest way I know to shred chicken is to cook chicken breast for around 20 min in a pressure pot with some water, drain the broth, leave the chicken in the pot, close it and shake it like a polaroid picture for around 5 – 10 seconds. When you open the pot, it is all shredded!!! Check youtube for some videos. Its awesome! :)

  25. Julie says:

    I would be lost without my CrockPot; I’d personally add it to the “must have” list! I have a 5 quart, and one of those small 1 quart ones (it looks like a baby CrockPot!); I use both frequently.

    Another thing I use a ton and LOVE is the SlapChop; yes, it is an infomercial thing. Mine is a Pampered Chef one, and I use that thing for so many things! I line all the veggies I want to chop up on the cutting board, set that thing over them, and just SlapChop my way down the line. It’s small, so if you have a tiny kitchen it won’t take up much space. (http://www.amazon.com/The-Pampered-Chef-Cutting-Chopper/dp/B000GU49HY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400946355&sr=8-1&keywords=pampered+chef+slap+chop)

    I did not spend nearly $40 for mine, my mom found it at a yard sale for $3. Score!

  26. Andrea says:

    The most used items in my kitchen are my chef’s knife, my garlic press, and my citrus juicer. I also have a couple of silicone baking mats that I really like, I generally use those instead of parchment paper.

  27. Christina says:

    May I suggest an immersion blender, particularly for small kitchens/small budgets. It chops, purees and whips almost everything in any container/pot. I didn’t know I need one until I got it, but now I wouldn’t want to miss it.

  28. I love my West Bend Versatility slow cooker, because it’s not just a slow cooker! In addition to regular slow-cooking, it can also be used on the stovetop and in the oven. Great for both your slow cooker AND wonderpot recipes! A bit pricey, but totally worth it. http://www.amazon.com/West-Bend-84866-Versatility-Stainless/dp/B000BKY7K8/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1400889970&sr=1-1&keywords=west+bend+versatility+slow+cooker

    • Oh wow! That’s really cool. AND it can be used as a griddle! That’s like all of your kitchen needs in one.

  29. To go with the Mason jars, I recommend the plastic storage caps: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000BYC4B

    The canning lids and rings are meant for canning, not for repeated use as caps – especially the lids. The plastic caps are one piece, dishwasher safe, and are much easier to use for dry storage in the pantry (beans, lentils, nuts, etc.) and for refrigeration (homemade salad dressing or mayonnaise, leftovers, refrigerator oatmeal, salad shakers, etc.).

  30. Maura Cooper says:

    I would add a cutting board. My favorite is 11″ x 14″ and thick plastic. Fits into the dishwasher (not on your list, lol).

  31. Dang, I wish I had this list for my registry before our wedding! I’m definitely lacking in the knife department.

  32. Hannah says:

    These are great! I don’t have any sort of blender or food processor, nor do I have an electric grill, but those are things I’ve been eyeing for a long time–maybe I should take the plunge.

    I think I’d add a salad spinner. And a dry erase marker to label all those jars, bags and other containers!

    • Anna says:

      I label all my containers with permanent marker and then just wipe it off with metho when I’m done. I used to use dry erase markers but then I’d accidentally wipe it off!

  33. The thing I use 1-3 or 4 times a day is my VitaMix – now, I KNOW that it is spendy and not on a starter list, BUT – I was going through a regular blender every year and I’ve now had the VitaMix for almost 8 so it was absolutely worth the outlay for me. That said, I did get a Magic Bullet type set up for my RV and it does fine for small quantities, even smoothies. Still, if the VMix croaked tomorrow, I would be ordering another.

    Immersion blender, garlic press, citruis juicer (I use and old fashioned one like the old milk glass ones by grandmother had). I have the basic Cuisinart food processor, but again…for the RV I bought one of the small chopper/grinder (Cuisinart) and it is great.

    I have some basic Faberware that I’ve had forever, but mostly use cast iron skillet and dutch oven. Lodge cast iron is very inexpensive. I use it on my glass top regardless of the instructions.

    I think one key starting out is to have what you need to make the things in your own personal rotation. As you add to your cooking/baking repertoire, you can add items as you are able. I am also not a fan of specialty items, i.e. one trick pony stuff. I like keeping it simple even though I cook/bake a wide variety of things.

    Great List, Beth – absolutely covered the basics and then some!

  34. Hi Beth!! Great post and very helpful!!! First time stopping by your blog and I love your posts, pictures and how you break down the recipe costs!! These are some great tips in this post! I think I even need a few of these items myself.

    Thanks!
    AJ

  35. I’ve never used a food processor but I use my stick blender every second day. It’s great for blending things right in the container they are being cooked in.

    • TinaPete says:

      Would love to hear what you use your stick blender for; I have one that gets used on occasion & I’d like to use it for more than smoothing up soups. Thanks!

      • Anna says:

        I use mine for soups the most, but I don’t have electric beaters or anything so I use it for puddings and sometimes for cake mixes, I use it for my marinara (my nonna taught me that trick), my picky brother’s bolognaise. Mine comes with a bowl thing that the motor attaches to and i use it for making hommus, chopping things (although it doesn’t do a good job), sometimes salad dressings and so much more. I don’t use it as much as I used to, but it still gets a lot of use.

        • Aerynn says:

          I use my stick blender constantly, especially as I’m a single cook and I want small amounts of things with easy clean-up. I use it for soups, dressing, sauces, refried beans, mashed potatoes, pureeing fruit for sorbet, making smoothies right in the cup, etc. I almost never haul out my big blender – only when I need to crush ice.

  36. Asia says:

    I would just like to offer a tip for people with glass stove tops. I just got a new one and was reading the manual and it seems the only material that is highly recommended to use on the glass top is stainless steel. Thankfully for me, I had already started a stainless steel collection. But keep in mind the material of your pots and pans and the material of your cook top too before making any big purchases.

    • Don’t believe everything you read! I have a glass top stove and I use my cast iron skillet and Dutch ovens all the time. You just have to remember not to drag them across the surface and you’ll be fine. I don’t know how I would cook without those!

  37. Jenna says:

    I have a very small simple kitchen, and this list is pretty much exactly what I have.

    I have a blender and a rice cooker, but otherwise.. that’s it! I also have favorite baking pans from Wearever with matching racks.

    I don’t have a cast iron skillet. I use my dutch oven and my metal skillet that’s ok for the oven instead.

    Those are also the exact knives I own. No need to for all the others!

    I love having a simple kitchen.

  38. Sandra says:

    I love my Stainless Steel Scraper/Chopper, which is handy for baking, moving chopped veggies, cutting brownies/lasagna… I use mine so often I bought a second one.

  39. Marie says:

    I love my knife sharpener to pieces. Keeps my knives sharp which makes all the prep and serving work easier, and was relatively inexpensive (I think about $30-$50). Far cheaper than buying new knives.

    • Lisa says:

      I was also going to say a good knife sharpener…I have an electronic one that I got from walmart.com. In my opinion whatever knife you like and feels good in your hands is the best you just have to sharpen in often! The electric sharpener is much easier than the manual ones and makes my knives so sharp.

  40. Harriet says:

    I love my handheld blender – fantastic for soup. I also find a vegetable peeler pretty essential. I know you can do it with a knife but it’s much less stressful with a decent peeler. I also adore my digital kitchen scales, and my vac-u-vin (http://www.amazon.com/Vacu-Vin-0981450-Vacuum-Stoppers/dp/B000GA3KCE/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1400794852&sr=1-1&keywords=vac+u+vin)

  41. I would maybe add Blender of some sort to that list, but I suppose that would probably come under the Extras category. That way you can make smoothies, milkshakes, frozen drinks and puree soups.

    • Oh yes, I forgot about my little blender! I have one of those inexpensive, single serving kinds and it’s perfect for making dressings and things.

    • I use my food processor for making smoothies, it’s even better with anything containing ice

      Agree on the handheld blender

  42. Amanda S says:

    +1 on the cast iron! I didn’t have one until a few years ago but now it’s the pan I use 90% of the time.

    Silpats and one of those butterfly wine bottle openers that also opens beer bottles (for the important things in life): http://www.amazon.com/The-Modern-Essentials–Mechanical-Butterfly-Corkscrew/dp/B000P7PXFK/ref=sr_1_2?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1400792477&sr=1-2&keywords=wine+bottle+opener

Speak Your Mind

*