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 I made a guide about How to Stock Your Kitchen, but it’s sorely out of date and I’ve learned a lot since then.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

55 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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 :-).

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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).

  10. 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!

  11. Awesome! I love this one alot!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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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