If you’ve ever walked through the kitchen supply aisle of your local grocery store, you’ll know there are about a million different tools you could buy for your kitchen. But trust me that most of them are either useless or just plain unnecessary.
Below I’ve compiled a list of tools that you should have even in the most bare bones of kitchens and briefly explain what they each do. This is going to seem like a long list, but chances are you have most of these in your kitchen already. For anything you don’t have, I recommend shopping at off-price retailers (such as TJ Maxx / TK Maxx, Ross, and HomeSense) where quality kitchen items are on sale for way less than regular department stores. *They don’t pay me to say this, I just can’t deny this is where most of my own stuff comes from because of the price.*
Feel free to refer back to this page during any recipe if you are unclear.
Kitchen Tools from A to Z
For any large mass of food that needs to be cooked in the oven like pasta dishes, brownies (link tba), or even chicken (link tba). A 9×13″ / 3.3L dish is standard in many recipes online, but I actually prefer a smaller 7×11″ / 1.4L dish when cooking for just 1 or 2 people. Investing in a glass or a ceramic dish with a lid makes it easier for storing any leftovers or for transporting.
Used for nearly everything going in your oven. If you only have one, then invest in a non-stick pan at least 9×13″ / 23x33cm with raised sides, if not larger. By using foil or baking paper during cooking you can prolong their life, and save yourself work on the dishes. Try not to use a knife on the surface, as they can scrape away the non-stick coating.
As you can guess, this opens cans, though this is a nice 2 for 1, as most come with bottle openers too. Try to find one with some weight to it, solid grips, and 2 rotating blade disks (as shown). These are less likely to get jammed down the line and will save you some elbow grease.
Cutting Board / Chopping Block
A wooden board is your best bet, but plastic can also work. I do not recommend glass or marble, as they’ll dull your knives quickly (plus it’s like nails on a chalk board when you cut.) Make sure these are scrubbed with warm soapy water and dried thoroughly to prevent bacteria build up. If your board is slipping around a lot while using it, dampen a small piece of paper towel and place it underneath to add some friction.
Electric Hand Mixer
This is probably THE most useful tool that isn’t in your kitchen right now. Literally any version (so long as its electric) will work. Useful for mixing wet batter ingredients, making frosting, and for whipping up the perfect mashed potatoes. (link tba)
Not just for cheese, these can be used to make hashbrowns (link tba), slice fruit and vegetables, and zest citrus fruit. Avoid single sided graters which have to be balanced against the counter, as they’re more prone to slipping and thus you injuring yourself. Spend that tiny bit extra on a box grater (4-sided) which has added stability and gives you more in return for your physical effort.
Knife uses and cuts are found on the How Do I…? page, but you should have a minimum of 2 knives in your kitchen. A chef’s knife (left) is used to cut almost everything – fruit, veggies, meat, herbs, etc. A paring knife (right) is much smaller and is great for small and delicate work, like garlic, berries, and shrimp.
Measuring cups and spoons
These are especially necessary in baking. Though typically sold as a set, the most useful of each are the 1/2 cup and the 1 teaspoon (tsp) – as these can be easily halved or multiplied for different measurements. 3 tsps can actually be used to make a tablespoon (Tbsp).
Whether mixing cookies, tossing salads, or seasoning meat and veggies, a large mixing bowl is incredibly useful as a cooking tool. A minimum of 3 quarts/litres up to about 8 qts/lts is recommended, in materials like plastic, glass, or stainless steel. Regular soup/cereal bowls or mugs can be used to mix anything smaller like eggs or dressing.
For removing the skins of potatoes and other veggies, as well as for making long thin slices of vegetables for stirfrys (link tba) and pasta alternatives (link tba), chocolate decorations (link tba), and citrus fruit peels for candying (link tba). I prefer a straight peeler (left) which is used by pushing down and away from you, but Y peelers, which are pulled down and towards yourself, also work well for others.
You will have more than one in your kitchen, but you should have at least 1 large pan (10-12″/25-30cm) WITH A LID, as many recipes involving rice or sauces will require it sits covered on the stove, and trying to MacGyver a baking tray on top just won’t work the same (trust me). This and your pot should be at least mid-range quality ($30/£25), as cheap pans will cook unevenly and fall apart very quickly. There are some slight differences to using nonstick, cast iron, stainless steel and ceramic, but not enough to affect the recipes taught here. You should try to also have at least 1 pan which is oven-safe meaning no non-stick coating or plastic handles (stainless steel or cast iron both work well).
Pots / Saucepan
You should have at least 1 large pot with a lid and which DOES NOT have a non-stick coating – stainless steel works best here. These may also be called stockpots or saucepans at your local store, the difference being whether it has one long handle (pan) or two small handles on each side (pot). Either way, you should have something with high sides which is around 8″/20cm at its base. It cannot be non-stick as processes involving mixers or whisks within the pot can scrape off the coating and contaminate your food.
My shears are as important to me and my kitchen as my knives, helping me cut everything – packaging, fruit and veggies, meat, herbs, small bones, and even my pizza. They are strongest at the midpoint of the blades, which is why they usually have a different shape here, differentiating them from regular household scissors.
You should have 2 types of spatulas – a wide “flipper” spatula (left) which can stand up to heavy-yet-delicate foods like burgers, pancakes, and fritters. If the flipper part of the spatula bends easily when you press on it, it will not be able to hold up your food without potentially dropping it. You should also have a scraper spatula (right) ideally made of thick silicone tapered at one side. Primarily used in baking, these help you scrape the side of the bowl so no ingredients are left behind (plus it helps with clean up).
A versatile tool useful to the processes of turning, handling, moving, transporting and otherwise grabbing food that is too hot to touch but is too unwieldy for a spatula or spoon. Plus they are fun to play with.
A sturdy midsize wire whisk is an under-utilised tool in most kitchens. Unlike spoons and spatulas (and frankly plastic whisks), the wire whisk is able to smoothly blend and aerate ingredients together to form great sauces, gravy, queso, dressings, and whipped cream. More about whisking technique on our How do I…? page.
A wire rack serves two purposes: it can be used as a cooling rack for baked goods, letting air and steam to escape from all sides while it cools; and it can be used to cook food in the oven, allowing air to circulate like in an air fryer and keeping food crispy from any drippings that may cook off of it and make it soggy (think bacon, poultry, meat, and fish).
I have about 5 in my kitchen, though that’s more than is strictly necessary. A wooden spoon, as simple as it may be, is the best tool for stirring almost any recipe. They are strong enough for you to use force (like when breaking apart meat or creaming butter); heat resistant so you don’t have to worry about them melting like a plastic spoon or burning you like a metal one; and they don’t scratch the surfaces of your pots and pans. I like the flat one in particular for browning meat as it provides greater leverage to break it down.