25 Kitchen Essentials for Every Cook: Best Kitchen Utensils, Tools and Equipment
Setting up a new kitchen? Trying to pare down cabinets overflowing with gadgets? Here are the kitchen essentials you really need.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.
When it comes to kitchen gadgets, they tend to pile up fast. Walking down the cooking aisle at a store, fun kitchen tools like avocado peelers, strawberry hullers or a teensy-tiny wooden spoon are tempting impulse buys. Unfortunately, they’re not all necessary. To help you determine the kitchen products worthy of buying and what to skip, we rounded up the best kitchen essentials you’ll use time and time again.
A quality knife is a chef’s best friend. It’s one of the best kitchen essentials you’ll thank yourself for investing in. Choose a knife that you feel comfortable handling. It should feel balanced in your hand, easy to hold and control and not too heavy, but definitely not flimsy. We love the Misen Chef’s knife for the job. Our Test Kitchen called it one of the best chef’s knives every cook needs. Executive Shopping Editor Megan Wood also tested the Misen knife and gave it high marks for smooth slicing, dicing, chopping and everything in between.
Stainless Steel Spatula
When stocking up on kitchen essentials, a sturdy spatula is the best place to start. It’s a simple but vital kitchen tool for flipping, tossing and serving all kinds of foods. Think eggs over easy, fluffy pancakes, roasted veggies, sautéed meats, baked salmon…we could go on. Just be careful handling it around ceramic pans as it could scratch the surface.
Transferring chopped ingredients to a sauté pan? What about cutting dough? This multi-purpose stainless steel (and dishwasher-safe!) food scraper assists in all your cooking and baking needs. Opt for one with a ruler: It’ll come in handy when precise measuring is needed. Then file this under affordable kitchen essentials you never knew you needed.
Some may argue your hands work just fine, but we’re firm believers a handheld juicer really helps get every last drop out of citrus fruits. Especially when working with a not-so-ripe lemon or lime. Plus, they catch the seeds so you don’t have to pick them out. It’s one of the many five-star kitchen essentials on Amazon that are totally worth it.
Prep potatoes, carrots, apples and everything in between with a vegetable slicer. A good one slides smoothly and peels ingredients in seconds. Once you find one you love, it’s one of those tried-and-true kitchen essentials you’ll rely on for almost every recipe.
A silicone spatula is crucial for swirling frosting onto cakes, folding egg whites into batter, scraping out the food processor and so much more. Make sure your spatula is silicone and not rubber, or else it may risk melting under high heat. This affordable pick withstands temperatures up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. And bonus points: It’s dishwasher-safe.
Sturdy whisks come in all shapes and sizes. Choose a mid-sized whisk with a handle that fits comfortably in your hand. Use it to mix dry ingredients together before baking, stir eggs for a frittata or emulsify a vinaigrette. Here’s why a flat whisk is also one of the best kitchen essentials.
Adjustable Measuring Cup
Not only does an adjustable measuring cup save storage space, it’s a game-changer for sticky or liquid ingredients like peanut butter. Just slide the outer sleeve to your measurement of choice, pop in the ingredients and transfer them to a bowl. No scooping or fumbling around the cup involved. Check out more affordable kitchen organizational tools.
Whether it’s wooden or metal, a slotted spoon acts like a miniature strainer, removing solids from liquids—think pulling potatoes or small pasta noodles from boiling water. In this case, we prefer a wooden spoon because it’s oh so timeless. In fact, it’s one of the many amish-inspired kitchen tools everyone should own.
Super basic, but super useful. Every day you’ll reach for shears to open packaging, snip away herb stems or trim fat from meats. Once in a while, you might use them to cut up a whole chicken or slice the crust off a pie. Look for a pair that dismantles for easy cleaning, like these stainless steel cutters, so gunk doesn’t build up in the hinge.
For a few bucks you can buy an affordable pair of tongs that’ll last a lifetime. We’re always finding new uses for kitchen tongs, from turning chicken breasts in the pan to reaching into the oven to check on a roast. (Basically, think of them as extensions of your fingers.) They’re also perfect for serving family-style dinners.
There’s no need to second guess if red meat is cooked through thanks to the Thermapen. Not only is it ideal for achieving moist, tender meat (it works for chicken and turkey, too!), it’s also a safety precaution. Here’s more on why you need an instant-read thermometer.
This cast-iron skillet is a powerhouse pan and a kitchen necessity. The best cast iron pans are virtually-indestructible wonders that provide consistent heat to whip up quick and easy recipes. This naturally non-stick pick from Lodge comes pre-seasoned and ready to use. Care for it properly and it’ll last a lifetime.
Nonstick Frying Pan
This easy-to-clean nonstick pan is ideal for scrambling eggs or wilting greens. When buying a nonstick pan, look for ones with a ceramic coating to ensure there aren’t any harmful chemicals. Senior Shopping Writer Bryce Gruber swears by Green Pan. They’re affordable yet long-lasting and lightweight but still durable.
A large saucepan is essential for making pasta, boiling potatoes or corn, simmering big batches of soups or broths, whipping up creamy mac and cheese and so much more. For the most versatile stovetop staple, this Greenpan pick does it all. It’s compatible with all stovetops, oven safe up to 600 degrees, has a diamond-infused ceramic nonstick coating, a durable glass lid and it’s even dishwasher-safe.
Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
Ah, the classic Dutch oven, another kitchen essential that’ll change the way you cook stews, casseroles and beyond. Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, created a collection of fun, farmhouse-inspired cookware that’s easy on your wallet but big on functionality. This enameled cast-iron Dutch oven comes in a variety of fun display-worthy patterns way too pretty to hide in a cupboard.
Aluminum Sheet Pan
Sheet pans are fab for baking cookies, but there are also a slew of quick and simple sheet pan dinner recipes you shouldn’t sleep on. Make foil-wrapped fish fillets, chicken with veggies, deep dish pizzas or roast veggies. One pan dinners = easy cleanup! This Nordic Ware pan is one of our Test Kitchen’s favorites, so you can trust it’ll stick around for the long haul.
Ceramic Baking Dish
Bake up hearty casseroles or sweet sheet cakes with this versatile 9-by-13-inch Great Jones Hot Dish. These kitchen essentials come in five fun colors and patterns, like this arch design, so they’re perfect for doubling as serving ware. Great Jones is, well, simply great, check out our Great Jones Holy Sheet review, too.
Once you try this Braun immersion blender, you’ll understand why it’s a kitchen essential. It’s so easy to blend soups, smoothies and pestos with the push of a button, the stainless steel blades whip up any meal in a flash. Simply change attachments to blend, chop, whisk, mash, crush and puree effortlessly. It’s much easier to handle than a traditional bulky blender, and takes up much less space, too!
Stainless Steel Colander
A sturdy colander is one of those kitchen essential tools that goes a long way when washing fruits, veggies and draining boiled foods. This ingenious strainer stands out for its expandable over-the-sink design and rust-proof fine mesh basket. Plus, it’s dishwasher-safe and collapses for easy storage.
Manual Rotary Grater
This cheese grater shreds a whole block of cheese in just seconds, but it’s one of those kitchen must haves with many more uses. Slice, cut or grind up potatoes, veggies, nuts, chocolate and more. We love using it to shred zucchini for healthy muffins or to quickly soften butter. The budget-friendly buy is easy to operate, and you can choose from seven fun colors to suit any decor style.
Stainless Steel Microplane
This microplane is one of our go-to kitchen utensils for when we want our dishes to feel gourmet. It’s a fine grater that’s perfect for adding thin sprinkles of Parmesan over a pasta dish or adding lemon zest to a flaky fish. Discover more smart ways to use a microplane.
Prep and Storage Bowls
This might sound like a no-brainer, but having a variety of mixing bowls is fundamental when it comes to kitchen tools and equipment. Baking, cooking, mixing salads, storing meals—the uses are endless. This six-piece stainless steel bowl set features non-slip silicone bottoms, flexible BPA-free plastic lids—plus, they’re dishwasher-safe. The nesting design makes them a smart kitchen organizational tool to keep clutter contained.
Timing is everything when it comes to cooking! If you’re making multiple items at once, it’s crucial to keep track of individual cooking times. Our Test Kitchen cooks carry timers around their necks, but we prefer this compact timer. The silicone cover (choose from five colors) keeps it safe from kitchen messes. There’s no loud ticking, so you can also use it for time management for kids doing homework, or to help adults with productivity in their office.
Wood Cutting Board
A sturdy, stable surface is vital when it comes to prepping food. Add this reversible wooden cutting board to your kitchen essentials list. It helps protect your knife from dulling quickly and makes cleanup a breeze (just don’t prep raw meat on it). It also doubles as a charcuterie board!
Want more fun product picks and money-saving deals from our shopping experts and Test Kitchen? Sign up for the Stuff We Love newsletter.