24 Kitchen Essentials for Every Cook, According to Our Editors and Test Kitchen Pros

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024

Setting up a new kitchen? Trying to pare down cabinets overflowing with gadgets? Here are the kitchen essentials you really need, according to Taste of Home editors and Test Kitchen pros.

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Green Pan Nonstick SkilletVIA MERCHANT

When it comes to kitchen gadgets, they tend to pile up fast. Fun tools like avocado peelers, strawberry hullers or a teensy-tiny wooden spoon are tempting impulse buys. Unfortunately, not all kitchen gadgets are necessary—so what takes them from a simple tool to one of your kitchen essentials?

According to our friends in the Test Kitchen, the best kitchen essentials come from sturdy, BPA-free materials like wood, metal or silicone. It’s always best to ensure that the material you choose won’t scratch or otherwise mar anything it will regularly come into contact with. Also opt for well-known brands for essentials you’ll use everyday, especially those which offer a generous warranty on their items. While they cost more than their inexpensive counterparts, it’s worth the investment when you weigh the cost of replacing your tools every few years.

With all these considerations, finding good kitchen utensils can be a bit of a slog. To help you determine the gear worth buying (and what to skip), we rounded up the best kitchen essentials you’ll use time and time again. Using input from the Test Kitchen and our Shopping Editorial team, we put together this list of all of our favorites, from knives to juicers and everything in between.

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. And bonus points: It’s dishwasher-safe.

“These are the best spatulas” says Content Director, Nicole Doster. “The Test Kitchen also loves these. The best part is that since it’s all rubber, no gunk gets stuck in the crevices of the tool.”

A sturdy strainer scoop is one of those kitchen essentials that goes a long way when washing fruits, veggies and draining boiled foods. Opt for one that’s large and in-charge—like the OXO scoop—in order to plate an entire meal without going back and forth between the bowl and the burner.

“I was on the hunt for months to find a better pasta spoon—and here it is,” says Nicole. “This scoop is big enough to catch a big plate full of noodles in one go, making it perfect for short and long pastas alike. It’s also a pretty good strainer for veggies, too.”

This microplane is one of our go-to kitchen essentials 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. Nicole calls this Test Kitchen-approved pick a must-have for zesting citrus or grating parm.

Nessie Ladle

“You could reach for a plain ol’ utensil. Or, you could find one that sparks silly joy,” says Senior Shopping Editor, Katie Bandurski, of these fun kitchen essentials. “Anyone who enters my kitchen can tell pretty quickly that I’m obsessed with OTOTO products, like this adorable Nessie ladle. It’s whimsical, yes, but also incredibly sturdy, serving up even the heartiest soups with ease.”

Toha24 Kitchenaid Go Cordless Hand Mixer Katie Bandurski 05 Msedit

KitchenAid Go Cordless Hand Mixer

“I have limited outlets in my kitchen, so I love finding cordless gear,” says Katie. “This KitchenAid cordless hand mixer has just as much power as the plugged version but is so much more convenient. I reach for it during weekly meal prep, but it’s especially useful during the holidays. I can whip cream, mix cookie dough or mash potatoes from anywhere!”

Toha24 Earlywood Sauté Spatula Katie Bandurski 02 Msedit

“As a Shopping Editor, tools come and go in my kitchen pretty frequently. But I’ve had these Earlywood spatulas for over five years—and they’re not going anywhere,” says Katie of these kitchen essentials. “I use my set every single day for scrambling eggs, sauteing veggies, mixing together pastas—they’re incredibly handy. Plus, even after years of use they’re still in good shape, no cracks in sight!”

Flatlay of A $75 Misen Knife Worth in the package on a cutting board

A quality knife is a chef’s best friend. It should feel balanced in your hand, easy to hold 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. Former Executive Shopping Editor, Megan Wood, also tested the Misen knife and gave it high marks for smooth slicing, dicing, chopping and everything in between.

Electric Proctor Silex Juicer with Some Lemons
Emily Way/Taste of Home EMILY WAY/TASTE OF HOME

Proctor Silex Citrus Juicer

Some may argue your hands work just fine, but we’re firm believers an electric 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. This version from Proctor Silex isn’t just effective—each purchase donates to Alex’s Lemonade Stand charity, so it’s also for a good cause! I use mine regularly, and I’ll never switch back to a manual juicer again.

Uubaar Stainless Steel Bench Scraper And Dough Cutter Ecomm Via Amazon.com

Stainless Steel Bench Scraper

Transferring chopped ingredients to a saute 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.

Senior Food Editor, Peggy Woodward, says that this kitchen essentials is great for cutting dough, especially bread dough. She also uses it to scrape her counter to lift stubborn bits of caked-on flour. Plus, the ruler comes in handy when cutting perfect portions.

Ateco Ultra Offset Spatula 3 Piece Set Ecomm Via Amazon.com

Ateco Ultra Offset Spatula Set

While a big spatula is best for heavy doughs, there’s still plenty of use for a small version, especially when it’s this offset spatula set. These kitchen essentials are inexpensive and come with three different sizes, offering plenty of places to put them to work.

“I use these for so many things,” says Peggy. “Of course for frosting cakes and cupcakes, but also for loosening muffins and other baked goods from pans, lifting delicate cutout cookie dough off the counter and getting small bar cookies out of pans.”

Measuring Cup
Madi Koetting/Taste of Home MADI KOETTING/TASTE OF HOME

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.

“The star of this baking tool is hands down the adjustable outer sleeve,” writes Product Reviews Home Editor, Madi Koetting, in her review of the cup. “Measuring up to two cups at a time, this tool easily twists side-to-side and up and down to find your exact measurement. The measurements are so exact, I hardly have to level dry ingredients too.”

There’s a better way to store leftover fruits and veggies, and the secret is food huggers. Instead of throwing a half-cut tomato or apple in a plastic bag, these food huggers create an airtight seal around food to keep it fresh for days longer compared to a container where it’s exposed to the elements.

“I always find myself with a leftover, half-cut onion after meal prep and I despised wasting an entire glass storage container for it,” says Madi. “That was until I discovered these nifty covers. They always come in handy whether I’m saving an onion or covering up an opened can of coconut milk.” Genius!

cheese shredder
Madi Koetting/Taste of Home MADI KOETTING/TASTE OF HOME

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. Madi loves 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.

Wüsthof Come Apart Kitchen Shears

Wusthof Come Apart Kitchen Shears

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 these kitchen essentials 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.

“I use these for prep, but also cutting things like pizza or snipping chives directly into a salad,” says Associate Culinary Producer, Ellie Crowley.

Oxo Good Grips Vegetable Chopper Ecomm Via Amazon.com

OXO Good Grips Vegetable Chopper

No knife? No problem. You can still mince nuts, veggies, herbs—you name it.  “I used to be a culinary teacher and this vegetable chopper was amazing to have for my special needs students,” says Ellie. “It allowed them chop ingredients without the risk of cutting themselves on a knife.”

For serious bakers trying to follow recipes that list ingredients by weight, a kitchen scale is an indispensable tool. It allows for precise measurements rather than cups and tablespoons, which can vary depending on the tool you use.

“This is the exact one we use [in the Test Kitchen],” says Ellie. “We measure majority of our ingredients by weight vs. volume. It provides a very precise and accurate measurement every single time.”

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.

“If you’ve been a Taste of Home reader for a while, you’ve likely gotten the hint that our Test Kitchen loves Thermapen products for cooking up *chef’s kiss* perfect cuts of protein. But if we had to choose just one essential kitchen gadget from the line, it’s the Thermapen One,” says contributor, Barbara Bellesi Zito, in her review of the pen.

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. Former Senior Shopping Writer, Bryce Gruber, swears by Green Pan. These kitchen essentials are affordable yet long-lasting and lightweight but still durable.

“I am notoriously bad at cooking fish, and I always manage to get bits of expensive fillets to stick on pans, grills and other surfaces,” writes Bryce. “Somehow I didn’t screw up the salmon fillets in the eight-inch Green Pan. They cooked perfectly! And that’s what convinced me that these otherwise ordinary-looking pans were worth every dollar.”

Ah, the classic Dutch oven, another kitchen essential that’ll change the way you cook stews, casseroles and beyond. The Le Creuset Dutch oven offers display-worthy colors and impeccable performance. Plus, this heirloom cookware boasts long-lasting craftsmanship that you’ll be able to pass down to your children.

“In professional kitchens, as well as in my personal kitchen, I’ve used Dutch ovens of all different brands, materials and sizes. But my Le Creuset remains victorious,” says Test Kitchen Manager, Catherine Ward, in her Le Creuset review. “I couldn’t begin to guess how many sourdough loaves, short ribs and roast chickens I’ve cooked within its walls, so believe me when I say: This heirloom-in-the-making is worth the investment.”

Gj Pan53 Great Jones Non Stick Baking Pan
Megan Mowery/Taste of Home MEGAN MOWERY/TASTE OF HOME

Great Jones Holy 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 roasted veggies. One pan dinners = easy cleanup! This Great Jones pan is one of our Culinary Director’s favorites, so you can trust it’ll stick around for the long haul.

“The performance proved phenomenal,” Executive Culinary Director, Sarah Farmer, says in our review of the pan. “The hefty pan offered uniform and steady heat distribution, owing to the heavy gauge aluminized steel. It has yet to buckle under high temps—not once did I hear it pop. All the food baked on it released without any issues, thanks to the ceramic nonstick coating. My cleaning dreams came true when any and all of the gunky stuff wiped so easily away.”

Once you try this Nutribullet 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! I use mine for soups and sauces—really anything that might be too hot for a normal run in the blender.

Culinary Assistant Mark Neufang suggests splurging on a nice, thick cutting board. While it’s fine to opt for plastic or other BPA-free materials, nothing beats the longevity or organic look of a soft wood board that comes from walnut or maple.

Boos Blocks are fantastic,” he says. What makes them a standout are the myriad shapes, woods and sizes available. Plus, recessed finger grips and a reversible surface elevates them above other, less pricey options.

Umite Chef Mixing Bowls With Airtight Lids Ecomm Via Amazon.com

Metal Mixing Bowls with Lids

Another recommendation from Mark is a set of nesting glass or metal mixing 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.

Earlywood Cooking Chopsticks Ecomm Via Earlywooddesigns.com

Earlywood Cooking Chopsticks

Culinary Producer Sarah Tramonte offers a recommendation that might not immediately spring to mind: chopsticks. Apart from using them as eating utensils, a good pair of cooking chopsticks makes stir frying, blanching and pan cooking so much simpler. Opt for a long wooden pair that won’t scratch pans, like this set from Earlywood.

“I cook a lot with chopsticks,” Sarah says. “I find they are perfect for flipping or stirring certain things when sauteing.”