There are only 10 essential kitchen tools that are the workhorses of your kitchen and can accommodate cooking everything from breakfast to roasts to desserts. As much as I love browsing the kitchen department in my local grocery store and going to professional kitchen suppliers to wander the shelves and touch everything, I don’t believe in having specialized tools that can only do one thing. I believe in having a functional kitchen with multi-purpose products and kitchen tools. Check out How to Stock a Pantry to help make your kitchen more functional.
What’s the point of jumping on the spiralizer trend when you aren’t even sure you like zucchini or will only use it in the summertime? Do you really need the most expensive and largest stand mixer with all the attachments even though you hardly bake? What about the “fancy” knife set that has a fillet knife, 3 bread knives, and 4 variations of chef’s knives? You don’t need it.
Essential Kitchen Tools
There are only three kitchen knives that you need to accomplish your tasks: a paring knife, a chef’s knife, and a bread knife. The paring knife you choose depends on how big your hands are. Most paring knives have a blade between 2 and 4 inches. If you have bigger hands, go for the 4 inch as the handle will feel more comfortable. A chef’s knife can be anywhere from 7 to 10 inches and is the true workhorse of the kitchen as it can cut a variety of foods. If you have average sized hands, an 8 inch chef knife will be best. For larger hands, a 10 inch knife is recommended.
Choosing the proper knife for your hand size will give you the most comfort and control. A bread knife is best when used solely for delicate foods like bread, cakes, tomatoes, and sandwiches.
Whether you choose glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowls as part of your essential kitchen tools, be sure to buy at least 3 of varying sizes. I have 3 stainless steel bowls and 4 glass bowls. I use my lightweight stainless steel bowls for prepping dough, holding cut ingredients, or holding cracked/whipped eggs. My glass bowls are typically used for storing soups, salads, and dips because they are smaller and fit more easily in my fridge.
I have one spatula, one whisk, and one pair of tongs to my name, as they can easily be washed if I need them again. Because I exclusively own cast iron and aluminum frying pans and pots, my spatula and tongs are also made of metal. I find them stronger and they don’t fray like the teflon spatulas do after a year or two of heavy use. Whether you choose teflon or stainless steel, make sure it works for your kitchen. If you have nonstick pans, stainless steel spatulas and tongs will scratch the coated surface.
- Wooden spoons
Wooden spoons are relatively cheap to buy and don’t scratch the pots and pans as you are stirring and moving ingredients. I have the same wooden spoons from 4 years ago when my kitchen exclusively had nonstick pans. They have held up well.
- Cast iron pan
Cast iron pans are a staple on many essential kitchen tools posts. I am recommending it because I love taking mine camping for cooking over a fire. If you’re not an outdoorsy person, you may not even need a cast iron pan. They do retain heat, provided they are properly heated, but so do thick stainless steel pans. And they go from stovetop to oven!
- Stainless steel pan
When I first started cooking, I exclusively owned nonstick pans as I heard that was best. Because I cook so much at home, I had to replace these pans at least once every year, if not two years. It was annoying and frankly, a waste of both money and time. I have since switched to heavy-bottomed stainless steel frying pans that can be used time and again without fail. I’ve become a much better cook simply by relying on a properly heated frying pan and a bit of butter or oil swirled around, plus it makes food taste better!
- Cutting boards (various sizes)
I have a small collection of cutting boards of various sizes and materials. There are two wood ones, one large and one small. I use them for holding hot pans and pizzas. I don’t typically prepare food on them, though when I do, I prep only vegetables and fruits. Sometimes, the wood used to make the cutting board is more antibacterial than plastic but grooves in the wood from sharp knives can be a breeding ground from bacteria. I use my two plastic cutting boards for preparing everything from raw meat to slicing the smallest fruit. I don’t recommend glass cutting boards as they tend to dull knives and also make a horrible sound when being used.
- Measuring cups/spoons
Measuring cups and spoons are incredibly handy when following someone else’s recipe, baking, or making your own recipe from scratch! Use them often, and well.
- Grater (for cheese/chocolate/zest)
The type of grater you choose should be best for your kitchen. The most popular is the four sided grater with a variety of grating sizes. If you have the storage space and the patience needed for cleaning, then I would recommend this one. I have neither. I use a coarse one-sided grater and then I have a separate microplane for finely grating hard chocolate, zest, and cheese.
- Hand mixer/stand mixer
This last item is useful if you find yourself whipping up cakes, pancakes, or any kind of batter. I got on just fine with a 20-year-old hand mixer for years until the sparks became a bit too dangerous for my liking. Having a stand mixer with a variety of attachments has been so helpful. Just know you can do without and mix everything by hand with simply a bowl and a whisk, as I did before the hand mixer.
Your list of essential kitchen tools will evolve as your cooking evolves. I have recently added a microplane and a mandoline to my kitchen because I don’t always feel like finely dicing garlic or cutting potatoes incredibly thin using only a knife. Some kitchen tools (like a mandoline or a food processor) will help take the pressure off your wrists and hands. I am starting to feel the effects of working in restaurants for so long – my wrists become sore and my hands begin to cramp when I’m using a knife for hours on end. So yes, feel free to buy specialized tools if they make your life easier.
Anything essential kitchen tools not on this list? Tell me in the comments!