The essential collection of kitchen wares
I’ve written in the past about the ability to survive with very little in the kitchen. But we’re not talking about survival here. This is about what you should have in your kitchen to be able to happily cook wonderful meals of many cuisines. I don’t want you to blow the bank, but I’d like to share some ideas… so, here is what I find to be essential in the kitchen. Mind you, this is not all that is in the kitchen, it is just the 43 or so items I find essential to the kitchen.
Dry Measuring Cups – Used for measuring solid, or dry, ingredients such as flour, sugar, salt, oats, rice, and the like. They are typically made from plastic or metal and come in sets of 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup and 1 cup. I recommend a stainless steel set, but personally, we have both.
16 oz. (2 cup) Liquid Measuring Cup – Used for measuring your liquids from water to milk and far beyond. I prefer tempered glass, like Pyrex and Anchor.
Measuring Spoon Set – For measuring wet and dry ingredients, spoon sets will usually have several measurements, including 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon.
Mixing Bowl Set – I am for the stainless mixing bowls. The seem easier to clean, they’re lighter weight than glass, and I’m a big fan of nesting bowls with lids. Such a space saver when you have limited space to begin with. Now if you are you going to have a second, I do like having glass bowls for the times with steel will not be the answer. But that’s only if you are getting a second set.
Large Colander – What I use this the most for is washing produce. That, and pasta. It is definitely an essential kitchen item.
Locking Metal Tongs – Go where your fingers can’t. Whether it’s grabbing baked potatoes off the rack in the oven, or turning the roast in the braising liquid, even breaking up the slow roasted pork the uses for this tool are endless.
Wooden Spoon – My mom broke a lot of wooden spoons on my butt. So many, she stopped buying them for about a decade when I was a kid. But I’m better now, and the wooden spoon and it’s associated friends are welcome in the all the family’s kitchens.
Silicone Spatula – Use this for everything. Scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing, spread batters and doughs, stir invariable amounts of things. A tool that should always be handy and I definitely recommend more than one.
Thin Metal Spatula – First off, you don’t use plastic or silicone in cast iron or stainless steel pan. It’s something that you must have for the flipping!
Peppermill – Please stop buying ground black pepper. A decent peppermill will have you much happier, with an ability to adjust the size of the ground, and suddenly you like the control. Before you know it you’ve got salt grinders, and spice mills… but start with a peppermill.
Cutting Board & Mats – Use it. Most have a non-stick surface on the underside so that will help with keeping the food where you want it. I think one should have both a heavy wooden board, and mats, but the choice is yours.
Handheld Citrus Juicer – It’s just a timesaver. I’ve even used it to mash/muddle berries for drinks. Shhhh.
Box Grater – Don’t punish yourself. Get a decent one that is all steel. Those ones that have a plastic frame are garbage. I have never had a plastic one last, and a steel one has never let me down.
Handled Fine-Mesh Strainer – Use this to strain sauce or noodles, soak beans, wash rice, and so much more.
Parchment Paper – A great tool that I use often. It’s not just for baking cookies. I use in the on the grill, to wrap the kids’ sandwiches for school, cooking fish, and on and on and on… the only bad thing about parchment paper is that you run out.
Instant-Read Digital Thermometer – No matter how long someone says to cook meat, the only way to know if it’s done to perfection is the temperature of the meat. For that, you need this.
Potato Masher – It isn’t just for mashing potatoes anymore, baby. Speaking of baby, it’s great for making their food too! Make refried beans or mushy peas or guacamole, or muddle your punch berries by the pitcher, mix the meatloaf…
Microplane Grater – Yes, of course, you use it for zesting your citrus, but you also use it with garlic, or to grate Parmesan at the table, grate nutmeg and tamarind and cardamom, ginger and horseradish! Even the chocolate will help this be a well-used tool in the kitchen.
8-inch Chef’s Knife – It’s the big utility in the kitchen, trim and cut your meats; chop, cube, julienne and mince veggies, you use it for everything. Get something decent. If you treat it right, it will last longer than you.
Serrated Paring Knife – Use for close and intricate work. I use paring knives for deveining shrimp, seeding and cleaning chilis, slicing different cheeses and meats, and cutting small fruits and vegetables.
Corkscrew – Every home needs a corkscrew. Period.
Kitchen Shears – Yes, they look like regular scissors, but they are awesome. Use them to slice a pizza, open just about anything, cut ribs, spatchcock a chicken, trim leafy vegetables, or cut up herbs.
10-inch Serrated Bread Knife – A proper bread knife with a raised handle is a great knife to have, especially if you get into baking. Nothing beats a fresh-baked loaf of bread sliced fresh for dinner.
6 1/2-inch Cast Iron Skillet – Not everything you cook need be giant. And this is often the perfect size for when you’re cooking for two or only yourself.
12-inch Cast Iron Skillet – Yep. For the bigger stuff, that pork chop, or ribeye, or Juicy Lucy burger. But also for Brussels sprouts and hashes and eggs and zucchini and…
9 x 13 Glass Baking Dish – With half my childhood and most of my adult life spent in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I have gotten to know this dish well. From scalloped potatoes to potatoes au gratin, lasagna to ratatouille, casserole to hotdish. I’ve had thousand of variations of them all over the years, and I add to the number continuously.
Rimmed Baking Sheet – Because, baking, right? And oil, sauce, butter, milk, egg wash, marinade, and so many other things that need the lip so that they are molding themselves to be part of the oven.
6 to 8 Quart Stock Pot – Well, to begin, it’s in the name. Stock. Veggie stock, corn stock, beef stock, chicken stock, fish stock… but it’s also mashed potatoes, noodles for pasta, broths, soups, chilis, and so much more.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven – One of my favorite things to cook in the dutch oven is peach cobbler. Desserts in this beast are to die for. So is chicken tikka masala, and pork loin, and chicken thighs with potatoes and gravy…
10-inch Saute Pan – A higher sided skillet, essentially, I use this several times per week. Great for meaty sauces and saucy meats, like Taco Tuesday, or Sloppy Joe Sunday. You can also use it to make stir fry (but you’ll like a proper wok better), when you sear meat and maybe then want to incorporate it in oven cooking, or reduce a pan sauce.
Immersion (Stick) Blender – By far the best tool for milkshakes at home, and smoothies too. But I find it also great for making home mayonnaise and aoli, beating eggs, blending batters for stuff like pancakes or tempura, pureeing sauces and soups (like the the rhubarb sauce I made yesterday), making pesto or salad dressing, blending homemade hummus, blending drinks, and the list goes on.
Mini Food Processor – Yes, you should have a regular-sized food processor. But a mini food processor has so many great, quick and little uses and I find our getting over-time. Mix or chop vegetables, make guacamole for one, baby food, chopping nuts, chopping chocolate into chunks, salsas and dips and – oh my.
Rice Cooker – A rice cooker just does it right and takes the worry out of your hands. Perfect every time.
Slow Cooker/Crockpot – A must have for the busy professional, parent, or just because you’re lazy. It’s a great little appliance that gets a lot of use throughout the fall, winter and spring in our home. In fact, we have numerous ones. Make pot roast, baked beans, chili, hot dishes and casseroles. Apple sauce, puddings… the list just goes on.
9-inch Round Cake Pan – Who doesn’t like cake? Everyone has a birthday. It’s just something that needs to be had. And I’ve used mine for more than just cakes. But cakes are like shrimp. You can have ’em a million ways.
8 1/2-inch Loaf Pan – Zucchini bread, meatloaf, monkey bread, cornbread, pound cake, the list goes on and on….
9-inch Glass Pie Plate – The youngest has taken a liking to pies and quiches, so these are getting a lot of use of late. Get glass ones. Metal won’t last the same, and these can stay useful and beautiful forever.
Rolling Pin – When you need to roll a dough, it’s pretty inevitable that you will need a rolling pin. And it’s not just breads and cookie either. I use it when making pastas, to tenderize meats, to crush dried produce and bakery items (cookies and the like), and chase people out of the kitchen when they dip in the food too much.
Bench Scraper – This is one of those tools that is used for so much. Need to quickly wipe of a counter? Frost the side of a cake? Pick up a rested dough? There are so many times that you will thank yourself for getting one.
Kitchen Scale – This little bundle of digital wonder gets used more than I ever thought. Baking and making things like sauces where consistency is a key right now, I’ve found the scale getting used more and more frequently. Especially with recipes from other parts of the world. I see a lot of recipes using weights for ingredient measurement.
Handheld Mixer – Counter-top is preferred, but expensive. And even though we have a nice counter-top stand mixer, we still have a handheld model, and it still gets used. Regularly.
Apple Corer – It doesn’t matter if it’s counter mounted, handheld or otherwise, but a corer is a great help when you have the need to get a lot of apples done quickly (holiday pie season and such). But I got this one and it’s been a dream. I just played with the peeler/spiralizer for a good hour.
Tortilla Press – First make your own tortillas and tortilla chips. It is so worth it, plus you’ll know exactly is going in to you tortillas. Knowledge is power. Personally, I like my cast iron one. I got it a couple years ago, and the whole family has a better appreciation of the homemade tortilla because of it.