10 Essential Kitchen Tools
These 10 essential kitchen tools are a terrific starting point for the beginning cook, or for the seasoned cook looking to compare notes. The tools I have listed below are the ones that get the most use in my kitchen.
1. Chef’s Knife
The number one question I get asked about kitchen tools is “which knife should I buy?” The short answer is an 8-inch chef knife, but there are some details to consider. The two main types you see these days are either a Japanese style construction (pictured) or European. A Japanese style chef knife is known for super precision cuts, but is also more delicate in the kitchen and more prone to chipping. German style knives are a bit heftier and able to hold up to heavier tasks (i.e. cutting butternut squash). My number one advice to those looking to buy a knife, hold it in your hand if you can. Many kitchen stores have knife counters, where even if you are not planning on buying the knife there, you can at least hold it. You will want solid tang construction, meaning the knife is all one piece), and the handle is attached to the metal with rivets. This is standard for well-respected knife brands.
2. Cutting Board
I like to use a cutting board that is sufficiently sized, around 18″ x 12″ or 14″ by 14″ for a square. This size is good for cutting a large pile of leafy greens or other items. Wooden construction is ideal, bamboo works too, and is more cost efficient. I also keep a plastic cutting board on hand for cutting raw meat. A large cutting surface ensures safety; you want your 8″ chef knife to be able to fully fit on the cutting board, and feeling cramped while holding a sharp object in your hand is a recipe for danger. I also tend to keep one small cutting board reserved for fruit. There is nothing worse than biting into an apple piece that has last night’s garlic flavor on it because you used on the same board.
A good starter board is this Epicurean Kitchen Series Cutting Board, or if you’re really looking for a beautiful gift, this John Boos RA03 Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board is it.
3. Fine Mesh Sieve
A fine mesh sieve, or strainer, does double, triple, quadruple duty in the kitchen. Strain your pasta, wash your rice and beans, scoop out blanching veggies from boiling water (6-inch is ideal for this), and drain sauces, stocks, purees. Buy multiple sizes to always have the right size on hand for the job.
This Cuisinart Set of 3 Fine Mesh Stainless Steel Strainers is a great deal.
4. A 10-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet
Learning how to use a stainless steel frying pan effectively is a basic skill in the kitchen. Cast-iron is my other go-to choice, but stainless steel is lighter and a bit easier to take care of if you are just starting out in the kitchen. Stainless steel pans can be non-stick as well, if you heat them sufficiently BEFORE adding the oil into the pan. They create great sears and crusts on items, and a good one will last you years in the kitchen.
This All-Clad Stainless Steel Fry Pan is absolutely worth the investment. If you are looking for a less expensive option, try this cast iron Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet, just be sure to watch this video on how to easily care for cast iron pans.
5. A 6-Quart Stockpot
I have found for my family of three, that a 6-quart stockpot with a heavy bottom is sufficient for our daily cooking needs. A thick and sturdy bottom is essential, as cheaply made pans with thin bottoms tend to warp when heated and burn the items cooking. A beautiful dutch oven is also fun to have on hand, and is terrific for serving directly from stove-top to table, but for starting out, and if you are only cooking for yourself and two other people, a cost-effective heavy bottomed stock pot is fine.
This super affordable Cuisinart Stainless Stockpot with Cover is just the thing.
6. Measuring Spoons
Be sure the measuring spoons are long enough to fit into spice jars and other containers. You may choose to keep them attached with the “o” ring, or separate them. I keep them attached, because the likelihood of loosing on of them is pretty high in my kitchen.
I like 18/10 gauge stainless steel for sturdiness, and this CIA Masters Collection 6 Piece Measuring Spoon Set fits the bill.
7. Dry and Liquid Measuring Cups
Dry measuring cups (preferable stainless steel) are intended for use with dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, cocoa, etc. Purchase sturdy metal ones so the handles are less likely to bend with heavy ingredients. For liquid measurements, use a cup with a handle, Pyrex is pretty much the standard, and can handle hot or cold liquid. I have a few sizes, but to start out, the two cup measure is best.
8. Large Spoon
Use this for everything, including stirring, scooping, and serving. I am a sucker for collecting wooden spoons (I will show you my collection another time), but a stainless steel large spoon works too. Inexpensive, might as well pick up two or three while you are at it.
9. Sheet Pan
You will need a large sheet pan for basic roasting and baking. They will be an absolute workhorse in the kitchen, and over time, they will take on the rustic “sheen” as shown in the photo.
Check out these pans by Chicago Metallic. Yes, you need two.
10. Y-Shaped Peeler
If you have never used a y-shaped peeler, you are in for a treat. Easy to hold, super inexpensive, they are way more efficient than a swivel peeler, and you are likely to lose it before it goes dull.
From Kuhn-Rikon, they come in packs of three, in super fun colors, here.
Bonus: 2 More Essential Kitchen Tools
There were two items I just couldn’t stand to leave off this list. One, although not completely essential, it is one of my most used tools in the kitchen. I use a microplane for grating garlic, and ginger (no need to peel!). It is amazing for lemon zest, and also easy to clean.
And if you are just starting to cook, or buying gifts for someone who is, this book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat will up your cooking game by about 1000%. It discusses the elements of good cooking, all intertwined with the author’s experiences and stories that are sure to make the concepts stick. Also some great essential recipes in here. Everyone should own this book, not just the beginning cook.
So, what do you think? What is on your 10 essential kitchen tools list?