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Whether it's your first apartment or a new home, setting up a functional kitchen with the right tools is key. Equipping a kitchen with all the essentials requires some thought about how much you use your kitchen, whether or not you will be entertaining, and what sort of conveniences you want (like a toaster to make quick avocado toast or microwave oven for reheating food).
If you need a jumping-off point for shopping for your new digs, we've got you covered. This comprehensive list includes our top picks—from flatware to bakeware—of the best tools for a first kitchen.
There's a reason that white dishes are so popular. They put the focus on your food, and not on any fancy patterns. Plus, even if you buy a budget set, simple white dinnerware can go on even the fanciest table. This simple set from AmazonBasics has four place settings that each include a dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, and mug. You'll get a lot of mileage out of these dishes, and at such a low price, you can probably even afford two sets. They are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher-safe.
When you’re setting up a new kitchen, inexpensive, reliable cookware is a must. It’s a bonus if the set looks good, too. This 12-piece set is made from polished stainless steel with a capsulated bottom for even heating and more reliable cooking. Lids are tempered glass, so you can see what’s cooking without lifting the lid and releasing heat and the handles are riveted on for long-lasting use. The twelve pieces in the set are ones that you’ll use often, and the variety of sizes means you’ll have just the right pot whether you’re cooking dinner for one or making stock for the freezer.
While a pressure cooker might seem like a splurge for someone setting up a new kitchen, the Instant Pot has plenty of features that make it particularly useful for busy folks who might not have a lot of space for multiple appliances. The cooking pot is made from stainless steel, so you don’t need to worry about using metal utensils, and you can toss it in the dishwasher to clean it. If you don’t want to be disturbed, you can set it for silent mode, so it won’t beep.
While you can cook the same sorts of foods in a pressure cooker that you do on the stove or in a slow cooker, there’s a bit of a learning curve, so it’s wise to read the manual and perhaps pick up a cookbook that’s focused on electric pressure cookers.
Glasses are essential in any kitchen, and this 12-piece set includes glasses in three different sizes, with four of each size. They are perfect for serving orange juice, water, soda, or cocktails. And while they’re inexpensive, they aren’t plain looking. They have a pretty pattern that’s not too detailed, so these would be compatible with almost any style of dishes. You’ll feel good about using these glasses every day, and about setting them out for a nice dinner with friends, and they’re dishwasher safe. Plus, they’re inexpensive enough to buy a second set, to have enough glassware for parties.
Flatware doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s nice to have something better than disposable plastic utensils that can break, bend, or melt. This 65-piece set by Lenox includes five-piece place settings (salad fork, dinner fork, knife, spoon, and teaspoon) for 12 people—great for those who like to entertain. Constructed from 18/10 stainless steel (the same material used in stainless steel cookware), these pieces are sturdy, resist rust and corrosion, and also hold their shine really well. The design is simple enough to complement simple or ornate dishware designs, with clean lines and subtle detailing on the handles.
This set is dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup, but it is recommended that you avoid soaking or using citrus-based detergents that can degrade the finish. When properly cared for, this set can certainly be handed down to the next generation.
Made from heavy-gauge steel with a nonstick coating, this set includes the most common baking pans: two 8-inch round cake pans, a 9x13 baking pan, a medium loaf pan, a muffin pan, and a cookie sheet. Even if you don’t plan on making a lot of desserts, it’s nice to have baking pans on hand for those occasional uses. These can also be used for savory foods, so you’ll get plenty of use out of this set.
These flexible cutting boards are color-coded and marked with icons for fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables, to eliminate cross-contamination while cooking. They’re thin, so they take very little storage space, and they’re flexible so you can bend them to pour cut foods into a pot or bowl. The plastic has a micro-ban feature that helps reduce the growth of bacteria or mold, and they’re dishwasher safe.
This 16-inch pan has three layers of nonstick material for durability and easy food release, and it is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. If you want to save space in the dishwasher, this is also easy to hand wash, since food won’t stick.
This pan has large brushed stainless steel handles that are triple-riveted. The handles make it easy to lift the pan even when it’s full and you’re using bulky mitts. The pan is made from heavy gauge aluminum for even heating, while it’s lighter in weight than a similar-sized stainless steel pan. It can be used in the oven or on the stove, so you can make gravy or brown meat without using a second pan.
A nonstick V-rack is included that promotes even heat circulation for even browning and a crisp exterior. This also includes two stainless steel lifters and an injection baster.
An immersion blender lets you make soups and purees without having to dirty an additional container—you can do it right in the pan. This model by Breville has an ergonomic rubber handle with a power button that you squeeze as you grip, a natural movement that doesn't fatigue your hand if you're blending for a while. This model offers 15 variable speeds to adjust to your needs, and can easily power through fibrous ingredients to create a smooth consistency. The stainless steel shaft can be submerged up to eight inches, letting you blend larger capacities with ease. With the included accessories (whisk attachment, 3-cup capacity chopping bowl with blades, 42-oz. storage jug with lid), it can be used for making smoothies, whipping up homemade whipped cream, and much more.
Food storage is an important consideration. While plastic bags work for some things, sturdy reusable containers are better for other foods. This set includes small containers that are great for leftovers, as well as larger containers for snacks or for storing dry goods. Each container comes with a tight-fitting lid for secure storage, and the containers nest when empty, so they won’t take a lot of room in a cabinet. They’re clear, so you can see what you’re storing, and they’re microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.
Toasters are a handy appliance to prepare quick breakfasts, from bagels to English muffins. This sleek countertop toaster oven by KRUPS has four slots controlled by two separate panels that let you toast at two different browning levels at the same time. It features six levels of browning and four push-button functions, including a "bagel" setting (warming the outside and toasting the inside of the bagel) as well as a "defrost" option. The high-lift lever allows you to raise smaller pieces of bread higher for easy retrieval, and a removable crumb tray makes it easy to clean.
This casserole dish is a multi-use piece of cookware that’s good for more than just baking rigatoni. It can be used for roasting a chicken or a small roast, and it’s attractive enough to serve food, even if you didn’t cook in it. The fluted exterior looks pretty, and the white color is classic, so it will look good along with just about any dishes or serving pieces. The casserole and lid are safe in the oven, microwave, freezer, or dishwasher.
If you like using microwave ovens for quickly steaming vegetables, popping corn, heating beverages, and reheating foods, this model by Toshiba does all of that without taking up too much room. It boasts 1100 watts of power with 10 power settings and a pre-programmed sensor menu for reheating pizza, potatoes, vegetables, and more. This model also has a one-touch popcorn button, two defrost settings, and an option to mute the buzzer. Though its footprint is fairly small, it has a surprisingly generous capacity of 1.2 cubic feet. Available in black stainless steel and traditional silver stainless steel finishes, it's a modern design that will look great on the counter.