Whether you're a beginning cook, you're shopping for someone who is, or you're outfitting a kitchen from scratch for any reason, this list of kitchen essentials is all you need to get started.
This list is geared toward basic essential kitchen tools, as opposed to baking tools (for which we have other lists). However, we've included one exception, one item that is so absolutely essential, that even though you'll use it mainly for baking, we've included it here anyway.
01 of 09
Above all others, the one kitchen tool that is the very definition of "essential" is the chef's knife. A chef's knife (also sometimes called a French knife) is a particular type of knife with a heavy bolster and a curved blade. Your go-to knife should be at least 8 inches in length (but preferably 10). Make sure it feels comfortable in your hand. Note that you could arguably get away with a santoku style knife as your go-to knife, but you can read more about which knives you need in the kitchen and which ones you don't.
02 of 09
It's a close call here as to whether a cast iron skillet is more essential than a stainless steel one. But in the end stainless steel gets the nod because it will do everything cast iron does, plus, unlike cast iron, it can handle acidic ingredients like tomatoes, wine and so on. With cast iron, acid can deteriorate the seasoning on the pan. Get a heavy gauge stainless steel with a pair of oven-safe handles (so you can lift it with two hands) and lid, that way you can use it for everything from making pancakes to braising.
03 of 09
You're going to have to measure things when you cook, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for using those measuring scoops that come in various fractions of a cup. Instead, get yourself a two-cup glass measuring cup with the markings on the outside, and make sure that it's made of heat-proof glass that is safe for the microwave and for holding hot liquids (as well as the dishwasher). Better yet, get two.
04 of 09
And here it is (speaking of measuring things). A digital scale is a handy thing to have in the kitchen, but where it becomes absolutely essential is for measuring flour. And when it comes to measuring flour, a digital scale is so utterly essential that it dwarfs any puny concerns about keeping essential baking tools on a separate list. And anyway, do you consider pancakes baking? Probably not. They're breakfast. So get a digital scale. Here's more about why it's important to measure flour by weight rather than volume.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
A sheet pan is a marvel of versatility that you can use for roasting meats, potatoes and veggies; baking cookies and other sweet treats; you can even prepare a whole meal on one. For most home cooks, a half (18 x 13 inches) or quarter sheet (9 x 13 inches) is the best choice: roomy, but not too big for your oven (or your sink). Get a heavy (18-gauge) aluminum one with rolled rims, and avoid the ones with nonstick coating. One of the best things about aluminum sheet pans is you can subject them to all kinds of scratching, scraping and other abuse, and they'll still love you. But a nonstick coating changes that whole dynamic (and is in any case unnecessary).
06 of 09
Simply put, this tool makes roasting meats practically a no-brainer. The probe goes into the center of the meat, you set the device to your desired temperature, and when the center of the meat reaches that temperature, it beeps to let you know. It's game-changing, not to say life-changing. You can even leave the probe in the meat after you take it out of the oven and use it to tell you when the meat is fully rested. If you roast meats ever, you need one of these.
07 of 09
You'll use it for other things as well, but assuming you ever cook eggs (that is to say, fried eggs, scrambled eggs or omelets), a dedicated omelet pan is an absolute must. The sloping sides make flipping easy, and the nonstick surface will prevent all sorts of mishaps. Just be sure to use a silicone spatula on it, never anything metal. An 8-inch egg pan is just about right for cooking two eggs, or a two-egg omelet. If you want to be able to do a 3-egg omelet, step up to a 10-inch pan. Even better, get one of each.
08 of 09
Like sheet pans, you can never have too many of these. Stainless steel ones are best, since aluminum ones can react with acidic ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice, and produce unpleasant flavors. It'll also turn your homemade mayonnaise gray. Glass is fine too, but it's heavy, and it occasionally breaks if you drop it. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is light, durable, and stackable. Four of them take up as much space in your cupboard as one. So get several. Whether you're marinating your fajitas or simply tossing your potatoes in salt and olive oil before roasting them, you'll use these practically every time you cook.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Silicone spatula: Other than a wooden spoon, it's the only utensil that should ever touch the inside of your egg pan.
Tongs: If you spend enough time in the kitchen, tongs become extensions of your hands. Get the ones with silicone tips.
Ceramic baking dish: Its versatility can't be overstated. Ceramic holds heat and is for superior for baking (or reheating) than aluminum.