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Essential Kitchen Tools for Home Cooks

What are some of the essential kitchen tools for home cooks? Whether you’re starting out on your own or setting up a young adult child, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.

variety of essential kitchen tools and gadgets

There are so many different kitchen gadgets on the market that it can be extremely confusing. That’s why I’ve created this list to help get you started. 

Basic Essential Tools Every Kitchen Needs

All of the kitchen tools listed below are the most practical ones I know about. They’re also versatile, since some of them can do more than one job.

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Here are the tools you’ll need to set up a kitchen:

A Good Knife

large sharp knife - most important of the essential kitchen tools

A good quality knife is important for so many different jobs. Purchase the best knife you can afford, and it will serve you for years to come.

This knife from Amazon will chop, slice, and dice all kinds of foods, from meats to vegetables and potatoes.

You’ll also love how this knife cuts tomatoes to make these delicious fried green tomatoes from Southern Bite.

If you have room in your budget, also invest in a smaller paring knife and a serrated knife. Take care of your knives, and they will last many years.

Kitchen Shears

curved kitchen shears

You’ll find many uses for a pair of washable kitchen shears. I use mine to open food packages, cut chicken parts, and even slice pizza.

After you are established with the basic tools, you may want a backup of shears. I have several in different sizes.

Cutting Board – Essential Tool to Protect Countertops

wood cutting board and plastic cutting board - essential kitchen tools

It’s important to have at least one cutting board for food prep so you won’t scratch your countertops or dishes. I have both wood and plastic.

If you can afford two, pick up one for vegetables and a second one for meats. You can also use a wooden or bamboo cutting board for charcuterie.

Glass or Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

You’ll need several mixing bowls in various sizes for any working kitchen. I highly recommend stainless steel or glass bowls.

I also have plastic bowls, but they’re not necessary. Plus they can hold onto odors, like garlic or onion The bowls will be used for mixing batters, tossing salads, marinating meat, and whisking eggs.

Measuring Cups

measuring cup - essential kitchen tool for measuring liquid

If you plan to do any cooking that involves following a recipe, you’ll need at least a couple of measuring cups. I have some for wet and for dry ingredients.

Measuring Spoons

set of measuring spoons

You’ll need a good set of measuring spoons that start with the tablespoon size and work their way down to 1/4 or 1/8 teaspoon. I have both plastic and metal spoons, and I find myself reaching for the plastic spoons the most often.

Pots and Pans – Essential Tools for Cooking

stainless steel pot and nonstick pan

Since good stainless cookware can last a lifetime, that’s a good place to start. If you’re on a limited budget, start with a small saucepan (1-2 quart), a medium saucepan (3 quart), and a larger pot (6-8 quart), all with lids. Many sets come with a skillet as well.

This is an excellent deal on a very basic 6-piece set (which includes lids) of stainless cookware from Amazon. If your budget allows, then go ahead and pick up a larger set.

A nonstick frying pan is a handy tool for beginners. They don’t require a lot of oil or grease, and they’re super easy to clean.

I also like having at least one cast iron skillet, but it’s not necessary for a new kitchen. In fact, it can be daunting for a new cook to have to learn how to care for it.

Baking Sheet

baking sheet

Baking sheets are good for making cookies, baking meat, and roasting vegetables. Make sure it has raised edges for multi-use purposes. Sheet pan dinners are the rage, and they’re typically easy to make.

Casserole Dish

casserole dish

Either a metal casserole pan or a glass or ceramic casserole dish comes in handy for one-pan meals. You can also easily bake a dump cake in a casserole dish. If you know how to find deals, there are often specials on casserole dish sets.

I have clear, white, and red casserole dishes. But I’ve discovered that I usually reach for either the clear or white ones, especially when I have company for dinner.

Cooking Utensils

Most new cooks will need a wooden spoon and spatula. They’re versatile and fine to use with nonstick cookware. Other options are silicone and metal tools.

I also think that a set of tongs is helpful when it’s time to turn the meat over. It’s also good for tossing a salad and serving pasta. I recommend metal tongs with silicone tips.

You can pick up some kitchen tools at most stores that have a kitchenware section. Or you can shop on Amazon like I often do.


plastic colander

You’ll definitely need a colander at some point for rinsing vegetables, draining pasta, and other things. My favorite colander has handles and very small holes so I can also rinse rice before cooking it.

After you recover from picking up the basics, you may want to expand your colander collection. I have them in a variety of sizes.

Can Opener

manual can opener

Another important kitchen item is a good can opener. After all, what is a can of corn if you don’t have a way to open it? Yeah, this is totally one of the most essential kitchen tools.

Make sure it’s a reliable can opener that is comfortable in the hand and easy to use. You can get an electric can opener, but it’s of no use if the electricity goes out. It’s also more difficult to clean.


large box grater

A good grater is good for shredding cheese, cabbage for coleslaw, and other foods. You can also use it for zesting lemons and grating nutmeg. Although it’s not necessary, it’s good to have.

One of the easiest recipes I have that requires a grater is this one for cheese crisps. They’re crunchy, delicious, and fun to eat!

Pot Holders and Oven Mitts – Essential Tools to Protect Hands

pot holders and oven mitt

This is an easy item to overlook, but it’s one of my most essential kitchen tools. You’ll need at least a couple of them to pull pans from the oven or handling hot pots and pans on the stovetop.

You might even reach for them when you’re pulling something out of the microwave. Make sure they’re thick enough to protect your hands. I’ve found out the hard way that many of the cheaper pot holders are way too thin to give me enough protection from a hot pan.

Food Storage Containers

glass food storage containers with lids

Without a doubt, there will be times when you have leftovers. A set of good food storage containers that are airtight helps keep food fresh and organized.

If you can afford them, pick up a set that’s microwave safe for convenience. I use both glass and plastic food storage. However if you can only afford one, glass is generally the better option.

My favorite ones are these Pyrex glass food storage containers on Amazon.

Build on the Basics

assortment of kitchen tools and gadgets

Over time, you’ll add to your basic essential kitchen tools and small appliances. I love my blenders for making smoothies. And I use my air fryer nearly every single day.

As you learn new recipes and gain confidence in the kitchen, you’ll want to add more gadgets to make cooking a lot more fun.

Other items you may want to pick up if you have the budget are a toaster, air fryer, blender, handheld mixer, and coffee pot. If you don’t have a built-in microwave, you can get one for the countertop that isn’t terribly expensive.

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