Kitchen Essentials: Everything You Need For Your Kitchen

It doesn't matter what sort of diet or meal plan you're following - when you're cooking at home, one thing's for sure - you need to have the right essentials in your kitchen.

Luckily - even if you're new to cooking, you don't have to add 1,000 new things to your kitchen to utilize it to its greatest extent. No, you don’t need an Instant Pot - no matter how many bloggers tell you that you do. The same goes for a Dutch Oven or an entire knife set in a nice wooden block. 

But there are a few absolutely essential items that make up a good kitchen. And the great news is that they’re actually easy to come by and can be purchased even on the smallest of budgets. 

If you’re looking to stock your kitchen so you can whip up delicious meals, keep reading. Here's our list of what we think every kitchen should have.

The Kitchen Essentials List

With so many brands and kitchen products to choose from, it can be confusing to find out what you actually need. Not to mention finding high quality items at the right price.

So, we've taken the time to go through and review the best essentials for your kitchen set up. Read on, and we'll get you set up and cooking in no time!

What even are the basic kitchen essentials?

When many people start cooking at home they're full of confusion about what tools they need need to start with.

To start off, you need a few different types of kitchen tools:

  • Chopping, Dicing, and Peeling Essentials
  • Baking Cooking Essentials
  • Cooking Kitchen Essentials
  • Kitchen Essential Appliances
  • Miscellaneous Kitchen Essentials

Let's get started:

Chopping, Dicing, & Peeling Kitchen Essentials

If you’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen, you’ll definitely need the right tools. Ask any professional chef what the most important tool in their arsenal is and more often than not they’ll say a really good knife. The more high-quality the better. When it comes to chopping, dicing, cutting, and peeling, sharp tools are a must and even safer than trying to chop your way through some vegetables with a dull knife. Here are our five essentials for any of your chopping, dicing, cutting needs. 

Chef’s Knife

Most consider a chef’s knife to be the go-to knife in a kitchen. If you’ve only got the budget for buying one knife, let this be the one you get. Typically a chef’s knife is made out of stainless steel and carbon steel. No matter if you need to mince some garlic, dice a tomato, or cut a big slab of meat, this knife will get the job done. 

We recommend the 8-inch chef’s knife from Paudin Pro. 

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Paring Knife 

Let’s say you’ve bought your chef’s knife but you’re looking to add to your kitchen knife collection. The next one to snag in our opinion is a nice paring knife. A paring knife is essentially a small chef’s knife with its blade measuring 3-4” in length. This is a knife intended to be more precise and handle smaller cutting jobs than the chef’s knife. 

Our favorite is the Victorinox 4-inch Swiss Classic. 

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Kitchen Shears 

Kitchen shears are so cheap and so versatile that I couldn’t not include it on this list. If you’ve ever had to chop herbs or a big slab of meat, I promise you that kitchen shears make this task much easier -- and safer too. 

With over 23,000 ratings, these KitchenAid shears are our pick. 

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Cutting Board 

I would be remiss to not include a cutting board on this list. What’s an excellent knife worth if you don’t have a safe place to use it? When choosing a board, look for one that is non-slip for safety and will be durable. This plastic board from Farberware should do the trick and is a great budget purchase.

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Knife Sharpener 

If you’re going to invest in a quality knife, you’ll want to be able to take care of it. This is where a knife sharpener comes in handy. Think of a knife sharpener as an investment. This sharpener will take care of your knife for years to come. You won’t have to buy another one for a long while. 

Our pick is the Work Sharp E2 Kitchen Sharpener

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Baking Kitchen Essentials

Baking -- some people love it, some people don’t. Baking is a science not intended for just throwing things together. Recipes are to be followed to a T. To ensure your creations come out tasting delicious and the process (and clean up) goes smoothly, you’ll need some tools in your cabinets. These are our kitchen essentials for baking. 

Mixing bowls 

Having a nice set of bowls is a must for any well-stocked kitchen. Mixing bowls are incredibly useful for making salad dressings, sauces, marinades, tapenades, brownies, cookies as well as storing washed ingredients, putting leftovers in the fridge and the like.

Most mixing bowls come in pyrex glass or stainless steel, we recommend this set because it has a good non-slip base and is great bang for your buck.

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Measuring cups and spoons

Baking is a science and you want to make sure you’re following the recipe as written. No eyeballing here! That’s where measuring cups and spoons come into play. Make sure you have the whole set so you’re never left guesstimating on a recipe. 

We love this stainless steel (and magnetic!) set from Wildone

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Food scale 

If you want to be really precise when baking or cooking, a food scale is the absolute way to go. If you’ve ever watched the Great British Bake-Off, you know that our friends on the other side of the pond use food scales regularly when baking. In the states, recipes aren’t usually written out using ounces and grams, but it really does allow for much more precise measuring than cups and spoons and cuts down on the tools used (less dishes to wash is always a win!). Because a food scale is budget-friendly and doesn't take up much space,, we think it’s a great addition to your kitchen. 

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Baking sheets 

Baking sheets are a must. Whether you’re making cookies, roasting potatoes, or heating up chicken nuggets (hey, we’ve all been there!), a baking sheet is a necessity. These don’t have to be fancy - they just need to be durable and get the job done. 

We like this set of 3 from Goodcook

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Silicone baking mat

In my quest to cut down on my personal waste, I found these silicone baking mats. It eliminates the need for lining my baking sheets in foil and the mats are easy to wash! 

Snag this set of 3 non-stick mats from Amazon Basics

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Cooking Kitchen Essentials

We’ve all got to cook every now and then - even if it’s just a quick boil of water for instant ramen. Or maybe you’re an expert cook that’s trying out a new recipe every night. No matter where your level of expertise falls, we think there are five kitchen essentials that you need to make cooking a breeze. 

Pot and pan set (small/medium saucepan, large pot)

First things first - you’ll need a solid pot and pan set. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy or top of the line, but you do want something that will withstand the heat in the kitchen. We recommend this set from T-fal. It includes 12 pieces, is non-stick, and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup. 

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Cast-iron skillet 

When it comes to skillets, a cast-iron one reigns supreme. The cast-iron allows the heat to distribute evenly across the surface. It also stays hot once it’s removed from the heat source. It’s high-quality and can last for years and years if taken care of properly. Needless to say, this type of skillet is worth the investment. 

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Casserole dish 

When looking for a complete, easy meal, casseroles are the way to go. It’s an easy way to combine proteins, carbs, fats, and veggies in a one-stop-shop kind of meal. These types of meals are definitely necessary on busy weeknights. But you can’t make a casserole without a casserole dish. This is why we think a nice casserole dish is worthy of making this list. 

We like this 3-piece set from KOOV. And bonus, it comes in a variety of colors to match your kitchen aesthetic. 

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Saute pan 

A stainless-steel saute pan can come in clutch for any level of cook in the kitchen. The flat bottom of a saute pan makes it ideal for searing meats, making meat sauces, sauteing vegetables and more. A lid is handy to have too to prevent splattering. And, personally, I believe the stainless-steel pan is a classic look in any kitchen. 

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Meat Thermometer 

Why is a thermometer an essential to have in the kitchen? Well, you definitely don’t want to be serving undercooked meat to your guests - or yourself! Food safety is no joke, and a meat thermometer ensures that  what you’re eating is safe and properly cooked. No guessing involved! We like a digital thermometer for absolute easy reading. 

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Kitchen Essential Appliances

There are just a few appliances that I believe are necessary in the kitchen. But don’t think that you need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy the top-of-the-line brands. These are definitely budget-friendly and will make your job in the kitchen much easier. 

Mixer 

An electric hand mixer is so nice to have when it comes to making cookies, mashing potatoes, or whatever else you may need to whip up in the kitchen! While you can do these things by hand, having an electric mixer makes it much easier and you don’t have to consider it a workout by the end of it.

We like this budget-friendly one from Hamilton Beach that comes with an assortment of attachments. Happy mixing! 

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Immersion blender 

An immersion blender is a handheld blender that can blend everything from smoothies to soups to whipped cream and everything in between. The immersion blender makes our list of kitchen essentials because it can handle a variety of blending jobs without taking up much counter space and being affordable. 

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Miscellaneous Extra Kitchen Essentials 

Of course, there are some miscellaneous tools that we think deserve to make the list of our favorite kitchen tools. These are small tools but make a huge impact when it comes to making your favorite meals in the kitchen.

Spatula 

A list of kitchen essentials is not complete with a mention of a spatula. A spatula makes mixing a breeze because of its flexible, flat surface. It definitely comes in handy for spreading frostings and getting every last bit of cake batter or sauce out of a mixing bowl and into the dish. 

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Can opener

Canned goods should be a staple for every pantry. But you can’t get your canned goods open without a good can opener. Personally, I like to go old school and use a handheld can opener. 

We recommend this one from KitchenAid. 

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Tongs 

Whether it’s being used for hot or cold foods, tongs can be incredibly helpful in the kitchen. They make flipping or moving food easy and safe. Whether you’re flipping bacon over in a hot pan, tossing a salad, or taking steaming hot corn-on-the-cob out of boiling water, you’ll want a pair of tongs. And even better, these are a very affordable kitchen tool! 

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Ladle

If you’ve ever tried to scoop soup or a stew out of a large pot with a simple dinner spoon, you know how difficult and ineffective that can be. This is why a ladle can be a game-changer. A ladle’s long handle allows for the tool to go deep into a large pot and the rounded end can hold a sizeable amount of food for faster scooping. 

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Colander

A decent colander is a must have for washing vegetables and salad items, but also draining pasta. Typically, most colanders are stainless steel and should literally last you a lifetime. That means you only have to buy it once and never worry about it again! 

We recommend this simple colander from PriorityChef, it's cheap and completely indestructible, you can't go wrong.

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Other Kitchen Essential Resources

If you're looking for other good kitchen essentials out there, here's a few of our favorite resources to get started:

About the Author

George Cooper

George writes for Ultimate Meal Plans and is a lead writer for MoveWell.