15 Essential Kitchen Tools

Are you just starting out and ready to equip you first kitchen? Or maybe this time at home has you thinking it might be time to pare down an overload of gadgets? Whatever your motivation, check out our list of must-have kitchen essentials for tools you’ll actually use.

by Robin Stephens


Photo: Getty Images

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One of my favorite pleasures in life is wandering through a kitchen store. I’ve seldom gone into one without finding some thing that “needed” to go home with me. I love my kitchen tools. That wasn’t a problem until I downsized from a large house to a small duplex. Suddenly I had to face the facts – too much stuff and not enough room. I had to decide what was really necessary to keep in my kitchen and what would not make the cut. Here’s my list of small items.

  1. A good chef knife. It’s a chef’s best friend. You can go a couple of ways when buying one. A less expensive one like a Victorinox 8" Chef's Knife will give you a lot of use. You can also replace it when needed. But a good chef knife, is one of the few things you’ll thank yourself for investing in. If taken care of properly, it will last a lifetime. My favorite is a Wusthof Classic 8-inch Chef knife. The important thing to consider is how it feels in your hand. It should be balanced, easy to hold and control, not too heavy, but not too flimsy either. Brands such as Made in Cookwear also have an excellent selection of chef's knives.
  2. Whisks, large and small (even better, purchase a matching set with different sizes!) No matter if you’re making a sauce, cakes, or vinaigrettes, you’ll want to have a whisk handy. A larger one is a must, but you’d be surprised how helpful a small whisk is.
  3. Measuring spoons and cups. Purchasing a matching set of measuring cups and spoons is especially helpful, but let’s talk spoons first. If you’re are buying new ones, I’d really recommend the square and narrow ones. They easily fit into spice containers and are stackable. For dry measures you’ll need individual stacking measuring cups, and for wet ingredients, I like to have a set of three Pyrex glass cups in 1,2, and 4 cup measures.
  4. Vegetable peeler. I love a Y-peeler, and I appreciate one in a bright color to easily spot it in the drawer. This set has every peeler you could need.
  5. Silicone spatulas. These are crucial for folding egg whites into a cake batter, scraping out a food processor, or scraping the sides of the mixing bowl. I prefer silicone spatulas and not rubber because they don’t melt over high heat. More that one is handy.
  6. Long-handled locking tongs. These long tongs are great for cooking, but did you know you can also use them to juice a lemon? Simply slide the cut citrus between the tongs and squeeze. Having shorter locking tongs, like these from OXO are also helpful in the kitchen for a multitude of tasks.
  7. Can opener. I have a side opening can opener and just love it! Well, once I figured out how to use it. Just kidding, it’s not difficult, it opens cans just like it says – along the side not the top. No more worries about cutting fingers on a sharp lid.
  8. Nesting bowls. Nesting bowls don’t take up any more shelf space, and you get the bonus of several sizes of bowls at your disposal. I like glass bowls so I can use them in the microwave, but there are a lot of choices and you might prefer stainless or plastic with lids.
  9. Cutting board. This truly is a kitchen essential. You need a sturdy surface to prep your food. A wooden or bamboo cutting board will help protect your knife from dulling quickly.
  10. Box Grater. A sturdy four-sided box grater should last a lifetime in your kitchen.
  11. Fish spatula. Now, I do have more than one spatula in my kitchen. But, if I were to only have one, it would be a fish spatula. It’s flexible and from removing cookies from a baking sheet, to flipping fish, this spatula is up to the task.
  12. Fine mesh sieve. This can be a workhorse in your kitchen. A stand-in for a colander, and great for making a smooth sauce, or draining fine grains. You can find sieve sets that offer multiple sizes for all your kitchen needs.
  13. Kitchen shears. From cutting meat to cutting herbs, be sure to keep these handy. Look for kitchen shears that come apart for easy cleaning.
  14. An 18-inch metal ruler. I know you might be wonder why this made my essentials list. But if you bake, I think you will certainly appreciate this extra-long ruler. As a bonus, it doesn’t take up much room in a drawer! I use it to measure how thick I’ve patted my biscuit dough, how round my pie dough is, how to cut equal sized bars.
  15. For the last item on my list – an instant read thermometer. It’s handy for so many things. Temping water for yeast, making candy, to making sure meat has cooked to the right temperature, you need a thermometer in your kitchen. With an instant read thermometer there’s no more waiting or guesswork.

So there’s my list. I really could add to it, but that’s an article for another day.

Tags: Kitchen Tools, Article