33 Essential Tools Every Kitchen Must Have

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If you're outfitting your new home kitchen after a move or starting fresh in a new off-campus apartment, you are probably wondering what you'll need to add to your Amazon shopping cart to furnish your perfect home kitchen. Seasoned home cooks will know that the trick to getting the most bang for your buck when shopping for new kitchen gear is to stock up on the essentials and tools that can perform more than one function.

This is why we've compiled a complete list of the most important multi-purpose tools you need to have on hand in your kitchen. These items are the essentials; you can purchase more elaborate gadgets outside of these recommendations as well. Moreover, we've also recommended the most long-lasting, easy-to-use, and cost-effective materials to have in your home kitchen, regardless if you spend most of your time baking cookies for friends, making scrambled eggs for a quick breakfast on the go, or grilling meats on your back patio. Prices listed may vary.

Kitchen scale

"Ace of Cakes" star Duff Goldman recommends all bakers have the most important baking tool: a digital kitchen scale. A scale is vital to get the most exact measurements possible; using measuring cups for your baking ingredients can cause minute disruptions that add up to a significantly variant recipe. Goldman also recommends taking some time to convert all of your recipe cards to weight rather than cups or teaspoons for the next time you bake with a scale.

Digital scales are easy to use and operate, which is why we would suggest a digital scale over a mechanical scale. The Chicago Tribune recommends using a digital scale because of its sleek, modern design and because it can easily change units with the press of a button.

Our pick: Etekcity Food Kitchen Scale ($13.99)

6-quart Dutch oven

Dutch ovens have become increasingly more popular with the rise of Le Creuset's enameled Dutch ovens. Not only are these enameled pots beautiful, but each Dutch oven can do the same job as a saucepan, stockpot, and casserole dish. The tight-fitting lid is an important feature of the Dutch oven because it keeps the moisture inside of the pan and slows the loss of fluid due to evaporation, per OvenSpot.

One of our favorite recipes to make in a Dutch oven is homemade crusty bread. According to the King Arthur Baking Company, a Dutch oven retains heat and steam inside of it, thus creating a starchy exterior on the bread. As the bread bakes, the starch crisps and becomes indistinguishable from the fancy loaf from the bakery down the street. And after you're done baking your bread, you can use the same pot for soup, stew, or chili.

Our pick: Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven ($79.90)

Baking pans

You can't underscore the importance of at least one quality baking pan in your home kitchen. The baking pan is critical for roasting vegetables, baking cookies, or drying spices out in your oven. Cookie sheets, in comparison, are less versatile than baking pans because cookie sheets do usually not have a rim and are sloped for easy cookie removal. You shouldn't use a baking sheet for anything that emits liquid though, or you will end up with juice pouring off the sheet and onto the bottom of the hot oven. 

Our pick: Wilton Easy Layers Sheet Cake Pan 2-Piece, Rectangle Sheet Set ($13.29)

Flat whisk

A flat whisk is exactly what it sounds like: a flattened version of the traditional balloon whisk with a set of stainless steel or silicon wires that form a horseshoe shape. Not only is the flat whisk much easier to clean than a balloon whisk (nor will it get tangled in your other kitchen menageries), but it is a critical part of deglazing pans and stirring sauces.

Our pick: OXO Good Grips flat whisk ($9.95)

Silicon spatula

If you've ever had to get a measly piece of dough out of a bowl, you know how handy a good spatula can be. Silicon spatulas are heat-resistant, meaning that the spatulas will not melt under normal cooking temperatures. We chose the Rubbermaid High Heat Spatula for our top pick because it is heat resistant up to 500 F and has an extra-long handle for easy storage. You can also sleep knowing that this spatula meets the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) standards for food safety.

Our pick: Rubbermaid Commercial Products High Heat Silicone Spatula, 9.5" ($13.40)

Can opener

A can opener is handy when you're making homemade tomato sauce or opening bean cans for chili. You can purchase several different kinds of can openers, including an automatic, which takes up a significant amount of counter space. You can also purchase a handheld battery-powered can opener that can be modified to a hands-free setting. When all else fails, though, we trust the old-fashioned, side-cutting can opener. It requires only a swipe to clean and is easy to store, per the Food Network.

Our pick: OXO Steel Can Opener ($22.44)

Mandolin slicer

Watch your fingers! Using a mandolin is one of the only ways to get paper-thin slices of vegetables and tubers in your kitchen. The mandolin makes shaving and slicing a breeze and cleaning a plastic mandolin is super simple. We recommend the DASH Safe Slice for its 4.5-star rating on Amazon from nearly 12,000 reviewers. There are 30 slicing, dicing, and julienning options on this simple machine. The DASH Safe Slice also comes with a tiny drawer attachment so your ingredients don't spill out all over the table. Clean-up is simple; only a quick hand-wash is required.

Our pick: DASH Safe Slice ($39.99)

Oven-safe baking dish

A beautiful baking dish is important for cooking and baking, as well as serving. Purchasing an enameled or porcelain baking dish to prepare a lasagna or a baked fish is always a good idea. The material will retain heat well as a conductor and insulates the food cooking inside of it. Enameled pans are also comparably durable to aluminum or metal dishes. According to Bake School, baking in a glass or ceramic dish are other good options but will take longer to heat up because glass is a poor conductor of heat.

The size you purchase will depend on how you plan to use the dish. For brownies, an eight-by-eight-inch square pan will suffice. If you want to make lasagna for a crowd, you may have to upgrade to a 13-inch pan.

Our pick: Crock Pot Artisan 13 Inch Enameled Cast Iron Lasagna Pan ($59.99)

Cast iron skillet

If you are a frequent steak or fish cook, you'll want to invest in a cast iron pan. Cast iron does not have to be expensive, rather the true time commitment comes from learning how to cook with the skillet and taking the time to season it effectively. The reward for a well-cared-for cast iron pan includes a delicate fluffy Dutch baby.

In a careful review of several cast iron brands, we found that some of the best-performing brands were actually the cheapest. You can purchase pans from major companies like Lodge, Victoria Cookware, and Utopia Kitchen for less than $50 each. if you want to splurge on cast iron, we recommend Smithey Ironware.

Our pick: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet with Silicon Hand-Holder ($44.85)

Plastic cutting boards

Plastic cutting boards are a critical component of any kitchen. You should always have at least two cutting boards in your kitchen because using the same cutting board to cut meat and vegetables can transfer pathogens from raw meat to ready-to-eat foods like salad greens and vegetables. When your cutting board begins to wear, you should consider replacing it with another. Per the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, all cutting boards need to be cleaned with warm soapy water or placed into a dishwasher.

We recommend purchasing plastic boards because plastic is cheaper than wood, especially when you're going to have to replace the boards in a few months anyway. You can also upgrade your cutting board with non-stick edges and a juice groove.

Our pick: Kikcoin Plastic Cutting Board set ($32.97)

Chef's knife

There seem to be hundreds of different types of knives on the market. How do you choose just one (or two) to add to your home kitchen? If you have any knife, we recommend purchasing an all-purpose chef's knife. The Wüsthof is one of the most consistently well-crafted, quality knife brands on the market, so we unconditionally recommend it for your home kitchen. According to FN Sharp, you can use a chef's knife for cutting everything including meat, herbs, vegetables, and fruit. The tip of the blade can also be used to slice pastry while the side of the blade is vital for smashing garlic.

Our pick: Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife ($225.94)

Paring knife

A paring knife is an important auxiliary knife to have in your kitchen. Although this knife might appear small, it is easy to maneuver and will chop the toughest of peppers with ease. Plus, when you want to cut up an apple, you don't want to be the one waving a 10-inch knife around. Author J. Kenji López-Alt recommends using a paring knife with a sheep's head blade because of its precision and ease of use. You won't have to use a rocking motion with this blade, so long as your knife is razor-sharp.

Our pick: HENCKELS Solution Paring Knife, 4-inch ($15.00)


A colander is a useful kitchen tool for everything from sifting flour into a recipe to draining canned beans for a chili recipe. You can also reheat your pasta by submerging pre-cooked pasta in your colander for 30 seconds to prevent unforeseen mushiness.

Colanders come in many colors and shapes; Saveur recommends purchasing a stainless steel or melamine colander for long-lasting durability. Silicon can attract oil, while plastic may potentially melt if placed under enough heat. Moreover, stainless steel colanders can be placed in the dishwasher for maximum sanitizing potential. Poorly cleaning your colander may result in bacteria and mold growth in the nooks and crannies.

Our pick: ExcelSteel Heavy Duty Handles and Self-draining Solid Ring Base Stainless Steel Colander, 5 Qt ($15.23)

Food processor

If you're shopping for your first major kitchen appliance, purchasing a food processor should be on the top of your list. Your food processor is the perfect device for cutting fat into flour for the perfect pie dough or preparing guacamole for a crowd. You can alter your attachments for your food processor for other kitchen purposes like grating cheese or turning potatoes or cabbage into shreds.

You can purchase a range of sizes for your food processor from a 1-cup to a 14-cup capacity. If you plan on making large quantities of food in your food processor, you should purchase a larger receptacle; overloading your food processor can diminish its efficiency and potentially cause leaks.

Our pick: Ninja BN601 Professional Plus Food Processor ($119.95)

Pastry brush

For a baker, there's nothing more satisfying than brushing a layer of melted butter onto freshly baked rolls. And if you don't have a pastry brush handy, you might not be able to experience this feeling. According to Martha Stewart, a pastry brush is usually made from silicon or wood with natural bristles. The silicon is typically dishwasher safe and heat-resistant, but the natural-bristled brush produces more even layers of glaze without streaks. If you plan on spreading marinade on a grilling tenderloin, you might opt for a silicon brush while bakers may desire the efficacy of a natural brush more.

Our pick: HOTEC Silicone Heat Resistant Multi-Pack Pastry Brushes ($15.99) and 4-Pieces Pastry Brushes Basting Oil Brush with Boar Bristles and Beech Hardwood Handles ($12.99)

Digital thermometer

The real reason you need to have a meat thermometer handy is to ensure that your meat is fully-cooked. Moreover, if you cut the meat to check the internal doneness (which is not an effective, nor safe way of testing doneness), you risk losing some of the moisture inside of the meat. Since resting the meat is a vital part of the cooking process, cutting into the meat prematurely will disrupt this process. According to Good Housekeeping, thermocouple thermometers are the most accurate, there are less expensive models that will produce similar results.

Our pick: Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer for Grill and Cooking ($19.99)

Non-stick skillet

Having at least one non-stick pan in your arsenal is important for everyday sautéing. And cooking eggs on the non-stick surface will inevitably deteriorate the non-stick surface on the pan, so it is important not to be dead-set on buying an expensive non-stick pan when you're going to have to replace it in a matter of months.

Non-stick pans come in a variety of sizes from 8-inches all the way to 12-inches. A larger pan may be able to cook more food without overfilling, but it is more difficult to maneuver.

Our pick: CAROTE Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet (8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch options) ($19.99 to $39.99)


Your tongs will come in handy when you need to flip a piece of steak on the grill or pull cinnamon rolls off a baking sheet. A long set of tongs, specifically, are important to avoid burns and keep your hands as far away from the heat as possible. Not only are stainless steel tongs aesthetically pleasing to look at when you're tossing a salad or serving food at a dinner party, but the tongs can be placed into a dishwasher and sanitized with ease. However, silicon-tipped tongs are important for removing food from a non-stick surface without scratching, per Air Fryer Master.

Our pick: OXO Good Grips 16-Inch Locking Tongs ($17.95)

Immersion blender

If you're big into potato leek soup, you know how important a creamy, smooth texture is. Outside of soup, some of the best uses for your immersion blender include blending batters (no flour chunks here), making homemade salad dressing, or frothing milk for a warm latte.

You can find immersion blenders at almost all price points including our personal favorite: the NutriBullet immersion blender. At $30, this blender uses a 350-watt motor to blend shallow pots of soups and sauces. You can also purchase a cordless immersion blender for easy mobility around the kitchen. Machines like the KitchenAid KHBBV83 Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender have a recharge time of about two hours and can puree 25 12-ounce bowls of soup on a full charge.

Our pick: Nutribullet Immersion Blender, Handheld Blender ($29.95)

Rolling pin

There's not much that replaces a rolling pin in the kitchen. You can use a rolling pin to create perfect pie dough, roll out cookie dough for timeless Christmas cookies, or try CANDY CO's bagel shaping hack: using a rolling pin to shape the end of the dough into a fan before twisting it into the standard bagel shape. Although the rolling pin may only seem essential for bakers, you can use your rolling pin to flatten chicken cutlets or break garlic into tiny pieces for a pasta sauce.

Our pick: GOBAM Bamboo Wood Rolling Pin, Small, 11 x 1.38 Inches ($9.99)

Temperature-safe measuring cup

It might seem like a cup is a cup — right? But liquid measuring cups and dry ingredient measuring cups are not interchangeable. The shape of the liquid ingredient measuring cup prevents being able to tap dry ingredients down in a measuring cup and level it off. The result is that you'll end up adding way more dry ingredients than your recipe needs.

If you plan to purchase a liquid measuring cup for your kitchen, you'll want to get a measuring cup that is tempered. Not only will this prevent the cup from leaching into whatever is inside of the cup, but it means that you won't have to worry about your cup shattering into your microwave.

Our pick: Pyrex measuring cup, 4-cup ($15.40)

Pot holders and oven mits

When you're working in the kitchen, it's always important to protect your hands. Oven mitts and pot holders are vital for novice and experienced home cooks alike. Longer oven mitts can reach up to 13 inches in length to prevent your forearms from burning as well as your hands. You can also opt for non-slip silicon for extra grip or a five-finger glove design for better traction on the smoothest of pans.

For many folks, selecting oven mitts also comes down to style. Do you want patterned mitts to match your dishtowels? Or washable mitts for better ease of use? That's up to you to decide.

Our pick: Extra Long Silicone Oven Mitts, sungwoo Durable Heat Resistant Oven Gloves ($19.99)

Grater or zester

If you already have a food processor with a grating attachment, you likely won't need to purchase a standard box grater for your home kitchen. But, we still recommend purchasing a small, hand-held zester for finishing fish or adding fresh lemon zest to lemon bars. Micro planes and zesters are undoubtedly some of the most underrated kitchen tools for everything outside of citrus as well; cheese, garlic, and even eggs can work.

The rasp-style zester is one of the more popular designs because of its ease of use. You can pop the zester in the dishwasher after use to clean all the nooks and crannies and keep your blades in working order.

Our pick: OXO Good Grips Etched Zester and Grater ($10.99)

Set of glass prep bowls

A prep bowl is an invaluable kitchen tool for batters, marinades, storage, and everything in between. We recommend purchasing several different sizes of prep bowls to best suit whatever size of food you're working with (plus, nobody likes having a fridge filled with extra-large bowls with less than a cup of food in it).

Glass is a pristine, easy-to-care-for material for prep bowls, but stainless steel is also popular. Your choice of material should depend on what you plan on using the bowls for. For example, if you plan on serving guests from bowls, you might like the timeless look of glass more.

Our pick: Pyrex 3 Piece Glass Mixing Bowl Set with 1, 1.5, 2.5 Quart Mixing Bowls ($17.53)

Wire cooling racks

Wire racks are likely the kitchen tool that you forget about until you really, really need it. Wire racks are important for baking cookies because the rack allows air to circulate under the cookie, thus cooling it faster and preventing the bottom of the cookie from becoming too soggy. If you leave baked goods on a hot cookie sheet, they are also prone to overcooking. Most metal cooling racks are dishwasher safe, so it is super easy to clean the rack when you finish your baking.

Our pick: Checkered Chef Cooling Rack – Set of 2 Stainless Steel, Oven Safe Grid Wire Racks for Cooking & Baking – 8" x 11 ¾" ($19.99)

Measuring utensil set

Wait, why would anyone need a measuring set if you can just measure with a kitchen scale? In a pinch, it might be easier to use a dry ingredient measuring set for minute tablespoon and teaspoon measurements. Plus, it's much easier to approximate "about one cup of chopped onions" for a recipe when you have a measuring cup handy.

Stainless steel tools are our pick because the material is dishwasher-safe and relatively easy to clean. Plus, you'll love the timeless look of stainless in your kitchen.

Our pick: Stainless Steel Measuring Cups And Measuring Spoons 10-Piece Set, 5 Cups And 5 Spoons ($17.98)

Vegetable peeler

Can you peel vegetables with a super sharp knife? Yes, but why wouldn't you just invest in a sturdy vegetable peeler to do the work for you? You can use your vegetable peeler to slice ultra-thin pieces of onion as well or make super fancy thin vegetables for garnishing salads or cooking. A vegetable peeler can also be used to remove strawberry stems with ease or de-string pesky celery pieces.

The shape of your vegetable peeler is subject to favoritism. We like the style of the Y-shaped vegetable peeler, but some folks like the hand-feel of the swivel peeler more.

Our pick: OXO Good Grips Prep Y-Peeler ($9.95)

Silicon ladle

There's no other utensil for removing the soup from a pot like a ladle. There are many material options on the market for ladles including plastic, silicon, stainless steel, and wood. Silicon is a versatile material for your ladle because it is easy to clean, heat-resistant, and won't scratch your non-stick pans. If you're aiming for a longer-lasting ladle with better ease of cleaning, Bustle recommends purchasing a stainless steel ladle instead of a silicon or wood ladle. You should be prepared, however, to have an oven mitt on when handling a stainless steel ladle because of the conductivity of the metal.

Our pick: Chef Craft Premium Silicone Cooking Ladle ($6.15)

3-quart saucepan

It might seem a little impractical to boil a small box of pasta with a 6-quart Dutch oven. As a home cook, you should look to a medium-sized, 3-quart stainless steel saucepan to cook small portions of food in your kitchen. Not only is the appearance of a stainless steel pan very beautiful, but the stainless steel is super easy to clean or pop in your dishwasher.

Although you can purchase a variety of interior colors for a saucepan, we recommend sticking with a lighter shade so you can easily observe the color of your food while it cooks. This is especially important for browned butter — where a matter of minutes can mean the difference between a creamy, flavorful addition to cookies to a charred, fatty mass on the bottom of the pan very quickly.

Our pick: Cooks Standard 3-Quart Multi-Ply Clad Stainless Steel Saucepan with Lid ($49.99)

Serrated knife

Serrated knives have tiny "teeth" on the blade to grab onto the object it's cutting. This feature, although simple, is important for slicing crusty bread. Chef Thomas Keller recommends using a serrated knife to cut tomatoes as well. He notes that the teeth grab onto the thin tomato skin and easily slice through, while a more sharp kitchen knife would slip or crush the tomato. The serrated knife can also aid in slicing other tricky foods like pineapple, hard processed meats, and cheeses.

Our pick: Mercer Culinary M23210 Millennia Black Handle, 10-Inch Wide Wavy Edge, Bread Knife ($24.40)

Salad spinner

The name "salad spinner" might indicate that this device is only useful for salads. But you can also use your salad spinner to remove moisture from your salted zucchini and eggplant, clean noodles, remove pesky tomato seeds, and rinse the starch off homemade fries. The Neatless Salad Spinner is our favorite model because of its no-slip silicon base and easy-to-empty drainage system.

Our pick: Neatness Large Salad Spinner with Drain, Bowl, and Colander ($26.99)

Wooden spoon

The wooden spoon is a kitchen staple for its durability and versatility. Although some folks have expressed concern about the porous nature of wood, the wooden spoon can be kept safe and clean by avoiding the dishwasher and letting the spoon sit in water for long periods of time. Allow your wooden spoon to dry in a space with good, consistent airflow for easy and safe use.

Our pick: OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Wooden Spoon Set ($14.95)

Kitchen shears

Kitchen shears are more supportive than any partner you could ever have (not to mention significantly cheaper). Use the utensil to open an annoying plastic package, spatchcock a chicken, chop up canned tomatoes, clean shrimp, or cut bacon into tiny pieces for a salad. We recommend purchasing kitchen shears that you can disassemble to clean completely or put in your dishwasher for easy sanitizing.

Our pick: Kitchen Shears, iBayam Kitchen Scissors Heavy Duty, 2-pack ($9.99)