15 Essential Kitchen Tools Every Home Cook Needs
There is nothing more frustrating that being in the middle of cooking something and realizing you don’t have the right kitchen equipment for the task. Sure, you can improvise. But there’s nothing like having a well-equipped kitchen to build your confidence and amp up your cooking skills.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 15 essential kitchen tools every home cook needs. No matter where you rank in terms of cooking skills, this list of essential tools can serve as a checklist against what you may already have, or what you may still need to acquire.
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1. Chef’s Knife
Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced home cook you will need to invest in a good Chef’s knife. Why? Because it carries the biggest workload of the kitchen in terms of food prep. Chef’s knives come in two types: heavy and thick or thin and fine. German-made knives are traditionally heavy while Japanese-made knives will be lighter and thinner.
There are a few things to consider when shopping for a Chef’s knife:
- The weight
- The blade length
- The balance; how does it feel in your hand?
- How will you be using it?
If you’re a knife novice, you should start with a small blade (5.5″- 6″) and move to a bigger one as you get more comfortable with it. Pay attention to the tang, which is the unsharp part of the blade. It will affect the weight of the knife.
Finally, think about how the knife feels in your hand and how you will be using it in the kitchen. You can borrow a friend’s knife for practice or handle one in a store that has them on display before you buy. Since part of your cooking routine will include keeping your knife sharp, understand that the softer the steel used to make the knife the faster your blade will dull.
2. Paring Knife
To pare something basically means to trim it by cutting away the outer edges. It also means to reduce something in size, quantity, or numbers. So, a paring knife is a small cutting tool that is designed to help you with the precision cutting of fruits and veggies.
Paring knives are small – usually about 2 ½ – 4 inches long. They have either curved or straight blades and are used to:
- cut, peel and section fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, lemons, and oranges
- remove the skin of onions
- devein shrimp
- remove the chilli seeds
- slice hard sausages like pepperoni
WÜSTHOF Gourmet Three Piece Pairing Knife Set
Mercer Culinary M22003 Millennia 3.5-Inch Paring Knife, Black
Victorinox 4-inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife with Straight Blade, Spear Point, Black
3. Serrated Knife
Serrated knives are identified by their toothlike, scalloped edges. The cool thing about these types of blades is they allow you to easily cut through both hard and soft surfaces. So slicing tomatoes and avocado skins are easy peasy lemon squeesy.
These knives usually have elongated blades, for versatility. Yes, you can use your chef’s knife to cut bread BUT you will also be compressing the soft interior in the process. With serrated knifes that won’t happen. They cut hard and soft surfaces very efficiently with little compression. Serrated knives are also good at making thin slices.
Mercer Culinary M23210 Millennia Wide Wavy Edge Bread Knife, 10-Inch, Black
Victorinox 47548 Black Fibrox Pro Chef’s-Serrated 7″ Slant-Tip Blade 1½” width at handle, 7 inch
Calphalon Precision Series Serrated Utility Knife, 6-Inch
4. Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
The reason I made this an ‘or’ option is because this item on the list is dependent on the way you cook. By all means get a stand mixer if you do a lot of baking and pasta-making. And if you will use it at least one day a week. If not, a hand mixer will be a better choice for you.
The other factor will be cost. If you do tons of baking, then invest more for a quality stand mixer. They run from about $100-$400. If not, then shop around for a good hand mixer.
KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, Onyx Black (K45SSOB
Hamilton Beach 6 Speed Electric Stand Mixer with Stainless Steel 3.5 Quart Bowl, Planetary Mixing, Tilt-Up Head (63325), 300 Watt Motor, Black
Cuisinart HM-90S Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Handheld Mixer with Storage Case, White
5. Immersion Blender
The portability and convenience of an immersion blender can’t be discounted. Most small kitchen appliances lose points in this area. Immersion blenders are great because they’re small enough to store easily and lightweight enough to perform a number of routine tasks.
When you want to puree soups or make whipped cream, you don’t have to drag out the big blender. Just place the immersion blender in whatever liquid or semi-solid you’re trying to transform and you’re good. Put down the whisk and save your wrists. That’s my motto.
6. Food Processor
When you need to grind, chop, slice, dice, or puree food, then a food processor comes in handy as a timesaver. Some processors can make nut butters, knead dough, and have timers. They’re very affordable, ranging in price from about $25 to upwards of $300. Decide what you’ll use it for and how often before making a decision to purchase.
Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper with Bowl Scraper, Stainless Steel (70730)
Cuisinart DFP-14BCNY 14-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless Steel – Silver
Hamilton Beach 8-Cup Compact Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper for Slicing, Dicing, Mincing, and puree, 450 Watts, Black (70740)
7. Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot
The popularity of the pressure cooker has exploded recently (no pun intended), mainly because of its time-saving features. If you’re asking yourself if you should get a traditional stovetop pressure cooker, or a an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, there are a few things to consider.
A pressure cooker is basically a pot with a lid you can lock. It has a pressure regulator and a valve to release steam. Because food is cooked under pressure, the cooking process is shortened but flavor is not sacrificed.
Pressure cookers have been around since the late 1600’s but didn’t gain popularity until they were introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair. They were very popular during the 50s, but disappeared with the advent of packaged frozen food and microwave ovens.
Until recently, stovetop pressure cookers were only popular among restaurant chefs. The invention of the Instant Pot brought the pressure cooker back into the home along with additional features such as:
- Energy efficiency
- Various cooking functions (such as slow cooking)
- Size options, depending on your needs
- Control panel
Stovetop pressure cooker or Instant Pot? Your decision will be based on whether you prefer stovetop or countertop cooking and the complexity of the meals you’ll be preparing. Whatever you decide, ALWAYS read the instructions that comes with your pot or appliance before you use it to avoid serious injury.
Tongs are small kitchen tools that act as an extension of your hands and fingers. They can be used to handle hot foods or help with blending salad ingredients. The size is up to you. But you will want to purchase your tong(s) based on the type of pots, pans, griddles, or other cooking surfaces you will be using them with to avoid damaging your cookware. This is especially important when it comes to non-stick cooking surfaces. A locking mechanism is also desirable to keep the tool closed when not in use.
StarPack Basics Silicone Kitchen Tongs (9-Inch & 12-Inch) – Stainless Steel with Non-Stick Silicone Tips, High Heat Resistant to 480°F, For Cooking, Serving, Grill, BBQ & Salad (Teal Blue)
Joinkitch Kitchen Tongs, Stainless Steel Cooking Tongs Set 2 Pack (12-inch.9-inch) with Heat Resistant Handle
Spatulas are small tool essentials that help you mix, flip, and bake. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and styles.
10. Box Grater
The box grater is a multi-purpose time saving tool that grates and zests fruits and vegetables. The most important features you should look for are sharpness, stability, and durability.
11. Wire Mesh Colander
A good stainless steel wire mesh colander is good at filtering, rinsing, straining and steaming wet or dry ingredients. Decorative colanders with large holes will usually drain slowly because it doesn’t have enough holes to make the process go faster.
12. Baking Sheet
Baking sheets perform a variety of functions in the oven. You use them for everything from baking and cooking to roasting vegetables. It needs to be warp-resistant, durable, sturdy, easy to clean, and a good heat conductor. If you’re considering a non-stick baking sheet, beware. Non-stick trays are darker and will cook hotter. The result is food that looks dark and burned.
13. Dutch oven
This versatile large capacity pot has its origins in Dutch, English, and American history. It was the cookware of choice for American pioneers and homesteaders, and for good reason. The Dutch Oven can be used in making chilis, stews, soups, and casseroles. It comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and prices. So, how do you choose? Keep it simple.
If you plan on cooking whole roasts in it, then go for the oval versus round shape. We recommend an enameled cast iron Dutch Oven since it is more versatile in the types of foods you can cook (even acidic) and is easier to care for than those made of copper.
Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Crock Pot Artisan 7 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Round Dutch Oven, Sapphire Blue
Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 6.75 Quart Oval French (Dutch) Oven
This is a tough one since one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to skillet choice. Most skillets will be made of some form of cast iron, stainless steel, copper, or aluminum. The type(s) of materials used in the manufacturing of the skillet determines how it interacts with food.
For example, traditional stainless steel will brown and braise well. Well seasoned cast iron skillets brown, sear and fry well. Nonstick skillets cook eggs and pancakes well. But most can’t be used on ceramic or induction cooktops. Copper is good for both high heat searing and frying and making light sauces.
The three main considerations in choosing the right skillet are:
- Your cooking style and,
- Your cooktop
Lodge L10SK3ASHH41B Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder, 12-Inch
Nonstick Ceramic Copper Frying Pan: Non Stick 10 Inches Skillet With Glass Lid
Stainless Steel Skillet with Glass Cover – 12 Inch – Induction Compatible
Cuisinart 622-30G Chef’s Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Skillet with Glass Cover, Black
15. Baking Mat & Cooling Rack
OK. So, technically I’ve listed 16 essential kitchen tools you’ll need. 😉 All kidding aside, you will definitely want to have a baking mat and cooling rack on hand. Using a silicone baking mat will:
- Eliminate the need for foil, parchment paper, cooking sprays and oils
- Ensure even heat distribution during the baking process
- Create a nonstick surface barrier between the food and the pan
- Helps prevent tearing when removing baked goods
A cooling rack will help your baked goods cool down quickly. But you will need to pay attention to the rack size. Racks that work for cookies and muffins won’t work for cakes.
AmazonBasics Silicone Baking Mat Sheet, Set of 2
The French Pantry 3 Piece Baking Gift Set
Ultra Cuisine 100% Stainless Steel Wire Cooling Rack for Baking fits Half Sheet Pans Cool Cookies, Cakes, Breads
Photo credits: Main image by Vlad Chețan via Pexels. Instant Pot image by Katherine Chase via Unsplash.