If you want to become a proficient home cook, you need to have the right tools. These 10 must have kitchen tools every home cook needs to own are considered necessary for all kinds of cooking. Don’t worry, I’m not going to recommend any crazy expensive and little used uni-taskers (thanks Alton Brown) – and it is likely you already have some, or even all, of what is on this list.
Some people like to differentiate between tools and appliances, but for the sake of this article I’m not here to go into definitions. Of course, some things like an oven or a refrigerator are clearly appliances so while every kitchen needs them, they will not be on this list as I don’t consider them a ‘tool’. Other things (like number 6) can be considered an appliance – but are still included in this list regardless of the fact they utilize a power source.
1. Chef’s Knife
A high-quality chef’s knife is indispensable for chopping, slicing, and dicing a wide range of ingredients. It is singlehandedly the most useful and necessary kitchen tool, and if you don’t have one it’s unlikely you do a lot of quality cooking.
I don’t say this to gatekeep home cooking – but rather to express the absolute necessity of owning a chef’s knife. However you don’t need to break the bank when buying a chef’s knife. Sure you could spend hundreds (or even thousands) on a gorgeous handmade Japanese knife made by a master that can trace his shop back 300 years…or you could just buy a cheap one and replace it as needed. Either way, just make sure you keep them sharp.
3 Quality Chef’s Knives You Can Buy On Amazon
2. Cutting Board
What good is a knife if you have nowhere to use it. And no, your countertop is not a valid surface. Every home cook needs to own a cutting board for two reasons. One is to protect your countertops. The second is to protect your knife. That’s right, using an improper surface to cut food on can actually damage the blade of your knife and cause it to be dangerous to use.
Cutting boards should be made of two ingredients: wood (preferred), or plastic (budget). You want to avoid cutting boards made of glass, stone, metal, or anything else that can cause damage to your knife. I personally prefer a solid butcher block style end grain cutting board for its appearance in my kitchen, and how easy it is to maintain and use.
My recommended cutting board choice: Sonder Los Angeles Walnut Cutting Board (Not only is it a beautiful board, but the edge divot is useful to prevent water or meat juice from spilling on your counters as you work).
3. Pots & Pans Set
Every kitchen needs pots and pans, and the easiest way to get everything you need is to buy a set. HOWEVER, if you are an experienced home cook you might already know what you use the most and what you don’t need. For example I personally use a 12-inch steel pan and a 6-inch egg pan. I don’t need and 8 or 10 inch pan in between. I suggest buying single items of what you need and building out your kitchen set that way.
Yet for those of you who like to have a full matching set for top kitchen aesthetics then you probably have to buy everything at once.
This is the most expensive thing I’ll recommend on this list so I don’t expect anyone to buy it. But I want to show you what a top quality full set of pots and pans goes for: All-Clad Copper Core 5-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set 14 Pieces
Home Cook’s Secret! You can buy All-Clad factory rejects for a fraction of the price here. Make sure you know fully what you are buying – for example I only buy ones that say ‘Packaging Damage’ and NOT ‘Second Quality’ as the former has nothing actually wrong with the product.
4. Measuring Cups & Spoons
Accurate measurements are crucial for successful baking and cooking. Many recipes can be played with and adjusted to suit your taste – but for the home cook that is just getting started it is important to follow the recipe closely. Luckily measuring cups and spoons are not at all expensive. Just make sure whatever you buy is made from a food safe material and you are good!
I highly recommend the choices below as they are the exact ones I own! Plus even though the brand is known for quality, both choices are less than $10 (at time of writing).
Recommend Measuring Spoons: KitchenAid Measuring Spoons
Recommended Measuring Cups: KitchenAid Measuring Cups
5. Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls are essential for combining ingredients, marinating, and more. Most recipes will call for a mixing bowl in one way or another, from whisking up a marinade to tossing a salad. Now this might surprise some of you – I only own ONE mixing bowl. That’s right, ONE! You don’t need a mixing bowl set, just find one that is your preferred size and use it for everything. I use my large steel mixing bowl for everything from whisking eggs to tossing chicken wings in a sauce.
My only recommended mixing bowl for home cooks: 4-quart Steel Mixing Bowl
6. Blender OR Food Processor
These versatile appliances are so useful, yet while both seem like similar tools at first glance, they do different things. A blender for example BLENDS. It turns raw or cooked ingredients into a puree through liquification and is useful for making things like smoothies and sauces. A food processor chops – and does a little better at turning things into pastes without the addition of excess liquid like a blender needs.
However if you had to choose just one kitchen tool I would say get a blender. A food processor is super useful and time saving, but it can be replaced with a chef’s knife if you are skilled enough. You can’t use your knife to make a smoothie.
Here are some options for buying a blender or food processor for your home kitchen:
- Ninja BN701 Professional Plus (Quality budget choice that I used to own before I upgraded).
- Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender (High end choice)
- Blendtec Total Blender Classic (my personal blender I highly recommend)
- Hamilton Beach Stack And Snap (Popular budget option)
- Ninja BN601 Professional Plus Food Processor (quality mid-range)
- Cuisinart Food Processor 14-cup (higher end workhorse option)
7. Colander (Strainer)
A colander or strainer is essential for draining pasta, washing vegetables, and straining liquids from solids. Sure you can try the inverted plate method, and it may work okay for pasta, but a proper strainer is absolutely necessary in the kitchen. I use mine to sieve solids from sauces (like in my Peruvian Huancaina Sauce) or to make a salmon mousse as elegant as possible.
I recommend getting strainers in two sizes. A standard one for most of your cooking needs, and a small one for cocktails.
Here is a good choice for home cooks: Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainer Set
8. Baking Sheets
It would be very hard to make cookies, scones, biscuits, or plenty of other recipes without a baking sheet. In my opinion a baking sheet is one of the top must have kitchen tools every home cook needs to own because of it’s versatility and overall necessity.
And don’t just think they are for baking desserts. You can use baking sheets for roasting vegetables, toasting nuts and seeds, baking bacon, drying herbs and fruit, bread making, reheating leftovers, and even catching oven spills if you place it under a smaller roasting dish. Sometimes I even use a clean baking sheet as a tray to serve hors d’oeuvres if my party isn’t particularly upscale.
One brand I trust for all my baking needs is Nordic Ware, so it should be no surprise that I recommend the Nordic Ware Aluminum Baker’s Half Sheet.
9. Spatulas & Tongs
Ok, so these are technically two tools taking up one entry in this article, but really I just want to cram as much useful information in here as possible. Spatulas are used for lifting, flipping, and moving items to, from, or around a pan or pot. Tongs…do pretty much the same thing. While I have both at home they are interchangeable in most instances. However I recommend a spatula for things like flipping delicate fish in a pan, or prying fresh cookies off your baking tray.
Let’s also talk about rubber spatulas for a second. A rubber spatula is 100% necessary and something I use almost every day. In fact I find my rubber spatula to be more useful than my metal ones. I use it for scraping down a bowl to avoid waste, as well as moving stuff around in a pan.
Recommended Metal Spatula: OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Turner
Recommended Rubber/Silicone Spatula: Tovolo Flex Core Silicone Spatula With Metal Handle
Recommended Tongs: OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Locking Tongs with Nylon Heads
10. Box Grater
A box grater might not seem, at first glance, like a necessary kitchen tool. However it is used in so many recipes (especially on this site) your kitchen would be seriously lacking without one. In fact, there is not really a good replacement for a classic box grater, which is why it is, in my opinion, a must have kitchen tool.
A box grater usually has four sides, each with different grating styles. the most popular large holed side is great for things like shredding medium-hard cheese such as cheddar, grating beets for borshch or potatoes for hash browns, or even making breadcrumbs from stale bread. The fine side is great for zesting citrus, nuts or ginger, and the medium side is perfect for grating hard cheese like parmesan although I personally prefer to use a microplane for that. The other side is more niche but definitely has a use, like slicing cucumber or radish quickly for a salad.
Recommended Box Grater: Stainless Steel Box Grater With Sturdy Handle
Final Thoughts On Must Have Kitchen Tools
So there you have it. 10 must have kitchen tools every home cook needs to own. Do you have any suggestions or tips that other readers might find useful? Drop them in the comments down below. And be sure to check out my article for more advanced home cooks, 10 kitchen tools to elevate your cooking from amateur to advanced.