1. Great cutting boards – Cutting boards + knives are definitely the two tools I use more than anything else in the kitchen, so have a good set of both is definitely essential. Most people swear by bamboo boards as the best, and there are some really great options like this one and this one…however, I personally still use plastic the majority of the time because the wood boards are a lot more effect to clean and maintain. If you’re not looking to add prep time, pick up a set of plastic ones like these.
2. Prep Bowls – I have pretty limited counter space, and even when I do have more room to cook, I like to keep everything a little bit organized (shocking, I know). It makes cleanup so much easier. I really like this set for general use, or if you want to store ingredients for later, ones with lids like these are great.
3. Knives – This is obviously one of those tools that you can certainly drop a lot of money on – and that’s not necessarily what you should do. However, if I were going to “splurge” on any kitchen item a little bit, this would be in the top 2. My favorite knives are the ones passed down to me from my parents, but my Dad recommends these and these. The best starter kit is this set right here, which also comes with a knife block!
4. Dish Towels + Drying Rack – This is definitely something that needs very little budget put towards it. (These are the ones I use!) Some nicer pots and pans really shouldn’t go through the dishwasher, so hand scrubbing them and setting them up to dry is the right way to go. I love this flat one because it dries well and stores easily when not in use.
Utensils + Helpful Tools –
Realistically – most utensils will come in sets that have all of the essentials. Spatulas, spoons, silicone mixing spatulas like these, a whisk, tongs, measuring cups/spoons, and a few different shaped spoons to get you by. If you’re just starting to build a kitchen, this is what you need! Make sure you focus on a durable silicone that won’t melt with heat or scrape the coating off of your pots and pans. Otherwise, I’m going to share some of my favorite *specialty* tools that have made my time in the kitchen so much better!
5. Handheld Chopper (or Food Processor) – This one is really up to you, budget-wise. My roommate recently bought this handheld dicer that has been such a game changer when we are chopping up vegetables like onions and peppers for various dishes. You can also step up your game and get a food processor which will make things a little easier, and broaden what you can do with it! If you’re just starting out though, the handheld tool works great.
6. Juicers & Squeezers – I personally have an obsession with lemon-flavored dishes, and tend to use lemon juice pretty frequently (especially when I’m making salad dressings!) My little handheld lemon/lime squeezer is so essential for me, but if you’re into juicing your fruits and veggies beyond that, investing in a great juicer is the right way to go. I’d recommend a Vitamix or a bullet!
7. Cast-Iron Skillet OR a WOK – I have both of these, and they’re honestly both SO amazing. Realistically, I don’t need both, but I do love them. Cast Iron Skillets are incredibly useful because there are so many different ways to use them, from on the stove to in the oven. I’m a huge fan of making stir fry-style dishes (essentially throwing together different combinations of meats, vegetables, and grains like rice/quinoa/potatoes/pastas), and the Wok is amazing for that. They’re usually quite large, which means you can make large quantities of food for weekly meal prep all at once, and only have one dish to clean! I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to Wok recipes, and I love them all! It’s like having an entire restaurant of tools and uses right in your kitchen.
8. Baking Dishes – I use a glass set with varying sizes, and they cover pretty much everything I need when it comes to utilizing my oven. These are great for lasagnas, desserts, cornbread…everything. A simple set works great.
9. Rice Cooker – Some people might think this one isn’t necessary, but I use mine almost daily. I love to use my rice cooker quinoa or rice as a side dish to my chicken and vegetables every week, and this way all I have to do is add water and flip the button, leaving me free to focus on everything else.
10. Slow Cooker/Crockpot – This is such a crucial thing to have for those of you who may not be a Master Chef just yet. There is nothing simpler than throwing a ton of ingredients into a crockpot, pressing a button and going about your day (even running errands, going to sleep or going to work) and having a meal be completely ready and done with no additional effort a few hours later. I especially love using my slow cooker in the winter for soups and stews, and it totally played a role in my newfound love for cooking.
Of course, it’s always a little more fun in the kitchen when you have a cute apron and some adorable oven mitts! With these essentials, you’ll feel like Julia Child in the kitchen in no time! (Or at least, you’ll feel like you can successfully feed yourself without keeping the fire department on speed dial!)
You can find some of my all-time favorite recipes here, and the best part is that they’re all totally beginner friendly!