How do you know what to purchase for your kitchen when you are first starting out – what those must have kitchen items are? How do you know if a kitchen gadget is really worth buying and taking up space in your kitchen? Don’t worry, I’m going to make your life easier with this list of basic kitchen needs.
Affiliate links are used in this post. You can see this disclosure page for more info.
The Kitchen Essentials List You Need to Have
When my husband I were first married we lived in a duplex with a small kitchen. I had no pantry to store excess tools and appliances.
As you move into bigger homes, you have a little more leeway with what you can have in your kitchen. Today, I want to give you a list of the most important items for your kitchen – the must have kitchen items list. Obviously, if you are someone who doesn’t cook you will be able to eliminate several of things things.
After being married over 12 years, these are the kitchen tools I use on a weekly (if not more frequently) basis. Everyone of them except for the first three items under the possible baking essentials list.
If you have a little extra room in your house, I highly recommend you check out the list of my Favorite Kitchen Tools and my Favorite Kitchen Appliances! Not everything on those lists I would consider essentials, but they are all things I love and use on a regular basis!
Basic Kitchen Needs List:
Cooking Kitchen Essentials
- Vegetable Peeler – Don’t get the cheapest one out there. They hurt your hand and break much sooner.
- Box Cheese Grater – I don’t buy grated cheese so I use this any time I need grated cheese. I also use it to grate carrots for egg rolls, fried rice, etc.
- Soup Ladle – There not another great option for dishing up broth-y soups.
- Slotted Spoon
- Non Slotted Spoon
- Can Opener – Buy a decent can opener. They cheap ones are a pain. I have this one. My sister has this one and says it is amazing.
- Kitchen Shears or a Pizza Cutter – I have a pizza wheel with a handle. I’ve had super cheap ones and the one we have now is middle of the road. It definitely cuts much easier. You can also just skip the pizza cutter and use the shears for pizza along with a myriad of other things.
- Colander – I have a smaller mesh one and a larger pasta one
- Cutting Boards – I recommend two large ones (one for veggies & bread and one for meat) and a small size one. I’m needing to replace my full sized cutting boards, so I don’t have specific recommendations for these. My mini sized one is from Pampered Chef, though, and I like it.
- Food Storage Containers – I love my Pyrex set! The perk of having glass is that you can use them in the microwave and they can double as food prep dishes. I also have a set of decent plastic ones that I like. I’ve found that having some mini containers (4 and 8 ounces) has been really useful!
- Good Knives. Start with just a couple decent knives. A bread knife, a paring knife, and one or 2 chef’s knives.
- Good Pots and Pans. Start with an 8 and 10 inch skillet, 1 sauce pot, and a stockpot. You can add to your stash after you know what else you will use. I’d recommend stainless steel for your sauce pot and stockpot at least. Your skillets you’ll have to decide on stainless, non-stick, cast iron, ceramic etc.
- Silicone Spatula You need this! Great for making cookies or things like scraping out pots and bowls or the last of the peanut butter. Mine is from Pampered Chef and it’s amazing.
- Pancake Flipper Considering my kids are pancake fans, we use this multiple times a week.
- Mini Serving Spatula These are the perfect size for brownies and bar desserts. I used mine tonight for lasagna too.
- Blender – This may or may not be an essential. I mainly use mine for smoothies, oat flour, and salsa. (I’d suggest looking for a great deal on a Vitamix or Blendtec.)
Possible Kitchen Essentials:
- Potato Masher – If you make mashed potatoes or a lot of your own refried beans, this becomes an essential! If not, try without one for a while. I have one of the ones with holes in the masher part but I could see how the ones with the wavy metal base would be easier to clean. Haven’t tried that kind though.
- Pasta Fork – This is only an essential if you use spaghetti or fettuccine noodles. If you use elbow, penne etc you could just use the slotted or unslotted spoons.
- Whisk – If you aren’t sure if you’d use it, do without. You can purchase one later.
- Ice Cream Scoop – This is an essential in our home. If you don’t eat ice cream frequently you can use a sturdy regular spoon. My favorite scoop came from Bed Bath and Beyond but they no longer sell it.
- Microplane You can get by without this by using your knife for mincing garlic and the small side of your box cheese grater for zesting lemon peel, but I do find myself using the microplane frequently.
Baking Kitchen Essentials
- Airbake Cookie Sheets – Love these! Perfect for cookies, rolls, breadsticks. Get the lighter colored ones.
- Cooling Racks I think this one looks nice. If you are short on counter top space, check out the stackable ones.
- Mini Muffin Tins – This is the pan I have. I prefer having 2 12 cup pans over 1 24. I recommend mini over regular sized ones because they make the perfect sized muffins for kids and when you bring muffins or cupcakes to a function a lot of the time people won’t finish an entire regular sized one and it always makes me a little sad when food I’ve made gets tossed. They are also great size for appetizers
- 9×13 and a 8 or 9 Inch Square Pan – I use these all the time. I actually have 2 of each. Unless you know you’ll be using them a lots start with one of each. All of mine are glass (Pyrex) but you might consider getting one set in glass and one in metal. The metal ones are great for taking places – no worrying about breakage! I also recommend that you buy the ones that come with lids.
- Measuring Spoons – If you are going to cook or bake at all you’ll want a set, maybe even two. Don’t buy a cheap set. I recommend metal over plastic and prefer a set that included 1/8 of a teaspoon.
- Measuring Cups – The same as the spoons. These are essentials. If you are a baker, you might want two. Don’t buy a cheap set. I have had plastics ones, and they have accidentally been melted. I also have a cheap set of stainless steel ones and the handles are falling off less than a year later (they just happen to be the first set that currently appears on this link).
- Liquid Measuring Cups – I have a set that comes with a 1, 2, and 4 cup. The ones that that are angled and you can read standing up make things a little easier but I haven’t seen them in glass. A basic set is fine, no need to spend extra on this.
- Glass and Metal Mixing Bowls – Get a variety of sizes. Our largest one gets used for tossing big batches of popcorn with butter or making pancakes for a herd. The middle sized one is great for cookies and muffins. The small ones are good for whisking an egg or two. One of my metal bowls nestles perfectly into a saucepan for a double boiler.
- Stand Mixer – If you aren’t a baker, you can skip this one but I use my KitchenAid 1-3 times each week. It definitely makes kneading dough a lot easier. Don’t get anything small than the 5 quart one.
Possible Baking Essentials:
- Pie Pan – You may or may not want this depending on how many pies you want. It can also fill in for a cheesecake pan like in this recipe. Honestly, I use mine maybe once a year.
- Jelly Roll Pan – We use this for oven fries or roasting veggies. Mine is an old uncoated one. This gets used on a regular basis.
- Pastry Brush – If you don’t do much baking, you won’t need this. Most often ours gets used for brushing the butter on top of breadsticks. I use one with natural bristles. If you get a cheap one, the bristles fall out way sooner so be sure to read reviews and don’t by the cheap ones. Some people love the silicone brushes.
- Rolling Pin – I have a traditional rolling pin and a pizza and pastry roller that I love! Do you make pizza, sugar roll out cookies, or tortillas? Then this will be a must. If not try without and on the rare occasion you need a rolling pin try using a bottle.
- Bread Pan – This is an essential if you are going to make homemade bread. Otherwise you can just use the muffin tins for quick breads. If you really want bread pans for quick breads I love this size. Otherwise I use stainless steel bread pans for my yeast bread.
- Wooden Spoon – this is another item you can do without, but I use mine frequently for stirring sourdough, making cookies, etc. One is plenty.
Other Kitchen Items:
- Silverware – In my opinion there is no need to buy silverware that is $50 a setting. One the other had, don’t buy the the cheap stuff. It bends easily, tarnishes, and hurts your hand. We purchased a middle of the road set that we really liked from Bed Bath and Beyond. Using one of their 20% off coupons made it a great purchase. A service for 12 cost under $200.
- Dinnerware – Fine china was something that I didn’t want. When you are in a small house you most likely won’t have space for storing plates that seldom get used. I love corelle. They are thin and won’t take up a lot of space in the cabinet.
- Glasses – If you are limited on space, make sure your glasses will stack otherwise they will take up a lot of space. Ours came from Ikea and they work great. Next time we’ll most likely purchase something a tiny bit thinner.
- Hot Pads and Trivets – One or two trivets would be plenty. Hot pads or kitchen towels could always fill in on the occasion you need more. You will want at least 2 hot pads.
- Wash Clothes and Dish Towels – Enough to get you through to the next wash day. I dislike drying my dishes with the cheap microfiber towels. Look for something that will absorb the water easily.
Don’t forget to hop over to the Favorite Kitchen Tools List and my Favorite Appliances List for more fun kitchen tools! (You’ll also get to hear about my all time favorite appliance. You might be surprised. A total splurge item, but I love it. The kids do too. 😉 )
What items do you consider kitchen essentials?
Originally published April 1, 2014. Updated list and graphics April 30, 2019.