Having dependable, essential kitchen tools simplifies meal preparation. They can dramatically speed up the time to when dinner is on the table, and make it easier on you. But it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to purchase when you're first starting out.
Seriously, I'm going through that right now with deciding which air fryer to buy!
As a note, you don't need to run out and get all of these right away, and it's not intended to be a complete, exhaustive list. For example, I haven't added an air fryer yet because I haven't personally test driven them. But I'll add one once I do.
Additionally, I didn't include a hand-held mandolin, because there are safety issues to using one. If you're starting out, this tool can wait.
This does mean that everything on this list is something I have in my own kitchen. If I haven't tried it and loved it, it's not here.
That said, as a disclosure, these are affiliate links as I'm an Amazon Affiliate. This helps support the ever increasing cost of running this blog.
1. A Good Chef's Knife
I put this at the head of the essential kitchen tools list first, because having a good chef's knife is the single most important investment I've made. I have 4 different ones right now, and Shun is by far my favorite.
I use it for almost everything, and use a carving knife only for small, well, carving tasks. If you make one excellent investment in your kitchen tools, go with a Shun chef's knife.
2. Small Essential Kitchen Tools
Besides a set of measuring cups for wet ingredients and for dry ingredients, measuring spoons, a Y-shaped potato peeler (SO much easier to use), a couple of bamboo cutting boards, a set of mixing / prep bowls, kitchen shears (no need for heavy duty if you're not working with meat or fish), and tongs, here are some kitchen tools I use a LOT.
A sturdy rimmed baking sheet. This is great for roasting vegetables and doing sheet pan dinners. I have the size pictured and linked below, and what's called a Quarter Sheet Pan, that's half the size. The quarter baking sheet fits easily into my toaster oven.
Immersion Blender + Mini Chopper
I use my immersion blender or the mini-chopper it comes with every single day. At least once. After the chef's knife, this is my Kitchen MVP.
It has so many uses. For example, I use it for whipping up oat milk for my morning cappuccino, for blending soups, making sauces like an aioli, pesto, and million other things.
And my husband will tell you, it's a whole lot easier to clean than a full-blown food processor.
If you bake, I highly recommend (1) a kitchen scale to get the amount of flour consistently accurate,
(2) a whisk, to evenly disperse baking powder, baking soda, etc in flour, and to beat eggs,
Instant Read Thermometer
and (3) an instant read thermometer, to know when breads are ready (they should generally reach 200˚F). I also use it for Carnivorous Maximus' (my husband) and Carnivorous Minimus' (our dog) meat dinners too.
Another must-have for the home cook, is a box grater. I've tried all kinds, some of them quite fancy, and the one I always go back to is the old-fashioned box grater. Look for one with a rubber, slip-resistant bottom, and a comfortable handle.
I use this to grate cheese, but also zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes and apples for different dishes.
And for zesting lemons and limes, go with a microplane. It makes zesting a lemon go incredibly fast.
Lastly, if you like vegetable noodles, and your market doesn't carry many varieties, such as sweet potato, zucchini, butternut squash or beet noodles, make your own using a spiralizer. I have 3 of them, which is probably crazy, but here's my favorite.
(As a note, I have an earlier model with 4 blades, and covet this one with 10 blades.)
Want more vegetarian and vegan dish ideas? I can help you. I have three newsletters for different topics: 1) Weekly Recipes, 2) Vegetarian Meal Plans, and 3) Monthly Vegetarian Tips for helping you to move to a more vegetarian diet. Choose which newsletters are most relevant to your lifestyle, and unsubscribe at any time. The last thing any of us needs, is more emails that don't help us in some way.
3. Best Cookware to Have
You don't even want to know just how many pots and pans I've tried through the years. Many work very well, but I do have my favorites.
I have 3 skillets I use constantly. The first is a fairly shallow Scanpan, perfect for eggs and small sauté dishes ...
The second one is this deep sauté Scanpan.
And finally, everyone should have a cast iron skillet. I recommend anything by the folks at Lodge. They come pre-seasoned (the skillets, not the folks...).
Le Creuset is completely worth the investment. Their pots will last pretty much forever. They heat evenly and can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.
Over the years, I've gradually added onto my collection and now have 4 of different sizes and shapes. Start with the size you think you'd use the most and add on from there.
4. Best Small Appliances
I make a smoothie almost every single day. I use 4 ice cubes, frozen fruit, 2 scoops protein powder and 1 cup oat milk. I crave them even when it's snowing. And they make me feel so good afterwards. So my Ninja countertop blender has a permanent spot on the counter.
Electric Pressure Cooker - Multicooker
My #1 essential kitchen tool in this category is an electric pressure cooker that's a multicooker. It is an absolute must-have. Instant Pot is the gold standard, and they have several models you can choose from, ranging in size and number of functions.
I have a couple of slow cookers of different sizes, and recommend getting one with a removable cast metal insert that can go on the stovetop.
That way, you can brown something in the removable pot, and then slip it into the slow cooker to continue cooking. It's a fabulous way to increase flavors.
So there you have it. My favorite, must-have essential tools to make cooking your next meal so much easier.
Complete List of Kitchen Equipment Recommendations
Since I originally posted this list, I opened a Storefront on Amazon where I have a complete listing of my product recommendations. I've separated my recommendations by type of kitchen tool, and in some cases by price.
I'm still adding to the list and to the categories, so continue to check back from time to time. Go check them out here.