The Kitchen Essentials List: 50 Must-Haves For Better Cooking

Justin Micheal

Food Writer & Editor in Chief For KitchenSanity

Justin Micheal is KitchenSanity's founder, food writer and editor in chief. As an expert home cook with over 30 years of daily cooking experience and food handler certifications, he's a pro at experimenting with recipes and a stickler for food safety. He writes informative and detailed guides about cooking basics such as proper food storage, cutting and cooking methods, and choosing the right products to make cooking easier.

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This guide isn’t just a rundown. It’s a curated list of 50 kitchen essentials you need and won’t be left to collect dust in the cupboard.

Step into any home cook’s kitchen, and you’ll find a variety of tools and gadgets, each with a story to tell. But which ones are truly indispensable?

I’ve sifted through the clutter to bring you the best kitchen gear for every home chef. From the sharpest knives to the most reliable appliances, each item is a building block for a kitchen that’s as functional as it is inviting.

With these tools at your disposal, you’ll find that cooking and food preparation are more enjoyable.



Think of a non-stick skillet as your kitchen’s best friend, ready to tackle anything from a quick sauté to a leisurely brunch. Its slick surface means you can cook with less oil and not worry about the cleanup. For those just starting out or outfitting a new kitchen, this skillet is a forgiving partner as you finesse your flipping and frying skills.

cooked breakfast foods in a nonstick pan

Sauté Pan

A sauté pan is a bit like the Swiss Army knife for your stove-top cooking, deeper than a skillet and with deeper sides to keep everything contained. It’s the pan you’ll want when you’re looking to get a good sear on a piece of meat or build layers of flavor for a robust sauce.

cooking brussels sprouts in oil in saute-pan


The saucepan is a cornerstone for any kitchen, perfect for those smaller tasks that are important, like simmering a marinara or boiling an egg. With its high sides and long handle, it’s designed for control and ease, making it a comforting presence for any new chef learning the ropes of temperature and timing.

cooking rice with spices in saucepan


A stockpot is your cauldron, ready for anything from a festive gumbo to a nourishing vegetable broth. Its tall sides and large volume make it indispensable for batch cooking or when you’re hosting a crowd. For beginners, it’s a gentle introduction to the world of soups and stocks, where timing is everything, and the pot does most of the work.

stock pot boiling corn on the cob

Dutch Oven

A good Dutch oven will last you for years upon years of use. It’s a multitasker that can go from stove-top to oven and is able to conduct and retain heat well, making it ideal for slow-cooked, flavor-packed dishes that taste like home. As you try more ambitious recipes, the Dutch oven stands ready to deliver everything from a tender pot roast to a crusty loaf of bread.

red dutch oven with beef stew

Cutlery & Cutting Tools

Chef’s Knife

A chef’s knife is the cornerstone of your cutlery collection, designed to handle 90% of your kitchen tasks with its versatile blade. From dicing onions to mincing herbs, its balanced weight and sharp edge make prep work a breeze, especially for those just honing their skills.

cutting carrots with chef knife

Paring Knife

The paring knife might be small, but it is perfect for peeling an apple or deveining shrimp. Its precision and control make it indispensable for delicate tasks, and for the beginner, it’s an excellent tool to practice finesse and accuracy without the intimidation of a larger blade.

peeling beets with pairing knife

Bread Knife

A bread knife is designed for slicing through crusty loaves without crushing them. But it’s not just for bread! The serrated blade is also your ally for cleanly slicing soft fruits and vegetables, making it a must-have addition to any new kitchen drawer.

bread knife with sliced loaf on cutting board

Cutting Board

A sturdy cutting board provides a solid, safe surface for all your slicing and dicing needs. Whether you’re chopping veggies for a stir-fry or slicing meat for a barbecue, a good cutting board protects your counters and your knives, making it a fundamental piece for any new home cook. Make sure to avoid cross-contamination to keep you and your guests safe.

wooden cutting board with sliced carrots and knife

Gadgets & Utensils


Spatulas are your go-to for flipping pancakes, scraping bowls, and spreading frostings. They come in different shapes and materials, like silicone for non-stick pans and sturdy metal for cast iron, making them useful for beginners and seasoned cooks alike.

spatula flipping egg in pan


A whisk is essential for incorporating air, ensuring your dressings emulsify and your batters reach the perfect consistency. For those just starting out, a whisk is your best bet for avoiding lumps in sauces and achieving fluffy peaks in creams. Heck, I even use one to mix Jello to make sure the sugar dissolves.

whisking an egg in glass bowl


Tongs are like an extension of your hands, giving you the control to flip, turn, and serve without the fear of getting too close to the heat. They’re a safer alternative to forks and spatulas when handling hot food, especially for those still comfortable with the stove-top.

using tongs to turn chicken wings

Vegetable Peeler

Your Grandma might have used a knife, but a vegetable peeler is a simple tool for effortless peeling and creating vegetable ribbons for salads or garnishes. It’s a small investment that can save time and reduce waste by peeling only the thinnest layer from your produce.

vegetable peeler with strips of carrot

Box Grater

A box grater is a multi-functional tool that lets you grate cheese, zest citrus, and shred vegetables quickly and efficiently. Various grating surfaces make it a must-have for adding texture and flavor to dishes, proving its worth in any kitchen.

grating cheese with box grater

Can Opener

The can opener is a gadget that should be near the top of your list so that you’ll never be left wrestling with a can of beans or tomatoes. It’s a small tool that’s easy to overlook but hard to live without, especially when you’re stocking a new kitchen.

metal can opener beside can food


A colander is indispensable for draining pasta and rinsing vegetables, making it a staple in the kitchen essentials cookware category. Its perforated nature allows for quick draining, reducing prep time and keeping your ingredients in top shape.

draining brussels sprouts in colander

Salad Spinner

Forget paper towels or swinging lettuce wrapped in a hand towel around your head. A salad spinner is ideal for quickly drying leafy greens so that your salads are dry and crisp and hold dressing better. It’s especially handy for beginner cooks exploring the world of fresh produce and homemade salads.

salad spinner drying mixed salad

Garlic Press

For garlic enthusiasts, a garlic press is a convenient tool that minces cloves quickly without needing fine knife skills. It’s a time-saver that also spares your fingers from the lingering smell of garlic.

using garlic press to press garlic


A microplane is a fine grater ideal for zesting citrus, grating hard cheeses, and even mincing garlic and ginger. Its razor-sharp teeth make it a favorite for adding a burst of flavor to dishes with precision and ease.

zesting lemon with microplane zester


A mandoline is the secret to uniform slices of fruits and vegetables without knife skills. However, it requires a bit of practice (and a safety guard), but it’s a valuable tool for those looking to elevate their kitchen game.

slicing potatoes with mandoline slicer

Kitchen Shears

Kitchen shears go beyond paper and packaging. They’re perfect for snipping herbs, cutting through poultry, and even opening food bags. They’re a tool that many new cooks don’t know they need until they have them, quickly becoming a go-to in the kitchen.

using kitchen scissors to cut pizza



A blender is your countertop wizard, transforming ingredients into smoothies, soups, and sauces with the push of a button. It’s a must-have for quick meals and a smooth operator for those creamy concoctions.

raspberry smoothie made with blender

Food Processor

A food processor does the heavy lifting of chopping and blending. It’s handy for meal prep when you’re looking to save time, but remember that the pulse button is your go-to for chopped vegetables.

food processor chopped onion


Whether it’s a hand mixer for a quick batch of whipped cream or a stand mixer for kneading dough, this appliance is a baker’s best friend. It ensures that your batters are smooth and your doughs are well-kneaded, taking the manual work out of baking.

mixing cake batter with hand mixer

Toaster Oven

A toaster oven goes way beyond browning bread. It’s a mini oven for quick baking, broiling, and roasting. It’s perfect for small kitchens or when you don’t want to heat up the whole house with the main oven.

stainless steel toaster oven with baking pan

Instant-Read Thermometer

An instant-read thermometer cooking meats easier by ensuring your dishes are safe to eat and perfectly done. It’s a simple tool that boosts confidence, especially for those new to cooking meats and looking for that just-right doneness.

digital thermometer taking temp of pork roast


The microwave is the ultimate convenience appliance, ideal for reheating leftovers, steaming veggies, or melting chocolate with minimal cleanup. It’s a time-saver that’s hard to beat, making it an essential tool in any modern kitchen.

microwaving pizza


Baking Sheets

Baking sheets are the workhorses of the kitchen, perfect for everything from roasting vegetables to baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. They’re indispensable for both the sweet and savory sides of baking, making them a top pick.

roasted herb potato wedges on sheet pan

Measuring Cups & Spoons

Measuring cups and spoons are the guardians of recipe accuracy, ensuring your creations turn out just right. They’re the first step in baking success, teaching the importance of precision in the kitchen. A cheap plastic set is all you need to get started.

measuring cup with flour

Mixing Bowls

Mixing bowls are the gathering place for your ingredients, whether you’re tossing a salad or mixing up pancake batter. They come in sets of various sizes, ready to handle any task you throw at them, from the smallest garlic dressing to the largest dough mix.

mixing coleslaw in glass mixing bowl

Loaf Pan

A loaf pan is not just for banana bread! It’s also for savory meatloafs, terrines, and even frozen desserts. Its shape and size make it ideal for recipes that require a gentle bake, and it’s a piece that transitions well from oven to table.

carrot cake in loaf pan

Round Cake Pans

Round cake pans are the foundation for classic layer cakes or brownies, but don’t stop there because they’re also great for deep-dish pizzas and frittatas.

chocolate layer cake in round pan

Pie Dish

A pie dish is the starting point for flaky pies and hearty quiches, essential for those who love to bake. It’s a bakeware staple that serves up slices of comfort, perfect for those just starting to play with pastry.

lemon tart in glass pie dish

Cooling Rack

A cooling rack is crucial for letting your baked goods come to the perfect temperature, ensuring crispy bottoms and avoiding sogginess. It’s a simple tool that makes a big difference in texture, teaching patience as those cookies cool to crispy perfection.

chocolate nut cookies cooling on wire rack

Casserole Dish

A casserole dish is the home cook’s best friend for one-pot meals that warm the soul, from lasagnas to gratins. It’s a must-have for anyone building a bakeware collection, perfect for cooking and serving.

pasta casserole in yellow casserole dish

Storage & Cleaning

Food Storage Containers

Food storage containers are the way to keep leftovers fresh and pantries organized. They come in various sizes, from a single serving of soup to a whole cake, making them essential for waste reduction and meal prep.

plastic storage containers with dry goods

Aluminum Foil & Plastic Wrap

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap are the dynamic duos for preserving food, from covering leftovers to wrapping up sandwiches. They’re the go-to for keeping things fresh and are just as handy for lining baking sheets or covering dishes in the oven.

chicken skewer wrapped in aluminum foil

Dish Towels

Dish towels are a kitchen’s multitaskers, drying dishes, wiping hands, and cleaning up spills. Opt for highly absorbent and quick-drying materials to make cleanup a breeze and keep your kitchen spotless.

kitchen towel hanging from stove

Trash Can

A kitchen trash can with a lid is a non-negotiable item you need in your kitchen to keep unwanted smells contained and your space hygienic. If you have the budget, higher-end models require you to get close to them without lifting the lid or stepping on a pedal.

kitchen trash cans under counter

Pot Holders

Pot holders are your first line of defense against burns a must-have when handling hot pots and pans. They double as trivets, protecting your countertops and tables from heat damage. They’re functional and protective and a definite kitchen essential.

using pot holders to move hot lasagna dish

Everyday Basics

Tea Kettle

A tea kettle isn’t just for tea lovers! It’s a quick route to boiling water for anyone needing a hot drink or a speedy start to cooking.

pouring hot water from kettle to tea cup

Oven Mitts

Oven mitts are the protective gear every kitchen needs, shielding your hands from the oven and stove-top heat. They’re a small investment for peace of mind that keeps your focus on the cooking, not dodging hot surfaces.

holding hot pumpkin pie with oven mitts

Salt & Pepper Mills

Salt and pepper mills turn whole spices into fresh grounds. They’re a simple upgrade that can greatly impact the taste of your food, proving that sometimes the basics really are best.

using pepper mill on pasta

Oil & Vinegar Bottles

Oil and vinegar bottles offer both convenience and style, making it easy to drizzle the perfect amount of dressing or cooking oil. They’re a countertop staple that keeps your most-used liquids at hand and adds a touch of elegance to your kitchen decor.

pouring oil over salad with oil bottle

Spice Rack

A spice rack is your flavor library, keeping your seasonings within reach and in order. It’s a visual reminder of the variety at your disposal, encouraging you to experiment with new flavors and combinations.

full spice rack on counter

For The Organized Cook

Label Maker

A label maker might seem like a luxury until you experience the satisfaction of a neatly organized pantry with everything labeled. It’s a game-changer for storage, helping you keep track of expiration dates and making sure you can always find what you need.

label machine label on pasta container


A timer is an essential tool for the precise cook, making sure that nothing ever gets overcooked or undercooked. It’s the guardian of perfect pasta, the custodian of a golden-brown crust, and a gentle reminder that it’s time to check the oven.

kitchen timer set to 16 minutes

Cookbook Stand

A cookbook stand keeps your favorite recipes at eye level, making it easier to follow without messy page turns or dropping your tablet. It’s a simple addition that can make cooking from recipes a hands-free, hassle-free experience.

recipe stand in kitchen

Pen & Notepad

A pen and notepad in the kitchen are indispensable for jotting down ideas, recipes, or a quick shopping list. They’re the analog sous-chefs that never crash or run out of battery, always ready to capture your inspirations.

kitchen notebook for note taking

Kitchen Scale

A kitchen scale is necessary for recipes that call for precise ingredient measurements, which is especially important in baking. It’s the secret to consistent results and a favorite tool for those who love the science of cooking as much as the art.

weighing sugar on kitchen scale

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