My kitchen essentials list assumes that you already have a stove, refrigerator, and oven. But what else do you need in a new kitchen?
I’ll share with you my basic kitchen needs to get you started. I will try to balance things between price and quality and give you tips for each recommendation.
I’ll also give you my best estimate on how many particular items you will need based on the number of people living with you.
When it comes to basic kitchen tools, you can forget the food processor, toaster oven, and immersion blender. We’re going basic and essential in this guide!
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You Need These Kitchen Essentials To Get Started
1. A Set Of Pots And Pans
Let’s dive into the biggest expense on my list first. While you might get away with a single piece of cookware, it’s often best to splurge for a set so that you can cover all your cooking needs.
And since you’re just getting started, nonstick cookware is probably your best bet. It’s usually affordable and in stock everywhere, straightforward to use, and quick to clean.
Just remember to keep your temperatures moderate when cooking with nonstick. A good set should last you a couple years.
- My Favorite Pick For 1 Person: JEETEE Nonstick Pots And Pans Set
- My Favorite Pick For 2 Or More People: Calphalon 10-Piece Nonstick Pots And Pans Set
Optional: A cast iron skillet is great for cooking steaks, chicken, and other meats that need to be seared for high-heat cooking. Stainless steel is also a great, long-lasting choice for those with previous experience and patience to avoid food sticking.
2. A Set Of Knives
You will need at least one high-quality knife for cutting meats and vegetables, but I think a small set covering at least two areas is best.
You need a knife for slicing and chopping (chef’s knife) and one smaller knife (paring knife) for more delicate work like removing the eyes of potatoes, bones from meat, or mincing onions.
- My Favorite Pick For Everyone Starting Out: Kyocera Revolution Kitchen Ceramic Knife Set
Optional: If you can increase your budget, consider investing in a knife sharpener to help your knives last longer and keep you safe from the dangers of a dull blade.
3. A Pair Of Scissors Or Kitchen Shears
It’s temping to use a knife to open packages or remove the strings off a roast, but please use a pair of scissors for your safety and to save the edge of your knife’s blades. Once cleaned, you can also use them to quickly cut green onions or cooked pasta.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: KitchenAid All Purpose Shears with Protective Sheath
4. Two Cutting Boards
We don’t have to get fancy here with high-end wood cutting boards, but my general rule is to have two cutting boards. One for meat and one for vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.
You’ll want a couple large poly cutting boards to do your work on. If you find they slip around on your countertop, place a damp kitchen towel underneath to keep them in place.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: OXO Good Grips 2-Piece Cutting Board Set
Optional: If you can only afford one cutting board in your budget, you’ll need to do all your vegetable work before tackling your meats. Once done, it will need to be cleaned very well and thoroughly dried before the next use.
5. Two Mixing Bowls
Having a small set of mixing bowls will help you prepare various dishes at the same time. For example, you could be marinating meat in one and salad in the other. Or how about mixing up a box of cake mix in one and frosting in the other.
In a pinch, you could probably get away with using large Ziploc bags to do a lot of the things you can do in a bowl, but it could lead to spills and a headache much easier.
My Favorite Pick: Gorilla Grip Mixing Bowls Set of 2
Optional: I would also recommend a whisk, but we’re talking about the basic essentials, so a regular fork or spoon will have to do for now.
6. One Colander
If you are cooking pasta, this is a must. Don’t even try to use a lid to drain pasta unless it’s specifically designed to do so.
The pain from steam scorching your arm as you’re holding the lid might cause you to drop or even throw the items from your hand. Talk about dangerous!
You can also forget the salad spinner because the colander is your best friend to help get rid of unwanted water from vegetables too.
My Favorite Pick Everyone: OXO Good Grips Colander
7. Three Must-Have Cooking Utensils
You need a spatula, ladle, and a pair of tongs whether you’re cooking on your stovetop or baking in the oven. These 3 will cover most of your needs, from flipping eggs to spooning soups or stews from a pot.
I’ve included tongs because sometimes there just isn’t enough room to flip food or times when you need more control over your food.
While you could find a decent set that includes these items, they often have other kitchen utensils in the set that you’ll never use. So I’ve decided to include 3 separate picks instead.
My Favorite Picks For Everyone:
8. One Can Opener
For some reason, the can opener is one people often forget to pick up. Think about how much food we buy in a can. Beans, corn, lunch meats, ready-to-eat pasta, soups, stews, and more!
There are many styles of can openers, but for ease of use and required storage area, I have to go with a manual grip, squeeze, and turn the knob style. Besides, some electric can openers can be dangerous if you’re not careful.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: KitchenAid Classic Multifunction Can Opener / Bottle Opener
9. Baking Pans
To keep things within budget, I like to have baking pans that are universal, so I can bake a variety of things with the same pan. A baking pan with high walls can be used for cake, brownies, chicken, roasts, and even lasagna.
If you want to take baking to another level, or you have multiple dishes you wish to serve, you’ll probably want to expand to a small set or include other types of bakeware.
My Favorite Essential Pick: Wilton Recipe Right Nonstick 9″ x 13″ Oblong Cake Pans
I’ve kept it minimal for this basic list, but if you want to see other options check out our baking guides for a variety of ideas.
10. A Pair Of Oven Mitts
I’ve done it, you’ve done it, but using a kitchen towel to pull out a baking dish from the oven is risky business. I’ve burnt myself a few times because I didn’t fold a towel enough before grabbing onto the baking sheet pan.
So I definitely have to recommend a good pair of oven mitts. They used to be only available in fabric form, but there are great heat-resistant silicone mitts to choose from. Keep them in view, and don’t forget to use them!
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Gorilla Grip Heat Resistant Silicone Oven Mitts Set
11. A Set Of Measuring Cups Or Measuring Spoons
I almost forgot something to measure your ingredients with. You need something that includes several measurements up to 1 cup.
Although, if you are just cooking simple meals for yourself, you might get away with putting this off for a while.
If you’re baking and in a pinch, I’ve eyeballed ingredients with a tablespoon, teaspoon, and regular-sized coffee cups (Not your travel-sized mug, though!) with relative success.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: PanderHecop Measuring Cups and Spoons Set
12. A Roll Of Parchment Paper
I rarely cook directly on my baking pans because it’s easier to clean them when using parchment paper. You can also use it for wrapping sandwiches, rolling dough, and baking cookies.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Reynolds Kitchens Unbleached Parchment Paper Roll
13. A Roll Of Aluminum Foil
You also use aluminum foil for baking potatoes, garlic bread, protecting pie crusts from burning, or as a makeshift lid for your pans to lock moisture in when baking roasts and vegetables.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil
14. Food Storage Containers
There are a variety of storage container materials, including glass and plastic. I usually prefer glass, but not all glass is made the same. Some glass containers can go from freezer to oven, while others will shatter.
A large set of plastic containers can go a long way to keeping or reheating leftovers. Or skip the mixing bowls and dishes and use these instead.
My Favorite Pick For 1 Person: Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Storage and Organization Containers
My Favorite Pick For More Than 1 Person: Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Food Storage Containers
Plates and bowls are essential for serving food. Still, we’re keeping it basic for everyday use and not planning to have a dinner party or large family gatherings.
In general, you want dishware that is not heavy, won’t break if dropped and comes in a variety of sizes. If you have a dishwasher, you’ll want to ensure that they are dishwasher safe.
My Favorite Pick For 1 Person: Nordic Ware Microwave 3 Piece Dinnerware Set
My Favorite Pick For More Than 1 Person: Corelle Service for 6 – 18 Piece Set
A set of metal knives, forks, and spoons will last you for a long time. If you’re just moving in and opt for plastic utensils, think about how much that will add up as you buy box after box for convenience.
The more basic the utensil, the better for cleaning. I really prefer an all-metal utensil for eating with. Some sets will have multiple pieces, such as a plastic or rubber handle connected to the metal end. Over time those will start to break down, and you’ll have to buy a new set.
My Favorite Pick For 1 Person: DEVICO Portable Utensils Cutlery Set
My Favorite Pick For More Than 1 Person: LIANYU 20 Piece Silverware Flatware Cutlery Set
17. A Set Of Glasses Or Mugs
And to wash your delicious creation down, you will need something to drink out of. If adults are the only ones using them, glass and ceramic are the way to go. If children are using them, you might consider something made of plastic.
Again, double-check that your new drinkware can go in for cleaning if you have a dishwasher.
My Favorite Pick For Glasses: Set of 4 Home Essentials & Beyond Juice Glasses
My Favorite Pick For Mugs: Gibson Elite Soho Cafe 21 oz. Mugs
18. One Dish Rack
If you’re a real minimalist, you can simply use a kitchen towel to dry your dishes with or on.
However, dish racks can take up less space than spreading out towels because of their vertical design, which also helps with natural drying.
My Favorite Pick: Sweet Home Collection Dish Drainer Drain Board and Utensil Holder
19. Kitchen Towels
Kitchen towels are another item that you could put off for a later date, but it’s so handy having something to dry your hands, dry dishes with, or use it to hold a mixing bowl or cutting board still.
I’d recommend paper towels, but if you’re not careful, you’ll be flying through them, adding an additional ongoing monthly expense.
My Favorite Pick: Hyer Kitchen Microfiber Kitchen Towels
20. Dish Soap
I’m going to assume that you’ll be handwashing your dishes. Most dish soap is fine to use barehanded, but consider buying a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands.
If you have hard water, the best tip I can give you is to add a bit of vinegar to your wash and rinse water to help break down the minerals that leave spots and streaks on your dishes.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Dawn Dish Soap Ultra Dishwashing Liquid
21. A Pack Of Reusable Cleaning Cloths
kitchen cleaning cloths are another essential item to have on hand to clean your dishes.
I’d also recommend a scrub brush or kitchen sponge, but I’ve found that after soaking dishes and using an old toothbrush for stubborn bits of food works well and saves a bit of money.
I love mesh cleaning cloths because they dry extremely quickly. After a quick twist and squeeze, you won’t have to worry about excess water promoting the growth of mold and bacteria that can result in regular fabric cloths.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Olivia tree 5PCS Innovative Dish Washing Net Cloths
22. A Can Of Oven Spray
If you’re moving in after someone else or have been baking for some time, you’ll need to clean your oven! I know cleaning an oven is time-consuming and requires you to be deeply involved, but it needs to be done.
Other than paper towels and old toothbrushes, You need a no-fume spray that is safe for all ovens. Keep the kids and pets away and let it do its magic.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Easy Off Heavy Duty Oven and Grill Cleaner
23. Kitchen Trash Can
After you’ve made a mess and need to toss away scraps and leftovers, a sturdy trash can to help collect garbage is keep smells down is what you need.
Don’t forget the trash bags! In fact, you could skip the trash can and use bags only, but managing a bag on the floor or hanging under the sink will lead to problems, especially if you have kids or pets.
My Favorite Pick For Everyone: Rubbermaid Touch Top Wastebasket
I’m always looking for more essential kitchen equipment, so this list isn’t quite complete. Everything here is essential for my kitchen, but I hope I’ve outlined some wiggle room for you and those on a tighter budget.
Need more on the basic kitchen essentials? See our related categories: