The Ultimate Checklist of Basic Kitchen Tools All Kitchens Need
Hey Mama! Need ideas to stock up your kitchen with the best essential items? I’ve got you covered!
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Whether you are just starting out or you are an expert chef, this list of gadgets, tools, and accessories is the ultimate guide for preparing your kitchen for serious action.
I spend A LOT of time in my kitchen, hence the blog name “Life Between the Dishes.” This is not an exhaustive list, but these are my absolute favorite kitchen necessities.
Let’s take a tour of my kitchen tools and see if you agree!
Electric Pressure Cooker
The Electric Pressure Cooker (EPC) has quickly become one of the most widely used appliances in the kitchen.
I jumped on the EPC train pretty quickly. I didn’t want to invest in the most expensive one, so I found a great deal on a well-known brand.
*Deal Finder Tip: The best time to shop for small kitchen appliances is around Black Friday. You can sign up for notifications for certain brands and stores at The Krazy Koupon Lady.
My first EPC was the Cuisinart 6 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker. It works very well. The Cuisinart has 5 settings for browning, simmering, sauteing, warming, and of course pressure cooking.
After using it for over a year, the seal seemed to be loosening up. You can order a new sealing ring. There are replacements on Amazon or you can order one straight from Cuisinart.com.
I did the next best thing (or maybe THE best thing)…I ordered a new one 🙂 on a Black Friday sale.
My second EPC is a Crock-Pot Express Easy Release 6 Quart Pressure/Multi Cooker. It is the same size as my Cuisinart but has more cooking options, including Slow Cooking. This truly is a one-pot-does-it-all deal!
Many folks fail to include the time it takes for the pressure to build in the pot and the time it takes for the pressure to be released from the pot before it can be safely opened.
It is hard to give an exact amount of time for the pressure to build because it depends on the amount of food and the temperature at which the food is starting out. So, some of the timing is a bit of trial and error.
Many recipes will give pretty good time estimates, which at least gives you something to go by. If it doesn’t, you can find time guides for various types of food. Meredith at BlueJeanChef.com has these awesome cooking guides you can download for free. She also has recipes for all of you favorites!
My favorite uses for my EPC include the following:
- Pork shoulder/butt
- Beans or peas
- Boiled Eggs
I lucked up and found a small air fryer at Dollar General for $7. It was $7 well spent if you are cooking one serving of something. I used it a few times for fries, but with a family of 4 (who all love fries), it took forever! It worked well, but is too small. It is great for a serving of fish sticks or fish fillets. It makes them very crispy.
I had my eye on a larger Air Fryer and when Christmas shopping season rolled around, I started looking for sales. I ended up buying the Power XL 7 Quart Air Fryer and I am so glad I did.
I can cook family size servings quickly, without heating up my oven (and kitchen). I save time and energy, win-win!
The Air Fryer cooks evenly on all sides of the food in less time than an oven. It doesn’t require preheating, either.
It is also healthier to cook in the Air Fryer since you aren’t soaking your food in oil. Also, when you process your own food, you can control what you put on it.
For example: You no longer have to buy the frozen fries from the grocery store that, many times, contain preservatives.
I love making homemade French fries using regular or sweet potatoes. It works great!
Just be careful the first time you cook something! Keep an eye on it and adjust temperatures and times as needed.
My biggest complaint about this awesome machine: It is so big! While that is great for cooking large amounts of food, it is a problem to find a storage spot for it when not in use. Currently, mine is sitting in the floor of my dining room/office 🙁
You could probably get into some heated arguments over this one, depending on how big of a coffee connoisseur you’re talking to.
Me? As long as it makes my one cup a day, I’m happy with the less expensive options.
I have this simple Cooks pod coffee maker. It was another Black Friday deal that I couldn’t pass up 🙂 (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?) I like that it has a reusable cup for ground coffee, which is much cheaper and better for the environment. And, you can use your used coffee grounds in your garden or compost.
If I need a new coffee maker in the future, I will wait for those Black Friday deals! Currently on my wish list is the Keurig K-Mini in the pretty Oasis color.
Toaster or Toaster Oven? It depends on what you will be cooking and how much space you have. I have very little counter space, but we use our toaster oven so much, that we feel it is worth giving up a little of that counter space.
A toaster is a common “first kitchen” tool. My Oster Toaster is reliable and does exactly what I need it to. I have a little cabinet space that this fits perfectly in, so I don’t have to leave it out on the counter.
We currently have the Toastmaster 6-Slice Toaster Oven.
We use our toaster oven almost daily. It is a lot easier than heating up the big oven. It’s great for re-heating food, instead of using the microwave.
Is this thing necessary? No. But I could never get my rice cooked right until I used a rice cooker. I was gifted my rice cooker. I don’t cook rice very often, but I drag this thing out every time.
I haven’t tried the rice cooking setting on my Crock-Pot EPC yet, but it could potentially replace one more small appliance!
With the influx of EPC and Air Fryers, the slow cooker seems to have taken a back burner to these new cookers. Some people are very reluctant to switch to anything new, so there are still loyal fans of the slow cooker. I love the idea of putting food in the pot, letting it cook while I’m at work, and coming home to a complete meal.
Slow Cookers still have their place in many kitchens. I have the Hamilton Beach 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker.
This is actually my second slow cooker. I wanted the programmable option so it would turn off after a certain amount of cooking time.
When you are gone for 10 hours a day and your food only needs to cook for 6 hours, the programmable option is very handy to keep from overcooking your food. The cooker keeps the food warm without overcooking the food.
There is also a temperature probe that can be used to cook until a certain temperature is reached, instead of a specific amount of time. Again, this is great to keep from overcooking and drying out your meats.
One more feature that I love about this slow cooker is the latches on the lid. I can take it with me for pot lucks (hopefully we will be able to return to those one day soon!) without fear of the lid flying off in the car and spilling out every where (yes, speaking from experience here).
All in all, the slow cooker is a great tool to have in your kitchen. If you are limited on space, the Electric Pressure Cooker with the slow cooker setting is a great way to reduce the number of appliances you have to find a storage spot for.
I have relied on my egg cooker for many years now to quickly cook boiled eggs without having to use a pot and heat up the stove. This DASH Express Electric Egg Cooker comes in a pretty Aqua color. This is an updated version of the ancient one I own.
If I only need a few eggs (up to 7), I still use my small egg cooker. However, I can cook up to 14 eggs in my EPC all at once!
Mixer: Hand or Stand?
At some point, you may need a mixer if you do any kind of baking. If you are like me and bake a few times a year, a hand mixer is probably the best option for you. They are small, lightweight, inexpensive, and do a find job for small baking needs. I love my Hamilton Beach hand mixer.
This small, but powerful, hand mixer hasn’t let me down. It’s also easy for my kids to use when they are helping in the kitchen. My favorite part about it is the snap on storage case. All of the attachments fit nicely inside the case, along with the cord. I don’t have to worry about finding a storage spot for all of the small pieces.
Oh, I thought I needed the Kenmore Stand Mixer like all the chefs on TV. They seem to use their’s all the time for everything, especially my favorite–The Pioneer Woman. So, I asked for one for Christmas one year.
I was so excited to unwrap it! Then I put it in the cabinet to sit without being used. Obviously, I had bigger plans in my mind than I actually followed through with (anyone else have this problem?)
I found it to be very cumbersome and heavy (so heavy!). It takes up a ton of space and is hard to clean up after being used. I’ve used it a few times, but not as often as I need to to make it worth the investment.
Now, if I were making bread that need to be kneaded or something that needed to be whipped for an extended period of time, I think a stand mixer would be great. Or, if I baked a lot, then I would probably use it more often. Most of the things I need to mix can be done quickly with my hand mixer.
But look how pretty it is 🙂
Maybe I’ll bake more this year……
Pots, and Pans, and Skillets–Oh My!
There are soooo many options when it comes to cookware.
Some things to consider include:
- Dishwasher Safe or Hand Wash Only
- Complete Set or Individual Pieces
These are the things I think about when considering buying new cookware. I have had many sets through the years.
I currently own a Stainless Steal set and a Non-stick set.
My Cuisinart Stainless Steel set is an all purpose cookware set. It definitely is not non-stick.
I mainly use the pots for boiling things, like quinoa and veggies.
I love the steamer pot that comes with this set. It’s great for steaming broccoli and green beans.
I don’t really use the skillets much because I like my non-stick skillets better. (I don’t like to have to scrub!)
I use the large stock pot a lot for soups and boiling chicken for broth.
My GreenLife Nonstick set is my most used cookware.
I LOVE that I can cook in these skillets and basically rinse them clean. Even when food seems to “stick”, these pans come clean with a quick soak in soapy water. I’ve never had to scrub these skillets.
I use the pots like I do my Stainless ones. Boiling veggies and pastas are my most common usages for these pots.
I don’t know if my mom owned any skillets that weren’t cast iron skillets. They are so versatile but they do require a little extra TLC.
The Lodge Cast Iron Skillets are my favorites.
The Lodge website has a great “Cast Iron 101” section that explains all you need to know about how to care for cast iron.
I use my iron skillets for cornbread and frying (though I don’t fry that often). The small one is perfect for making a perfect grilled cheese.
These skillets are definitely worth the extra attention to keep them in the family forever 🙂
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled Cast Iron can be used just like regular cast iron. But the enameled layer makes the cleanup much easier. You also don’t have to worry as much about the cast iron rusting or needing seasoning.
This type of cookware comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. There are several VERY expensive brands. I have not had the pleasure of using these (and I probably never will).
I love my less expensive Tramontina Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, though. I use them often for just about anything.
My favorite uses for my Enameled Dutch Oven are:
- Pan Seared Pork Chops
- Homemade Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Chicken Fingers
The list could go on and on.
My less expensive Dutch ovens do have a tiny bit of cast iron that isn’t enameled around the rim. I treat it like I would regular cast iron by making sure it doesn’t rust and keeping it seasoned.
*Fair Warning: These things are SUPER Heavy! Keep this in mind when you are planning on a place to store them!
I don’t do much baking, but I do use my sheet pans quite often in the oven. The Pioneer Woman has a ton of sheet pan recipes that are mostly simple, quick, and easy to clean up. You can find Ree’s 50 Best Sheet Pan Dinners here.
Sheet pans can range from dollar store prices all the way to high-dollar brands. They are usually made from aluminum or stainless steel. If you want to understand the difference between the two and know which one is better for you, check out this article by the Checkered Chef.
I have a stack of sheet pans. They are all aluminum. My favorite are my Nordic Ware Aluminum pans.
I have learned to never cook on my sheet pans without putting down a layer of parchment paper. Seriously, this stuff is a life-changer.
Knives and Utensils
I didn’t own “good” knives for the longest time. When I met my husband and he started asking me to make different things (a fun little challenge game we like to play), I decided I needed the best tools to make him the best meals.
It is no secret that I have learned so much from watching The Pioneer Woman. While watching one episode, I paused it over and over to try to figure out what brand knife she was using. I finally saw the Wusthof name and emblem.
I researched this well-made (read: expensive) knives. I have two now that I found deals on. I don’t like to pay full price for anything.
I have the Wusthof 8 inch Chef’s Knife and the 5 inch Vegetable Cleaver. These are my go-to knives when I am cutting anything.
Now, Ree uses her line of knives and cookware that is sold at Wal-Mart. I actually have a set of her knives, but I love my new Cuisinart knives.
There are so many choices when it comes to even the simplest tools for your kitchen. For example, cooking utensils come in many shapes, sizes, materials, and price ranges. Some materials include:
They all have their place in the kitchen and are mostly a personal preference choice. There are few exceptions, however. When you are cooking on non-stick surfaces, you should not use metal utensils.
Also, Nylon utensils tend to melt at lower temperatures. This could lead to toxic chemicals contaminating your food.
I prefer to use my silicone utensils most of the time.
But, I also like using my wooden utensils as well. There is some concern about wooden utensils harboring bacteria. I haven’t had any problems while using mine, but I haven’t been inoculating any petri dishes either.
Bowls, Containers, and Dishes
Pyrex has been a trusted brand for many years. I use my Pyrex glass storage containers for everything. They can go in the microwave, the oven, the freezer, and the dishwasher.
Every kitchen needs a good set of mixing bowls. My absolute favorite brand for all things KITCHEN is OXO. These OXO Mixing bowls are great for everyday use.
Are you picky about your storage containers? Do they need to be plastic or glass? What about reheating? Can you reuse the butter container?
Things can get a little complicated, but they don’t have to be.
Plastic, metal, glass, or melamine? I have them all.
I don’t understand China. Is that even a thing anymore? Walking around a department store and scanning everything you want on a registry? I think most people just make registries on Amazon and such now.
I am horrible with glass dishes. I can’t spend lots of money on name brands, because most likely, they will have to be replaced sooner than later.
Organization and Storage
Nothing beats the OXO Pop Containers for food storage in the kitchen.
Simple kitchen tools I wouldn’t want to be without
I love this little contraption. I peel my garlic and fill up my press. I squeeze it and the garlic squishes through small holes. It is somewhat satisfying to smush garlic like this. It also saves my fingers from tiny mincing motions with my knife.
I had a small grater that came from a yard sale. It wasn’t very sharp, unless my finger got in the way. Then magically it was sharp enough to cut through my skin at least.
Sticking with the OXO brand, I got a new, larger, sharper grater. I also got a chain mail type material glove to wear while using the new grater.
Hand Can Opener
I guess an electric can opener is something that some people need, but I don’t use mine…ever. Maybe if I were opening a 15 can soup recipe, it would make things easier. Now, a lot of cans come with a pull tab top.
I use my hand can opener for all others.
I love my OXO salad spinner. I love all of the OXO brand products, but my salad spinner is one of my favorites. I thought it was an expensive splurge to spend money on something that was not really “necessary”. But I have used my salad spinner at least once a week since I bought it.
I got my set of Wusthof kitchen scissors when I ordered my Wusthof knife. I love them.
They come apart and can go in the dish washer. I use them all the time, mostly for cutting up spaghetti noodles for my kids’. Do you know how much easier and less messy it is to eat chopped up spaghetti?
I also use them for things like cutting fat off of meat or cutting green onions straight into my potato soup.
A digital meat thermometer is a must in the average kitchen. I am paranoid about not getting meat done enough, so I use mine all the time.
I don’t believe you need an expensive one, just one that works accurately.
You can test your meat thermometer by taking the temp of ice water. It should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also take the temp of boiling water. It should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your thermometer isn’t accurate, then you may be able to calibrate it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some can’t be calibrated but can be easily replaced.
Things I thought I needed, but rarely or never use
Sometimes we think we need or want something, but it turns out to be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Sometimes we get something and then it is replaced by another multipurpose tool.
I have an Electric Kettle which is good if you need a lot of hot water quickly, but for one cup it can be replaced by my k-pod coffee maker.
I got the cutest little spice rack. The glass containers had labels on the lids and the whole thing came with free refills (if you pay shipping). Turns out, I don’t have enough counter space for the rack, and the “shipping” costs are more than what you’d pay for a brand new bottle of herbs.
I also like to have a large container of my most used seasonings like onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning.
My husband bought me a really great mandoline. It works very well and I like to use it, but only if I am slicing a lot of something.
Otherwise, I just use my knife and cutting board. I will say that when he got the mandoline for me, I wasn’t very skilled with my knife yet. So, I did use it a lot in the beginning.
It is really helpful if you want very thinly sliced potatoes or other veggie.
I got a juicer at a yard sale. I thought to myself, “Self, you should start juicing some fruits and veggies for smoothies.” I used it once. It was such a mess to have to clean up so many parts. I haven’t used it since.
Electric Can Opener
If I had counter space to leave an electric can opener plugged up and sitting out, I may use one more often. However, I have very little counter space and storage space, so it is much easier and quicker for me to grab my handheld can opener and twist away.
I don’t use my blender or food processor any more after getting the Ninja System.
Ah, the Ninja. It replaces the blender and the food processor. At one point I had a food processor with a slicing attachment. That went away pretty quickly. I got it at a yard sale too.
Man, I should really start paying attention to the things that I am seeing at yard sales. Obviously the owner has found something better or doesn’t use the item enough to make it worth keeping. But no, a good deal is a good deal and I learn for myself what is worth shoving into my limited space and what is worth adding to the donation pile.
These are my favorite accessories from The Pioneer Woman.
Finally, these are some random, but necessary, things most people have in their kitchen:
- Measuring cups/spoons
- Towels/Wash cloths
- Dish Draining Mat/Rack
- Pot holders/Trivets
What Did I Forget?
Now that you know everything that can be found in my kitchen, let me know if there is something I forgot! Is there a tool that you couldn’t live without?
Leave a comment below and let me know!
Hi! I'm Misty, the imperfect Mama behind Life Between the Dishes. My goal is for you to find tools, tips, and resources here to help you maintain sanity through daily mom life!
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