Whether you’re just starting out on your own or you just want to start using your kitchen more, there are a few basic cooking essentials you need to really get started. Some of these items your parents or grandparents may have gotten you throughout the years and you never realized how important they actually were, and some you’ll need to go to the store and purchase.
A Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are your best friend in the kitchen. You simply toss the ingredients in, turn it on, go to work or run some errands for a few hours, then come back and voila! Your meal is done!
If you hate chopping (guilty), a garlic press is the perfect solution! They’re easy to use and easy to clean.
The box grater is life-changing. Each side has different-sized holes for grating different types of cheese. Plus, they’re super cute to display on your kitchen counter (which makes for easy access, too!). I have a copper one and it really makes it look like I know what I’m doing in my kitchen.
The Right Utensils
I wouldn’t recommend skimping on quality utensils. You’re going to use these with every meal, so they’ll need to be able to stand the test of time. Invest in a good spatula, a serving spoon, a slotted serving spoon, and a ladle.
The Right Spatula(s)
The spatula is the thing you’ll probably end up using the most in the kitchen, so not only should you invest in a really high-quality one, but you should also have a couple more (maybe even a silicone one) for good measure. I don’t know about you, but getting to the dishes immediately after I’ve slaved away cooking just doesn’t happen; so it’s good to have a couple of backups just in case!
I used to beat eggs with forks and mix ingredients together with a spoon. It wasn’t until I used a whisk for the first time in my twenties (I know, I know, I was extremely late to the party) that I realized just how much easier and better cooking was with a utensil made for what I was doing. Trust me; you need a good whisk.
Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are magical. You never wash them with soap, so they always give whatever you cook an extra little flavor. Just make sure you know how to properly clean and store them; this is a kitchen piece you’ll want to last you forever. And I strongly suggest getting several different sizes (depending on how many people you’re cooking for).
Here’s where you can skimp a little! Your mixing bowls don’t need to be fancy, but you will use them a lot and you’ll need a variety of sizes.
You will use sheet pans A LOT. Not only are they great for baking cookies; they’re the perfect way to cook veggies quickly. Just toss your veggies around with some olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, spread them out on the sheet pan, and pop them in the oven on 350 for 10 minutes or so. Plus, this one comes with a cooling rack!
Whether it’s draining pasta or rinsing off your veggies, your colander will get a ton of use. I personally love the types of colanders with handles that latch onto the kitchen sink and then collapse when you’re done with them; easy to use and easy to put away!
Pots and Pans
In addition to a cast iron skillet, you also need several pots and pans—including a non-stick frying pan and a sauce pan.
If you plan on cooking with tomato sauce or buying canned soups or veggies, you’ll need a good can opener.
If you don’t already have a good, high-quality kitchen knife set, get one. This is one item you should splurge on, because your knives should last you practically forever. Also—do not, under any circumstance, put these in the dishwasher. Handwash only. They will rust.
Whether it’s wooden, plastic, glass, or bamboo, you need something sturdy to chop your veggies and meats on!
If your recipe calls for a zest of lemon, orange, or lime (and the best ones do), you’re doing to need a zester. They’re long and skinny, so they fit easily into any drawer. It’s like a cheese grater, but for fruits! You can even find some that are zesters and graters all in one!
Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons
You’ll need a measuring cup for the big stuff, like measuring one or two cups, and measuring spoons for the smaller stuff, like teaspoons and table spoons.
From tossing salads to serving bread or chicken, tongs are definitely an essential. I also have small wooden tongs that help me get my toast out of the toaster when it gets stuck!
Whether you’re cooking with the stove or using a cast iron skillet, you’re going to need plenty of pot holders! You’ll also need them to place under your sheet pans, so the more the merrier.