Top Chef: 35 Kitchen Essentials For The Home Cook

The first step to every recipe often goes unwritten. Sure, your recipe will tell you what kind of flour to pick up, what temperature to pre-heat the oven to, and how much salt to add-on. But when it comes to the types of tools to use? You’re more or less on your own. For experienced cooks – this isn’t a big deal. They know their way around a kitchen and when they look at a recipe, the required tools are self-evident. If you aren’t as familiar, however, you’re out of luck.

Or at least you would be if we didn’t take the time to do a big roundup of all the kitchen essentials you need. We steered away from more specialized pieces of equipment (unitaskers) and tried to pull together a list that was closer to the basics. Whether you’re a whiz looking to continue to build out your gear, or a recovering Postmates addict finally taking the time to cook for yourself – we’re confident our list of kitchen essentials will contain something for you. Take a scroll through and check it all out for yourself.

Aluminum Pie Tin ($6)
Silicon Baking Mat ($13)
Cros Wire Cooling Rack ($15)
Pyrex Baking Dishes ($15)
Non-Stick Cookie Sheets ($21)
Nerd Chef Steel Stone ($90)


Pre-Heat To Scrumptious

What is the point of even having a kitchen if you can’t bake yourself things like cookies or a pizza? There is really almost nothing to it. All you need is an oven, some solid baking pans, pyrex dishes, baking mats for protecting your pans, and cooling racks. Outside of that, the only tools you need are those to measure out and prepare the ingredients. And, of course, an oven. But we’re just assuming you have that one handled. Not quite content to just bake cookies? If you pick yourself up a pizza stone like this one from NerdChef you can do a whole lot more than make sweets. Built from a solid, half-inch thick slab of aluminum this ‘stone’ evenly distributes heat on whatever it is you’re baking – whether it be calzone, pizza, or even homemade potato chips. To top it all off, it is made in the USA and is incredibly easy to clean after use.

Easy Flex Spatula Set ($8)
Dexter-Russell Pancake Turner ($17)
Stainless Steel Colander ($10)
Streamline Kitchen Timer ($18)
OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs ($12)
Ozeri Digital Scale ($19)
Dry Measuring Cups ($16)
Angled Measuring Cups ($20)
Meat Thermometer ($17)
Whetstone Wooden Ladles ($20+)

Cook's Tools

Keep Everything Dialed

You can have the right recipe, the perfect ingredients, and top of the line kitchen equipment – but if you don’t measure and time everything perfectly, it’ll all be for not. Cooking is as much a science as it is an art, and the most important part of any experiment is the measurement. That’s why we included things like dry measuring cups, a meat thermometer, kitchen timer, scale, and even angled measuring cups. These simple additions can turn an ‘ok’ meal into a great one. Of course, measuring shouldn’t be the only tool in a chef’s utility belt. Colanders, Spatulas, and labels all are just as necessary for getting any job done as the tools one uses to measure it all out.

Splatter Screen ($16)
Chantal Vintage Tea Kettle ($50)
Cast Iron Skillet ($125+)
Cookware Set ($161+)
Le Creuset Dutch Oven ($330)


Stovetop Must-Haves

If you really had to, you could probably get by with just one pot and one pan. But if you are looking to actually cook up meals that consist of more than just chicken and rice, you’re going to want a bit more than that on hand. Our first recommendation would be a solid cooking set consisting of varying sized pots and pans. Generally speaking, this is all you’d really need. If you have love cast-iron like we do, however, it’s worth considering things like the Finex skillet and Le Creuset dutch oven. The former is fantastic at retaining flavor from great cuts of beef, while the latter is fun to use for everything from cooking soups and stews to baking loaves of bread. And what stovetop is complete without a kettle? Whether you have it for making coffee or cups of tea, it’s always good to have one on hand.

Linden Sweden Peeler ($6)
3 Piece Cutting Board ($12)
Microplane Grater-Zester ($14)
Henckels Kitchen Shears ($15)
Wusthof Seven Piece Starter Block Set ($140)


Chop It Up

Is there anything more frustrating than using the wrong kind of knife for a task? Well, yes. There are plenty more frustrating things. but not having the right knife is definitely up there. Whether you’re looking to whip up cocktails for company (our included zester and peeler are ideal for things like this)or simply need to cut into a loaf – having the right knife makes the task all the easier. A good place to start if you don’t have solid knives on hand is with Wusthof’s starter block set. It consists of four knives, a pair of kitchen shears, and a sharpener. And of course, unless you are cool with chipping your knives on the kitchen tile or leaving marks on your countertops, a set of cutting boards are essential. We recommend this bamboo set. They’re easy to take care of so long as you wash them with warm and mild water.

Electric Can Opener ($20)
Westinghouse Microwave ($60)
Ninja Professional Blender ($104)
Smeg Toaster ($150)
Cuisinart Food Processor ($155)


Plug-N-Play Tools For The Kitchen

Is a kitchen really even a kitchen if you can’t cook a little bit of toast in the morning? Electric appliances aren’t exactly as essential as any other part of your setup – but they sure are convenient. Rather than cooking yourself toast on the stovetop, you can throw it in something like Smeg’s classic mid-century toaster. More of a smoothie person in the morning? Ninja’s Ultimate blender boasts a 72 ounce pitcher and a 900 watt motor that drives a sharp, ice-crushing blade. No banana or frozen berry has known to have survived its grasp. And then, for those who aren’t always in the mood for using all of their essential cooking gear, there is always the classic microwave. This simple one from Westinghouse boasts 600 watts of cooking power, and has an easy mechanical rotary dial timer for a more simple look.

Balloon Whisk ($10)
Cuisinart Mesh Strainer ($18)
Baker Nesting Bowls ($40)
KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($220)


A Little Mingling Never Hurt

All kinds of recipes call for mixing. Whether it be something something like cookie dough or a garlic herb butter – every chef has to have the tools to combine ingredients quickly and efficiently. And when it comes down to it, the KitchenAid mixer is just about the best. This countertop stalwart boasts a 250 watt motor, comes with a stainless steel bowl, and features three different attachments along with a year long warranty. Recipe call for sifting flour or simply whipping some eggs? A fine mesh steel strainer is just as capable, as is a balloon whisk.

12 Backcountry Cooking Essentials

Ok. So you’ve got your home kitchen all rounded out. But how about your camp kitchen? Whether you’re looking to go car camping or you’re planning on hoofing it on a long backpacking trip – our list has all of the backcountry cooking essentials you’d need to whip up scrumptious meals for the trail.