As the oft-quoted aphorism goes, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” By the same logic, we’d argue that learning to cook for yourself is an invaluable skill that’ll only continue to reward you throughout the rest of your life. For in addition to saving you the expense of having to eat out every night, it also allows you to take complete control of your dietary habits. Whether that’s making carb-conscious meals in an effort to lose weight or experimenting with foreign cuisines in order to try new things, you can’t deny the convenience of being able to throw together a couple of ingredients and deliver a delicious homemade meal.
That being said, if you want to be successful in your gastronomic endeavors, it helps to have the right set of tools for the job. No, you don’t necessarily need a fancy immersion blender or a countertop convection oven. However, like any gear-intensive activity, cooking requires a few fundamental items to get started on the right track. Things like wooden spoons, whisks, and measuring cups are all indispensable to a properly-equipped kitchen. Sure, their price tags may be small, but the impact they have on the process is enormous. In any case, no matter if you’re an aspiring home chef or a card-carrying culinary wiz, you should make sure that you have the basics covered before you get too experimental with your eatables. As always, we’re here to help, and our guide to the best kitchen tools every home chef should have will tell you all that you need to know.
KitchenAid Stainless Steel Utility Whisk
While a full-on stand mixer will be more than most aspiring home chefs need, you’ll be in for a rude awakening if you try to make do without a whisk. Perfect for everything from beating eggs to blending batters to whipping cream, they make for a truly versatile tool that’s limited only by your available muscle. We liked this KitchenAid option in particular because of its ergonomic ABS handle and its dishwasher-safe design.
Tovolo Olivewood Spoonula
It should come as no surprise, but a set of quality wooden utensils is essential to any kitchen outfit. After all, you’ll need something for stirring ingredients during the cooking process and serving up the meal come time to eat. That being said, if you’re looking for the most efficient setup possible, we’d recommend this Spoonula from Tovolo. Made from durable olivewood, it combines the scoop of a spoon with the flat head of a spatula, effectively giving you two tools for the price of one.
Any time you’re looking to peel some fruits and vegetables, it’s in your best interest to use a Y-Peeler. Not only are they more efficient during the prep process; they’re also far safer around your fingers compared to a sharp knife. As the product of over 25 years of kitchen tool-making experience, OXO’s Y-Peeler is a true cut above the rest. Its grippy handle ensures confident peeling no matter how thick-skinned your produce is, and an integrated loop eye allows you to easily remove unwanted blemishes from potatoes.
Pyrex 2-Cup Glass Measuring Cup
Although it’s entirely possible to use your dry cups for liquids, it’s hardly a perfect solution, and it’s one that’ll likely come back to bite you in the form of messy spills or botched recipes. Instead, spend the extra couple of bucks and invest in one made of glass like this pick of ours from Pyrex. In addition to offering easy pours and quick line-sighting, it’s also dishwasher, microwave, oven, and even freezer-safe.
OXO Stainless Steel And Nylon Tongs
With little exception, the aforementioned Tovolo Spoonula will be fine for most of your stirring needs. However, when you’re in need of a tool with a bit more dexterity, it never hurts to have a solid set of tongs at the ready. Functioning much like a pair of heat-proof hands, they’re a game-changer in practically every application, whether that’s flipping sizzling steaks, roasting hot vegetables, or pulling pasta out of boiling water.
Swing-A-Way Portable Can Opener
We’d like to say that you could open every can with just a quick rip of the pull-tab, but there will inevitably come a time when you need a bit of extra assistance. Rather than putting your digits at risk and punching holes in the lid with a knife, do yourself a favor and just grab this portable can opener from Swing-A-Way. Made from sturdy stainless steel and shod in a set of cushy silicone grips, it comes with a high-carbon cutting wheel to ensure that it slices through cans like a knife through butter.
Microplane Rasp Grater
A microplane can be a godsend in the kitchen, for it offers a safe and efficient way to zest citrus fruits, grate cheese blocks, and mince garlic cloves (and those are just some of their many applications). What’s more, it comes with dual-sharpened stainless steel teeth, so you can easily grate in both directions. And because of its soft-grip handles, it’s far more comfortable to hold than traditional box-shaped designs. But the best part is the hassle-free cleanup — run it under the tap or throw it in the dishwasher and it’ll be good as new.
Le Creuset Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons
As much as it is an art, cooking is also very much a science, because the quality of the finished product is largely dependent upon the precision of your ingredients. Thus, you should always keep a set of measuring spoons on hand to make sure that your teaspoons don’t end up becoming tablespoons. Were it up to us, we’d go with this set from Le Creuset because of its heavy-gauge stainless steel construction, engraved indexing, and hemispherical shape — that way you can even scoop ice cream in a pinch.
KitchenAid 5 Quart Colander Stainless Steel Black Rim
While you might be inclined to think that a colander is just good for pouring out pasta water, that’s where you’d be wrong. In fact, they’re immensely helpful to have in the kitchen, because they allow you to wash your produce, rinse beans and grains, and even drain stocks and sauces. Like all of KitchenAid’s products, this 5-quart colander is a truly high-quality offering, with a stainless steel construction and a black rubber rim for safe handling.
Nordic Ware Naturals Baking Sheets
Even though you may think that you can get away with using a single tray, baking sheets are really items best to be bought in pairs. Because let’s face it — if you ever plan on working with more than one thing in the oven, you’ll need a second surface that can withstand the high temperatures. Nordic Ware’s set comes backed by over 70 years of bakeware heritage, and it includes both a big sheet and a half sheet for projects of all shapes and sizes.
Le Creuset Stainless Steel Measuring Cups
Unless you plan on doing tricky mathematical conversions and scooping out ingredients by the tablespoon, you’re going to need a set of measuring cups in your kitchen. When buying some for yourself, avoid the cheap stuff — it’s only liable to break or bend and need replacement. Like the above spoons from Le Creuset, these are made from durable stainless steel, meaning they’re safe for dishwashers and ovens up to 450 degrees.
Williams-Sonoma Stainless Steel Nesting Mixing Bowls
Whether you’re throwing meat in a marinade, mixing cake batter, or tossing a salad, chances are good that your serving bowls won’t be big enough to avoid a mess. If you find yourself hard on space in your kitchen cabinets, we’d recommend these nested mixing bowls from Williams-Sonoma. For in addition to providing you with a range of workable sizes, they also fit within one another in order to take up less room.
Material 8” Chef Knife
Not every home cook will need an all-out armory in the kitchen, but everyone should — at the very least — invest in a decent chef’s knife. In most cases, it’s worth spending as much as you can afford. Sure, a cheap blade may save you some money, but they tend to be duller and require more effort to cut through thick produce — a combination that’s just asking for an errant slice to your digits. Instead, give yourself some peace of mind and just get this 8″ chef’s knife from Material. It’s built from three layers of sharp Japanese steel, and it features a stain-resistant composite handle for confident grip in every cut.
Farmhouse Pottery Live Edge Walnut Board
And where there’s a knife, a cutting board is soon to follow. It doesn’t really matter if it’s made from wood, plastic, or composite, but you should definitely have a sturdy surface on which to chop that’s something other than your kitchen’s countertops. That being said, dense wood cutting boards (like this walnut option from Farmhouse Pottery) tend to be the most durable, for they have smaller pores that are better resistant to blades. What’s more, they can even double as impromptu serving ware when you’re in need of something with a rustic aesthetic.
All-Clad HA1 Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
Admittedly, you’ll probably only need a couple of pots and pans for most of your cooking; however, not everyone wants to roll with a piecemeal approach to outfitting their kitchen. If you want to take care of it all in one fell swoop, we’d suggest this 10-piece nonstick set from All-Clad. It includes a pair of 8″ and 10″ frying pans, both 2.5qt and 3.5qt saucepans, a 4qt sauté pan, an 8qt stockpot, as well as an assortment of matching lids.
The 12 Best Chef's Knives
We’ve but scratched the surface of everything that’s required for a successful culinary experience. If you’re really looking to sharpen your cooking skills, be sure to check out our guide to the best chef’s knives.
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