Setting up shop

Dear Home Ec 101:

What would be the top 20 or so things that every kitchen must have?

~Going Gadgetless in Gainesville

Heather says:

I am not a huge fan of gadgets, but I will gladly list of what I feel any home cook needs to be able to easily prepare meals for a family. A baker will have more extensive requirements. Some of the items listed will be categories that could be expanded, but for simplicity I’m only listing the basics and a couple of items I feel are worth their weight in gold. This list assumes the cook owns basic appliances: oven, range, microwave, refrigerator, and freezer.

  1. Pots and Pans – I highly recommend stainless if it is in your budget. I use the Emeril set by All-Clad. As far as cookware goes they are more expensive than what you’ll find in Wal-mart but they come with a lifetime warranty. If you choose to go the non-stick route NEVER heat an empty pan as this may release toxic fumes.
  2. Knives – Your knives are some of the most important kitchen tools you will own. I do recommend buying high quality and keeping them sharp and in good repair. Sharp knives make cooking much less work. There are three that I use consistently:
    • a chef’s knife – I use this knife daily for most jobs: chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. Do not purchase the biggest one you can find. Ask to handle it in the store and make sure the knife is balanced and comfortably fits your hand. A poor fit may cause fatigue during even small chopping jobs.
    • a utility knife – I often use this one for handling meat.
    • a paring knife – This comes in handy for coring and peeling fruit as well as other small job
  3. Mixing bowls – I really like my stainless bowls, however if you choose metal it is important to have at least one glass mixing bowl as there are some recipes which will react with certain metals.
  4. Wooden spoons – I use these for the bulk of my stirring and cooking. My favorite has a flat edge perfect for scraping carmelized bits of goodness from my sautee pan. However, if you just can’t stand the feel of wood, nylon spoons will do.
  5. Spatulas – I use three kinds: rubber for scraping, nylon slotted for removing pan fried items from oil, and regular nylon (stiff) for lifting heavier items.
  6. Measuring spoons – I typically eyeball most recipes but there are times where accurate measurements are a must. I prefer 1/8 – 1TBSP metal spoons on a single ring.
  7. Measuring cups (dry) – 1/8th – 1 cup metal or plastic
  8. Measuring cups (liquid) – I have two, both are glass in 1 and 4 cup sizes
  9. Bakeware – I use your standard Pyrex and Corningware for casseroles, pies and such. 9″ and 10″ cake pans are useful too, and a 9 x 13.
  10. Cookie Sheets – I keep 3 – 5 on hand. Replace these as they become rusted or warped
  11. Broiling pan – I use this frequently for oven frying.
  12. Vegetable peeler – Don’t spend big bucks, but buy one that is comfortable, it will need to be replaced when it dulls.
  13. Grater – I have 3 sizes, they were sold as a pack for less than $5.
  14. Tongs – These are a must, they come in handy for turning as well as steadying some foods while carving. Ivy says she has 6 pairs of tongs- she uses them for literally everything.
  15. Cutting boards – You need at least two one for fruits, vegetables, and cooked meat, the other for raw meat. Be sure to sanitize them often.
  16. Whisk – I have two one metal, one nylon to use while cooking
  17. Instant read thermometer – Invaluable for roasts and poultry.

These last few I don’t consider necessary but I still frequently use them.

  1. Stand mixer – I love my Kitchen-Aid. I received it as a wedding present six (gasp) years ago and it’s going strong with frequent use.
  2. Immersion blender – I have no use for a standard blender, but I use this all the time for soups, baby food, eggs, and smoothies. I also love the mini-processor attachment.
  3. Pastry cutter – I rarely use it for pie crusts, but it comes in very handy for mashed potatoes.
  4. Garlic press – I’m actually in the air on this one. I use it, but find it annoying to clean.
  5. Steamer – I have had a cheap Black and Decker for five years. I love the thing for no brainer vegetables like steamed broccoli. If I plan right, sometimes I can use this and never turn on the oven or stove for a meal.

What are your must have kitchen items?


  1. shopping home on April 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm

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  2. Heather on June 10, 2007 at 11:32 am

    I would like a wok. My birthday is in July. I do use the waffle iron, but it definitely isn’t in my must have for a novice list. I also have a veggie/rice steamer I use a lot. I think it’s nice, but not necessary.

    I’ll address an immersion blender in the near future.

  3. knitaddict on June 9, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I inherited my kitchen aid mixer from my grandmother……that thing is about 25 years old and STILL GOING STRONG!!!

    Tip: Use it when you’re making RED VELVET CAKE…the batter’s SO thick….the mixer just plows on through like it’s nothin.

  4. bramble on June 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    whats the difference between an immersion blender and a regular one?

    and how about a WOK and a WAFFLE IRON heather? ::snicker::

  5. Linda on June 9, 2007 at 8:58 am

    LOOOOVE my veggie peeler!!!

  6. Heather on June 8, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Good call, I do love cast iron. Unfortunately we have a ceramic stove top and cast iron would scratch it. I gave my well seasoned pans away when we bought the house.

  7. Tracy on June 8, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    I personaly adore my cast iron pans. They also are expensive but are indistructable. I keep mine very well seasoned and have specific pans for their own purpose. One is strickly for chicken or potaoes. One for fish. One for eggs. One that is a grill for meats.And 1 that is for pancakes. I recently got a great deal at a yard sale for a 1798 (stamped on it) cast iron waffle iron. Oh yea…I also 2 diffrent sizes of dutch ovens. One for the house and 1 huge one for camping. Nothing sticks and I get a great work out as they are very heavy. I still have 2 that my great nana had…over 100 years old and still going strong.

  8. Tuesday on June 7, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Since you set me straight on my immersion blemder I use it all the time now! Thanks again!

  9. Angela on June 7, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for the great birthdy and christmas list. I have the worst pans ever and I have mericle blade knives. I Immersion blender seems so much easier then the big glass blender. And about half of the other things on yor list. Maybe I can blame that on my poor cooking skills?

    I love my stand mixer, I use it to mix everthing that needs mixing. I also use my waffle iron a lot…quick easy and they make yummy waffles:)

  10. Heather on June 7, 2007 at 5:11 am

    Sarah I can really see how some people would love a garlic press. In my prior life (before kids) I worked in restaurants. I have good knife skills, so for me, it’s just faster to whack, peel, mince, than to pull out the press, argue with it that “Yes, I really want all of the clove to squash through,” and then clean it out.

    Sarah you reminded me, a colander! Can’t believe I forgot that.

  11. Granny on June 6, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Glad to see you mention a pastry cutter. I’m very particular about this item…it can’t be one of the flimsy wire ones, but the sturdy one that has the fairly sharp metal tines. My favorite use for this? Turn boiled eggs into egg salad in ten seconds!

  12. Sarah on June 6, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    I was just gonna come and add “bread knife,” but I see that’s already been brought up.

    I love my garlic press… nothing else quite does the job like it. I got mine for about $2 at Big Lots and it does what I need it to do.

    My mother-in-law got us a set of those pots with the holes in the lid (as seen on TV!) so that you can drain your pasta, vegetables, whatever… I use these probably 4 times a week.

  13. Heather on June 6, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    LOL I can’t believe I forgot the rolling pin. Good catch. I rarely roll out dough, but I certainly whack a lot of things with it. I find the heft is perfect for pounding out chicken breasts.

    I find myself using my pizza stone less and less. I’ve had it for years and it is well seasoned, I just seem to be reverting back to my cookie sheet ways. I do use my bread machine for dough, but it doesn’t see the light of day very often.

    Bread knife is the right term, You can also call it serrated, but some will confuse that with steak knives.

    Great suggestions.

  14. Amy on June 6, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    A rolling pin is a great one for rolling out doughs, but also for crushing crackers for crusts or toppings.

    I also love my bread knife (don’t know if that is the correct term or not), but I use this daily. It is great for slicing through tomatoes and making clean cuts in your bread.

    Another thing I like to have in my kitchen is a plastic knife. You get perfect brownies every single time you cut with a plastic knife. No lumpy mess or crumbs.

    Other fun things are- my bread machine, my pizza stone, & my bundt pan!!

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