There are some kitchen tools that everyone needs, no matter how much or how little they cook. Having the right tools not only makes preparing food easier but also makes it a lot more fun. When it comes to cookware, though, more is not better—not like your collection of old glasses.
One reason to stick with the basics is this: With a well-thought-out collection, you can always find the right pot or tool and not get lost in the back of a cabinet. Since I’ve been cooking professionally, writing about food at The Spruce Eats, and developing recipes for years, I’ve come up with a list of 16 must-have tools for any stove (or grill). You can make them however you want, but if you cook, you need these basic tools.
When you cook often, you’ll find yourself reaching for a saucepan almost every day. It’s easy to boil eggs, warm milk, cook grains, and warm up leftovers in these pans. These days, most cooks only need a small pan. As you look for a saucepan, you may have come across its cousin, the saucier. Even though they look the same, sauciers have sides that gently slope down, which makes them better if you want to make a lot of sauce. But really, you can use either one for most cooking tasks.
2. A chef’s knife
A good chef’s knife has a blade that stays sharp and a well-balanced weight. It should also feel good in your hand. Most home cooks use an 8-inch knife with a blade that gently slopes upwards at the tip. This “Western” style is great for chopping vegetables because it lets you rock the knife back and forth. We test knives all the time in our food lab because they are so important.
In our kitchens, we use the simple skillet, which is also known as a “frying pan,” to sear meat, fry eggs, and, uh, bake big cookies. There are many types of skillets, such as ceramic, cast iron, and stainless steel. The most useful ones can go from the stove to the oven and transfer heat well. We picked 8 skillets that are great for all kinds of cooks.
4. Nonstick Skillet
A nonstick skillet isn’t necessary for all cooking tasks, but when you do need one, you do need it. They don’t sear food as well as some other skillets, but they’re great for delicate foods like pancakes and scrambled eggs. You can easily flip and stir food in a nonstick skillet because it doesn’t stick. Also, they don’t need as much butter or oil as regular pans.
5. sheet pan
You can roast vegetables, make dinners that only need one pan, and, of course, bake cookies on a sheet pan with a lip around the edge. A half sheet is the most common size of sheet pan. In professional kitchens, full-sheet pans are more common. Construction is important: When heated to high temperatures, cheap or thin pans will bend.
6. Bowls for mixing
There are many types of mixing bowls on the market, but the most important thing to look for in a set is bowls of different sizes. You should think about how you’re going to use the things you have before you buy them. Do you want to use your bowls to serve dinner? Think about a set that looks nice. Are you going to use hand mixers? Choose a set with a bottom that won’t slip. We’ve found 9 bowls that can’t be beat in every way, including some with lids that make it easy to store leftovers.
7. Cups and spoons for measuring
Baking is both an art and a science. To put it another way, you can’t just guess the sizes. For accurate measurements, you need a good set of measuring cups and spoons. Having both dry and wet measuring cups helps get the right amount. (If you don’t have a lot of room, choose cups that you can fold up.) A good set of measuring spoons shouldn’t cost more than $15 and should be simple to clean and store. If you’ve ever added salt to a recipe and mixed up the teaspoon and tablespoon measurements, you know how important these tools are!
8. Spatula for High Heat
When you bake, stir-fry, or sauté, a flexible spatula is your best friend. For all-around cooking, a silicone spatula, which is also sometimes called a “high-heat spatula,” is your best bet. When it gets close to heat, it won’t melt, and it won’t scratch your cookware like metal tools do. The high-heat spatulas we like best won’t stain and can handle temperatures as high as 500 F.
They can be used to flip meat, keep a roast steady while you cut it, add sauce to lasagna, or serve a salad: Tongs are an important kitchen tool. Before you buy them, it helps to know how you’ll use them. If you want to keep your hands away from the heat while grilling, long-handled tongs are great. You should get tongs with silicone tips if you often use them with ceramic or nonstick cookware. Our testers gave these 9 tongs the highest marks possible.
10. The thermometer
There’s no better way to get the internal temperature of meat just right than with a thermometer. Instant-read thermometers are almost impossible to mess up, which can help you feel more confident when you’re cooking. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an accurate temperature reading, even though many of them today come with extra features like Bluetooth.
An oven thermometer is another type of thermometer that home cooks don’t use very often. This is a bad thing because most home ovens are not properly calibrated. (Some are off by more than 50 degrees.) If you know what your oven’s real temperature is, you can plan your baking and cooking better. It doesn’t cost much more than $10 for even the best ones.
11. A cutting board
It’s so much easier to prepare food when you have the right cutting board. Glass is one of those materials that is hard for knives to cut through. Instead, use plastic or wood boards that will last. You should buy at least two boards if you have the room to store them: A plastic board can be cleaned and is good for prepping meat, but a big wooden board can make chopping vegetables easier and look better in your kitchen as well. Not sure which cutting board to get? We love these 9 boards for all kinds of cooks.
12. A stock pot
A big stockpot is nice to have even if you don’t make homemade stock very often. You can make a lot of sauce in a stockpot, cook a chicken slowly, or make soup for a lot of people. These are cheap and good at transferring heat; they are usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. They come in different sizes, but the 12-quart ones work best for most home cooks. Take a look at this hint: Tall, narrow stockpots let water evaporate more slowly, which is good for stock. Wide, shallow stockpots, on the other hand, work better for sauces like Bolognese.
13. A Dutch oven
We like to think of a Dutch oven as an investment instead of a luxury. The materials used to make this deep pot with a lid set it apart from a stockpot. Enameled cast iron is used to make most Dutch ovens. This material retains heat well, making it great for both searing and simmering, and it’s also easy to clean and maintain.