Kitchen Essentials

Every cook needs the right equipment in the kitchen to create delicious meals. While you may not need everything on this list to get started, it serves as a helpful reference as you begin equipping your kitchen.

Pots and pans
These kitchen essentials can range anywhere from the inexpensive to the very costly. There are also many different types. It’s a good idea to talk to some friends to see what their favorites are, and to browse the department store to see what appeals to you.

Sometimes you get a nice deal by buying a set, but it can also make good sense to buy one pot to see how well you like it before committing to an expensive set. 

At the minimum you’ll need:

  • Large skillets (10 inch and 12 inch)—preferably heavy aluminum skillets with nonstick coating (copper and cast iron are great, but also expensive and sometimes not as “forgiving” to a new cook).
  • Large pot with lid—an 8-quart pot is big enough to cook pasta, but if you’re going to make stock, buy a 16-quart pot.
  • Saucepans with lids—a 1- to 3-cup size, a 1- to 1-1/2-quart size, and a 4-quart size. 
    Roasting pans—an 8 x 12-inch or 9 x 13-inch metal roasting pan; and an 8- or 9-inch square metal baking pan.
  • Bowls—small, medium, and large. Stainless steel are inexpensive and useful. 
    A steamer insert—a collapsible aluminum basket-like utensil, used for steaming vegetables and other foods.

Bake ware 
Baking/cookie sheets—look for the kind without edges for cookies, but also keep in mind that many cooks use these items to bake other dishes.

  • A 9 x 13-inch nonstick baking pan—essential for a one-layer sheet cake and brownies. This size pan is also great for macaroni and cheese, and dishes like scalloped potatoes; however, some people prefer to reserve the nonstick pan for desserts and purchase a glass pan for stickier dishes to preserve the finish. Also note that nonstick bake ware will last longer if it is washed by hand in warm soapy water.
  • Pastry pans—this includes pie plates (9-inch, oven-proof glass), bread pans (two 9 x 5-inch, nonstick aluminum loaf pans), cake pans (two or three 9-inch pans), and muffin tins (several inexpensive aluminum types).

Keep in mind that for all of these items you’ll need to consider the type of cookware and bakeware you’ve purchased. If you’ve chosen the kind with nonstick finish, be sure to choose plastic—not metal—utensils. These will help protect the finish of your cookware and bakeware.

  • Long-handled heavy-duty spoon
  • Long-handled heavy-duty soup ladle
  • Spatula
  • Rubber spatula
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups (start with a 2-cup glass or plastic cup for liquids, and a set of 1/4- to
  • 1-cup dry measurers)
  • Measuring spoons (buy at least two sets)
  • Wooden spoons
  • Brushes (for spreading oil, melted butter, marinades, etc.)

Cutting boards
Some cooks swear by wood, and some swear by plastic cutting boards. One of the nice advantages to plastic cutting boards is that different colors can represent boards for meat, chicken, garlic and onions, and vegetables. That way there’s less worry about contamination and transferred food odors.

A good set of knives is essential for chopping, dicing, and preparing your ingredients. High-carbon steel knives are recommended by chefs and experienced cooks alike. A versatile knife that is essential is the 8-inch chef’s knife—an all-purpose blade used for chopping and slicing. Don’t bother with a carving or slicing knife right away—you won’t use it very often, and your chef’s knife can handle most of those duties for a while. You’ll need two or three paring knives (3 or 4 inches long) for peeling, trimming, and other precise cutting. A serrated bread knife is a must, too. And buy a blade sharpener to keep your knives working at peak efficiency.

Some may seem obvious, but still worth consideration in equipping your kitchen.

  • Can opener (that would be one of those obvious ones!)
  • Colander (any type with holes in it to drain liquid or through which to force through pureed food)
  • Pepper grinder
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Timer
  • Metal racks (for cooling baked goods, and roasting)
  • Handheld or box grater (for grating cheese, lemon peel, etc.)
  • Meat thermometer
  • Melon baller (for coring pears and apples)
  • Funnel
  • Ricer (for making mashed potatoes)
  • Rolling pin (for making pie crust)
  • Vegetable peeler


  • Food processor—it can grate large amounts of anything in short order, and it can make pie and bread dough in minutes
  • Electric mixer—especially if you plan to bake

Blender—a traditional upright or handheld miniature