I’ve loved to cook and be in the kitchen as long as I can remember. From being a tiny kid and helping stir (which I still love to do) to learning to master the art of a béchamel sauce at about 6 years old, I always knew that cooking would be an important part of my life. I learned at a young age which kitchen basics are important to have on hand.
When I finally started “adult-ing” and had my very own place, my first priority was my kitchen. (Forget the bed or chairs!) I am lucky to have a mom that has tons of kitchen stuff, so I got a lot of her hand me downs until I could afford to purchase some newer versions. But one thing I knew early on was that you had to have certain kitchen basics to be a success in the kitchen.
So I thought this would be a fun post to highlight my favorite kitchen basics. I consider these things to be the items that you need to stock your kitchen with to cook with ease and confidence. After all, having the basic equipment is half the battle when it comes to becoming a culinary rockstar.
Here are my favorite kitchen basics that are must-haves in your kitchen:
Pots & Pans
When I first started cooking, my pots and pans were totally mismatching and you know what . . . that was fine. So long as you have the basics, you’ll be just fine. Over time you can buy a matching set. Heck even now a lot of my pots and pans don’t match, but they are really good quality, which is what’s important.
So long as you have the following assortment of pots and pans, your cooking adventures will be a success:
- Small saucepan
- Medium saucepan
- Large Saucepan
- Dutch Oven (basically a large pot with a lid that is oven safe). Mine is one from Sam’s Club and is really reasonably priced.
- Nonstick skillets of varying sizes and if they have lids and are oven safe, that’s even better!
- Stock Pot for cooking large batches of pasta, making soups, and stocks.
Whether you’re cooking or baking, it’s important to have accurate measurements of ingredients. As you cook, a lot of things can be eye-balled. But baking is a whole different story where measurements are critical. So you need measuring spoons and cups that are easy to use and come in several different measurements.
Pro tip: Try to get some with the writing imprinted in it that will hold up to washing so the measurements don’t wash off.
This one goes hand in hand with measuring tools. Often you’ll find that rather than listing weights in 1/4 cup or 1 cup measurements, recipes will instead list ingredients in ounces or grams. Having a decent set of kitchen scales is insanely handy. It doesn’t have to be a really expensive set of scales, and they last a really long time. I use my kitchen scales way more than I ever thought I would.
Seems weird for me to put a ruler on my list, doesn’t it? Well, when you’re baking and cooking it is often really handy to have a ruler. I use mine if I’m trying to form a pizza, pie crust, or dough for scones to be a certain size in diameter. It’s also great it you’re needing to cut veggies or cookies in uniform slices, or if you need a certain thickness of scones (I like scones a lot!) a ruler is key. So go to the office supply section of your store and pick up a cheap ruler to keep in a drawer.
I probably have more mixing bowls than you can actually imagine, but funny enough . . . I use them all on a regular basis. I prefer the nesting bowls so that you get lots of different sized bowls that fit together for easy storage. I have collected a few glass nesting bowl sets, a melamine set (really durable plastic), and a small set of nesting bowls (to hold prepped ingredients) over the years and they’re all very, very handy!
If you don’t want to rummage through drawers looking for the spoon or spatula you need that moment, a utensil holder is a must. My first utensil holder was a pretty hideous number from a cheap kitchen set at Target when I first went out on my own.
Since then I’ve found a really cool wooden and metal one that I love. When you can get a utensil holder that fits your personal style, it really enhances the look of your kitchen. After all, utensil holders tend to sit out on your counter, so you want it to reflect your style. I keep mine by the stove so I can quickly grab whatever tool I need in 2 seconds.
Can I make a confession? It’s time for me to get a new knife block. I’ve worn mine out, but I really love it so I’m having a hard time caving in and buying a new one. A lot of times you’ll get a knife block that goes with a knife set you might have.
But if you’re like me and you have a mismatch of knives that are either hand me downs (thanks Mom!) or are ones you’ve collected over the years (like great Santoku knives), not all of your knives fit in the holder. The last thing you want is knives lying about in a drawer unprotected both for your sake and the lifespan of your knives. So when you buy a knife block, grab one that will hold a ton of knives of various sizes. My favorite is my Kapoosh knife block that let’s you fit whatever knives you want in it. Crazy handy and fun!
Plus there are so a crazy amount of knife blocks out there, so you can get really creative and find one that fits your style. Seriously I had no idea how many cool styles there are!
Baking Dishes & Baking Sheets
I love cooking and baking, and both require that you have baking dishes on hand. So whether you’re making a casserole, baking a fruit crumble, or whipping up your favorite cake, you must have decent baking dishes.
And if you find yourself roasting vegetables, baking cookies, making homemade granola, baking chicken or fish, and so on, then baking sheets are critical. I use mine a ton and often find myself finding lots of new uses for my baking sheets. Sometimes if I have a full casserole or dessert baking, I’ll put it on a baking sheet or put the baking sheet on the oven rack below whatever is baking in case it boils over. That way I’m not making a huge mess in the oven.
Here are a few dishes and baking sheets I highly recommend having at least one of:
- 8×8-inch glass dish
- 9×9-inch glass dish
- 9×13-inch baking dish
- Large casserole dish or lasagna pan
- Jelly pan or baking sheet with edges
- Cookie sheets that typically only have 1 edge so it’s easy to take up the cookies.
Wire Cooling Rack
You don’t hear much about the necessity of having a good cooling rack, but it’s really important. I prefer the kind that looks like a grid (like this one), so that my cookies don’t fall through the cracks when they cool. They are also really useful for cooling casseroles, desserts, and baked goods pretty quickly so that air can circulate around better.
I’ve also been known to use a baking sheet with a Silpat over it and then a wire rack on top and bake bacon, chicken, and fish in the oven with this method to help drain excess fat or allow all sides of the meat to cook more evenly and quickly.
Last but certainly not least is the colander. I use mine for draining pasta and rinsing fruit and veggies. I have one I love that collapses so that it stores flat. It’s made of silicone so it also cleans really easily.
You might consider getting 1-3 colanders of varying sizes. I like a small colander for rinsing berries. If you have a couple of colanders on hand, it’ll also let you multi-task a bit more so that you can drain multiple veggies at once or have one draining pasta while you rinse off a veggie you need for the same meal.
So there you go. Those are my kitchen basics that I know will help you become a total badass in the kitchen! And don’t get overwhelmed by this list. If you’re still working on building your kitchen basics, then get cheaper versions to use until you can start replacing them with better quality items.
Depending on what you’re looking for and what your budget is, I love the following stores when I’m shopping for my kitchen basics:
- Target – They have a huge range of price points and really great quality brands like Kitchen Aid, Oxo, and Giada even has a kitchen products line at Target.
- Bed, Bath, & Beyond – I love shopping here for really unique pieces along with standard items. Plus you can’t beat the coupons they send you in the mail to help you get some nicer items at great prices. And their return/exchange process is wonderful.
- Crate & Barrel – For a bit of a higher end, sleeker style, go to Crate & Barrel. They have great basics, typically have fun color options to choose from, and are great quality items.
- Amazon – When in doubt, check Amazon if you’re in the market for something. They have awesome deals that happen throughout the year, and the variety is obviously quite impressive. Although I do really like to purchase my kitchen stuff in person so that I can gauge the weight, quality, and feel of my kitchen products.
What are your favorite kitchen basics and what are the products that you still need to add to your kitchen? Comment below and let’s chat!
Stay inspired & get in the kitchen!