It might happen slowly at first: A new, delicious chicken breast recipe requires a proper roasting pan and carefully measured ingredients. It also calls for minced, diced, and julienned add-ins. (Come again?) Or it could happen all at once: Mom drops by for a surprise visit and the only things on hand are plastic cups and a jar of peanut butter.
Maybe it’s time to stop using cookbooks as coasters and instead turn to their intended purpose—which means new cooking supplies (and kitchen skills) are in order. Whether living and cooking solo for the first time or in need of a kitchen overhaul, we’ve picked the best (and most necessary) tools to wine, dine, and entertain like a pro.
1. Chef’s Knife
One of the most versatile knives available, a chef’s knife allows you to chop, slice, mince, and more without switching tools. You’ll be like a kitchen Karate Kid! Tip: Look for a stainless steel variety to keep away rust.
- Price range: $19.99-$99.99
- Editors’ pick: Forschner by Victorinox Chef’s Knife, $39.95
2. Cutting Board
The workhorse of every kitchen, there are few dinners where cutting and chopping isn’t involved—making the cutting board your new best friend. While plastic ones are inexpensive and easy to come by, wooden versions tend to be more sanitary since they lack grooves for germs to hang out in. They also help keep your knives in tip-top shape.
- Price range: $3.99-$129.00
- Editors’ pick: Kobi Michigan Maple Butcher Block Cutting Board, $44.99
3. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Did Mary Poppins mean a teaspoon of sugar or a tablespoon? Either way, having measuring tools on hand is essential for following almost any recipe—or even just portioning out serving sizes. Who knew a cup of cereal was so small?!
- Price range: $2.99-$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Prepworks from Progressive International Ultimate 19-Piece Measuring Cup and Spoon Set, $13.37
4. Kitchen Shears
This underrated tool will quickly become a favorite. Used for everything from chopping herbs and vegetables to slicing dried fruit and even meat, they make every kitchen task that much easier. Plus, who needs regular scissors when you have kitchen shears?
Though it’s possible to drain pasta using a pot lid, the result isn’t always pretty—think pasta escaping and lids slipping. Instead, use a colander, which drains water like a pro. Bonus: Colanders make it super simple to wash fruits and veggies. Buh-bye soggy pasta; hello clean produce!
- Price range: $0.99-$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Cook Pro Stainless Steel Colander, $12.68
6. Can Opener
There are few things worse than reaching for a can of pumpkin and realizing there’s no way to open it. (Or soup, coconut milk, beans, or anything else deliciously canned.) Though many goods have pop-tops these days, it’s always better to prepared.
- Price range: $1.49-$29.99
- Editors’ pick: Amco Houseworks Swing A Way Portable Can Opener, $14.68
7. Mixing Bowls
Think mixing bowls are just for baking? Think again. Use them to marinate meat, dress veggies with sauce or seasoning, and make salad dressings and dips (give one of these a whirl!). Tip: Skip glass bowls that chip easily and opt for lightweight stainless steel versions.
- Price range: $5.99-39.99
- Editors’ pick: Pyrex Smart Essentials Mixing Bowl Set 8 piece, $23.99
These master mixers are used to whip up smoothies, mixed drinks, soups, nut butters, sauces, and oh-so-much more. And they can do it all in a matter of seconds. How’s that for an all-in-one appliance?
- Price range: $19.99-$409
- Editors’ pick: Vitamix S30 Personal Blender
The most common use of graters is shredding cheese (quesadilla, anyone?). But they’re also wonderful for zesting citrus fruit and shredding chocolate and vegetables like potatoes and zucchini. How else did you think hash browns came to be?
- Price range: $0.99-$49.99
- Editors’ pick: CHEFS 6-sided Stainless Steel Box Grater, $19.95
This funny-looking tool has many more uses than beating eggs and making whipped cream. It’s also great for mixing vinaigrettes, combining dry ingredients for baking, removing lumps from sauces and gravies, and standing in for a microphone during impromptu dance parties. (Trust us on that one.)
- Price range: $0.99-$34.99
- Editors’ pick: Baker's Secret Silicone Whisk, $6.49
11. Vegetable Peeler
Peeling veggies with a knife: Top Chef status. Peeling veggies with a peeler: practically foolproof. Spare your fingers and stick to this tool, which serves as a master potato peeler and a fancy veggie ribbons creator. Peelers also great for shaving off pieces of hard cheeses like Parmesan.
- Price range: $6.99-$49.99
- Editors’ pick: UberChef Ultra Sharp Stainless Steel Julienne Peeler & Vegetable Peeler
These claw-like tools are crazy-versatile. Use them to flip meat (sans bacon grease burns), serve salads, toss stir-fry ingredients, or squeeze juice out of a lemon like a champ. Heck, you can even use them as a bottle opener!
- Price range: $3.99-$19.95
- Editors’ pick: ECKO Angled Serving Tongs, $5.30
13. Rolling Pin
If you love making dough (the kind you bake with, silly!), a rolling pin will help create perfectly even crust for pies and pizzas. It’ll also come in handy for making holiday cookies. Tip: Stick to pins that are longer than the area of the rolled-out dough to ensure it’s even.
- Price range: $4.99-$59.99
- Editors’ pick: Ateco 20-Inch Length Maple French Rolling Pin, $9.95
Don’t let the name fool you. While you can make sauces in these pans, their use goes far beyond that. From simmering soups to making quinoa, a saucepan will quickly become one of your most-used items (if it isn’t already).
- Price range: $19.99-$129.99
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel, $40
From scrambling eggs to flipping pancakes to stirring sauces, spatulas are surprisingly flexible. (Though we can’t guarantee wow-worthy flipping skills come included.) Tip: Buy a silicone model for extra heat resistance.
- Price range: $4.99-$54.99
- Editors’ pick: Rachael Ray 3-Piece Spatula Set, $14.95
16. Sauté Pan
Not to be confused with a skillet (a sauté pan has straight sides), these pans are perfect for braising meat and cooking lots of leafy greens. And thanks to those higher sides, you’ll be less likely to spill sauce all over.
- Price range: $19.99-$299.99
- Editors’ pick: Calphalon Nonstick Deep Saute Pan With Lid, $79.96
One of the most versatile stovetop tools, you can cook nearly anything in a skillet. Nonstick varieties are inexpensive and make it easy to cook foods without needing to add much butter or oil to coat the pan. Cast-iron versions can go from the stove to the oven to make one-pan meals a snap, and while they are more of an initial investment, with proper care they can last a lifetime.
- Price range: $14.99-$349.99
- Editors’ pick: Lodge Cast Iron Pre-Seasoned Skillet 12 Inch, $24.99
18. Baking Sheet
Even if baking cookies isn't your thing, these sheets are super-handy. Use them to roast veggies, make homemade fries, cook chicken, or bake bacon. For easy cleanup, cover the surface in aluminum foil and spritz with cooking spray. When the food is done, just ditch the aluminum foil—no washing necessary!
- Price range: $2.99-$49.99
- Editors’ pick: Farberware Nonstick Cookie Pan, $9.69
19. Oven Mitts
We’ve seen enough burned fingers and kitchen towels to know not everyone has handy mitts lying around. Use these to protect both you and your kitchen from the wrath of a hot oven. Tip: They can also serve as hot plates at dinner parties.
20. Roasting Pan
Intended as a tool for roasting meat, this pan produces juicy, flavorful results and requires little kitchen prep. Its size also means it’s great for making large quantities of food: Think meatloaves, lasagna, casseroles, and more. Tip: Choose one with a rack to make cooking that Thanksgiving turkey a snap.
- Price range: $9.99-$129.95
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel 16" Roaster with Roasting Rack, $59.99
21. Dutch Oven
No, we’re not talking about the prank your brother pulled as kids. Dutch ovens are actually a great tool for making one-pot, slow-cooked meals like stews, pot roasts, and soups. A six-quart version should be large enough to make most meals.
- Price range: $39.99-$99.95
- Editors’ pick: Belkin Crock-Pot Smart Slow-Cooker, $129.99
22. Cooling Rack
Cooling racks help ensure cookies and other baked goods cool quickly and evenly. A quality rack is also great for getting the perfect crisp on Colonel Sanders'-style breaded meats by eliminating sogginess.
- Price range: $7.95-$29.99
- Editors’ pick: Wilton Folding Cooling Rack, $11.99
No more hoarding forks and knives from local takeout joints—you’re movin’ on up! If opting for a stainless steel set, go gentle on the dishwasher detergent; too much can cause silverware to rust. Now go brush up on your table-setting skills.
- Price range: $14.99-$149.99
- Editors’ pick: Ginkgo Skandia 20-piece Stainless Steel Flatware Set, $46.64
- Price range: $9.99-$189.99
- Editors’ pick: Certified International Hot Tamale Salad Plates, $30.49
BFF to late-night cereal and scoops of ice cream, bowls are a necessary ingredient for any kind of slurping. They also work as makeshift mixing bowls if sticking to small portions like salad dressings or scrambled eggs for one.
- Price range: $5.99-$89.99
- Editors’ pick: Nova Set of 4 Bowls, $9.99
It’s a more civilized way of drinking beverages, but we won’t tell if you prefer guzzling milk and juice from the carton. Sticking to glass also prevents the leaks that sometimes accompany Solo cups—and make you feel that much more adult.
- Price range: $9.99-$89.99
- Editors’ pick: Bormioli Rocco Glassware Set of 4, $14.83
While mugs may conjure up visions of sipping morning joe, they serve more purposes than just java. When the dishwasher or sink is full, they make great stand-in glasses, and they’re perfect for concocting quick and easy mug cakes.
27. Salad Bowl
These bowls are perfect for serving salads loaded with lots of veggies and other add-ins. Simply throw ingredients into the bowl, give them a good toss, grab some tongs, and get after it.
28. Serving Bowls
Serving bowls are must-haves for big dinners, barbecues, or any occasion where food is being served family-style. Set out everything needed for a delicious meal, and let guests serve themselves. Easy as can be.
- Price range: $9.99-$79.99
- Editors’ pick: COLORcode Serving Bowl, Set of 3, $65.23
29. Serving Plates
Use serving plates to showcase food and make it easy to dig in. A large oval serving plate is essential for large meats and heaps of roasted vegetables, while specialized ones like cake serving platters are more specific. Tip: Stick to a lower price point if you don’t host large-scale gatherings often.
- Price range: $9.99-$84.99
- Editors’ pick: Marin Birds Platter, $16.97
30. Serving Spoons
Look Ma, no more losing spoons in a pot! Use a slotted spoon for lifting big pieces out of liquid (like potatoes from a stew), a non-slotted one for spooning sauce over food, and a ladle to serve soups.
31. Wine Opener
There’s no point in stocking up on Two-Buck Chuck without an opener, right? While there are fancier models available, the corkscrew variety is compact and easy to store or carry along. (You never know when you might be the hero in a wine emergency!)
- Price range: $6.99-$49.99
- Editors' pick: Pulltex Waiter's Black Corkscrew, $9.95
32. Food Storage Containers
Storage containers are great for saving leftovers and keeping ingredients like chopped veggies fresh and ready to toss into a dish at a moment’s notice. Sets with different sizes are useful for storing foods of all sorts, while containers with un-detachable lids means tops won’t magically disappear.
- Price range: $2.99-$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Colorful Klip-It Lunch Cube to Go, $5.99
33. Food Processor
Often thought of as the lazy man’s way of chopping vegetables, food processors do a whole lot more. Use one to purée soups, make fresh pesto or salsas, grind nuts, or make homemade breadcrumbs. Nobody puts the food processor in the corner!
- Price range: $14.99-$199
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart 8-Cup Food Processor, $99.95
34. French Press
- Price range: $12.99-$125
- Editors’ pick: Primula 4-Cup Classic Coffee Press, $19.99
Nothing says homey quite like a big pitcher of a refreshing drink. It also eliminates the need to constantly refill guests’ glasses. Did somebody say holiday sangria?
- Price range: $1.99-$49
- Editors’ pick: Lissey / Crisa Impressions Glass Pitcher, $12.99
36. Potato Masher
Though it may not see as much action as other kitchen tools, potato mashers are vital for making lump-free smashed potatoes. Anyone who’s attempted to make mashed taters with a fork will agree: Mashers are key.
- Price range: $0.99-$24.99
- Editors’ pick: Farberware Stainless Steel Masher, $9.96
Those who live for warm, morning beverages need a partner in crime: a kettle. Having a spout makes boiling water easier to pour (and easier for hands to avoid!), and they’re also handy for quickly heating water to cure ramen noodle cravings.
- Price range: $8.99-$59.99
- Editors’ pick: OXO Good Grips Classic Tea Kettle, $39.95
38. Grill Pan
If you don’t have outdoor space or it’s too cold to fire up the grill, a pan can create similar results. While it doesn’t impart the same smoky flavor, it does leave those eye-catching grill marks on meats and veggies. It’s also an easy alternative for grilling foods that are often lost between traditional grates—think shrimp, fish, or asparagus.
- Price range: $24.99-$78
- Editors’ pick: GreenPan Lima 11” Square Hard Anodized Grill Pan, $39.99
39. Immersion Blender
Immersion blenders are sneakily useful tools. Simply stick one into a pot of soup ingredients, purée away, and viola: smooth soup sans blender fuss. They’re also great for getting lumps out of mashed potatoes and making creamy hummus.
- Price range: $19.99-$120
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender, $34.95
Get your stir-fry on with a good wok. The high sides mean you can stir and flip food without fear of anything escaping onto the stovetop. Tip: Don’t forget to preheat a wok before adding oil for best results.
- Price range: $14.99-$89.99
- Editors’ pick: 12-Inch Green Earth Wok by Ozeri, $34.97
41. Meat Thermometer
Never eat underdone or overcooked meat again! A meat thermometer ensures meat remains moist and safe to eat. For the most accurate reading, stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from fat and bone. A digital instant-read thermometer gives a temperature in just seconds.
- Price: $6.99-$49.99
- Editors’ pick: Weber 6492 Original Instant-Read Thermometer, $9.99
42. Food Scale
Whether measuring meal portions or baking your next masterpiece, food scales provide a more precise measurement than cups and spoons alone. Though not an absolute necessity, they certainly come in handy!
- Price range: $24.99-$49.95
- Editors’ pick: Ozeri Pro Digital Food Scale, $12.94
43. Paring Knife
When going for a delicate cut, skip the chef’s knife and turn to the paring knife instead. It’s perfect for peeling fruits and vegetables, slicing small items like garlic cloves, and deveining shrimp. You can also hold it in the air and peel an apple, eliminating the need to use a cutting board.
- Price range: $3.99-$79.99
- Editors’ pick: KAI for Williams-Sonoma Paring Knife, $9.99
*Price ranges were selected based on the average range of item prices in nationwide and online retailers.