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Trying to pare down your kitchen tools, or build up a solid collection for a new place? Melissa Coleman—designer, author, self-proclaimed “simplicity chaser,” and creator of The Faux Martha—is a great resource and inspiration. Below, she shares her top tips and tools for a minimalist kitchen.
Whether you’re paring down or starting out, it’s hard to know the absolute essentials for the kitchen. However, if you pay attention to your habits, noticing what you’re always grabbing or always washing before the next dishwasher cycle, you’ll find your answers.
With that said, I have this little trick for helping you figure out the essentials for your kitchen, as every kitchen is unique to the recipes you make night after night. Try the dishwasher test.
When the dishwasher is full, notice what’s in there. Is it always in there? If so, those are the high-use, must-have, essential tools.
Notice what’s left in your drawers and cabinets. Do you use the things leftover? This test will help you to see beneath the top layer of your kitchen to help separate your everyday essentials from your special occasion items from the things that are just collecting dust and taking up space.
Here’s a list of my most beloved essentials, the things that get used every day in my kitchen.
A cast iron skillet is a life-long investment. It’s a pan you can pass down with the right care. I make pancakes, pan-seared chicken and diner burgers, and even make stir-fries in this pan. When you use enough oil while cooking, the pan self-seasons, becoming a naturally non-stick surface. And unlike the traditional non-stick pan we’re all used to replacing often, the coating on the cast iron can be reestablished with a little spray of oil and low heat on the stove for 15 minutes or so.
I also use my skillet as a microwave. (We don’t have one!) It crisps food back up to its original state. Then I add a little water and cover to steam, to heat the food all the way through.
I use Lodge Cast Iron. It’s so affordable and durable. To choose the right size, think about the size of your family as well as your cooktop surface area.
- Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet Buy Now
The Dutch oven is my stockpot, my slow cooker, my steamer, my roasting pan (for whole chickens not large turkeys), and my Instant Pot, though it’s not quite as quick as the pressure cooker. It does everything multiple gadgets accomplish, cleans up back to new with a little Norwex paste or Bar Keepers Friend, and looks beautiful on the stovetop. It’s heavy, yes, making it durable. For that reason, I always store in on my stovetop. I love Milo for its simple, classic design and affordability. This too is a life-long investment.
- Classic 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven from Milo Buy Now
A good high-powered blender will last you lots of decades. How many blenders can you say that about? We’re team Vitamix over here. I inherited one through marriage. It was love at first blend. This is my food processor; smoothie, salsa, and hummus maker; my immersion blender; and my oat flour maker. It does everything and cleans up easily with a little hot water, a squeeze of dish soap, and a 30-second blend cycle.
- Vitamix Ascent Series Blender Buy Now
If I could only have one knife, it would be a chef’s knife. Look for one that feels really comfortable in your hand. I prefer a wooden handle, which needs a coat of mineral oil from time to time for care. It’s a good reminder to take care of my essentials and to only keep what I can adequately care for. Keeping less around also frees up the budget to buy quality over quantity.
- 8-Inch Knife from Material Kitchen Buy Now
I love a good silicone spatula, coated in silicone from head to toe, meaning a single seam for easy cleaning and maintenance. I also like one with a sharp edge that can handle high heat. This is my all-time favorite spatula. I stock it like I stock my white cami, the same exact spatula purchased in bulk. I keep 3 around since I use them so often. When you stock the same item, there’s no decision making. There was a time I had multiple types of spatulas in multiple sizes. I always grabbed for the same one, the one that performed well and washed well. That’s what I stock now. It limits the amount of unnecessary decision-making. I tend to be a slow decision-maker, so this is very helpful for my day-to-day kitchen living.
- All-Silicone Spatula from Williams Sonoma Buy Now
A good, sturdy metal spatula can stand in as a knife (think butter knife) when cutting brownies, a pancake or burger flipper, and a pastry bench. I like this one with a large surface area.
- OXO Good Grips Restaurant Turner Buy Now
A box grater that actually gets used in its entirety. I use this one from OXO to grate cheese, ginger, julienne carrots, and thinly slice radishes. It’s a time saver in the kitchen and it stores neatly in itself too. This is my favorite thing to give as a gift. Tip: Hand wash this item for long-term care.
- OXO Good Grips Complete Grate & Slice Set Buy Now
I’m a fan of polypropylene cutting boards as they are odor resistant and nonporous, meaning I don’t have to worry about bacteria festering in a crevice. This particular board is double-sided, one side having a built-in moat to catch things like watermelon juice. The corners of the board also have a non-slip rubber cover to keep cutting safe. It just works.
- OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board Buy Now
Like my spatula, I have a couple of the same exact baking sheets that stack easily for tidy storage. I love these baking sheets made with commercial-grade natural aluminum. They hold their shape forever, are lighter in color so they don’t cook food too quickly, and clean up well. I cover with a sheet of parchment paper, which can be composted, for vegetable roasting at high temps. These too should last you decades, unlike the nonstick variety that is known to be a little flaky.
- Nordic Ware Naturals Baker’s Half Sheet Buy Now
I had to put this on there as I use it daily to make sparkling water, or, as I call it, hopping water. I added this to the list as a reminder that each kitchen is unique to you. Your essential list will look similar to and different from mine. There are no right answers!
- Sodastream Fizzi One Touch Buy Now
Well, the only right answers are the ones that fit your lifestyle and recipes.
Get more from Melissa Coleman in her book, The Minimalist Kitchen: 100 Wholesome Recipes, Essential Tools, and Efficient Techniques.