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It might happen slowly at first: A new, delicious chicken recipe requires a proper roasting pan and carefully measured ingredients. It also calls for minced, diced, and julienned add-ins. (“Hey Siri, what’s julienne?”)
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… oops.
Maybe it’s time to stop using cookbooks as coasters and turn to their intended purpose instead — which means new cooking supplies (and kitchen skills) are in order.
Whether you’re 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.
Editor’s note: We determined price ranges based on what we found in nationwide and online retailers. The price key for our picks are as follows:
- $0–50: $
- $51–100: $$
- $101+: $$$
1. Paring knife
When going for a delicate cut, turn to the paring knife. It’s perfect for dicing smaller fruits and vegetables, mincing garlic cloves, and deveining shrimp.
- Price range: $3.99–$124.95
- Editors’ pick: Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Paring Knife ($)
2. Chef’s knife
One of the more 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!
A great knife may cost you a pretty penny, but it’s a worthy investment. It’ll quickly climb it’s way to the top of your most-used items list.
Tip: Look for a stainless steel variety to keep away rust.
- Price range: $19.99–$199.99
- Editors’ pick: Zwilling Pro 7-inch Chef’s Knife ($$$)
3. Cutting board
The workhorse of every kitchen, the cutting board is your faithful culinary friend. After all, how many dinners don’t involve cutting and chopping?
While plastic boards are inexpensive and easy to come by, wooden versions tend to be more sanitary since they lack grooves for germs to hang out in. They also help keep your knives in tip-top shape.
- Price range: $3.99–$129
- Editors’ pick: Sonder Los Angeles Motley Cutting Board ($$)
4. Measuring cups and spoons
Did Mary Poppins mean a teaspoon of sugar or a tablespoon? Either way, having measuring tools is essential for following almost any recipe — or just portioning out serving sizes. Who knew a cup of cereal was so small?!
- Price range: $2.99–$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Prepworks from Progressive International Ultimate 19-Piece Measuring Cup and Spoon Set ($)
5. Kitchen shears
Used for everything from chopping fresh herbs and vegetables to slicing dried fruit and even meat, shears make every kitchen task so much easier. Take that, regular scissors!
- Price range: $2.99–$79.95
- Editors’ pick: Crate and Barrel Kitchen Shears ($)
Though it’s possible to drain pasta using a pot lid, the result isn’t always pretty. (Jump-cut to rogue noodles escaping and burning yourself on hot steam.) Avoid this drama by using 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–$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Cook Pro Stainless Steel Colander ($)
7. 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 be prepared — ’cause you don’t want to have to hack into a can slasher-film-style just to make dinner.
- Price range: $1.49–$29.99
- Editors’ pick: Amco Swing-A-Way Portable Can Opener ($)
8. 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–$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids ($)
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–$600
- Editors’ pick: Nutribullet Blender Combo ($$$)
Graters are most commonly used to shred cheese — quesadilla, anyone?
But they’re also wonderful for zesting citrus fruit, grating chocolate, and shredding vegetables like potatoes and zucchini. How else did you think hash browns came to be?
- Price range: $0.99–$49.99
- Editors’ pick: Thetis Homes 6-Sided Cheese Grater ($)
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 this one.)
- Price range: $0.99–$34.99
- Editors’ pick: Oxo Good Grips 11-Inch Better Balloon Whisk ($)
12. Vegetable peeler
Peeling veggies with a knife: Top Chef status. Peeling veggies with a peeler: just as good, minus the likelihood of an ER visit.
Spare your fingers and stick to this tool, which serves as a master potato peeler and a fancy veggie ribbons creator. Peelers are also great for shaving off pieces of hard cheeses, like Parmesan.
- Price range: $6.99–$29.99
- Editors’ pick: UberChef Ultra Sharp Stainless Steel Julienne Peeler & Vegetable Peeler ($)
13. Rolling pin
A rolling pin is a must-have if you love making dough (the kind you bake with, anyway). This kitchen staple will help create perfectly flattened crust for pies and pizzas. It’ll also come in handy for making holiday cookies.
Tip: When rolling, use a pin that’s longer than the width of the dough. This will help ensure it’s even.
- Price range: $4.99–$59.99
- Editors’ pick: Ateco 19-Inch Length Maple Wood Rolling Pin ($)
14. Food processor
It may be a bit bulky to haul off the pantry shelf, but a food processor takes the elbow grease out of innumerable kitchen tasks.
This workhorse can chop vegetables, purée soups, make fresh pesto or salsas, grind nuts, and whip up homemade breadcrumbs in seconds. Nobody puts the food processor in the corner!
- Price range: $14.99–$199
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart 11-Cup Food Processor ($$$)
15. Food scale
Whether measuring meal portions or baking your next masterpiece, food scales provide a more precise measurement than cups and spoons alone. Once you start using one, you may wonder how you ever got by without!
- Price range: $24.99–$49.95
- Editors’ pick: Ozeri Pro Digital Food Scale ($)
Whether you call it a flipper, a turner, or a spatula, this tool is surprisingly flexible. It can scramble eggs, flip pancakes, stir sauces, and more.
- Price range: $4.99–$54.99
- Editors’ pick: Rachael Ray 2-Piece Spatula Set ($)
Don’t let the name fool you; saucepans aren’t just for sauces. From simmering soups to making quinoa, a saucepan will quickly become one of your most-used items (if it isn’t already).
- Price range: $14.99– $129.99
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless Steel ($)
18. 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, sauce is less likely to spill all over the place.
- Price range: $19.99–$299.99
- Editors’ pick: Calphalon Nonstick Deep Saute Pan With Lid ($$$)
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’re 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 ($)
20. 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, remove the aluminum foil — no washing necessary!
- Price range: $2.99–$49.99
- Editors’ pick: Farberware Nonstick Cookie Sheet ($)
21. Oven mitts
We’ve seen enough burned fingers to know not everyone has mitts lying around. Use these to protect both you and your kitchen from the wrath of a hot oven. (Yes, they’re actually more effective than a kitchen towel.)
- Price range: $2.99–$19.99
- Editors’ pick: Nouvelle Flame Retardant Quilted Oven Mitts ($)
22. 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 ($)
23. Dutch oven
No, we’re not talking about the stinky prank your brother used to pull on you. 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–$400
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 7-Quart Round Covered Casserole ($$)
24. 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–$29.99
- Editors’ pick: Wilton 3-Tier Collapsible Cooling Rack ($)
25. 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 indoors. It may not impart the same smoky flavor, but 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–$99.95
- Editors’ pick: Calphalon Contemporary 11-Inch Nonstick Griddle
26. Potato masher
Though it may not see as much action as other kitchen tools, a potato masher is vital for making lump-free potatoes… as anyone who’s attempted to make mashed taters with a fork will agree.
For even more plant-based goodness, use this tool to mash beans for bean burgers, or avocados for guacamole.
- Price range: $0.99–$24.99
- Editors’ pick: KitchenAid Gourmet Stainless Steel Wire Masher ($)
Wok this way to get your stir-fry on! The high sides of this Asian-style pan mean you can stir and flip food without fear of anything escaping onto the stovetop.
Tip: For best results, preheat a wok before adding the oil.
- Price range: $14.99–$89.99
- Editors’ pick: 12-Inch Green Earth Wok by Ozeri ($)
28. 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–$49.99
- Editors’ pick: Kizen Instant-Read Meat Thermometer ($)
No more hoarding forks and knives from local takeout joints — you’re movin’ on up!
If you’re 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.
Hint: The fork always goes on the left.
- Price range: $14.99–$149.99
- Editors’ pick: Gingko International Lafayette 20-Piece Flatware Set, Service for 4 ($)
It sounds pretty basic, but yeah, we’re gonna go there: If you’re a grown-up, ya need plates!
Not only do real plates make delivery pizza feel gourmet, they can also be an extension of your personal style. If you’re feeling extra fancy, get yourself a set of both dinner and salad-sized options.
- Price range: $9.99–$199.99
- Editors’ pick: Certified International Radiance Teal Melamine 10.5-Inch Dinner Plate ($)
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–$89.99
- Editors’ pick: Annovero Porcelain Cereal Bowls ($)
We won’t tell if you prefer guzzling milk and juice from the carton, but there is a more civilized way of drinking beverages.
Sticking to glass prevents the leaks that sometimes accompany Solo cups — and makes you feel that much more adult.
- Price range: $9.99–$89.99
- Editors’ pick: Bormioli Rocco Glassware Set of 4 ($)
While mugs may conjure up visions of sipping morning joe, they’re more than a coffee-delivery vessel.
When the dishwasher or sink is full, they make great stand-in glasses, and they’re perfect for concocting quick and easy mug cakes.
- Price range: $0.99–$29.99
- Editors’ pick: Stone & Mill Double Wall Insulated Glass Espresso Mugs, Set of 4 ($)
34. Salad bowl
These larger 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.
- Price range: $5.99–$64.99
- Editors’ pick: Lipper International Cherry Wavy Rim Bowl ($)
35. 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. Then bat your eyes and accept the compliments on your cooking.
- Price range: $9.99–$79.99
- Editors’ pick: Euro Ceramica Zanzibar 3-Piece Bowl Set ($$)
36. Serving plates
Use serving plates to showcase food and make it easy to dig in. A large oval serving plate is essential for large meats and heaps of roasted vegetables, while specialized ones like cake serving platters are more specific.
Tip: Stick to a lower price point if you don’t host large-scale gatherings often.
- Price range: $9.99–$99.99
- Editors’ pick: Denby Halo Oval Platter ($$)
37. 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.
- Price range: $1.99–$64.99
- Editors’ pick: Lu Cucina 6-Piece Stainless Steel Cooking and Serving Spoon Set ($)
These claw-like tools are crazy-versatile. They can 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–$19.95
- Editors’ pick: Winco UT-12 Coiled Spring Utility Tongs ($)
39. Wine opener
There’s no point in stocking up on “Two-Buck Chuck” without an opener, right?
While you can find plenty of spendy wine openers, 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–$49.99
- Editors’ pick: HiCoup Ebony Wood All-In-One Corkscrew ($)
Nothing says homey quite like a big pitcher of a refreshing drink. It also eliminates the need to constantly refill guests’ glasses. Who wants some sangria? (*Raises hand.*)
- Price range: $1.99–$49
- Editors’ pick: Hiware 75-Ounce Glass Pitcher ($)
41. 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–$39.99
- Editors’ pick: Rubbermaid 14-Piece Leak-Proof Food Containers ($)
42. French press
The best part of waking up is coffee in your cup — and a French press makes it even better. Brewing is simple, the aroma is delicious, and it takes up much less room in the kitchen than a coffee maker.
- Price range: $12.99–$125
- Editors’ pick: Bodum French Press Coffee and Tea Maker ($)
If you live for hot beverages, the high-pitched whistle of the tea kettle isn’t annoying — it’s a siren song of warm, tasty goodness.
While your teapot of choice doesn’t have to be short and stout, it sure does help that it has a handle and a spout. This makes boiling water easier to pour (and easier for hands to avoid).
Tip: Heat water in the kettle to quickly cure ramen noodle cravings.
- Price range: $8.99–$59.99
- Editors’ pick: OXO Good Grips Classic Tea Kettle ($)
44. 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–$120.00
- Editors’ pick: Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Hand Blender ($)
Fresh-squeezed juice outdoes the bottled kind any day, elevating marinades, sauces, and homemade baked goods to something special and sweet.
When it comes to juicers, you can get as fancy as you want (helloooo, $100 extra-quiet, nutrient-extracting cold-press). But for day-to-day turning lemons into lemonade, all you need is a basic model.
- Price range: $15.99–100.00
- Editors’ pick: Proctor Silex Alex’s Lemonade Stand Citrus Juicer ($)
Last but not least on this list of essentials: the humble cooking apron. It’s there to protect you (and your clothes) in everything from a brownie batter spill to faucet spray come dish time.
While you can’t go wrong in classic black, we prefer to add a little more sass into our style. Our favorite one of the bunch says it all: this shit is going to be delicious.
- Price range: $15.99–100.00
- Editors’ pick: Miracu Kitchen Chef Cooking Apron ($)
Remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your kitchen stash won’t be either. To avoid total overwhelm, focus on getting one item on your wishlist at a time, master it, then move on to the next one.
As you gradually work your way to a solid collection of appliances and utensils, you’ll be ready for whatever cooking occasion comes your way — not to mention you’ll feel all kinds of fancy at your next dinner party.