Food

12 Pieces of Kitchen Gear I Can’t Live Without

12 Pieces of Kitchen Gear I Can't Live Without

I’ll never forget when I was about to move into my shoebox of a first apartment in New York City…

I was wandering the aisles of Crate & Barrel, coveting the glistening appliances and magical-sounding two-in-one items that I couldn’t afford, money-wise or space-wise. The mini waffle maker! The bagel slicer! The spoon that was also a spatula! The pasta pot that had the built-in strainer! I wanted everything — probably because I wanted the life that all of it seemed to represent.

Fast-forward a quarter century and all I want to do is simplify and downsize. The more I cook, the more I realize that I only need a few well-selected pieces of kitchen tools. Obviously the list would be different for, say, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef, but here is a list of workhorse gear I believe your average everyday home cook (me) absolutely cannot live without.

UTENSILS

Vegetable Peeler
No need to get all fancy with this one. A lightweight peeler (like the classic Kuhn Rikon), which is usually available at your local supermarket, is sharper and more nimble than any of the heftier, gussied-up models sold in kitchen speciality stores. I use mine for potatoes, carrots and (this time of year especially) stubbornly thick butternut squash skin.

Nesting Measuring Cups & Spoons
There’s a reason I call myself a cook rather than a baker — I am not terribly good at following recipes. Anyone who has ever winged it with, say, the amount of baking powder in a birthday cake knows this is not an ideal character trait. These measuring cups and spoons are the only thing separating improvisational, impatient me from baked good catastrophes.

Spatula & Tongs
Have you ever tried to make pancakes without a spatula? It’s not pretty. The key to a good one, at least in my opinion, is a short handle (better leverage) and a thin edge (easier to jam under a pancake or a piece of fish than a clunky silicone covered one). I prefer stainless steel to silicone because I don’t own chemically treated nonstick pans, whose surfaces steel tools can damage. Same with locking tongs (9-inch) which I use around the clock for dishes that require going back and forth between stirring and flipping, like, for instance, a chicken stir-fry.

Wooden Spoon
Until a recent trip to Goodwill, I had about a dozen of these, and then I realized I always reach for the same one — the spoon I’ve owned since I was a kid, which has worn wood, a skinny, easily grippable handle and a thin lip, making it more conducive for scooping and tasting. But this is one of those utensils where what’s right for me, might not be for you. You might like a thicker handle or a slicker wood. I recommend heading to a kitchen store to hold a few to see what feels good.

KNIVES

Paring Knife (4-inch)
For peeling and chopping fruits and vegetables. My husband bought me the 4-inch paring knife from Wusthof as a gift — it was the first piece of quality kitchen gear I ever owned and it’s still in perfect condition 25 years later. How would I ever make an apple crisp or a peach cobbler without one?

Chef’s Knife (6- or 8-inch)
For chopping, mincing, slicing and prepping meats, tofu, vegetables, chocolate, cheese, literally anything that is edible in your kitchen. This is the kind of kitchen tool you’ll use so often that it might be worth shopping for it in person to make sure it feels right in your hand. (Plus, a high-quality knife is expensive, so you want to be sure it’s as perfect as possible.) The ideal chef’s knife has heft without bulk and should feel like an extension of your arm. For me, that’s the 8-inch Miyabi. Is it an investment? Yes. But I’d be willing to bet its cost-per-chop ends up being much less than a penny over the course of its very long lifetime. Another option: The always dependable Wusthof 8-inch.

Serrated Bread Knife (9- or 10-inch)
This one is crucial for slicing baguettes, bagels and challahs, which in my house seems to be an hourly activity. The key here is the serrated edge which makes tearing through tough crusts and skins smoother and easier. I’m a big fan of Victorinox, which makes a pretty wood-handled 10-incher. (I also own a fleet of their baby serrated paring knives, which I use as silverware when steak or pork chops are on the menu.)

Knife Sharpener
A dull knife is a useless knife! A manual sharpener takes up very little space and will ensure you get the most out of your investments.

POTS

Medium Soup Pot (4-quart)
This is one of the two pots that have never seen the inside of a drawer or cabinet — it lives on the stovetop because I use it many times a day for: simmering vegetables and making polenta, risotto, rice, pasta, lentils. I like the Dansk Kobenstyle in particular because it’s beautiful, classic, its lid doubles as a trivet, and I grew up with one in my mom’s kitchen, so: nostalgia.

Cast Iron Skillet (10-inch)
Maybe the best deal going in cookware, a naturally nonstick cast iron skillet won’t set you back more than $20 and will last for years (even decades) if you take care of it. Ideal for searing steaks and chops, frying eggs, browning potatoes, sautéing vegetables, baking cornbread and cakes, it earns its keep and then some. Lodge brand is my go-to — I like the versatile 10-inch model because cast iron is heavy, and anything larger than that is a little too tricky for my weak wrists to handle. (And yes, this is the second pot that lives on the stovetop.)

Dutch Oven (5 1/2- to 7 1/4-quart) 
I love my dutch oven so much, it made the cover of my first book. I use it for large-batch soups, stocks, stews, braised meats and ragus, the kind of food that puts the happy in “happy home.” Our Le Creuset was a wedding gift (and is pricey because it will last a lifetime), but if you’re looking for something more affordable, Cuisinart’s Enameled Cast Iron 7-quart is a solid option.

What would you add? What are the kitchen tools you swear by?

P.S. 10 ingredients to always have on hand and nine cookbooks that earn their keep.

Note: If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. We recommend only products we genuinely like. Thank you so much.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Sheila C Murphy says...

    Jenny,
    I love this and your blog and book but I wonder–would you change the lineup at all if you lived alone? I have an entire cupboard of big anodized cookware I got as a wedding gift but I never use. I’d like to ditch them and have a mean little kitchen of the stuff I do use.
    For me a crucial item is my Le Creuset cast iron grill pan. Grilling for one isn’t worth it!

  2. Ana says...

    I loved the article but when I wanted to buy the Lodge skillet on Amazon, through your link, I read this disclaimer about the product.
    Legal Disclaimer :
    This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

    Is this real?

    • Melissa says...

      Lodge is a very reputable brand, I’ve never heard of it causing cancer before. My family has used Lodge for generations and we’ve only gotten skin cancer.

  3. The three workhorses in our kitchen: electric kettle, pressure cooker, stainless steel steamer

    I use them ALL the time, multiple times a day.

  4. Erin Goody says...

    I got my le creuset Dutch oven last year for my 30th birthday from my partner and it has been used for many loaves of easy, overnight crusty bread.
    I’m a former restaurant prep and line cook and I use my chef knife for almost every function requiring a sharp blade. I like to keep things simple in my home kitchen so I have a spice rasp that I use for zesting when I need it, a wooden spoon for anything happening on the stove, and I have a small nonstick pan that I use for eggs. Oh, and a small pot for rice and steamed veg.
    I have a kitchen aid mixer that I could probably give up as even when I bake nowadays it’s more of the rustic style.
    This was a fun thread, love reading through everyone else’s lists!

  5. Katherine Gerry says...

    This made me profoundly happy because I’ve been dying to know where that pot from Salt Fat Acid Heat could be found and now I know.

  6. Chelsea says...

    I am a professional chef and in a professional setting we keep the equipment pretty simple. We use a lot of big saucepots, sheetpans, and all clad sautepans. The robocoup food processor gets nearly constant use at work, a have one at home but don’t use it as much. At home I use
    A fish spautula, a rubber spatula (scraper), 10 inch chef knife-I have a vintage sebatier carbon steel knife for home and at work I use a Suisin Gyuto, a set of nested metal mixing bowls, 8 inch all clad saucier for all manner of sauces, reheating leftovers, or making hot chocolate. 10 inch cast iron skillet, a creuset Dutch oven, a large stockpot for pasta, a few 1/2 sheet pans and a few 1/4 sheetpans, I second the cheap y shaped peelers, they are the best!

    • Chelsea says...

      Ah! and the microplane! I buy these as Xmas gifts for everyone! A definite must have!

  7. Katie says...

    Hah, I could’ve written this list if only you’d swapped a Staub in for your Le Creuset! One thing I love that’s gadgety but takes up very little space is a chain mail stainless steel scrubber for our cast iron. It makes cleaning the pan so easy.

    • Katie says...

      Oh! And both quarter and half sheet size Nordicware Naturals baking sheets. They’re the only kind I’ve found that are as sturdy as the ones I remember my grandmother using, plus they aren’t nonstick (a plus in my book!).

  8. SR says...

    My Microplane!!! holy heck, I love it so much <3
    My dutch cheese slicer, because it works so well and it reminds me of my mom and my Oma (who are both from NL).
    My stainless steel bench scraper for picking up chopped veg and working with dough, mine has ruler markings on it so it's extra gooooood.

  9. Microplane + non-stick pan for all that garlic, parm and eggs….the 3 most critical ingredients ever <3

  10. Lisa says...

    Le Creuset non stick frying pan. We got one after years of cheap cookware that had to be binned because 1. My husband doesn’t believe in the whole no metal utensils for non stick coating and 2. We just ruined them.
    It’s been 3.5 years now of constant use and it looks exactly the same as the day we bought it. It hears evenly, stuff doesn’t stick, easy to wash. It’s amazing. So worth it

  11. Rob Phillips says...

    I use ”hard plastic pot scrapers” for getting the “stuck on’s” off before washing. Just go to amazon and search
    “hard plastic pot scrapers”.
    They do NO damage to your seasoned pan or cookie sheets.

  12. Aimee says...

    Also, I could probably google this, but, how do you cook sticky things like eggs in a stainless steel pan? Tons and tons of butter or oil? Don’t they stick to the sides and bottom?

    • Katie says...

      I don’t own any nonstick pans, so we use both a cast iron skillet and a carbon steel one. Once they’re well-seasoned, they do just fine with eggs as long as you use a good amount (not tons) of butter or oil. They’re occasionally a bit stickier, but not enough to make me wish for a nonstick pan.

  13. Aimee says...

    Those Crate and Barrel glass nesting bowls. We were talked in to them by a sales person and use them at least twice a week. And a metal colander.

  14. Tracy Brown says...

    Oh my! We literally have an use every, single thing in that pic above!! Such important elements!!

  15. Mims says...

    Wide mouth mason jars and a canning funnel to fill with!

    I use mason jars for everything! storing dry food: beans, grains, flours, etc. I use them for whipping up sauces, smoothies, pancake or crepe batter (just insert your immersion blender…and then serve, and store in them.) I store leftovers too…soup, cooked beans, etc . the canning funnel makes the transfer/filling way easier. I use daily.

    • Lisa says...

      I use mason jars also but you have given me so many more ideas so thank you!

  16. L says...

    Yes to ALL the cast iron pieces! We’ve been slowly increasing our cast iron collection since we were newlyweds out of college. Although that Dansk pan has me rethinking my next pan.

    I’d add my crossback linen apron, which keeps my clothes protected from splashes, and a set of small glass ramekins, so practical for holding or serving small quantities of things.

  17. Ari says...

    Collander!!! Wok, 9×9 covered pyrex, microplane grater

    • caitlin says...

      Micro planners changed my life.

  18. Jeanne says...

    A mixer! If you can afford it, and have enough room, a Kitchen Aid mixer is luxurious (and you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get one!)

  19. Cynthia says...

    My husband bought some Wusthof knives for us this spring and 2 knife set for each of our daughters. We love them. The handles are balanced and they cut beautifully. Williams-Sonoma periodically has them on sale.

  20. Caroline says...

    Can we talk about wooden spoons and sanitizing? I love mine, but because they’re porous, I wonder if soap and water is enough to make sure bacteria doesn’t grow.. But dishwashing ruins them. …

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I’ve been known to wash them in the dishwasher, but, as you know this is not recommended because the dry cycle dries out the wood. Hot soapy water and some elbow grease should do the job.

    • Courthey says...

      We wash ours in the dishwasher and even use the sanitize setting. We run ours every night right after dinner and don’t use the dry setting, and unload it in the morning. It works pretty well! The wooden spoons hold up and by morning most things are dry.

    • Jane says...

      Tannins in wood naturally antibacterial
      Or so I choose to believe!

  21. Sarah says...

    Vitamix! The only way I get my kids to eat veggies is if I blend them up!

  22. BR says...

    Can you do an entire post on cast iron skillets? I have over 10 from my dad and have no idea how to cook or clean them. HELP.

    • Rob says...

      First do a good seasoning about every two years.
      Heat your skillet spray with canola oil wait minute. Add some oil, I use canola, cook to desired doneness. Let cool wash with scrubber sponge, dry it and then give it a light spay again and wipe with a paper towel. Done

    • Kimmie says...

      Bon Appetit did an amazing podcast episode on cast iron pans that I have kept to refer back to.

      The episode is called “Cast-Iron Skillets are forever”

  23. Betsy says...

    Love this list, and reading all of the comments. My favorite kitchen item is my Joseph Joseph slotted spoon. It is literally an obsession of mine. All of my friends know about this obsession, and I cannot say I haven’t bought each of them one as a present. It has been such a versatile tool. I love that the end is straight enough to do some scrapping if necessary. I just bought my third one, so I have an extra spare one. This baby is used every day at my house. Y’all should definitely add one to your collection. I promise you will not be disappointed.

    https://www.amazon.com/Joseph-10168-Elevate-Integrated-One-Size/dp/B07FMFD65J/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=JOSEPH+JOSEPH+SLOTTED+SPOON&qid=1571329035&sr=8-4

    • Betsy says...

      Also want to give a special shout out to my Doughmaker’s brand bakeware. LOVE them so much as well. I have 2 of the cookie sheets, couple of the 10 X 15 pans(they call it a jelly roll pan). 2 pizza pan, bread pan, couple of the square baking pans, 9 X 13 pan with lid. I’m sure I have other’s I cannot think of offhand. Originally bought as a “special” at a local Jr. League holiday mart years ago. Loved them so much, I bought a bunch more the next year. Sadly, they don’t come to the holiday mart anymore, but good old Amazon to the rescue if i ever need to replace them. I’ve had them at least 10-12 years and going strong.

  24. Marny says...

    I would add a rasp or microplane. I find it indispensable for grating lemon zest, nutmeg, ginger, garlic…etc. I’m also super into my DONABE which is a Japanese clay cooking vessel. Well worth the investment.

  25. Kelcey says...

    Many of our go-to kitchen essentials are actually hand-me-downs from family members, which is sweet, because as as en enthusiastic home cook, I’m reminded of my loved ones regularly. Growing up, I learned a lot about food from my godfather’s Italian mama. She passed away a few years ago, and after the services, when people were back at her house, my godfather asked if there was anything I wanted to remember her by. I selected a few wooden spoons from her kitchen, and now I am reminded of Nonna every time I cook!

  26. Angela says...

    The workhorses in our kitchen are a digital meat thermometer (why did I wait so long to buy one!), a Le Creuset 5 qt round braiser (we use it daily as one would a frying pan), and nice dish cloths- (again why not buy the ones you love). I think I saw the meat thermometer here and it has been one of those major life improvements, since my husband is unable to tell when anything is done cooking, like not even a frozen pizza! It has given us both the confidence to call meat done and stop over-cooking out of fear.

    • Tracy Brown says...

      Agreed on the thermometer!

  27. asia says...

    I love the Dansk pot for its looks (I have it in white) but I have scorched things in it! I am learning it’s best for saucy things (like the DALs pork ragu, which I’ve made many times). Your post reminds me that a Le Creuset (or similar) enameled Dutch oven may ALSO be necessary–and they are always on sale at TJ Maxx!

  28. Julie says...

    -my fish spatula
    -wooden spoons, one rounded, one with a flat bottom (great for getting the fond off the bottom of a pan when making a sauce)
    -bench scraper
    -my Dutch oven. Fall and winter are my favorites because I use this bad boy to make EVERYTHING. So. Much. Braising!
    -Cast iron skillet. Nothing makes a better steak.
    -Baking sheets.
    -My Wusthof 8 inch knife. If it ever dies on my I will be devastated, I take it down the shore with me, rental homes never have good knives. I also bring spices when I travel, because I’m crazy.

  29. deannagabriel says...

    Can I give a shout out to my ceramic citrus squeezer? An unconventional choice, but I’ve got some pretty tough eczema on my hands and this makes adding citrus to things so pleasant! I also feel like I get more of the juice out!

    Also, second those who have said sheet pans (so versatile) and a good knife set (mine are Wusthof). I’m forever reaching for my hollow edge Santoku, but the chef’s knife gets plenty of use, too. Like many here, I also have a couple non-stick frying pans that I use. I’m not crazy about the chemical risk, but cast iron is just too heavy for me for every day use. I have some beloved All-Clad ones that I replace when at the first sign of wear. While they’re not the least expensive, they work, hold up pretty well, and I feel like I get my money’s worth.

  30. Marnie says...

    These are great! As a small kitchen owner, I would add:

    Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press – my friend swears it reduced post-dinner bickering by 50% since it is so easy to clean!

    Cuisinart immersion blender with chopper – I use the chopper for nuts etc but mostly to blend up quick sauces/dressings with miso, tahini, garlic, ginger etc – way easier to clean than a blender or giant food processor.

    Sheet pans – good ones that don’t warp! I use constantly for roasting veg as well as freezing batch-cooked beans before bagging them.

    Microplane – love me some lemon zest, and the box grater just didn’t cut it!

    Happy cooking!

  31. Jennifer says...

    Cutting board. Kitchen scale. Decent corkscrew. A Dutch oven is worth every penny at full price. However, because they last forever, you can often find them at garage sales/estate sales/secondhand stores. There’s a particular pleasure in making a stew in a beautiful red Dutch oven I bought for $5 at a garage sale over ten years ago…

  32. Lauren E. says...

    I fully support this list! Although I don’t use my cast iron skillet nearly as much as I’d like. It’s just such a pain to clean.

    I’ll also add that you don’t need any type of fancy cutting board. I’ve used the super basic plastic ones and simple wooden ones – you just need a wet paper towel underneath to secure it.

  33. Great list! I’d add a microplane, a can opener, and good cutting boards. I teach knife skills occasionally, and can’t remember the last time I used anything but the chef’s knife.

  34. Sara says...

    I would add a rimmed half sheet baking pan, silicone spatulas (the kind to scrape bowl sides down), my kitchen scale, and a digital thermometer.

  35. Karen says...

    My most prized kitchen essential is my Magnus Lundstrom cutting board. It was recommended from Deb/Smitten Kitchen. It’s made of walnut, and measures 18×26 – an ideal size. Plus it’s thin, so it’s easy to clean and move around (though mine lives in my “cooking corner” of the kitchen). I am diligent about conditioning it, and do so often – my husband jokes that there’s no one else in the world who tends to her cutting boards as much as I do – ha! I use organic mineral oil, and a homemade cutting board conditioner (in solid format) that is made from melted organic beeswax pellets and mineral oil.
    https://magnuslundstrom.com/products/cutting-board

    My favorite spatula is made by Winco and just $7 off Amazon – I use this every day. We have two of them, and I’ve been known to gift them too!
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B003HEOLXI/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  36. Sarah says...

    In addition to these tools, my microplane, garlic press, lemon juicer, and stand mixer make my life easier. I also have a nice, sturdy sheet pan that’s my go-to for roasting vegetables or baking cookies.

    Things I’d like to add to my collection:
    – a medium-sized wok – the one I have is enormous and we never use it, but with our regular large pan, sometimes veggies escape over the sides
    – a large, sturdy wooden cutting board
    – a waffle iron – I had one but I think it got lost in my last move, and sometimes you just crave a waffle!
    – a hand mixer – because sometimes you just want to mix up frosting and not pull out the heavy stand mixer. But I need a sturdy one of these too, as I just haven’t replaced my last one after the beater broke.

  37. K says...

    I was thinking about this the other day, but as soon as I saw this post, I drew a blank on what was mine!

    I’d say I agree with the chef’s knife for sure and the skillet. An iron skillet is so versatile it makes me so happy! It’s photogenic and can slide between the stove and oven.

    I think I’d add long chopsticks (tongs and stirrers and doneness checkers in one) and a wok. A wok’s shape is perfect for anything because the curve prevents spillage. stir frying, frying , soups, stews, in addition to anything you’d do in a pan.

  38. Hannah says...

    What I absolutely love: my Fissler pressure cooker. I inherited it from my mom – it’s probably almost as old as me, but it works great. I cook stews, goulash and roulades with it, make pumpkin purree in a matter of minutes, or soups that would usually take hours in about 30 minutes. I have a small and a big one.

    Other than that, my favourite kitchen appliance is my Kitchen Aid. I got it for my 30th birthday and have not looked back.

  39. Sasa says...

    I use all the above, plus my salad spinner every day. I hate soggy lettuce or greens and don’t want to go through lots of teatowels or papertowels. I had a crappy one and realised I use it at least twice a day (for smoothie greens in the a.m then salad or herbs in the evening) so invested in a good one. Cost per use is looooow.

  40. Couldn’t live without my microplane grater! Wasted zest is a crime!

  41. Helen says...

    Staub cast iron gratin dishes
    Benrin slicer
    Kuhn Rikon garlic press
    Tovolo Flex-Core Silicone Blender Spatula
    Cast iron skillet

  42. Christine says...

    Sheet pans, yes! I also use my magic bullet blender (smoothies, dressing, grind coffee beans) almost daily. I got an Instant Pot 2 years ago and use it surprisingly often-several times a week. I use it for rice, steel cut oats, shredded chicken or beef recipes. It takes us room, yes, but it gets a lot of use.

    Oh, a couple of Pyrex containers with lids. Good for heating up leftovers in microwave

  43. Mia says...

    Agree with (and own) everything on the list. I’d add a silpat, rimmed baking tray and immersion blender (not the vitamix I wish it was but it blends soups, sauces, baby food and smoothies.)

  44. Karin says...

    Forgot to add:: rice cooker. Game changer, no more watching the rice, no more burned rice, No more ruined pots,,, perfect rice every time.

  45. Katie says...

    Genuinely wondering how one gets through life with those knives and no cutting board?

  46. Irene says...

    Kitchen shears–I have a pair I purchased when I was an exchange student in Germany 30 years ago (!) and they are still going strong. Use it for everything from cutting pizza to removing bits of chicken fat. Mine come apart for easy cleaning.
    Staub dutch oven–I prefer the dark enamel and the spikes on the inside of the lid, as well as the metal knob, on the Staub vs the LeCreuset. Although I certainly wouldn’t turn down a LeCreuset if someone gave it to me!
    Global knives–very hygienic all one-piece Japanese knives. You need to get a Japanese knife sharpener for these, though.
    Epicurean cutting boards–non-plastic, rugged, easy on knives, and look great.
    Silicone spatulas–the ones that are one solid piece of silicone.
    Thermapen thermometer–I have the Classic, which works just as well and is a bit cheaper than the famed MK4.

  47. Laurel says...

    All of the above and a digital scale! I use mine every day.

  48. Kate says...

    After a moment of confusion, I’m now 99% sure that here in Canada, what Americans would refer to as a “spatula” we simply call, in all honesty, a “flipper”

    I was trying to imagine flipping a pancake with the rubbery thing one uses to scrape down the sides of a bowl full of batter (you know what I mean, a spatula)

    How do you folks differentiate between a flippy spatula and a floppy spatula?

    • Allison says...

      Haha I’ve had this conversation with people “why do these things have the same name?!”. I guess it’s like a lot of other English words, context is key.

  49. Jill says...

    A fine mesh strainer for rinsing beans/lentils/rice, and for sifting flour!

  50. Amy says...

    My Rösle garlic press!!

  51. Katie says...

    While I was reading your post, I realized I have a question for your series. I really want to get away from Teflon, but I don’t know how to cook eggs or pancakes without sticking horribly if I’m not using Teflon. I’m oddly intimidated by cast iron, but from what I just read, I’m guessing you’re going to say that cast iron is the way to go…? I’d love any tips – I’d like to make my current Teflon coated pan the last one that I buy!

    • Christina says...

      Before putting anything in your cast iron skillet, heat up some oil in it until the oil is really hot. You can see how it looks thinner. This way there is oil burnt into the skillet. Let it cool a bit and then you can start frying. Nothing will stick as long as you continue adding a little oil once the skillet looks dry, such as a little between each pancake (I’m talking European thin pancakes). Afterwards, when cleaning, don’t use any soap, just really hot water. You might need a scrape but usually not.
      Our cast iron skillets are old and I use them for everything.

    • chelsea says...

      We recently got a Field cast iron skillet and it has dramatically reduced our teflon pan usage. (My husband is very devoted to his french omelets so we still keep one teflon pan just for those. Eventually he’ll probably be able to make them without needing the teflon pan. Fingers crossed!) We had lodge cast iron pans for years but weren’t very successful with working them into our daily cooking. The Field skillets are more expensive than Lodge, but much lighter and I think a bit smoother. We find they’re much easier to use day-to-day. We loved our first Field skillet so much we got another bigger one, and recommend them highly to all our friends.

    • Lizzie says...

      We make eggs and pancakes in stainless steel! There is usually a little left on the pan but nothing hot soapy water and steel wool can’t get off

    • Adriane says...

      This is my dedicated omelette pan! (I got mine at the hardware store) I have other cast iron pans I use for cooking meat or stirfrys, but I find if I keep this one dedicated solely to omelettes they come out perfect every time! (I can’t say the same for scrambled eggs though, those do stick a little which requires some cleaning with a metal scrubber and water.
      https://www.williams-sonoma.com/m/products/lodge-seasoned-steel-skillet/?cm_cat=Google&sku=2001055&catalogId=69&cm_ite=2001055&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5t2_m9Gk5QIVBojVCh0fxgABEAQYAyABEgK9ZfD_BwE&cm_ven=PLA&cm_pla=Cookware%20%3e%20Fry%20Pans%20%26%20Skillets
      Chain mail scrubber, great for cleaning cast iron pans!
      https://www.amazon.com/Cusfull-Premium-Stainless-Chainmail-Scrubber/dp/B01H1AQGVI/ref=asc_df_B01H1AQGVI/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167152462925&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=5815930581331779638&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9002860&hvtargid=pla-305941095488&psc=1

    • Jo B. says...

      Chelsea, where did you buy your Field skillet?

    • Maria says...

      I found the switch intimidating too, but now I prefer the cast iron (Lodge) and steel pan (Mineral B De Buyer) I own. I use them both for everything, even eggs and pancakes and crepes. The steel pan took less time to get a good coating than the cast iron, but both need time breaking in.

  52. Carrie says...

    Garlic press! Mincing garlic cloves by hand is horrible. I bought a heavy duty one at Williams Sonoma and have #noregrets.

  53. Beth says...

    I love this! I am always reaching for my pair of really good scissors—I use them all the time because I’m that girl that can’t open a single thing and it makes cutting up food for kids so easy. Another useful thing is a salt cellar…because salt is everything.

    • Betsy says...

      Beth,

      What scissors do you use? I’ve been on the hunt for a good pair, but have decision paralysis.

      Thanks!

  54. Lora says...

    I bought myself a Le Creuset pot as a splurge gift to myself after a budding relationship imploded in a most impressive fashion. I feel like my brain has to squint to remember his name (Bryan/Brian?) but I have a clear memory of how happy I was driving home from the store with that pot. No knead bread! Soups! Looks pretty on the stove! I still congratulate 26-year-old Lora for that splurge; it looks gorgeous and works perfectly nearly a decade later.

    • Love your comment! I’ve had my Le Crueset dutch oven for almost 10 years and it still looks amazing! They are worth the investment!

  55. Mamakate says...

    Wow, I have basically narrowed it down to those items as well but would add my microplane /zester, citrus juicer, and slotted spoon! It’s fun to look back and see how over the years I have come to use the same kitchen tools over and over. So many wonderful meals….

  56. I would add a salad spinner and handheld mandoline. We are big salad people over here, so fresh greens from the farmer’s market and thinly shaved/sliced veggies are everything!

    When I first met my now-husband, he insisted on using his salad spinner to wash our greens. I thought of it as a useless, cumbersome “gadget” that only took up space. Fast-forward 10 years later, and I’m a convert! It saves so much time and cleans our greens way better than I would be able to/have the patience for. It also encourages us to buy fresh, loose greens rather than the pre-washed kind that come in those plastic shells. Less waste with the added benefit of supporting our farmers!

  57. Amy says...

    I saw green onions in the illustration and thought “yes, green onions are a kitchen tool I cannot live without.” My fridge is always stocked with them! :)

    Though not a tool I use everyday and not one I bought myself (it was a wedding gift), I am surprised at how convenient a strawberry huller is. Cuts down on waste and time.

  58. Rosie says...

    Cheese grater and a silicone spatula. I use both at least once a day if not more. I truly don’t understand how anyone can function without a spatula.

  59. wait wait… I can use a metal spatula on my cast iron skillet?

    • Emma says...

      oh hell yeah!

  60. Jan says...

    Great list!

  61. J Ray says...

    Immersion blender and griddle/grill pan for pancakes. I also agree with the microplane, handheld grater, garlic press, pizza cutter!

  62. M says...

    Large metal baking sheets. Great for roasting anything and everything. I use mine year round.

  63. Deb in Oklahoma says...

    I was fortunate enough to get a Le Creuset Dutch Oven at a silent auction about 10 years ago for all of $18. Seriously. Brand new, in box, with all the paper inserts and labels attached. That was one of my greatest purchases ever and sits on the stove almost year-round.

    And I lucked out one day at Ikea and got an 18/10 Stainless Steel fry pan (with lid!) for less than $30 about 5 years ago, and it gets used almost daily. It’s one of the best cook pans I’ve ever used. I even got rid of a bunch of non-stick pans because the finishes were getting scratched, and I would rather have the Stainless, anyway.

    • Martini says...

      Now you’re cookin’!

  64. Janelle says...

    agree with this list — anything else is personal preference.

    I would love to switch to cast iron, but I can’t get over the no-soap high maintenance cleaning aspects. Would love to know how people REALLY keep these pans. Seem like it would be a dust magnet.

    • Rob phillips says...

      I’ve got a slew of cast pans cook everything and thenwash them in soapy water daily rinse very well spray with canola wipe store is my workflow. A cheap HARD PLASTIC scraper is the cleanup savior, it knocks off stubborn bits in a jiffy. And if you’re worried about it being a dust magnet fuggetabout it, it will sweep out with your next cooking, which is daily.

    • Anna says...

      We use our cast iron pan a lot so we keep it out on our cook top but it’s never long enough between uses for it to collect dust.

      Tbh, we rarely clean it! We mostly use it to fry eggs/onions/make pancakes so we just wipe out excess grease when we’re done and that’s it. I think that’s why it has such a good non-stick surface!

  65. Mouse says...

    In addition to everything listed, mortar and pestle. Microplane. Fish spatula. Potato masher thingy if you don’t have an immersion blender. (Love my immersion blender) Bench scraper!

  66. Kristin says...

    Wow, I have every item listed! Makes me feel like I have my s#&t together. In addition, I could not live without my microplane zester and those good white OXO cutting boards.

    • Emily says...

      Yes to the microplaner! I never thought much about them until I got one in my stocking one year and now I use it ALL the time.

  67. Carrie Jones says...

    My slicer and chopper, both from pampered chef! And my wide, plastic spatula. Much better for fried eggs than a metal spatula

  68. Mekhala says...

    I can’t live without my pizza cutter! I use it to cut everything into bite size pieces for my kids!

    • Kara says...

      I learned the BEST pizza-cutting life hack from my friend’s mom years ago: kitchen shears! I have a decent pair (from Home Goods, I think? bargain), and use them for cutting pizza, quesadillas, lettuce, herbs, you name it! I only use them for food, so they live in my kitchen utensil drawer and can go in the dishwasher. Aside from being super-easy to use, they don’t drag all of the cheese off of a hot pizza the way pizza cutter or a knife sometimes does. try it!

    • Adel says...

      Pizza tray! My kids use it so often for homemade pizza and it can also be used to warm up any sort of bread that could benefit from extra crispiness.

    • Sarah says...

      My cooking tools are minimal, too. People are always commenting that my kitchen is so organized, and I tell them it’s only because we keep so few things! I never seem to need more. The exception are my baking tools. I bake frequently and now have cake, bread, bundt, and tart pans of all sizes and shapes… Phew, they take up so much space! But I love and use them, so they stay.

  69. Ali says...

    Lodge makes a Dutch oven for about $60 and it is great! I think mine is 5 quarts which is as big as I can hold to wash it, they’re so heavy. I also have the shallow braiser. I really think they’re just as good as le creuset! Although, the color choices are not nearly as extensive.

    • Cyn says...

      Me too! Love my Lodge dutch oven. That’s my pot that never sees the inside of a cabinet. Also use my kitchen shears daily.

    • jdp says...

      totally agreed! i have both le creuset and lodge and happily reach for either…

  70. riye says...

    I would add a silicon colander that stores flat. Great for my tiny studio kitchen. The one I got can also be used as a funnel, which comes in handy with leftover sauces and soups.

    Another vote for the dutch oven–I have a Le Creuset (it was a gift) and use it all the time even though it feels like a cross-fit workout when I’m heaving it around the kitchen. :-)

    • Whitney says...

      I invested in several Shun knives during a short stint in retail during college. Twelves years later I am still thrilled with my (discounted) purchases!
      Also, a whisk. I love a good whisk.
      And my 4qt Pyrex bowl with a lid that I use to mix everything from bread dough to a family-sized salad.

  71. Angela says...

    Can someone tell me what knife they like for chopping tomatoes? I know I need a serrated knife – is there a serrated paring knife out there?

  72. Mara says...

    One of my favorite tools is Williams Sonoma’s slotted stainless steel fish spatula… because while I don’t cook fish, I use it for SO many things! Flipping pancakes/crepes, scooping warm cookies off the tray, tossing fries mid-bake (and when serving too), cooking eggs… just so many uses. I love how thin the spatula is. In addition, I’m a huge peanut butter enthusiast and a mini spatula (with straight, firm edges) for getting into jars without gumming up every butter knife has been very useful too.

  73. mado says...

    One question: I really want to switch to non-plastic spatulas but I thought that metal would scratch cast-iron and therefore isn’t a good idea?

    • Jeanne says...

      I use a good old fashioned metal, hamburger flipper, the kind you see used at greasy spoon diners for pancakes and slinging hash. I’m super hard on my cast iron, using the flipper to scrape off charred bits. The cast iron is still doing amazing. In case you might be thinking of non-stick pans, I wouldn’t use any metal on that.

    • Madie says...

      It’s ok to use metal in a cast-iron pan, but not in a non-stick coated pan.
      This is a great article about the realities (vs myths!) of Cast Iron (love that Kenji Lopez-Alt!)

    • alexis says...

      The metal may scratch enamel (like the interior of my Dutch oven) but should be fine on cast iron.

  74. Laura says...

    Like you, we couldn’t live without our 10″ cast iron pan and our Staub dutch oven. We also recently got a garlic press, and wow, I don’t know why we didn’t do this sooner. Sure, chopping garlic is not that hard, but having the press is a game changer! We also use our Wusthof chefs knife every darned day!

  75. Tarah says...

    agreed with everything you listed here. i’d only add a garlic press! #garlicpresseschangelives

  76. kate says...

    Would you consider a tutorial on frying an egg in a cast iron skillet? I consider myself to be a fairly proficient cook and the volume of eggs I can eat is astounding. However, I typically use (gasp) non-stick pans due to my legitimate fear of egg stick-age. thank you!

    • Karissa says...

      I don’t know about cast iron, but I had the same fear regarding our nice stainless skillet! I dreaded cooking eggs in it. Until I learned to really heat up the pan before use and voila! No stickage. I use generous olive oil and heat on medium high until the oil shimmers and moves as fluidly as water. I scramble most of the time and I call them my 12-second eggs! I literally have to have my plate or bowl of chopped romaine ready because once in the pan, they are 12-seconds of constant stirring to JUST cooked perfection. A hot pan is your friend!

    • dana says...

      Yes! I need this too.

    • Yeah the thought of frying an egg in my cast iron is terrifying!!!

    • Liz says...

      Add fat and you’ll be fine! Also, I dont always add fat and it’s just a teeny bit more clean up if it sticks, no big deal. However we have a very well seasoned cast iron after 15 years of every day use which I suppose may make a difference.

    • Steph says...

      Butter is the key! 😉

    • Tiffani says...

      I would add kitchen shears, small silicone whisks, small rubber spatulas-not the flipping, the scraping the inside of the pot kind, and an immersion blender. Pureed soups were such a messy chore until I invested in an immersion blender.

  77. Lauren says...

    I am a big proponent of simplifying kitchen gear as much as possible, but I do have one gadget that I use almost every day: herb scissors. It’s like 5 sets of scissors stacked together and in one motion, they chop your herbs so effortlessly. I use them to quickly toss chives on top of soups and chilis, snip basil and parsley into salads, and anywhere that’s calling for a lot of chopped greens. While it may not be the most gourmand approach, they certainly get me inspired to use the *whole* bunch of cilantro, every time!

    • jdp says...

      seconded, but with regular kitchen scissors rather than the herb kind. i use regular kitchen scissors several times a day at least, to include quickly chopping up herbs in a mug or snipping ingredients into a pan.

      one more add to the workhorse list — a cheese grater. i use two kinds for parmesan all the time — a handheld style to grate over foods, and the kind that catches grated cheese in a container for larger amounts. indispensable, especially if your kid likes pasta.

    • Capucine says...

      Now, I have those herb scissors and they make me bonkers because herb bits get stuck between the five blades and I have to use the special cleaning tool to get them out every time. Just too fiddly for me! I had a demilune knife with five blades for that same purpose, same exact experience – yet I have a friend who calls it her number one kitchen tool! Isn’t it marvelous how we vary in our patience and perspectives on value? (Or, having kids means fresh herbs bits sprinkled over meals are so low priority as to not register as a thing I need a better way to do…yet! yet!)

  78. AN says...

    Even though I love reading your list and everyone else’s, for me by far the loveliest part of this email is ‘all I want to do is simplify and downsize.” I wish for all of us to consider this sentiment in the face of the United States’ unsustainable capitalist/consumerist economic model and culture, in which we’re told we must have more-more-more, bigger-bigger-bigger, newest-newest-newest. It takes a long time to realize fewer, better things that last is the way to go, and even longer to realize that time is the most luxurious thing of all. Thank you for the prod!

    • Sonja says...

      Seconded! :)

    • Blandine says...

      Could not agree more. In their (legitimate) efforts to be more eco-friendly a lot of people miss the mark by buying newer, more eco-friendly versions of things they already own. Make do and remember the 3 R principle ‘Refuse (free, single use item), Reuse and Recycle’.

    • Mims says...

      applause! so true.

    • Kit says...

      Why single out the US? Isn’t this a global concern?

  79. Elly says...

    I have a mini Ninja chopper that is my absolute favorite kitchen tool. It’s perfect for quickly mincing garlic and dicing onions. When we moved into our new apartment I washed it on the bottom rack of the dishwasher and the bowl melted. I waited maybe 3 days before ordering a new one Amazon Prime — I just couldn’t live without it! I have a regular-sized Cuisinart food processor that I hardly use because the little Ninja chopper is just so much easier to handle and clean.

    • Capucine says...

      I have no idea what this is but I sure would love to tell my seven-year-old son ‘Get the Ninja Chopper out’ when we start our morning cooking session! He would be my assistant for life. A NINJA CHOPPER. It could be anything, I just want to say that out loud.

  80. Ruth says...

    Makes me want to toss all my unused crap, er, I mean, stuff.

    What pan do you use for pancakes? Mine are always sticking.

    Thank you—love your posts. Love all of Cup of Jo!

    • M says...

      Our daughter loves to make pancakes. My husband has recently got her tiny lodge skillet. Works like magic and most appreciated present to date :)

    • Amy says...

      If you add 2 tbsp of melted butter to your pancake batter (along with buttering the pan, of course :) , they probably won’t stick! Just another way of getting more delicious butter, too! ;)

    • Ruth says...

      Thank you–I’ll give both options a try!

  81. Jessica says...

    My short list also includes:
    + A microplane grater: because about half of everything I make has either finely grated parmesan, lemon zest, ginger, garlic (forget the garlic press!), or nutmeg in it. Seriously – put orange zest and freshly grated ginger in your stir fry broccoli and you’ll never go back.
    + A tiny spoon and a salt well. I have this miniscule salt spoon sitting in a little cup of salt that has just become an extension of my hand when cooking. It’s about 1/16th of a teaspoon – enough that if you add one spoon of salt, you’ll almost never oversalt something, but enough to make a difference. It’s better than adding a “big pinch” because my fingers are often wet when cooking and a pinch can mostly end up on my hands – it’s also easier to translate for my kid. “Add three tiny spoons of salt, stir and taste” is an easy instruction for a three year old who really wants to help you cook – or a husband who isn’t so sure about himself in the kitchen!
    + A BIG wooden cutting board. So often, I go to friend’s houses and they only have these wee little plastic cutting boards. Give yourself room to work! (also, no one seems to know that you don’t have to let your ingredients crowd your board – you are the boss of your cut stuff! Move it out of the way!)

    • Sara says...

      I second the large wooden cutting board! I hate the little plastic ones that get warped over time… I have a huge Boos block on my counter that my mom gave me and it’s the centerpiece of my cooking just as much as my stove and knives! The absolute worst is glass cutting boards, which is what all the women in my husband’s family use and make me want to run screaming from the room when used (think of your poor knives!) I’ve learned to either bring my own equipment if I’m helping with food prep at one of their houses (in which case I do bring a rarely-used plastic cutting board) or just do all chopping at home ahead of time. They also do everything with paring knives and rarely use a chef’s knife – I think because you can’t really chop properly with one on the glass cutting boards. Ok #endrant.

    • Sonja says...

      @sara: GLASS cutting boards?? what the heck! never even heard of that, and yes sounds awful!

    • Sara B says...

      Glass is truly terrible. My in laws have on but also use the tiniest wooden cutting board. It’s smaller than 8.5×11, and it is SO HARD to use, especially with their crappy dull knives. I need space, let me spread my elbows out. Apparently I’m very picky about cutting boards and knives :)

    • Capucine says...

      Apartment Therapy once had a long conversation thread about if you do or do not bring your own knives along when traveling, which boggled the mind for me, like what? Traveling with knives? Then my husband became a pro knife sharpener when a friend taught him last year and this summer at my sister-in-law’s I was aghast to find that, with ten knives, every one was dull. They just buy a new one when they get dull. It drove me bonkers. Result…my husband now travels with his sharpening stone and I have become that person. (I do favor paring knives over all others, however, I’ve never met a big chef’s knife that felt good to me!)

    • Lisa says...

      I second the salt bowl with the tiny spoon in it. I recently added another tiny bowl with a. tiny spoon that includes fresh ground pepper and kosher salt mixed in for all the recipes that call for salt and pepper. It is a game-changer!

  82. I have a salad with homemade dressing for lunch every day. After 10 years of using a barely functional garlic press, my husband insisted that we upgrade. The garlic press he chose is embarrassingly expensive and it looks suspiciously like a speculum, but it is a work horse and we use it every day (as a garlic press… not as a speculum).

    • Bonnie says...

      :) I second a garlic press … I use my cheapie that still works well so, so often. It’s a great way to involve kids in meal prep without the complete oversight of them using a knife, followed by the “magic” of the smelly fingers disappearing after rubbing my dated stainless steel sink.

    • Capucine says...

      You made me laugh. Thank you.

      I bet no man I’ve known has ever seen a speculum.

  83. Diane says...

    Microplane, strainer, loaf pan

  84. celeste says...

    I’d like to hear more about what people make in a Dutch oven. Why not blend up some soup, or use the slow cooker? There’s gotta be some benefit I’m missing.

    • Charlotte says...

      Hi Celeste–for me it’s the consistency of the heat. I think slow cookers do a good job for the most part of heating evenly and consistently, but they can’t also caramelize onions or sear foods beforehand, and their heat options are pretty limited. So I guess it’s a combination of flexibility and control.

    • Laura says...

      I also use my Dutch oven to bake sourdough bread!

    • nicole says...

      Along with what Charlotte said, it also can go directly from stove to oven for a long braise. I bake bread in mine too!

    • Joanna says...

      We also use ours to bake bread in, or for anything you need to throw in the oven (we use it equally for stove-cooked and oven-cooked meals I’d say). Plus, they look good enough to simply put on the table to serve from when guests are over. I also like how simple they are to clean, nothing ever tends to get too baked on. We love our slow cooker too, but I tend to be more of a spontaneous cook rather than a plan ahead one, so this is our go-to.

    • Sara B says...

      It maintains heat evenly, whereas my thinner pots are all over the place temperature wise. I make beef stew a lot in my Dutch oven. We’ve tried it in the slow cooker, but it doesn’t really get warm enough to cook down the sauce and we end up with watery soup vs stew. I love my slow cooker for other things, but man there is something about a Dutch oven.

    • Sara says...

      I roast and braise meat in it, as well as make soups and sauces. I don’t like using a slow cooker because I would rather have more control over the heat and cooking time and the dutch oven can go stove top to oven (I know some slow cookers have inserts that do this also). I have no need for a blender :)

    • Also, they look gorgeous!! I have a tower of Le Creuset in different colors : most bought on sale at Marshalls, etc.

    • Kate says...

      We inherited a whole set of Le Creuset pans from the in-laws (lucky I know! It still baffles me that they didn’t want them!!) and use the ‘Dutch Oven’ for at least 2/3 of dinners including: casseroles, curries, soups, chicken broth, pie fillings, meat sauces. I say ‘Dutch Oven’ because I had just been thinking of it as a pan, it’s the only large pan we have and it hadn’t occurred to me that it’s a Dutch Oven (I’m a Brit, maybe it’s more of a colloquial distinction?) Either way I love and can’t imagine what other people cook dinner in!

    • My favorite thing to make in the dutch oven is stuffed chicken breasts. I buy them pre-stuffed, sear them in some olive oil so they get brown on the outside, then deglaze the pan with some white wine and add some chicken broth or chicken stock and put it in the oven at about 275 degrees for about 2 hours. They are amazing!

  85. Charlotte says...

    I love my Breville toaster oven! I wasn’t sure about it at first because I hate having gratuitous appliances but I finally gave in after listening to my partner complain about not being able to make toast for almost a year (No, I didn’t even own a toaster, that’s how much I hate kitchen appliances!). I thought maybe I’d get more use out of it than just it’s toasting function, plus I was interested in reducing my energy use in the kitchen– I always felt terrible firing up the oven for something small. Now I use that thing ALL THE TIME. I bake bread, cookies, brownies and crisps in it. I roast vegetables, toast nuts and bake potatoes in it regularly. Because it’s small and energy efficient, making things in it seems like no big deal. And it even makes toast, so my partner is happy. If you’re in the market for a toaster oven go all the way and do the Breville. It’s really not even comparable to the regular Oster or Black and Decker ones. It bakes evenly and consistently and has all the functions of a regular oven. I picked mine up unused from someone on Craigslist for pretty reasonable, less than $100. For something I use every day sometimes multiple times, I think that’s a steal.

    And I’ll second the Le Creuset. I received my braiser as a gift from my mom when I was first on my own, about a decade ago. Since then I’ve added a few more pieces to my collection– an oval dutch oven, a round one, and a sauce pan, whenever I find them used or for a good price (try the Le Creuset Outlet, if you have one near you). They are such solid workhorses, with care I know I’ll have them my whole life. There’s not many things nowadays that have that kind of longevity!

    • Jennifer says...

      I am unreasonably obsessed with my Breville toaster. Seriously, I hardly turn on my oven anymore! In fact, I have never even commented on a blog before..I feel that strongly about my love of my Breville toaster oven:)

    • Hillary says...

      I also could not live without our Breville toaster oven! Ours has additional functions – proofing, airfrying, dehydrating – and I turn on the big oven maybe once a month. I would give up counter space for very few things, but our toaster oven is one of them!

    • Jeanne E. says...

      Yes! I literally use mine every day. I don’t have a microwave or a toaster. For me, it takes the place of both. I also saved a few bucks buying a refurbished one. I’ve had it for 6 years with no issues.

    • Karin says...

      Back in the day, I couldn’t imagine life w/out my George Foreman grill. Now that we are vegetarians, I feel the same way about my Breville! It’s a lifesaver in the summer. With only two of us at home now, it’s big enough to handle just about everything I cook.

      Other must-have is a teeny tiny whisk for blending hot chocolate, sauces and salad dressings. 99c at World Market and I use that thing constantly.

    • Jen says...

      Which Breville model do you recommend?

    • Angela says...

      Yes!! Love my Breville too!!! An unexpected win! We use it all.the.time.

  86. Madie says...

    I would add a microplane grater/zester (I have 2 in different sizes/gauges) – they’re for much more than zesting citrus! I never chop garlic anymore – this is so much faster, and I hate garlic presses b/c they crush the garlic and make it taste too sharp, and are a pain to clean. It’s also great for fresh ginger and parmigiano reggiano off the block… etc etc…

  87. Elizabeth_K says...

    I think exactly this, except about everything. When I was starting out, in my 20s, everything at every store was something I desperately coveted. Now, that I can actually afford some of what I coveted … I want nothing! We have everything we need! Let’s throw more away! Anyway — I like your list, but would be sad without my ladle for soups …

    • JA says...

      This is incredibly good timing. My partner of many years and I recently split, which means he’s packing up his stuff and moving out – much of which includes our kitchen items. I love to cook and can’t imagine waiting too long to restock my kitchen to a point where it’s functional, and prioritizing what I need to buy has felt overwhelming (on top of everything else!). This will serve as my shopping list over the next few weeks. Thank you. xoxo

  88. Eli says...

    Love every item on this list – especially the wooden spoon and dutch oven (worth the investment).

    I would add a food scale. I use mine daily to measure food (to make sure I am eating enough protein as well as not over-eating my carbs) but it is pure gold for baking. I like the European way of baking – by weight of ingredients instead of volume. Game changer for my bread making, much more consistent.

    Also add a food processor. Chopping onions by hand? Never again. :)

    • Sara says...

      Yes to the food scale! Baking recipes with weights are truly the best – I get so annoyed now if recipes don’t have weights and I have to get out the cups and spoons – so imprecise! extra things to clean!

    • Amy says...

      +1 for a food scale! I do all my baking with a scale, and also appreciate it in cooking as I can scale recipes up so much more easily (and when they say “a 3 lb butternut squash” in a recipe, I used to have no clue what that would look like – now I do!). It also gets used for all sorts of random things, like knowing how many stamps to put on that large envelope.

  89. ashley says...

    Avid cook in a tiny Brooklyn kitchen here. I agree with this philosophy, though I’d add a sheet pan! I can churn out so many meals with the few things in my kitchen.

    And call me judgmental but I’m actually convinced that the more kitchen gadgets one has, the less they cook. So when I see pictures and home tours or meet people with a full set of copper pots and pans of all sizes, I smile knowing they probably eat takeout 90% of the time.

    • Sara B says...

      This reminds me of Alton Brown and unitaskers. I think you have a point, everyone I know who cooks regularly prefer the same tools over and over

    • lm says...

      hahahhahahahhaha, love this

    • Capucine says...

      Ah, I might be your exception. I have quite a number of gadgets, but we cook more than any family we know…three hot meals a day, tinctures, baking, yogurt, bread, pasta, jam. I just don’t do sandwiches. I have a spiralizer, a yogurt machine, a pressure cooker, an oat groat squisher, a moulinex, a food mill…I could go on and on. People give their rejects so lavishly, I’m spoiled for new things to use! Our kids are in a parent co-op so that means more home time together, I’m sure that factors in. Now I think of it, I’ve never thought to judge cooking skill by gadgetry, it’s all so hidden away, right?!

  90. EJ says...

    How bad are chemically treated nonstick pans really? I try to be aware of the chemicals in my home – all natural cleaning products, no fragrances, etc. But I still cook on non-stick pans. I know they are not the best, but are they “stop what you are doing and replace them NOW” bad? Any feedback would appreciated. :)

    • Charlotte says...

      Hi EJ- I’m in the same boat as you in regards to chemicals at home. From what I’ve read, if the nonstick surface is scuffed and worn, then it definitely falls into the replace them now category, because the teflon surface flakes easily. If they’re still smooth and functional they’re safer, but I would avoid replacing them with nonstick again the next time I buy. I had some pretty scuffed baking pans that I replaced with enamel (Crow Canyon Bakeware) for that reason. If they were still in good condition I probably would have waited a bit, just because I hate to throw things out if they’re still functional. But that’s just my two cents ;)

    • Sue says...

      I’m not answering your question directly, but if you decide to replace yours . . . I had an ancient flaking nonstick frying pan I knew I had to replace, and I ended up going with a carbon steel one after reading about them in Cook’s Illustrated. It’s been terrific. It’s at least a bit lighter than cast iron, and once it’s seasoned (which didn’t take long), it’s totally nonstick. It’s now my go-to omelet pan, and I even asked for a slightly bigger one as a present because I like it so much.

  91. Jen says...

    PSA: go for measuring spoons with squared rather than round scoops (search ” Sur La Table Spice Measuring Spoons, Set of 6″ to see)

    For large containers (flour, baking powder, salt) square vs. round doesn’t matter, but for small containers i.e. ANY SPICE!! the squared ones STILL FIT INTO THE JAR where round ones (particularly full spoon measures) don’t fit and you have to gamble tap/pouring the spice in.

    • mj says...

      thank you! always a frustration of mine AND it has 1/8 and 3/4 tsp, yay!

  92. agnes says...

    Buy organic veggies and you will not have to peel carrots nor potatoes! (somply brush then under water; plus, carotts have no skin).
    I could not cook without: a wooden board and an apron. Maybe the apron doesn’t count as kitchen gear? I use it to dry my hands, hold hot stuff, dry my hands, clean the side of a plate, open the door of the oven, open the door of the house whilst still cooking ;-)
    And yes to all your list!

    • liz says...

      Take a look from 10,000 feet. The factory producing nonstick pans is making huge quantities of those chemicals which they bake onto the cookware in factories. The pollution out of those factories, whether the initial chemical plant or the cookware producer, can’t be good for any living thing. It goes into our air and water. It’s an industrial chemical that adheres to surfaces. Then once in your home, they eventually get scratched and become unusable, which renders them trash. Literally, trash. We have a good set of nonstick pots and pans which are going on 14 years old and look as good as new. Do we have to add a little more oil or butter to our food? Probably. Might it sometimes take a little bit longer to clean than a nonstick? I don’t know, maybe like 30 seconds? But I am sure we would have gone through multiple nonstick pans during the past 14 years and I expect our nonstick to last an actual lifetime.

  93. Klara says...

    I also own (and love) my Wusthof knife and bought it 11 years ago when I went to live on my own! Question: nowadays I have a dishwasher and put it in there, but I’ve been wondering if it’s actually a good idea for the handle and/or blade?

    • Amy says...

      It’s considered better to hand wash a knife. The edge has a tendency to bump against other things in the dishwasher and dull, and the heat can be hard on the handle where it’s attached to the blade and cause it to fall off over time. I have Wusthof knives too, and hand wash them always.

    • Allison says...

      My dad regularly puts his Wusthof’s in the dishwasher, and a couple of the handles have straight up fallen apart. It made me handwash mine.

  94. MJ says...

    Food processor, can opener, wine opener :)

    • agnes says...

      yes wine opener! I have been desperate enough once to search: “how to open a bottle without a wine opener” and tried the trick of the shoe. It totally works.

  95. Audrey says...

    Couldn’t agree more! When I registered for my wedding 7 years ago, I wanted all.the.things. And now all these years later I’ve sold or donated 3/4 of it. The one thing I’d add is a good non-stick pan (I use Green Pan brand). I use it for fried eggs or pancakes – basically the stuff that doesn’t do as well in a cast iron.

  96. TC says...

    I love this stuff because it reveals something about the person writing it. For me personally, the pairing knife is a waste of space. I’d much rather use my vegetable peeler on an apple then cut it up with a chef’s knife. But I would add my garlic press as an essential because who really wants to mince garlic with a knife, ever? Not me.

  97. J says...

    Haha as an actual Le Cordon Bleu trained pastry chef, I assure you the same philosophy holds true….just a few basic tools are needed in the kitchen. In fact, we never used any fancy appliances, all was done by hand – whether cakes, creams or brioche!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      I actually thought about including my hands in this list…that’s so funny. Except I think I’m working on some considerably less complicated recipes than you are.

  98. Sally says...

    Sounds really stupid, but my plastic, microwaveable pan is about my “most used” kitchen thing.
    It’ll heat a portion of soup in a minute thirty. It’ll cook broccoli to “just right for me”, meaning “fairly soggy” in 8 minutes.

    Basically, it’ll do everything in half the time it would take in a pan on the stove top.

    And it’s plastic, so it’s crazy easy to clean. Win all round!

    • Abesha1 says...

      I’d add two 9inch round baking pans, tube or bundt pan, and a whisk.

    • Sara B says...

      We steam vegetables in these all the time!

  99. Kelly says...

    yes to all these! plus 2 half sheet pans and 2 quarter sheet pans.

    for electronics, i would add: cuisinart food processor (pesto, pie dough, quick shredding/slicing of veg for beautiful large salads), kitchenaid stand mixer (if you like to bake or make bread/pizza dough), vitamix blender (smoothies, pureed soups) and a rice maker (still searching for my dream brand). We use all these on the reg in my house…unlike the instapot and sous vide machine which are underused space hogs.

    all of these are pricey, but having used/worn out lesser brands, there’s a reason why certain things become the gold standard!

    • Rachael says...

      I absolutely agree with the sheet pans! My sheet pans get used for roasting vegetables, chicken, “one pan” meals, etc. so regularly, that they are rarely in the cabinets.

      I also love my dutch oven with a passion. From fall through spring, it practically resides on my stovetop. I cannot wait to upgrade from my Martha Stewart one to a Le Creuset someday.

    • Jessie says...

      You can’t go wrong with a zojirushi rice cooker!

  100. Simone B. says...

    My two are a food processor and a stand mixer. I use both several times a week, and that justifies the counter space for me. The food processor makes dips and sauces a breeze (chimmichuri! hummus! pesto!) and the mixer saves my wrists (weak like the author’s haha) when I’m on a baking kick.

  101. Sadie says...

    I’d been eyeing a dutch oven for years, but the price always deterred me. I finally bought one for about $70 a couple months ago and I love it! It has been filled with soup most of the time since the weather turned. Had I known how much I use it, I might have sprung for the cream Le Creuset.