Kitchenware has gotten to a point where it’s almost overwhelming to walk down the kitchen aisle in a store or – heaven forbid – venture into a specialty cooking shop.
There are gadgets aplenty, single-purpose miracle tools, and frying pans in every conceivable shape and size. Even for a seasoned chef, it’s enough to make you want to run away. Everywhere you look, another kitchen tool you’ll use once and toss in a junk drawer forever.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Some kitchen tools are essential, while others are better left on the shelf. We’re going to walk you through some of the most basic kitchen items that are truly must-haves (get out of here, weirdly-shaped-avocado-slicer).
We’ve pared this list down to five of the most essential, multi-functional kitchen tools. Of course, there are plenty of useful tools that didn’t make it on the list. But for barebones necessities, it’s perfect.
Whether you’re brand new to cooking or an accomplished cook looking to pare down their cookware, this is the list for you.
1. Heavy-bottomed Pot
These pans are great for everything. Perfect for sauces, stews, fudge, and candies, the heavy-bottomed quality means you won’t immediately burn every ingredient you add. These pots are thicker at the base, which means they distribute heat more evenly. You’re less likely to have hot spots with a heavy-bottomed pot or pan compared to a thinner one.
We’re looking for even cooking here without the looming threat of burned ingredients every time you turn away for a moment. Selecting a nonstick interior is even better. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but it’s a real pain to scrub out stuck-on bits of burnt food.
Like most cookware, there’s a wide price range for these types of pots. You don’t need to go for a high-end option though. Any reasonable heavy-bottomed pot is an excellent addition to your kitchen.
2. Dutch Oven
The versatility of Dutch ovens is impressive enough to make you want to go out and buy one RIGHT NOW. These multi-purpose pots can go straight from stovetop to oven to your counter. They’re big enough to hold an entire roast and come with heavy lids that keep liquid in for slow braising.
As a bonus, Dutch ovens often come in beautiful colors, making it a beautiful centerpiece on your dining room table. It’s a serving dish itself. We all know what that means: fewer dishes to take care of later. Score!
Le Creuset cookware is classic, of course, but you can turn to Lodge for a more affordable, equally hefty option. Choose an enameled Dutch oven to prevent sticking or the maintenance of cast iron.
3. 9 x 13-inch Baking Pan
If you’ve ever looked at a recipe for brownies, casseroles, cakes, egg bakes, or any delicious baked dish, you’re familiar with this pan. It’s arguably the most called-for pan in the world! (Don’t fact check us on that one).
These pans are super versatile and don’t take up a ton of room. You can also use them to roast veggies or meat by popping a cooling rack on top. The grease drips down and keeps your food from getting soggy.
For those of you who attend a lot of potlucks, consider picking up a 9×13-inch baking pan lid. It makes transportation (and carrying home leftovers) a whole lot easier.
4. Chef’s Knife (Yes, just the one)
This may not be the most popular opinion, but you don’t need more than one knife to do almost everything you need in the kitchen. Sure, knife block sets are a classic gift for newlyweds or folks striking out on their own for the first time. But how often do you actually use them?
A sturdy, sharp chef’s knife is great for chopping vegetables and slicing meat. Pick a chef’s knife with a medium-length blade and a sturdy handle; you’ll be surprised how much more control you have over it. With a professional knife, beginner chefs have the added benefit of learning proper grip technique to prevent accidents and boost efficiency.
You can find affordable, quality knives ranging from $20 up to ridiculous numbers (we’re talking triple zeroes or more). If you can test it out beforehand, even better. Find a knife with a comfortable grip, and you’re ready to go.
5. Non-stick Frying Pan
Omelets? No problem. Browning meatballs? Great! Cookin’ up a stir-fry? No worries. A non-stick frying pan is there for you every time.
Since non-stick frying pans prevent food from sticking, you can use less oil when you’re cooking. It’s also easier to get tricky food out of the pan, meaning you’ll likely ruin fewer dinners (it’s happened to the best of us).
And you can use the same frying pan for so many things! You’ll want to make sure that you don’t use metal spatulas, silverware, or any other sharp tool or you run the risk of scratching off the non-stick coating. If that coating starts flaking off, throw the pan away! You definitely don’t want that in your food.
So there you go. The five barebones, most essential cooking tools you can add to your kitchen. No frills, no gimmicks; just solid tools to help you tackle any recipe, no matter how complicated or fussy. Happy cooking!