I’ll start by telling you that “my” kitchen is crazy. Over time, I’ve accumulated more condiments, superfoods, and single-use kitchen gadgets than one needs. Are those things fun and useful? Sure! But they also take up a lot of space, cost a fair amount of money, and aren’t necessary for producing delicious, tasty food quickly.
Recently, though, we’ve made a move to a new state and that has brought with it the rare opportunity to start a kitchen from scratch. Right now, we’re making do with the most minimal of kitchens and a lot of borrowed goods during our stay in temporary housing. This has given me the chance to really examine what I need to cook delicious, healthy meals daily.
I know what you’ll be thinking “I could never cook with just those items, I need my (insert random utensil here).” And I get that, I really do. But as a chef, mom, and all around “good eater” I can assure you that I’m really demanding of my kitchen and if I can not only live with, but even produce tasty food at least twice a day with the items on this list (electric stove and all) then I’m certain you can too. And just think of how easy it will be to clean your kitchen and put things away with all that new found space!
So here it is, all you really need to have a well stocked kitchen. And while I’m sure there are those of you who could cook up gourmet creations with less, this is what I’ve honed in on (with some help from friends – thanks, guys!) as both a comfortable balance between having enough to make what you want and going completely overboard. From experience, I can also tell you that this all fits really comfortably in a downtown apartment kitchen, with room to spare!
Every kitchen should have these items to be able to make great food and I can’t think of one I’ve lived in or worked in that couldn’t at least fit these.
- A set of pots including at least:
- Cast iron pan – this gets used for frying or scrambling eggs and searing or browning anything, especially item that go into the oven to finish. This is my most used pan and lives on the countertop. Extra credit if you have a lid for this!
- Medium skillet – it’s good to have a second, smaller pan for toasting nuts and doing smaller pan frying projects.
- Stock pot with lid – this is for your soups, braises, or large-volume grain cooking.
- Small pot with lid – this one is mostly to heat up water, but could also be used for heating up a sauce or hard-boiling a few eggs.
- A sharp knife and a good, large cutting board
- A couple baking dishes:
- A few kitchen utensils including:
- Kitchen shears – good for opening packages, breaking down a chicken, and everything in between.
- Vegetable peeler – it peels vegetables. I haven’t found a great substitute.
- 3 large spoons – 1 solid wood one for stirring things in pots, 1 with a more ladle like shape (likely plastic), and the other slotted for scooping solids out of liquid dishes.
- Rubber spatula and a metal (or plastic in a pinch) spatula – use it to flip your eggs, pancakes or meat.
- Pair of long tongs – use them for tossing pasta or removing meat from a pan.
- Whisk – whether making a dressing or a creamy sauce, nothing mixes things together quite like a whisk.
- Mesh strainer – in the absence of any other strainer, this can do most things, including draining veggies or fruit you’re washing, rinsing grains, or making Greek yogurt when lined with cheese cloth.
- A wine opener – obviously.
- Some sort of coffee making appliance if you’re a mom, busy person, or coffee addict like me. I love my Aeropress as it’s small and makes wonderful coffee, but to each their own.
In all likelihood you’ll also need basics like: aluminum foil, parchment paper, towels, and some storage containers with lids for leftovers. But because these are so variable depending on the person, I’ve left them off this list
NICE TO HAVES
If you have a little more space or propensity for cooking, I find that the items below are extra helpful in being able to make anything that strikes your fancy.
- A few great pieces of kitchen equipment:
- A strong blender – Vitamix is my choice, but do your thang! This is in charge of my sauces, smoothies, creamy dressings and soups.
- Slow-cooker or pressure cooker (or better yet, an Instant Pot) – Slow cooking and pressure cooking are great hands off cooking techniques that help minimize the other pots that you’ll need.
- Kitchen utensils including:
- Accessory knives like a paring knife and bread knife – Not absolutely necessary in my kitchen, but I have been finding them useful for things like peeling apples and slicing bagels.
- Measuring cup – I just have one big glass Pyrex one right now and that’s been plenty, especially if you’re a non-baker like me, but I could see how long-term a set of measuring cups and spoons could come in handy.
- Good grater – I prefer a fine, sharp one like a Microplane for zesting citrus or finely grating Parmesan cheese, but a larger or more variable one might be more your speed if you’re really into cheese or onion or carrot grating.
- A salad spinner – You can absolutely wash your greens and place them between two towels to dry them, but this does take up a lot of time and space. If you can fit a salad spinner and are big on leafy greens I definitely recommend one.
- A nut milk bag – You can usually use cheesecloth, but nut milk bags can be reused and have a much finer weave so they’re great for straining yogurt or making nut milks.
YOU DON’T NEED THESE AT ALL BUT I HAVE THEM ANYWAYS (BECAUSE I’M A JUNKY)
- Yonanas maker: I got this for my birthday. You don’t need one, but if you have kids or like banana ice cream it is pretty fun.
- Spiralizer: I just got the Inspiralizer as another birthday gift and I’ve been having so much fun playing around with it, but you absolutely do not need one to have a well-stocked, healthy kitchen.
What are your must have kitchen items that you’d keep or take with you? Anything I missed that you couldn’t live without?
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I might get some money towards buying a new kitchen tool that I surely don’t need!