Much of what makes your life in the kitchen easy is having the right tools. And the right kitchen tools also depend on what you’re going to be doing, what you cook and bake and how long you plan to do it. We based our kitchen essentials primarily on cooking and baking what we grow in the vegetable garden.
You don’t need to rush out and buy a huge number of tools for your kitchen. Quite the opposite. Some essentials will get you started and then you can add to it over time. Here’s our no-nonsense list of kitchen essentials, and we’ll explain what each tool is for and what you might need it for, so you can decide what kitchen tools to buy and what to hold off on.
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The Kitchen Essential Tools List
The kitchen tools that you need very much depend on what you’re to cook and bake. There’s absolutely no need, for instance, to go out and buy a dehydrator or a food processor if you’re only growing as much as you’ll eat at the time you harvest it. Equally, if all you have is a chopping board and a saucepan you may face a challenging task!
Our kitchen essentials tool list explains what each tool is used for in the kitchen so that you only need buy what it is that you actually need. And if you’re ready to buy kitchen tools or have friends and family wanting to contribute to your kitchen, we’ll cover what the good kitchen tools are, what the great kitchen tools are and what the best tools for the kitchen are.
Now there are thousands upon thousands of fancy kitchen gadgets for just about any job you can imagine, in this basic kitchen tools list we’re focusing on basic kitchen tools for the main jobs and basic kitchen tools for beginners.
Buying Kitchen Essentials
When we had our first home we bought a kitchen starter kit – and included all the basics. Since then we’ve replaced that with the equipment that we use all the time. We’re brand agnostic, so we tend to research the best specific tool and then buy it, rather than looking for them all to be the same brand.
A Chef’s Knife
It’s very very tempting when buying knives for the kitchen to just buy one of those standard sets. Believe me, we’ve done that several times, but not for quite some time. We have a decent chef’s knife and a knife sharpener and when we can afford it we replace one of those naff old knives from a cheap set with a better one. You don’t actually realise how imperative it is to have a good knife until you’ve used one. When we travel overland we take our Chef’s knife with us, because we can use it for most of our cutting needs. Our chef’s knife is heavy, always sharp and a tried and trusted friend in the kitchen. Our favoured chef’s knife is this one.
It’s not the most expensive, it’s not the cheapest. What it is is a decent quality and a decent weight. It makes a massive difference. The type of knife that you use in the kitchen depends on the job at hand, but, if you can only buy one knife, make it this one.
What are chefs knives used for?
Chef’s knives have a curved blade, which means you can rock it backwards and forwards on a chopping board. Chef’s knives are perfect for dicing and chopping vegetables. If you can only buy one good knife you should make it a chef’s knife. Buy our recommended Chef’s knife here.
A Chopping Board
This is one of the most basic kitchen tools. While you might think that plastic or glass is the best material for a chopping board because you know you might want to put it in the dishwasher. It’s simply not the case. Glass chopping boards will blunt your knife. Marble chopping boards will also damage your knife. A wooden chopping board is the best type of chopping board to use for the longevity of your knife AND for hygiene. The BEST type of wooden chopping board is what’s called an “end grain chopping board”. This is a fabulous end grain wooden chopping board.
They’re made from hardwoods like maple, teak or cedar. End grain boards are glued pieces of wood that have the grain perpendicular to the surface of the board. This means that the wood fibres absorb the impact of the knife blade. It’s basically a “bit of give” in the board. Wood also has antimicrobial properties and enzymes that make your chopping board an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow in. A chopping board will last you a lifetime, if you look after it, and this end grain wooden chopping board is a fabulous buy.
This complete care chopping board care kit comes with everything you need to keep your chopping board in excellent condition. Check it out now.
What are chopping boards used for?
A chopping board is a durable board commonly used for chopping and preparing food. A good chopping board will protect any knives that you use.
Measuring cups are one of those amazing kitchen tools that once you’ve used you’ll wonder how you managed without them. They measure the volume of a liquid or solid ingredient. And there are heaps and heaps of different styles and designs. We’ve owned several, but the VERY best design for measuring cups are these as they stack into each other and take up less space in the cupboard.
What are measuring cups used for?
Measuring cups are simply a measure for standard recipe ingredients. Whether they’re liquid or solid, you can measure in millilitres or teaspoons or tablespoons. Quickly and easily. We use them in cooking, baking and also when we’re putting cocktails together! Multi-purpose!
In much the same vein as measuring cups, measuring spoons are an absolute treasure in the kitchen. Whether you’re needing to measure out half a teaspoon of dried mint or a tablespoon of coriander, they’re an invaluable tool. And there are also lots of different designs and styles. In the continued interest of saving space, and always being able to find each individual spoon in the set we love these magnetic measuring spoons, which nest and stay together when stored. This set measures from a tablespoon down to ¼ of a teaspoon.
It is really easy to buy a useless tin opener. Many of them are. And not all tins come with the handy ring pulls. Do yourself a favour and buy a decent tin opener, the cheap nasty blooming useless ones will drive you nuts. I speak from experience. This Magican tin opener from Culinaire is the best that I’ve found. You can buy it here.
Now I’m not going to write about what to use a tin opener for… because that’s pretty darned obvious, but I am going to write a short piece about opening tins if you have arthritis. As I write I don’t have arthritis, but I have helped elderly friends who do and tin cans are the bane of their life. This electric tin opener is a lifesaver for them. It’s a hand free battery operated one and has helped older friends who have carpal tunnel syndrome and also those who have arthritis. It’s simple and easy to use and helps everyone maintain independence with just a little thought.
Glass Mixing Bowls
I have two types of bowls in the kitchen that I use for cooking, baking and preparing food. Metal and glass. These glass bowls are excellent for use in the microwave and you can also stick the lids on and put them in the fridge. Glass is an excellent choice for a mixing bowl as it doesn’t stain or retain odours of any food that you prepare. Glass is also great for being able to see if you’ve managed to miss mixing any ingredients!
I use them for making dough for bread, for prepping vegetables, for serving salad leaves, well the list is long. And in the interests of good use of space in the kitchen cupboards, these also stack inside each other when not in use.
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
My go-to mixing bowl, however, is stainless steel with a non-slip base. Lightweight stainless steel is the most durable of materials for mixing bowls. I find them especially useful if I need to mix or prep a lot – as stainless steel is lightweight and therefore the weight doesn’t increase that much with the increased size. Stainless steel bowls are also excellent if you’re melting chocolate over boiling water, as the metal conducts the heat much quicker and therefore saves energy. These are fabulous.
They’re hygienic, long-lasting and our recommendation here also comes with non-slip bases and lids. They, also, of course, you’ve guessed it, stack inside each other when not in use. I find these bowls particularly useful as they include graters and shredders in the lids, so they become even more multi-purpose.
A good colander is an essential piece of kitchen equipment. Use it for washing vegetables, salads, draining pasta and potatoes – its uses are very different to the sieve, although you can use a large sieve in place of a colander, you can’t use a colander in place of a sieve. For longevity, a stainless steel colander is probably the best, but I use these silicon folding colanders.
I find them seriously easy to clean, fabulous to store and we also take them with us when we go camping too! The double handles make it easy to balance over a pan, bowl or hold one or double-handed.
Now while you can use a sieve in place of a colander, the role of a sieve in your kitchen is very different. Colanders are designed to separate solid objects from liquid (like pasta from the water that you’ve cooked it in). Sieves are designed to separate larger wanted objects from smaller unwanted objects (like lumps in soup from the liquid). Sieves are also used to sift dry ingredients – so you can get the lumps out of flour for instance.
You’ll find that sieves are often described as coarse meshed or fine-meshed. This simply describes the size of the mesh. For most jobs in the kitchen, you’ll use a coarse meshed sieve. If you’re making a particularly fine sauce of pureeing something that you want very very smooth. A conical shaped sieve is called a Chinois and is made of particularly fine mesh and tends to be used for stocks, sauces and soups.
Most kitchens will have a single sieve of course mesh and this will suit most jobs. However, it’s a simple matter to buy this set of three sieves, as the sizes are particularly useful!
I *can* remember the last time I used a knife to peel vegetables and it was painful and took forever. Peeling vegetables is so very 2019 and pre-pandemic – these days I tend to make sure they’re clean and only take off any very rough bits when we’re cooking just for the two of us. When we have guests, however, things get a bit more cleaned up and that’s where a vegetable peeler comes in.
I’m a huge, huge fan of Y shaped vegetable peelers. They make veg prep quick and easy and SAFE. I also use my vegetable peeler to cut strips of potatoes, carrots and courgettes if I’m making a stir fry. It’s so much easier.
In my current kitchen, I don’t have room for a food processor, and so most of the kitchen tools I have are manual. This julienne peeler has helped me immensely with the glut of courgettes we’ve had this year. It’s also amazing dealing with carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. This tool is multi-function, so you can get away with just this tool and not the vegetable peeler that’s mentioned above, but as I already had the vegetable peeler I ended up doubling up. And besides, if there’s two of you prepping veg it goes quicker right?
A hand whisk is something that I use regularly. Whether it’s whisking eggs up for an omelette or something as simple as mixing up a cuppa soup with hot water. There are two reasons you’ll use a whisk. The first is to incorporate air into a recipe – like in a soufflé. The second reason to use a whisk is to blend ingredients smooth – like powder and water in my instant soup example. We use a whisk when we’re making custard too to go with rhubarb crumble, or whipping up double cream for a fabulous strawberry ice cream. You’ll want a whisk that’s comfortable to use and easy to clean. This whisk is a great option.
Whether it’s cheese, carrots, courgettes or potatoes you’re grating (and yes we know there’s a lot more that you can grate) there’s a lot of choice and discussion over what’s the best shape and style of grater to use. I don’t like box graters, mainly because I find them hard to clean. And there’s probably more of the skin off my knuckles ended up on this type of grater than any other. I do love this type of grater.
It comes with a variety of different lids for the container, which are different sizes of grating blades. What I find the best is that the grated contents go into the container. No mess on the counter. And of course, it packs away nice and neatly too.
A good pair of kitchen scissors, or kitchen shears, will help you out with several different tasks in the kitchen. First of all, they should be good and sharp, so having a cover on the blades helps to keep them sharp and also away from hands when you’re rummaging in the cupboard or drawer. Keeping them clean is also essential, so a pair of kitchen scissors that come apart from cleaning is a great option for making sure that they are really clean. These kitchen scissors have a huge variety of functions.
I’m left-handed and my husband is right-handed, so having a pair of scissors that we can both use comfortable (and comfortable is the key word there) is imperative. These scissors are great for that comfort and convenience.
In my guide to the essential gardening tools here I mention several times that it’s really important to look after your tools. That applies equally in the kitchen. Keeping them clean (and drying them properly) is key. When it comes to “sharps” – like knives and scissors it also means keeping them sharp. We’ve gone through several different types of knife sharpeners and we now own two that we’re keeping. The first is the rod style, this one here. We have this primarily because we love serrano ham and this type of knife sharpener is great for sharpening our specialist ham knife.
However, I recognise that this type of knife sharpener isn’t for everyone. And to be honest, we also use this type too. It will sharpen any knife – including the blades on the kitchen scissors.
A good set of digital kitchen scales is a must-have in any kitchen. I use them to measure solids, powders and liquids. It’s so much easier to get really specific readings by using my measuring jug on top of the scales. So you’ll want to get a set of scales that are easy to read, that will switch between liquid and weight measures and, if you need it, between metric and imperial measurements. These digital scales are fabulous.
It will come as no surprise by this point like I like to be able to store kitchen items easily. We don’t have a huge amount of storage space, so stacking and storing in the smallest space is key. I also like for the tools in my kitchen to be multi-function where it’s appropriate. And many of the recipes that we follow and create require some time on the stovetop and then in the oven. Saucepans that go from stovetop to oven are, for me, key. So that means either getting ones with a handle that goes in the oven or a removable handle. I say removable handle all the way. These Masterclass non-stick induction safe saucepans are just fabulous.
Wooden Spoon and Spatula
A great wooden spoon and spatula will deal with most of your stirring, frying mixing, spreading and turning requirements. It’s hard to beat this set here.
This set of three measuring jugs from Pyrex are fabulous. You can use them in the microwave, the numbers are clear on them and measurements are in both metric and imperial. Having three different sizes is great too, as I always find I need more than one!
What to consider when buying Kitchen Tools
There aren’t many considerations when it comes to kitchen tools, here’s what we think are the most important.
Buy Kitchen tools for the jobs that you’ll be doing
The most important thing to consider when looking at tools for the kitchen is what you’ll actually be doing. We’ve built up our list of essential kitchen tools over the years depending on what we needed at the time.
Buy Quality Kitchen Tools
The one absolute thing that we have learned when it comes to buying the best kitchen tools is that we will always buy the best quality tools that we can afford. Now there’s nothing wrong with cheap kitchen tools, but frankly, we’ve gone through more cheap kitchen tools than I can remember, so it’s been several years since we stopped doing that and bought the best quality kitchen tools that we could afford.
Buy the Right Tool for the Job
There’s another consideration when it comes to buying tools for the kitchen and that’s the job that they are designed for. While we don’t profess to own every tool ever designed for the kitchen, and I definitely still yearn for a few fancy gadgets, we do own the ones for the jobs that we need.
Maintain your Kitchen Tools
The final consideration we’d say you should make when it comes to kitchen tools is that you should keep them maintained. Keep your knives sharp. Never put them in the dishwasher. Always clean and dry them after use. Keep your chopping board in good condition. Oil it regularly. Don’t waste the good money that you spent on your tools!
Final Words on our Essential Kitchen Tools List
When you start to use your kitchen tools regularly then you definitely appreciate having good equipment. Buy the tools you need for the jobs you need to do. If all you start with is a shortlist of key equipment that does the job, then don’t go buying unnecessary kit. There’s no need to fill ALL the kitchen cupboards! The one lesson that we’ve learned in the kitchen, as well as the garden, was that buying decent quality long lasting tools is worth its weight in gold and it makes all the jobs a whole lot easier.
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