25 must have kitchen tools for food loving minimalists that earn their keep.
We covered 25 things that don't deserve to be in your kitchen, but after years of trial and error, we figured out 25 things we absolutely love in our kitchen too. When we make any kind of kitchen purchases we think about quality, consumer reviews, functionality, the chance that the item will malfunction. Also a huge part... aesthetics. In general we don't like "in your face"branding. We like metal, glass and wood over plastic as much as possible and in neutral colors.
You'll also see most of these kitchen tools are non electronic gadgets OR are brands that have been around for decades. Except the immersion blender and sous vide for obvious reasons (those are much newer to the consumer market). We don't like lots of gadgets because they typically break with an electronic malfunction that's impossible or expensive to fix. You might as well get another one. Planned obsolescence waste is a huge problem, and we don't like to contribute.
Keep in mind, this is not a 'buy everything right now' list. The items we recommend definitely span the price range from really inexpensive basics like metal measuring cups to investments like the Vitamix. And like all lists, some of these things might not be right for you. If you are an infrequent cook or someone who likes to buy things that are more pre-prepped, you do not need a sous vide or stand mixer probably ever. These must haves are for people who cook a wide variety of dishes frequently and like high quality-lasting products. So again, there is no guilt or should or unnecessary buying in this post. You do you
- blender: Vitamix is the best blender on the market period. It's great for soups, smoothies, nut butters, nut milks because it's so powerful and easily produces a smooth product. We've had one for nearly 10 years with heavy use and it's still perfect. You can buy additional blending bodies for the base if yours looks weathered or you want a different size. Vitamix is also known for their customer service. That said, you might just need a really basic blender if you don't regularly use one. We use our blender multiple times a week and that makes the Vitamix worth it. Now's the time to buy one if you're considering it since Vitamix released a new line of basic models.
- immersion blender: While you can obviously make soups and sauces in the Vitamix, sometimes we're working with much smaller quantities of things that need to be pureed or emulsified. That's when the immersion blender comes into play. You can blend soup while it's still really hot without transferring it out of the pan, and you can whip cream in a tiny cup. You can also blend a small cup of beet sauce or whatever else you need.
- food processor with grating attachment: I nearly got rid of our food processor a few years ago, until I realized how important it was. It functions as our super fast grater and chopper- shredding carrots, cabbage, brussels sprouts, potatoes- you name it all in seconds with the grating top attachment. With the normal functionality it's crucial for salsas or chunky chopped sauces. And also bringing together some doughs. Yep. We make biscuit dough (cutting in frozen butter with the grater!) in this, as well as those little energy bliss balls. This Cuisinart food processor which is highly rated by Serious Eats is currently $220 off!
- stand mixer: You don't need a stand mixer unless you bake a lot or regularly use the attachments that you can use with it (eg meat grinder or spiralizer or whatever – we don't use any of these). We use this mixer about once a week for making dough or meringue. While we have a neutral colored stand mixer, they sell every color from metallic copper to pink.
- metal whisk: We like the 6 inch.
- short metal tongs: I use my metal tongs for tossing salads, flipping things over on pans and sometimes reaching things in cabinets. I can't find the exact tongs I have (which are embarrassingly Guy Fieri brand...but they are PERFECT), but look for short, completely stainless steel, spring loaded tongs.
- silicon full mold spatula:The food safety trained side of me cannot deal with how gross wooden handled spatulas with plastic heads are. Water, food, everything you're scraping with the spatula gets under the head and grows. NO. We only use full molded silicon spatulas.
- pancake turner metal: I don't like plastic because they can burn and they don't hold up as well as a metal pancake turner/spatula. I also like That a sturdy spatula makes it easy to smash down burgers and potatoes.
- cast iron skillet: I'm lucky. We have cast iron skillets in two sizes from my Grandma. So that's decades of perfect seasoning. I use these constantly for everything from cornbread to shakshuka, crispy chicken nuggets to pancakes. Also searing steaks. Very important. I recommend a 10-12 inch skillet. But you know what? I have a friend who told me recently she never, ever uses the cast iron skillet she bought. So I'll leave this up to you.
- le creuset: a dutch oven is a newer addition to our kitchen, but we use it frequently. It's great for stews, cooking some bread, but especially long cook meats. It's not a 'necessity'. I'd say it's a second tier item that is nice to have.
- glass nesting liquid measuring cups: Pyrex makes glass liquid measuring cups that are very handy. They don't take up much storage space thanks to the nesting, but having a 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup measure makes all sorts recipes convenient. Sometimes we use the 4 cup measure to mix up batters or marinate small items.
- metal dry measuring cups: I like industrial looking stainless steel ones because they hold up so well.
- metal teaspoon and tablespoon set: see above
- colander: Important for rinsing beans and lentils and produce, straining pasta. Get one with a base (vs a rounded bottom) so you can throw it in the sink. Skip plastic since you're likely dumping boiling hot water on top of it to strain pasta.
- a solid set of pans: Before you buy a full set, you could definitely get away with maybe two pans. One a deeper pan for soup or pasta, and the other a shallow sauté pan. But if you do a lot of cooking, based on our research and personal use, we are big fans of this set from All Clad. Which you can put in the dishwasher by the way.
- baking sheet with lip: This can double for cookies and sheet pan roasted veggies or baking salmon. While you can buy 'full sheets', if you're cooking for one or two people, we prefer half or quarter sheets.
- old version mandoline: Definitely a second tier necessity item but we like this old style mandoline for increasing veggie intake and presentation needs. And yes, it's mint green, and yes it's definitely weird for us, but the old version has a cult following! It's incredibly easy to adjust thickness and switch out types of blades (matchsticks vs slices etc).
- sous vide: If you cook meat, I'm not going to say you NEED a sous vide...but it might change your life. The benefit of a sous vide is precision and repeatable outcomes. Set it to a specific time and duration and you can have completely medium rare steak perfection. Like four steaks at once. And all you have to do is finish them off with a sear. Another reason you might like this tool is if you like to throw parties. You can cook a ton of meat at once and finish it on the grill in 10 minutes. No grill tending all day. While we currently have this Anova sous vide, which was a gift several years ago (and it's great), we'll be switching to the Joule sous vide later. The Joule is smaller, sleeker and gets high praise from food friends.
- glass mixing bowl nesting set: These are the bowls we have and love from Mosser Glass. You can definitely swap these out for much less expensive Pyrex-esque nesting bowls but we love the white and we love that these come from a super old school company in Ohio. When we bought our first Mosser glass bowls you had to literally call them to order. Now they're on Food 52.
- your ideal coffee maker- our's is the nespresso with milk frother: Whether you're a Chemex person or french press or latte kind of person, get whatever is going to stop you from constantly buying expensive coffee out of your house. We debated for a bit whether or not we needed an integrated milk frother with our Nespresso espresso machine and the answer is: we needed it. We LOVE our Nespresso with milk frother and never crave coffee out because of it.
- short chef's knife: I won't link a recommendation here since, to be honest, I don't know what brand my recommendation is right now. I know for a fact, I like shorter than normal chef's knives. But I haven't bought an ideal one. This is my most used knife and it's due for an upgrade (yikes- an expensive upgrade).
- serrated knife: A serrated knife is important for bread and tomatoes but don't spend money here. A cheap one is fine since serrated knives cannot be sharpened.
- large cutting board: Give yourself a ton of working space and you'll be less likely to hurt yourself. We love our huge Boos cutting board for produce but make sure you get a large plastic one for meat. Food safety patrol again- sorry.
- boston shaker cocktail set: If you already have a shaker at home, you're probably used to the cup with the perforated top and a cap. These are garbage in comparison to Boston shakers. In my opinion. Our other shaker set always leaked. It was hard to clean. A Boston set is what professionals use behind the bar, and truly, we get a better blended drink from this simple set up.
- kitchen shears: This is probably something you didn't know you needed but once you have it, YOU NEED IT. Good kitchen shears can do everything from cutting off carrot tops to cutting a bouquet and even cutting apart a chicken. We got this set at Christmas and I realized how sad my previous set was by comparison. You can also take apart the two so you can sharpen the blade and also really wash it (chicken...).
If you missed the first two parts of this Spring Kitchen Clean Out series, head back to see how to streamline and declutter your kitchen, and the list of 25 things you DON'T need in your kitchen!
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.