Essential Kitchen Tools Checklist

Cooking is easier and faster with the right equipment. Stock your kitchen with these basics.

Illustration of cooking utensils (59)

Spoons, Ladles, and More

  • Ladle

    Look for a large "bowl" that makes it easy to serve soups. Also, a bent handle at the top allows you to hook the ladle on the side of a pot without it falling in.

  • Locking tongs

    Select a style with nonslip handles and scalloped tips for a firm grip. Use for turning meats and tossing vegetables in a skillet.

  • Metal spatula

    An offset thin blade will allow you to get under delicate items like cookies and pancakes. A medium-length blade will prevent flipping or picking up foods at an awkward angle.

  • Rubber spatula

    Should be sturdy enough to maneuver heavy doughs but flexible enough to get into jar corners. Silicone models are heat-resistant and can be used in pots.

  • Slotted spoon

    Pick a sturdy spoon with a stainless steel handle that won't get too hot.

  • Whisk

    A solid rather than a wired handle will prevent food from getting stuck inside. Buy one with thin wires (not thick, heavy ones) to make sure it's well-balanced when whipping egg whites or cream.

For Slicing

  • Chef's knife

    Opt for an 8- to 9-inch blade with a thick bolster, the metal that extends from the handle to the edge of the blade and acts as a finger guard while you're chopping. This knife should feel comfortable in your hand.

  • Garlic press

    A nice shortcut while chopping: one that works on unpeeled cloves and is dishwasher-safe.

  • Grater

    A box grater is the most versatile with six different grate options to shred, shave, dust, and zest. Choose one with a sturdy handle.

  • Kitchen shears

    Invest in a sturdy pair with tapered, fine tips and roomy handles.

  • Lemon press

    The best models are big enough for both a lime and a lemon and have ridges to grip fruit better.

  • Microplane grater

    For small tasks that require a fine grater—zesting lemons and grating Parmesan, garlic, and nutmeg—use a razor-sharp, stainless steel model.

  • Paring knife

    The blade should fall between 3 to 4 inches for small, fine cuts like coring tomatoes and peeling fruits and vegetables. A sturdy model's blade will extend through the handle.

  • Potato masher

    A curved head will let you get into corners of bowls and pots.

  • Serrated bread knife

    You want a rigid blade of at least 8 inches and an offset handle, which will let you slice through sandwiches without banging your knuckles on the cutting board.

  • Y-shaped vegetable peeler

    This will give you a better grip than a traditional swivel model for hard-to-peel foods like mangoes and butternut squash.

Other Equipment

  • Can opener

    A safe-cut, or smooth-edge, model cuts around the outside of the can, rather than the lid; produces smooth edges; and will never lower the lid into your food.

  • Corkscrew

    A standard waiter's corkscrew will open both beer and wine and take up much less space than a two-armed model.

  • Instant-read thermometer

    Find one that is easy-to-read and shatterproof.

  • Measuring cups

    You'll want measuring cups for both dry and wet ingredients. For dry ingredients, you'll need at least 1-cup and 4-cup measuring tools on hand.

  • Measuring spoons

    Oval models are more likely to fit into spice jars.

  • Peppermill

    An easily adjustable grind setting will let you go from coarse to fine. A large hole allows easy refilling of the peppercorns.

  • Salad spinner

    You can use one with a solid bowl for both swishing greens clean and serving them.

  • Timer

    Some digital models allow for multiple timekeepings, so you can track a roast in the oven, potatoes on the stovetop, and dough in the refrigerator—all at the same time.

  • Wire mesh colanders

    Buy one with a foot at the bottom to ensure your pasta won't sit in the residual puddle in the sink. You can use a small one as a flour sifter in a pinch.

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