Every kitchen should have a block of knives, a 30-piece copper pot set, and a Vitamix...right? Repeat after us: Just because they made it, doesn’t mean you need it!
As far as most kitchens are concerned, you can cook anything with just a few basic tools on hand. We asked James Briscione, Director of Culinary Research at the Institute of Culinary Education, two-time Chopped champion, and author of The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better for his list of kitchen must-haves and why you need them.
Why You Need It: Being able to cut things in the kitchen is kind of important. This is your all-purpose knife—your sidekick—so if you’re going to splurge on anything, this is it.
What To Look For: Your chef’s knife should be at least 8 inches—up to 10 inches is ok but a bit long. Bigger is not better unless you plan on only cutting things the size of watermelons. According to Briscione, the most important qualities to look for are sharpness and heaviness. It should feel substantial in your hand.
Good One We Like: Victorinox 8" Chef Knife with Fibrox Handle
Why You Need It: You are wondering, Bread is evil. Why do I need a bread knife? “If you need to cut anything delicate, first thing you reach for should be your serrated knife,” said Briscione. Think bread, tomatoes...soft items that you don’t want to press and smoosh.
What To Look For: Something middle-of-the-road in price is absolutely fine. “It will wear out and you will wind up replacing it in year, so don’t spend a fortune,” advised Briscione.
Good One We Like: Orblue Stainless Steel Serrated Bread Slicer Knife
Why You Need It: Sometimes, you need to get into hard to reach places and complete delicate tasks like scraping, peeling garlic, and cutting small things even tinier.
What to Look For: Something that feels like a natural extension of your hand. Channel Edward Scissorhands.
Good One We Like: Wusthof Pro Paring Knife
Why You Need It: Because you are a grown up. And, grown ups try to keep their counters nice so they don’t cut on them.
What To Look For: Ideally, a nice wooden block. But those are kind of pricey. So check out the one we picked out for you! A wood board that is dishwasher safe and won’t get stained when you cut beets on it (we know how much you love beets).
Good One We Like: Epicurean Kitchen Series Cutting Board
Why You Need It: This is going to be your best friend during the week. You can boil water in it. You can actually boil a lot of things in it. You can make rice and mac-and-cheese. You can also make sauces (hence the name) and even fry things in it.
What to Look For: You want this guy to be a little heavier. Preferably, the saucepan has a weighted bottom. According to Briscione, something between two to four quarts is the ideal size.
Good One We Like: Farberware Classic Series Stainless Steel 3-Quart Covered Saucepan
Why You Need It: This is the OG slow cooker that also happens to be king of the one-pot dinners. Once you have one, you will not know what to do without it.
What to Look For: Make sure it is cast iron. Otherwise, it’s just a pot. And invest some money if you have it. This is something that you can potentially own forever.
Good One We Like: Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Dual Handles, Pre-Seasoned, 5-Quart
Cast Iron Skillet
Why You Need It: You do not need another pan if you have this skillet. This is where you will make all your pan-seared goodies, stir fries, braises, pancakes...and if you are really savvy, no-knead bread!
What To Look For: Make sure it’s pre-seasoned. That’s what makes it nonstick. You can season these things yourself but it is not fun.
Good One We Like: Lodge Logic 10-¼-Inch Pre-Seasoned Skillet
Why You Need It: Not only are they useful for cooking but they serve double-duty as serving utensils.
What To Look For: Packs of more than one—like the ones we selected for you here. You’ll want to replace these pretty often.
Good One We Like: Classic Wooden 12-Inch Kitchen Spoon, Set of 3
Why You Need It: Because it hurts to flip things with your fingers.
What To Look For: Just make sure it won’t melt.
Good One We Like: Chef Series FLEX Standard Silicone Spatula 600F Heat-Resistant Silicone Spatula
Why You Need It: Besides obvious usages, peelers are also great for making pseudo zoodles.
What To Look For: According to Briscione, Y peelers offer the best control.
Good One We Like: OXO Good Grips Y Peeler
Why You Need It: Because you like cheese on pasta.
What To Look For: We like the grip on this OXO peeler because zesting your finger is a very painful thing.
Good One We Like: OXO Good Grips Zester and Grater
Why You Need It: Because if you have to read this sentence, you probably are not the best at distinguishing between a teaspoon or a tablespoon of something.
What To Look For: An entire set of spoons and cups. Don’t skimp on these essentials!
Good Ones We Like: ChefLand 8-Piece Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoon Set
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