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21 Essential Kitchen Tools Every Cook Should Have

Setting up a new kitchen? Trying to pare down an overload of gadgets? Check out this guide to what you'll actually use in the kitchen.

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Background of kitchen utensils on wooden kitchen tableDidecs/Shutterstock

When it comes to kitchen gadgets, I can go a little crazy. Walking down the cooking aisle at a store, specialty tools like avocado peelers, strawberry hullers, or a teensy-tiny wooden spoon always call my name. Unfortunately, because I don’t have the space or the budget to indulge in these semi-impractical kitchen tools, I have to streamline my batterie de cuisine to just the essentials. But what about those essentials every cook should have? Whether you’re looking to minimize your kitchen clutter or start stocking your space from scratch, here are the tools every home cook needs.

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cut ripe red pomegranate on a plate on a stone table.IriGri/Shutterstock

Chef’s knife

A good knife is a chef’s best friend. This is one of the few things that you’ll thank yourself for investing in. Carbon-plated stainless steel will stay sharp over time, but go to a specialty store to find the best match for you. Choose a knife that you feel comfortable handling. It should feel balanced in your hand, easy to hold and control, not too heavy, but definitely not flimsy. Believe us, you’ll be using it a lot, so take good care of it.

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vegetarian wok stiry fry with spatulaJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Metal spatula

A sturdy metal (or high-quality plastic) spatula is vital for flipping, tossing, and serving all kinds of foods. Think eggs over easy, puffy pancakes, roasted veggies, sauteed meats, baked salmon…we could go on. These are the best-value kitchen items you should buy on Amazon Prime Day.

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Bakery And Cooking Tools Silicone on wood tableNoom Kittipong/Shutterstock

Silicone spatula

A silicone spatula is crucial for scraping out the food processor or the sides of the mixing bowl, swirling frosting onto a cake, or folding egg whites into cake batter. Make sure your spatula is silicone and not rubber, or else it may risk melting under high heat. If you make lots of garlicky things, you may want to have a separate spatula for sweet baking only. A spatula is among these 18 kitchen gadgets pro cooks actually use at home.

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Stainless steel whisk in cream of sweet cakePrarinya/Shutterstock

Whisk

Sturdy metal whisks come in all shapes and sizes. Choose a mid-sized whisk with a handle that fits comfortably in your hand. Use it to mix dry ingredients together before baking, stir eggs for a frittata, or emulsify a vinaigrette. Here’s why you need a flat whisk in your kitchen.

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Close up of freshly baked casserole in stainless steel buffet tray with slotted serving spoonViacheslav Nikolaenko/Shutterstock

Slotted spoon

Whether it’s wooden or metal, a perforated (or slotted) spoon acts like a miniature strainer, removing solids from liquids—think pulling potatoes or small pasta noodles from boiling water.

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Closeup of a cook using kitchen shears to prepare an artichoke for cooking.Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Kitchen shears

Super basic, super useful. Every day, you’ll reach for shears to open up packaging, snip away herb stems, or trim fat from meats. Once in a while, you might use them to cut up a whole chicken or trim the crust off a pie. Look for a pair that dismantles for cleaning, so gunk doesn’t build up in the hinge. Having kitchen scissors is one of these brilliant kitchen shortcuts you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Man holding delicious roasted meat with tongs in kitchenPixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Tongs

For a few bucks, you can buy a cheap pair of metal tongs that’ll last you a lifetime. I’m always finding new uses for mine, from turning chicken breasts in the pan to reaching into the oven to check on my roast. (Basically, think of them as extensions of your fingers.) They’re also great for serving family-style at dinner.

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ThermoPro TP03A Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer Kitchen Cooking Food Candy Thermometer for BBQ Grill Smoker Deep Fry Oil Thermometervia amazon.com

Instant-read thermometer

Easily (and quickly) check to see if your meats have cooked enough. After use, make sure you know the right way to clean your meat thermometer.

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Shakshuka in a Cast Iron PanOksana Mizina/Shutterstock

Cast-iron skillet

Made with thick, heavy bottoms and sides, cast iron pans can evenly heat to high temperatures and retain heat for a long time. They give a beautiful sear to a steak or scallops. They go right in the oven, so use ’em for making cornbread or cobblers (and all these other delights). They’ve got rustic good looks that can go right from stove to tabletop. Last but not least, they’re virtually indestructible. Learn how to care for yours properly, and it will last a lifetime.

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Spatula in skillet teflon coating pan on electric stove against spoon and fork hanging on white brick wall in small kitchenv74/Shutterstock

Nonstick skillet

Easy to clean, lightweight nonstick pans are ideal for scrambling eggs or wilting greens. Look for ceramic coating, as some nonstick pans are made with PFOAs, chemicals that may be harmful to your health and the environment. Here are 6 things to cook in a nonstick frying pan—and four things not to.

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Red sauce made of dried tomatoes on frying pan.Agnes Kantaruk/Shutterstock

Saucepans

A large saucepan is essential for making pasta, boiling potatoes or corn, and simmering big batches of soups and broths. Look for a 5- or 6-quart size. A smaller saucepan (1.5 or 2.5 quarts) comes in handy for smaller items, like boiled eggs, rice, and oatmeal.

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Brand new enameled cast iron covered dutch oven on a white background.Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Dutch oven

Ah, the classic Dutch oven, another cast iron essential. Look for a 5 or 6 quart if you cook for a small crew, or go big with a 7 or 8 quart and feed a crowd. This pan can go in the oven or on the stovetop, so you can sear meat and then slowly cook a stew for hours in a low oven. (It’s like the original slow cooker.) You can also use your Dutch oven as an alternative to the large saucepan above. And you can bake bread with a super crackly crust in your D.O. They’re expensive, so save your pennies and use it every chance you get. Here’s how to properly take care of your Dutch oven.

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sausage and pepper sheet pan sandwichesTaste of Home

Sheet pan

Sheet pans are fab for baking cookies, but I use mine for dinner all the time. Make foil-wrapped fish fillets, chicken with veggies, deep-dish pizza, or roast veggies. One-pan dinners = easy cleanup!

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Italian sausage egg bakeTaste of Home

13×9 baking dish

Bake up a hearty casserole or sweet sheet cake with this versatile dish. These come in pretty colors, so find one that matches your dishes; you’ll want to serve right out of it. Here’s the secret behind the numbers on the back of your 13×9 pan.

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Mixing in a bowl with hand blenderBurak Karademir/Getty Images

Immersion blender

Once I handled an immersion blender, I kissed my standing blender goodbye. This handheld tool makes it so easy to blend soups, smoothies, and pestos with the push of a button. I find it much easier to handle than a traditional blender, and it’s great because it takes up much less space, too. If you haven’t made the switch yet, these are the 16 foods you shouldn’t be putting in your blender.

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Green leafy fresh vegetables in colanderYala/Shutterstock

Colander

Wash fruits and drain pasta, veggies, and other boiled foods. I like a colander that can balance on the edges of my sink, but a classic footed colander is just fine. Look for metal or ceramic, which are sturdier than plastic.

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metallic grater isolated on white backgroundNIKITA TV/Shutterstock

Box grater

I find myself reaching for this sturdy shredder at the most unexpected times—whether it’s shredding zucchini for healthy-ish muffins or softening butter extra quick. It might take a little extra elbow grease compared to a food processor, but I love how my box grater doesn’t take up much space. Here are 12 surprising foods you never thought to grate.

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Person using a microplane to zest a lemonTaste of Home

Microplane

My microplane is my go-to tool for when I want my dishes to feel gourmet. It’s a fine grater that’s perfect for adding thin sprinkles of Parmesan over a pasta dish or adding lemon zest to a flaky fish.

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OLIVER-stockphoto/Shutterstock

Prep bowls

This might sound like a no brainer, but it’s important to have a variety of mixing bowls. Get ones that are metal or glass because they’re less porous than plastic. They won’t pick up stains or odors. I have a single large metal mixing bowl for cake mixes, chopping up salads, or oiling down veggies. My smaller bowls hold 1 to 2 cups and are the perfect way for me to practice mise en place in the kitchen—staying super organized while I cook.

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egg timer, things to buy at a grocery store that aren't foodStockphotoVideo/Shutterstock

Timer

Timing is everything when it comes to cooking! If you’re making multiple items at once, it’s crucial to keep track of individual cooking times. Taste of Home‘s test kitchen cooks carry timers around their necks, but if you don’t want to buy a timer you can set one on your microwave (or phone).

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Cutting board over towel on wooden kitchen table.Evgeny Karandaev/Shutterstock

Cutting board

A sturdy, stable surface is essential when it comes to prepping your food. A wooden cutting board will help protect your knife from dulling quickly, as well as make cleanup a breeze. Here’s how to get garlic smell out of your cutting board.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home