If you’re trying to eat healthily and want to know exactly what goes into your food, there is no better way than cooking your own food. That’s because it is a great way to cut out processed foods and incorporate more whole foods into your diet.
Cooking for yourself can also help you meet food goals for fitness or weight loss/gain. Or when you need to follow a special diet like gluten-free, dairy-free, or peanut-free.
If you’re short on time or don’t want to cook every night, you can choose to cook enough food one night so you have leftovers for a couple of days. Or you can meal prep on Sunday to have dinners or lunches ready for throughout the week.
Having the right kitchen essentials on hand will make cooking easier and more likely to result in success.
Here’s what we suggest to begin outfitting your kitchen.
1. Kitchen Timer
There aren’t many dishes or meals you can cook that don’t require a timer. You’ll need one that you can set for at least an hour.
You may be tempted to just use the timer on your microwave or your phone, but you’ll want a dedicated kitchen timer. Besides, if you use your microwave timer, you can’t use your microwave for something else until the timer dings.
2. Meat Thermometer
Every oven is different, so you can’t rely on the timing indicated in a recipe to tell you when meat is cooked properly. You’ll need a meat thermometer for that.
Look for a meat thermometer that lists the proper cooking temperatures for various meats like chicken, pork, and beef right on the dial. It will save you from having to look it up each time.
3. Can Opener
Many canned goods now come with tabs for peeling away the lids, but many do not. For those (or for when those don’t open properly), you will need a good can opener. It will ensure you can open cans of tomatoes, beans, fish, and other staples.
4. Good Knives
At a minimum, every kitchen should have a quality paring knife, chef’s knife, and a bread knife. These three knives can handle almost every cutting and chopping task out there.
Paring knives are small and allow for precise cutting work when peeling, trimming, dicing and slicing. Paring knives are great for coring tomatoes and strawberries, segmenting citrus, peeling veggies, and removing seeds and ribs from peppers.
Chef’s knives get their name for a reason. It’s a multi-purpose knife that all cooks will turn to again and again. Chef’s knives dice, slice, mince, and chop everything and also handle bigger jobs like removing fat off of roasts and disjointing large cuts of meat.
While in theory, you can use any knife to cut bread, a bread knife’s long and serrated blade is essential to leaving the bread nice and airy. They also make quicker work of thick crusts on baguettes and other types of artisan bread.
5. Spatulas and Cooking Spoons
Yes, these are technically three different items, but they all serve a similar purpose. That is, moving food around while you’re prepping and cooking. So they have been grouped together.
You’ll need a slotted metal spatula for fish and for anything deep-fried. A silicone spatula will serve you well for stirring and removing batter, melted chocolate, and more out of your mixing bowls.
For spoons, pick up a slotted spoon for pulling noodles out of hot water to test for doneness, a wooden spoon for stirring sauces and dishes while cooking, and a ladle for serving everything from soups to casseroles.
6. Measuring Cups and Spoons
Measuring cups and spoons are basic kitchen tools everyone should have in order to measure dry or liquid ingredients for meals or baking. Look for sets that have these measurements:
- Teaspoons (1 full teaspoon, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8)
- Tablespoons (1 full tablespoon and 1/2)
- Cups (1 full cup, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 and 1/8)
Look for a set that has a flat edge along the top. By using the backside of a butter knife, you can scrape along the edge to get accurate measurements.
If your budget allows, larger measurings cups with multiple measurements on them are helpful, too. Especially if you get one that shows ounces, cup fractions, and metric measurements.
7. Steamer Basket
Steamed baskets make cooking healthy easier. No oil or butter necessary. Just place your prepped vegetables, fish, shellfish eggs, dumplings, or leafy greens in the basket and let the magic of steam cook them for you with no additional calories added.
8. Cutting Boards
Cutting boards are on every kitchen essentials list for a reason. They are the best place to prep your food since they are knife-cut resistant (unlike most countertops!)
Pick up a wood or bamboo cutting board for prepping meats and a plastic cutting board for prepping everything else. This easy tip will keep you from cross-contaminating uncooked meats with food that doesn’t get cooked.
9. Kitchen Shears
Kitchen shears have many uses in the kitchen. They’re mainly used to break down whole poultry. But they are also helpful for cutting open packaging, chopping up fresh herbs, and even cutting slices of pizza.
Often overlooked uses for these shears are the openers between the handles that allow you to remove screw caps and open jars. And use them to crack nuts and shells.
When most people think of colanders, they imagine someone draining pasta. But colanders can be used to rinse and clean produce and drain beans and other canned foods. Another use is to use it to press the moisture out of zucchini prior to making zucchini bread or zucchini noodles.
11. Pyrex Mixing Bowls with Lids
If your budget or space allows for only one set of mixing bowls, opt for pyrex mixing bowls with lids. These bowls allow you to store prepped food in the fridge until you’re ready for them. You can also use them for serving, then simply put the lid back on to store leftovers.
Plastic bowls take a beating over time and can become discolored when using certain foods like beets, tomato sauce or turmeric. Metal bowls hold up well but can cause a negative reaction with certain foods.
Choosing cookware can be overwhelming when you head into your nearest kitchen products retailer. Between the specialty pans and the variety of materials used to create them, it can be hard to pick out a basic set.
To keep your choices to the minimum that will handle a wide variety of cooking tasks, you’ll need a 2-quart saucepan, a stockpot, and a 12″ nonstick frying pan. This set up will get you started and allow you to cook meats, vegetables, eggs, soups, and much more. Cookware is an area to splurge if you budget allows since good quality cookware lasts a very long time.
Potholders are cooking essentials that can keep you from getting burned. And keeping your counters scorch-free by using them as a trivet.
You’ll need potholders for taking things out of the oven and removing hot lids from cookware. Or moving a hot pot to the sink to pour out hot liquid through your colander.
Stand-up blenders or handheld blenders come in handy for making protein shakes after a workout, creamy soups, sauces, and salsas. Or you can make delicious margaritas for you and your friends.
One nice convenience of using a handheld blender is that you can puree or blend food and drinks directly in your saucepan, stockpot or individual glasses.
Bakeware is similar to its cousin cookware when it comes to having a myriad of options to choose from. To get started, buying a good quality sheet pan and a 9″ X 13″ pyrex or ceramic baker pan will set you up for lots of oven-baking possibilities.
Sheet pans can be used for everything from cookies and biscuits, roasted veggies to complete meals! The 9″ X 13″ baker pan will have you covered for cooking meats, poultry, and fish. And casseroles, lasagna (and other pasta dishes), cakes, brownies, cobblers, and oh so much more.
17. Box Grater
Box graters have four sides that each helps you perform different cooking prep tasks. You can use them to grate cheese or zest citrus, but that’s just the beginning. Keep your box grater in mind when you need to grate chocolate for melting, grate veggies like carrots and onions, slice hardboiled eggs, and mince garlic and ginger.
Grab These Kitchen Essentials Today
If you’re missing any of these kitchen essentials, start adding to your collection of handy kitchen tools today. Add more as you can, letting your own budget be your guide.
As you begin to get more comfortable in the kitchen and start considering what else to add to your kitchen tools, look for options that serve more than one purpose when possible rather than super-specialty items. It’ll keep down the kitchen clutter and you’ll have an easier time finding the utensils you’re looking for when you cook.
Looking for more great tips on eating healthy and staying fit? Great, we’ve got them for you! You’ll find them on our website.