Whether you acquired them when you were single or at your bridal shower, most people have basic kitchen tools that get them by day-to-day. Yet now that we’re all cooking at home more, and preparing meals and snacks for our kids all day, every day, it might be time to step up your game and get better, more efficient cooking tools and gadgets.
Whether you need to replace some old items, or you’re looking for appliances that will make cooking at home easier, more enjoyable, and make the most of the space you have, here are 17 kitchen tools that I recommend, because most of them I use myself.
1. CUTTING BOARD
When it comes to kitchen tools, every home chef needs a solid cutting board for chopping fruits and vegetables, slicing meat and preparing avocado.
According to NSF International, to prevent cross contamination between ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables and raw meat, poultry and seafood, it’s a good idea to keep two different cutting boards on hand.
Cutting boards come in different colors, shapes, sizes and materials so you’ll have to decide which types you like the best.
I prefer wood cutting boards because they’re sturdy and last. If you’re looking for something a bit more special, TaylorCrafts Engraved ($39 and up) makes personalized wood cutting boards. I’ve purchased these for my husband for Father’s Day, and for my clients and they were a hit.
When I received a Vitamix ($289 and up) from my husband as a Christmas gift, I just didn’t get it. Why did I need another blender when I already had one?, I asked him.
Yet after the first time I used it to make a green smoothie—I was hooked.
Unlike other blenders, the Vitamix blends everything up into a super-smooth consistency, much like a juicer would, except the fiber is still intact.
Another benefit of using the Vitamix, is that it isn’t just for smoothies. You can also use it to make:
- Frozen drinks
- Non-dairy milks
- Dips and spreads
- Nut and seed butters
- Frozen treats
- Flours and dough
3. WOODEN CHOPPED SALAD BOWL
This EZ Hold Wooden Chopped Salad Bowl With Mezzaluna ($99) is hands-down, one of the best kitchen tools I use almost everyday.
I love chopped salads and this bowl makes it so easy and quick to get a healthy meal on the table. Just add all of your ingredients, chop everything in the bowl and you’re done.
Another great thing about the bowl is that it can encourage your kids to get in the kitchen with you. Start with your salad greens and then let them choose the fruits, vegetables and healthy fats they want.
When kids make their own choices within the parameters you set forth, they’re more likely to feel in control and make healthy choices themselves.
4. PAMPERED CHEF STONEWARE BAR PAN
Sheet pan meals are so popular right now and for good reason: they’re one of the easiest ways to get a healthy dinner on the table.
You can certainly use a basic stainless steel sheet pan, but the Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan ($40) is a step above—and something I use everyday.
Whether it’s vegetables, veggie “chips” or sweet potato fries, everything I make is evenly cooked and extremely flavorful.
When I make meatballs, they’re moist inside and crispy on the outside—and gone in seconds.
Unlike other pans that you have to soak or vigorously scrub, the pan is so easy to clean. You simply use the pan scraper to remove any stuck on residue, run it under hot water and wipe it clean with a paper towel.
Another thing I recently discovered is that you can use the pan in the microwave—cooking at home doesn’t get much easier than that.
5. OXO GOOD GRIPS SALAD SPINNER
The key to keeping salad fresh in the refrigerator is to keep it clean, dry and stored in a salad spinner like the Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner ($23).
Storing your salad in a salad spinner is also a quick and easy way to get healthy meals on the table because it’s already washed and ready to go.
6. KITCHENAID STAND MIXER
The KitchenAid stand mixer ($299 and up) is the quintessential bridal shower gift, but if yours has been stuck on a shelf for years, it’s time to dust it off.
While it’s a must-have for making cakes, cookies, breads, and muffins, their customized attachments also make it easy to make pasta, burgers, sausage, spiralized vegetables, shredded cheese and ice cream. It’s truly an all-in-one kitchen tool that makes cooking easier.
7. KNIFE SET
Just like a solid cutting board, you need a good set of quality knives.
Years ago, we were gifted a Wustoff knife and have since added to our collection because they’re extremely durable and comfortable to use.
This 7-piece WÜSTHOF Classic Seven Piece Mobile Bamboo Block Set ($359) includes everything you’ll need to make healthy meals and snacks for your family: a 3.5 inch paring knife, 6-inch utility knife, 8-inch bread knife, 8-inch cook’s knife, 5-inch hollow edge santoku, and come-apart kitchen shears.
8. CAST IRON SKILLET
My husband had been talking about getting a cast iron skillet for months, so for his birthday last year, I purchased one.
At first, I didn’t really understand why it’s any better than our regular ‘ol skillet, but after using it a few times, it became one of my favorite kitchen tools.
A cast iron skillet cooks everything easily and evenly and it’s so versatile: you can use it to sear, grill, sauté, fry and bake and the more you use it, the better your food tastes.
It’s also large so you can cook up more in less time and extremely durable so it will last you for years.
I like this Legend Cast Iron Skillet ($49.99) in particular, because it has a lid and a silicone handle—because cast iron gets really hot!
9. CUISINART SMART STICK
If you want to make homemade soups, mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower, baby food, or whipped cream, the Cuisinart Smart Stick ($59) is a must-have kitchen tool that will make cooking easier.
Instead of putting your ingredients into a separate appliance, you just put the immersion blender into your pot or the cup that’s provided and you get results in minutes flat.
Whether you’re washing vegetables or draining pasta, a colander is a must-have in the kitchen.
I use a plastic colander myself, but I love this ExcelSteel Stainless Steel Colander ($11) because it’s more durable, especially when you’re draining hot liquids. It’s also really pretty—some girls like diamonds. Me? Not so much.
11. INSTANT POT
Full disclosure: I don’t own an Instant Pot, but with 518,000,000 search results for it on Google, and tons of Instant Pot cookbooks, suffice to say people love it.
The Instant Pot Duo multi-cooker ($119) combines 7 appliances in one: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker and warmer. It also cooks up to 7 times faster and makes one-pot meals a breeze.
12. STAINLESS STEEL STRAINERS
Whether you’re making rice, separating liquids, or sifting flour or confectioners’ sugar, you need a strainer.
Cuisinart’s set of 3 fine mesh stainless steel strainers ($12) is durable, dishwasher-safe and comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
13. MIXING BOWLS
Every home chef needs a good set of mixing bowls, but if you’re like me, you also want something that saves space and is multi-purpose.
That’s why I love this set of PriorityChef Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls ($24) because they’re stackable and have lids, so you can go from cooking to storage with ease.
They also have silicone, non-slip bottoms and measurements inside so cooking with your kids is easier and less messy.
If you don’t love it, no problem—they offer a 100% money-back guarantee.
14. MEASURING CUPS
Just as you need a good set of mixing bowls, you also need a set of measuring cups, which can also do double duty for teaching kids portion control.
This OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set ($19) is a great addition to your kitchen. The patented angle surface allows you to read the measurements from above and since they’re plastic, you don’t have to worry that your kid will break it.
Although I only have one measuring cup, I like that this 3-piece set eliminates the need for constant washing and drying when you’re baking.
15. POTS AND PANS
Years ago when I was living alone, I had a few pots and pans that were OK for a single woman who didn’t cook much. But when you’re cooking for your family non-stop, you need a set of pots and pans that are durable and will last for years.
I use a similar set of Cuisinart pots and pans ($196) and I can say with confidence, they make cooking easier.
This set includes 1-1/2- and 3-quart covered saucepans, 8- and 10-inch open skillets, a 3-1/2-quart covered sauté pan, an 8-quart covered stockpot, and a steamer insert with lid. They’re also oven-safe up to 550-degrees and easy to clean.
16. SLOW COOKER
Every time I use my slow cooker to make lentils, chili, pulled pork, or homemade apple sauce, I always say to myself, I should be using this more.
Pre-pandemic, when people were commuting and running hectic lives, the slow cooker was a working parent’s dream. But even now, as we juggle distance learning, work and parenting, the slow cooker can make cooking easier and faster.
This Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval manual slow cooker ($31) has a high setting for quicker meals and a low setting so you can set it and forget it until dinner. It feeds 9+ people if you’ve got a big family, big eaters, or trying to stretch your meals. It’s also a great way to make one-pot meals and it’s dishwasher-safe so clean up time is a breeze.
17. BASIC SMALL KITCHEN TOOLS
If making homemade meals wasn’t always your thing, you may need a few small kitchen tools to make cooking easier.
While you can get totally fancy with gadgets like a pineapple corer or a pestle to grind spices, here’s a list of basic items that will you can make do with just fine.
Peeler (Oxo Good Grips; $9.99)
Tongs (OXO Good Grips; $11.99)
Stainless Steel Ladle (Zulay Kitchen; $9.99)
Spatulas (UpGood Silicone Spatula Set; $21.98)
Whisk (KitchenAid Classic Utility Whisk; $9.99)