MONIQUE SOURINHO - food photographer, stylist, recipe developer, and professional taste tester. Nothing fills my cup more than connecting with like-minded people (especially over a great meal). To learn more click here.
Having only just moved into my own place two years ago (!!!) I often think of what it felt like in the very beginning of furnishing the space, especially the kitchen, and remember how exciting it was to start from scratch, and discover what tools would become my kitchen essentials.
And then promptly remembering how overwhelming it was.
Equipping your kitchen with all the best tools can feel like a big task—I mean, where do you even start?! There’s so much to consider, and so many options to decide between…
…Which is why I wanted to round up my can’t-live-without kitchen essentials for you, as a starting point of staples to help you outfit your dream kitchen and create the foundation of your culinary success!
In this post, you’ll find 21 of my favorite tools—and some of the tools I fantasize of displaying in my dream kitchen when I move from apartment to house)—so get ready to click add to cart!
21 Kitchen Essentials You Won’t Want To Live Without:
This beauty has to come in at number one kitchen essential, because it’s been my favorite kitchen purchase to date. It puts the multi in multi-purpose. And you can’t beat the high-speed blending power; it makes for the silkiest of soups and smoothest of smoothies. The consistency is *chefs kiss* (Oh, and it’s also a gem when pureeing, especially for warm soups with its heating function.)
One of my top investments for sure. It’s larger than a normal toaster oven, and it doesn’t use as much energy as a regular oven (especially if you have a gas oven, like me). That said, in the summertime, you don’t have to worry about combating the air conditioning, since it contains its heat.
The Calphalon countertop ovens are perfect, and I love using all their different settings, like pizza, air fry, or simple toast.
Space-Saving Kitchen Essentials
This is technically more than one item, but I’m making an exception for these kitchen sets. Material Kitchen said it best when they described these space-saving tools as ‘everything you need in your culinary toolkit, and nothing that you don’t.’
These toolkits come with 7 pieces of kitchenware that you’ll reach for on the daily, for all of your meals. Each kit is complete with an 8” knife, 4” knife, wooden spoon, metal spoon, slotted spatula, and the base (which not only saves counter space and holds sturdy essentials—its also beautiful).
This was one of the first investments I made and it is still part of my favorite kitchen essentials to display to this day!
Non-Slip Cutting Boards
Having both a large and small non-stick cutting board on hand is a game-changer. Any board will do; as long as they have rubber grips, you’re good to go!
Although if you’re hoping to make any cutting board stay put, an old trick of the trade is to take a towel and dampen it with water, then place it flat between the counter and the cutting board.
Investing in heavy wooden cutting boards like this one is my recommendation, because it’ll last longer in the end and the wood prevents your knives from dulling as quickly.
For easy lifting and transferring of freshly-chopped produce, I recommend a light-hand smaller board like this one from Crate and Barrel.
As much as I love a beautiful microplane with a wooden handle, I’ve tried so many of them and they always seem to give up on me. This microplane from Williams Sonoma, however, stands the test of (years!) of time, and is my go-to for zesting or finely grating some delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese!
Mandolin (and cut-resistant gloves)
There’s nothing like beautiful, fine, consistent slices of fruits and vegetables. Not only are they fun to eat; they also make for lovely additions or garnishes to tacos, salads, or entrees. Using a mandolin helps you make that perfect slice every time.
However, the blades are extremely sharp, so to spare you any potential pain, I recommend investing in food-grade cut-resistant gloves. Wearing them might make you feel a bit dramatic, but trust me—they’re game-changing (and give you a sense of confidence!). I swear by these kitchen essentials!
Heavy Duty Kitchen Shears
I never realized how much I could love a pair of kitchen shears until I crossed paths with The Good Shears from Material Kitchen. When I say I use them DAILY, I’m not exaggerating. I primarily use them to open boxes, but they are so, so useful for all things kitchen-related, from trimming herbs to slicing scallions. I LOVE them. (And yes, the caps lock was necessary, because that’s how much I love them.)
Every good kitchen needs a good sauce pot to go with it. I prefer stainless steel pots with glass lids so I can see how things are cooking along. Though, if you want to get fancy, Staub launched a line of their enameled cast iron pots with glass lids here at: Food52! (I know this because I subscribe to their e-mails and apparently it is on sale for $99 versus $400. Very, very tempting…)
Cast Iron Skillets
Ah, a true classic. You can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned cast iron skillet, and there are many types to choose from, the most popular being from brands like Lodge, Le Creuset, and Staub, though a favorite of mine is from Field Company.
Their skillet is on the lighter side, making it easier on my wrists when moving it around. I love that cast iron skillets can go from skillet to stove or vice versa. My second favorite is Staub’s 10” enameled cast iron fry pan for its functionality and beauty.
I think everyone, no matter the skill level, should have at least one cast iron skillet. They the ultimate cooking kitchen essentials that stands the test of time, if taken care of properly!
Dutch Oven (7 Qt)
Perfect for stews, for baking bread, for boiling water, you name it. I don’t own a soup pot or any of the sorts because the Dutch oven is far more versatile! Not only that, but it distributes heat much better and more consistently than a stainless steel one can.
The lazy cook’s dream. Sorry not sorry—I’m not going to boil a pot of water on the stove for coffee or tea. I’m both too lazy and too busy for all that work. Water kettles heat up at the touch of a button, and insulate the contents to keep it warmer, in comparison to an open pot on the stove. Plus, first thing in the morning, it’s so dang convenient when the brain is waking up too!
Stainless Steel Strainers
The easier to clean—and the more durable—the better! I prefer stainless steel strainers with holes as opposed to mesh strainers, because they’re so much easier to wash (unless it’s a handheld one for smaller objects like rinsing rice or sorts). The handles make it easy to grip and to toss anything if need be!
Because a food processor isn’t exactly a household staple, you may be thinking to yourself, “eh, maybe I’ll just get the small one” but let me tell you, if you have the space for it, go for the large. It’ll be worth it. It pulses things in an instant, and—if you’re not a traditionalist—it makes for an awesome basil pesto. I love using it especially for making no-bake crusts too!
These help flip things and move things without scratching your gorgeous pans, making everything last a little longer, and frustration a lot less. Rubber spatulas are a baker’s best friend! Opt for the heavier duty ones. They are an investment, but it beats the clutter and breakdown of the cheaper ones. Trust me, I’ve gone through my fair share of rubber utensils, and now just go for the more expensive (but reliable!) options.
I love a solid stainless steel bench scraper, but I love a silicone bench scraper even more! Of course they are great for dough and baking, but they are an absolute dream when cleaning a countertop of flour or crumbs!
It doesn’t matter whether you choose a handheld mixer or one that stays on the counter, as long as you have something, there’s room for cooking up memories! I vote (to start, at least) opt for an electric hand mixer. If you’re really into it, get a KitchenAid. If you’re like me, you have both. Invest in what works best for your lifestyle!
Almond Cow Machine
This ones for my friends that love non-dairy milk as much as they love sustainable options. Did you know that according to the Almond Cow Sustainability Study, “the average household uses 144 plastic cartons every year. That’s an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic polluting our oceans. What if there was a better way for the planet & your health?”
Also… have you ever tried making your own plant-based milk with a blender, strainer and bowl? It’s not fun. It’s messy. It’s time-consuming. And to be honest, it’s a little discouraging. Though with the Almond Cow, there are plenty of opportunities and ways to mix and match for endless possibilities. It’s one of my prized possessions because of this!
You can use this link or code “MONIQUE” for $15 off if you, too, would like to feel a huge sense of pride every time you display how the device works.
(Disclaimer: the above link is an affiliate link, and I only recommend products that I absolutely swear by. This machine is proudly one of them.)
The Baking Tray and Silicone Mat Combo
Want to hear a secret? Half-sheet baking trays are just as useful as full sheets.
Throw silicone mats into the mix, and you’ve got yourself the easiest baking setup ever (that will be even easier to clean). Silicone mats also offer reusable solutions to cut back on waste, and they even have silicone mats specific for cupcake pans, loaf pans, you name it!
Though, every now and then I use parchment for oilier foods to avoid the scent sticking to the silicone. According to Food52, “Silpats (and other silicone mats) are made of silicone, which is why they’re so nonstick. As they heat up in the oven, the silicone molecules expand, absorbing the oils (and, consequently, some residual flavors and fragrances) of whatever you’re cooking.”
By the way, I also use quarter baking sheets and smaller silicone mats for the countertop oven! (I’m telling you, they are awesome kitchen essentials!)
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
When I first moved into my place I wanted glass mixing bowls because I thought they were pretty. Now, after clanking into them and lifting them up enough times, I swerved to the stainless steel preference (but I still use both). They are light-weight, durable, and one less thing you have to worry about breaking haha! Bonus if you get ones with grippy silicone bottoms like: this one!
Measuring Cups and Spoons
As a recipe developer, measuring cups and spoons are of course a staple item in my kitchen. I am very close to my measuring cups/spoons that have odd measurements. They make life easier—and more precise—especially when experimenting and developing! (Using the back of the spoon to press in no-bake crusts are a good hack too!)
I also really love silicone measuring cups. They make pouring liquids a lot smoother and controlled.
Phew! We’ve made it to the end of my kitchen must-haves masterlist… what do you think—are you ready to spend your next paycheck at the cook shop?! (This may or may not be my guilty pleasure…)
If you’re thinking of buying new kitchen essentials, whether for yourself or as a gift for a loved one this holiday season, consider supporting local shops and vendors before heading off to the mall. Smaller retailers often sell name brands, too, and your community would greatly appreciate your support!
P.S. If local to CT, some places I enjoy are: Cookshop Plus in West Hartford, Weekend Kitchen in Essex, and Chef’s Emporium in Orange (which was actually where my first-ever food styling photoshoot was!)
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