Kitchens are the epicenter of many a home; stocking them is the first step toward ensuring they’re functional, creatively fulfilling and inspiring. Pinpointing kitchen essentials isn’t as daunting as it looks—all it requires is an essentials list. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. From cooking utensils and knives to pans and oven mitts (plus a dose of our favorite organization techniques for good measure), our list of essential kitchen items makes the task easy, invigorating, and fun. Keep in mind you don’t have to buy everything in one fell swoop; you can build your collection methodically and on an as-need basis.
A fully loaded kitchen requires some initial assessing so first, take stock of your current situation. Make note of cookware and bakeware, give your knives a hard look, test that any appliances and electrics are in good working order, and then check out everything in between (kitchen accessories like mixing bowls, cutting boards and salad spinners). Once you have a handle on what you’re working with, you can fill in any gaps. Our go-to organization method for kitchen essentials is to divide and conquer using three categories: prep, cook and cleanup.
Prep includes all of the tasks prior to cooking: chopping, mixing, measuring, etc. For creating your mise en place—a French term for having all of your ingredients prepared and ready to cook—you need a full set of knives, plus a proper storage compartment (knife block or magnetic strip) and sharpening accessories. You’ll also need 2-3 cutting boards in a variety of sizes—don’t forget oil or beeswax if your boards are wooden. For mixing and measuring ingredients, we recommend a set of mixing or nesting bowls and measuring cups (we keep a set of nesting cups plus a few larger-scale glass varieties on hand). A set of spoons and other handheld tools is crucial (slotted spoon, ladle, two silicone spatulas, pasta scoop, slotted spatula, whisk, two sets of tongs, strainers in a few sizes).
Now that you’ve got your prepware underway, you’re ready to cook. Make sure you’ve got the basics covered, starting with the stovetop: a sturdy set of pots and pans, plus pot holders and a pot rack if need be; grill and griddle pans. When it comes to oven-safe cookware and bakeware, enameled cast iron is the name of the game. We suggest a Dutch or French oven, an assortment of casserole and baking dishes, and two skillets—one large and one small (and don’t forget your oven mitts). Appliances and electrics are a category all their own. Necessities vary depending on your individual needs, but we rely on our food processor and blender; they invariably make our job easier and quicker (immersion blenders are great if your space is small). Slow cookersare fantastic for easy, one-pot meals after a hard day’s work. And specialty kitchen items like popcorn, pasta and ice cream makers are a worthwhile investment and bring the family together for a fun food adventure.
Now that you have the tools to cook a delicious meal, you need an array of essentials to make the cleanup process as painless as can be. Start with a set of nesting food storage containers for leftovers. You’ll also need a sturdy trash can that’s large enough to accommodate your household. Dishwashers make life easy, but everyone prefers to hand-wash the odd dish or two and/or non-dishwasher-safe items. Drying racks keep your countertops organized, and your dishes have room to breathe. You’ll want an arsenal of sponges and scrub pads, too, plus a dish soap dispenser. Store paper towels on your counter in a holder if space allows. Alternately, mount a rack on the wall or under your sink.After you’ve built your kitchen list, check it twice, then start crossing items off one by one. Remember: You can stock your kitchen with essentials without breaking the bank. The sooner you do, the more empowered you’ll feel to cook and entertain.What are your kitchen essentials? Share how you use your favorite kitchen tools and gadgets with us by using the hashtag #CrateStyle.