10 Essential Kitchen Tools for the Everyday Home Cook

Sooooo…I don’t have a kitchen. I bet that’s the last thing you expected to hear a food blogger say.

But, unfortunately it’s true. You see, I am in my final year of undergrad and have been living in the dorms on campus for the last FOUR YEARS. Yep, that’s four years of communal bathrooms, dining hall food, and noisy neighbors.

The past two years I have been working as a Residence Assistant (RA) though, and absolutely love my job, so really, I shouldn’t be complaining. I love getting to work with so many students, helping to build a sense of community within the hall, and helping to foster relationships that they will have for the rest of their college experience.

Fun fact: here @ UW we are fancy and trade the “RA” title for “House Fellow”.

The one downfall, as I eluded to earlier, is not getting to live in an apartment or house with my own, full kitchen. For someone who is all about a home-cooked meal, this is torture! Now I should mention that there is one communal kitchen in the basement of my hall that I could use to cook in, and I do on occasion, but that means hauling down my pots and pans, gathering ingredients from my mini fridge, and hoping that no one else decided to make dinner too. Because of this, I tend to cook on Sundays and make large batches of soup, granola, snack bars, etc. that I can munch on throughout the whole week. It’s that whole cook once, eat for a week eat twice mentality, which is really the way to go for time-crunched cooks, but that’s a whole other post!

Anyways, I should probably stop rambling and get on with things, eh?

Today I came to share the top 10 essential kitchen tools every home cook needs!

While I don’t have my own kitchen during the school year, I make sure to take advantage of the kitchen time I do have back home, over breaks and during the summer time. Over the last few years I have learned what kitchen tools are overrated and what ones I use time and time again; I’ve discovered what gadgets are worth the splurge and what ones I can live without.

So whether you are a kitchen newbie and looking to stock your kitchen, or have been cooking for years, read on to make sure you have the kitchen gear that makes everyday home cooking easy!

10 Essential Kitchen Tools for the Everyday Home Cook:

Prep/Mixing Bowl Set – These are a no brainer. Everyone needs a good set of bowls for prepping salads, mixing up a batch of cookies, or even to store pre-prepped ingredients. I love my set with lids to make storing or chilling food easy – no cellophane or aluminum foil needed here!

Cutting Boards – There is one essential thing to know when it comes to cutting boards: you need two. Keep one for prepping raw meats, poultry, and fish, and one for slicing bread, fruit, vegetables, and cheese. This delegation will help reduce the risk for cross-contamination and ensure you are avoiding any food safety risks. I recommend plastic as they are the most comfortable to cut on and the easiest for me to clean and sanitize – pretty much any brand will do! I like to color code my boards so that I don’t mix them up.

Large Non-Stick Skillet – An essential for scrambling a few eggs, cooking up some chicken, sautéing veggies, or making a mean grilled cheese – among many other things! A non-stick pan is essential for healthy cooking, as this means you can cut down on the butter and oil required.

Glass Baking Dish – Perfect for baking casseroles, lasagna, a couple pieces of fish or chicken, or a favorite dessert – brownies any one?

Large, Rimmed Baking Sheet – This is another workhorse in the kitchen and is something I use nearly every day. Of course cookies are a no-brainer, but I love mine for baking up a batch of granola, roasting veggies, or baking homemade sweet-potato fries. Choosing a sheet with a short rim around it prevents any food from falling off during oven transfer or stirring – no one wants a kitchen floor covered in granola.

Quality Set of Knives – These can be a bit pricey, but it is worth it to invest in a good, high-quality set, as you will use these every day for years to come! But don’t get caught up in all of the specialty knives – look for a basic set, or a set that includes a serrated, Chef, utility, slicing, and paring knifes. I grew up with Chicago Cutlery and recommend one this starter set.

Slow Cooker – This kitchen gadget is one of my favorites. Throw in the ingredients, turn this baby on, and come back to a warm meal, ready to be served. It works lovely for almost anything from lasagna, to chili to oatmeal, and even cake! Slow cookers come in many sizes so pick the one that’s the right size for you and your appetite and your family or roommates.

Food Processor – I had hee-hawed over buying a food processor for three years before finally taking the plunge and investing in the Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus Processor. This slicing, dicing, chopping, and whizzing machine will pretty much be your best friend in the kitchen (I know it’s mine). It makes prepping veggies for stir fries or soups a breeze, shreds cheese in seconds, takes the work out of kneading bread or pizza dough, and allows you to whip up a fresh batch of salsa or peanut butter in minutes. Keep this baby on the counter as you are sure to find yourself reaching for it daily. This is one kitchen tool definitely worth the splurge.

This baby can do everythaaang.

Dutch Oven – This was another purchase I contemplated a lot before adding to my kitchen cupboard back home (well okay, I actually got it for Christmas – luck me!), but am so happy that I did. This pan is extremely versatile and can do pretty much anything. Roast a chicken. Boil pasta. Make a stew. Bake bread. Sauté veggies. Simmer a pasta sauce. Braise ribs. The possibilities are really endless. I have this one from the Food Network Collection and absolutely love it. While a bit pricey, look for a cast iron pot as these hold heat wonderfully and evenly, and will last a lifetime. A 5.5 or 6-quart sized Dutch oven is the ideal size in my book as it cooks enough for four (or one or two + leftovers!) and is large enough to roast an enitre chicken or bake a loaf of bread.

Pardon the PJs…

Pepper Mill – Fresh ground pepper tastes more robust and flavorful than the pre-ground stuff, and will take that so-so dish to the next level. It’s an easy, simple, and pretty inexpensive way to step up your cooking game.

You’ll also want to make sure your kitchen cupboards and drawers house a set of measuring cups and spoons as well as a whisk, a wooden spoon, and a rubber spatula. Now I know this is technically going over the “10 essentials”… but these tools are so classic I’m considering them freebies – heck you probably already have these hanging around!

All this kitchen talk makes me so excited to finally have the opportunity to stock my own kitchen after graduation and I leave dormland behind for good! On the bright side, I am planning a visit home this weekend and will hopefully have a chance to spend some time in the kitchen. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have some new creations to share with you next week!

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