Setting up a kitchen can be hard when you’re new to it. You’re not sure whether you should get a few fry pans or a set that includes fry pans, saucepans and utensils. And should you buy a potato masher, a food processor and a rolling pin? Should you just get one? Do you need plastic or wooden chopping boards? And how many knives should you get?
If you’re feeling a little out of depth then today’s post is for you.
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26 essential tools for setting up a new kitchen
I recommend you get the items on the list below because they are the most versatile. Anything else can wait as the below list will allow you to prepare, cook, reheat and store the majority of meals you’ll be making.
(Note: I’m working on the assumption that your place comes with oven and stove. Therefore I haven’t included either on the list).
1. Saucepan x 2
You’ll want to get 2 saucepans so you can use the large saucepan for cooking foods like pasta and rice, or use them for making soups. A small saucepan is great for boiling eggs or making sauces, or just using it to heat up small amounts of ingredients (like melting butter or chocolate if you’re baking).
2. Frypan x 2
Get one large frypan to use for stir fries, larger meals like stove-top casseroles and for grilling large pieces of meat. The other should be small for making omelettes and fried eggs, and using it for grilling small meats or vegetables and for making small meals.
Get the plastic tipped ones to keep yourself from scratching up the coating on your fry pans. Use tongs for cooking, serving or moving food from one place to another.
Get enough to cover the needs of your family or if you’re single then enough for you and a few visitors. If you can afford a set for 6 people (a 24 piece set which includes 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 dessert spoon and 1 teaspoon per person) then get that as you’ll use extra cutlery while you cook (e.g. getting a teaspoon of pesto out of the jar) as well as when you actually sit down to eat.
5. Chopping board x 2 or 3
It’s a good idea to get one chopping board for raw chicken, another for raw meat and a third for everything else. If you get 3 in different colours its even easier to allocate one for each use. Wood or plastic is up to you – I prefer plastic so I can put them in the dishwasher whereas wooden ones need to be hand washed. Although wooden boards can double as pretty serving platters (a la Jamie Oliver).
6. Large chopping knife
Get a large knife for chopping large vegetables and fruit and other bigger items (not a loaf of bread). You really need the right knife for the job so check out my posts on ‘Is a bigger knife better’ and ‘Knife skills 101’ to help you know when to use each knife.
7. Medium chopping knife
Use a medium chopping knife for chopping raw meats and smaller vegetables like zucchinis and carrots or small pumpkins. They come in very handy but are not always essential if you have a large knife and a paring knife – although there may be some cutting jobs where neither knife is as good as a medium sized knife.
8. Small paring knife
Get a small sharp knife to use for cutting most fruits or small veggies. They are often quite sharp and can be used instead of a peeler if you’re really good with your knife skills. Otherwise they are great to use on small sized foods, especially fruit. If you get one with it’s own cover it’ll keep your hands safe when you reach into the draw to grab it too.
9. Bread knife
A bread knife is serated whereas all the knives listed above have flat sides. You need the serrations to carefully cut the bread rather than squash it like a flat knife would do. Use it for cutting loaves of bread, bread rolls and burger buns.
10. Mixing bowl (1 or 2)
Get a large mixing bowl for baking or making batter (especially if you want to make pancakes or french toast on the weekends). You can get a small mixing bowl too for smaller quantities, or just use a breakfast bowl (such as for mixing scrambled eggs when you’re making them for yourself).
11. Toaster or sandwich press
You can get either of these or both – though the sandwich press is more versatile. If you get the sandwich press you can toast your sliced bread on it as well as make toasted sandwiches and wraps but you can also use it to cook burger patties and kebab sticks. A toaster is really only good for toasting sliced bread, but it’s up to you what you need, have the space for or want.
Even if you don’t drink hot drinks you’ll need hot water for cooking or cleaning. Boiling the water in the kettle makes it faster to fill saucepans and to then cook grains (rice, pasta, barley, etc). And if you’re cleaning you want the boiling water to kill the germs. You can get one cheaply from the supermarket if you don’t really use it very often, or get a fancy one from the department stores for up to $100.
13. Peeler x 2
Get 2 really good peelers because one or other of them will always be in the dishwasher when you need it. Go for speed peelers or peelers that aren’t the cheapest quality. The cheap ones often catch and tear the fruit/veg rather than cut it nicely. Alternatively if you are a whiz at using the paring knife you won’t need so many peelers for fruit. For some vegetables it it’s acceptable to eat the skin of the food but if you prefer not to, shop around for a peeler you can love (and that will love you back by making peeling an effortless chore).
14. Glass or plastic storage tubs
When you open vacuum sealed packets or tins of food you’ll need to store them somewhere so get some containers. Glass or plastic is up to you however glass is better for reheating leftover meals. But when it comes to storage you can use either and put them in the fridge. Here’s some advice on how to properly store foods so they don’t go off.
15. Clip/zip lock plastic bags or plastic wrap
Clip/zip lock bags are great for storing food in as well. You can use them in the fridge, freezer or pantry. Plastic wrap can be used to cover food like sandwiches or to put over the top of a bowl of leftovers. Don’t reheat anything stored in these bags or plastic wrap as the plastic melts – always transfer them to microwave safe dishes for heating!
16. Drinking cups/glasses
Not only can you use mugs, cups and glasses for drinks but you can use them to mix sauces, melt butter or cook one cup cakes in the microwave or even use a glass as a rolling pin if you don’t have one or use the top of a glass as a cookie cutter.
17. Tea and coffee mugs
It’s best to buy these as part of a set with the dinner plates, breakfast bowls and bread and butter plates (which you can buy as a set for 4 people or 6). You can use the mugs for the same purposes as the glasses (except for the rolling pin) or even use one or two of them to help store other kitchen items (I used to store my spatulas in a mug until I got too many and transferred them to a vase).
18. Dinner plates and breakfast bowls
Bowls and plates are not only used for eating but they can help you with preparation or storing food. Its not a great idea to cut food on a dinner plate (use a chopping board) but if its the occasional tomato or some cheese as you prepare lunch then it’s okay. If you buy the right set of plates, bowls, bread and butter plates and mugs then you can use them in the oven too (make sure they say oven safe on them before you do this!). Think single serve pasta bake, shepherds pie or baked eggs using your breakfast bowls – yum!
19. Bread and butter plates
These are the small lunch size plates. They’re handy for serving small meals or sides as well as great for toast in the morning or sandwiches at lunch. You can even use them to help you cooking, such as using a bread and butter plate to weight down something that is in the fry pan (I do this for quesadillas). Or keep pancakes warm by placing them between two plates with the top plate turned upside down.
I’ve mentioned the microwave a few times already in this post and it’s because they’re so versatile. Using microwave safe products (NEVER put metal in a microwave) you can defrost, reheat, cook or bake using a microwave. Find microwave safe products at department stores, but if you’re not sure, use your dinner, bread and butter plates or your breakfast bowls and mugs in the microwave. Most dining sets are okay to put in the microwave but check the bottom of the plate/bowl/mug before you put it on the microwave.
21. Hand mixer
You could go all out and by a mix master or a Kenwood mixer but these are quite expensive and if you’re not much of a baker you probably won’t use it much anyway. Get the much smaller hand mixer – it’s cheaper, takes less storage space and can do most of the things a bigger mixer can. I use mine for making cakes, whipping cream and whipping egg whites.
22. Spatulas/fish slices
Other than tongs you’ll need something to toss the food around the frypan or saucepan. Get about 5-6 of these with some plastic, some metal and some with holes in them and some without the holes. You can usually pick up a mixed bundle of these from a department store for under $20. I got mine from Target, in a range of colours, for $2 each and they’ve lasted forever.
23. Wooden spoon
You should always have at least one wooden spoon in your cooking arsenal. A few recipes call for using a wooden spoon because a metal one can affect the recipe. You can get them cheaply from department stores and supermarkets and if you happen to turn one yellow or they split, they’re cheap enough to get some more.
You’ll want a sieve (with fine holes) or a colander (with bigger holes) when you’re cooking – otherwise it’s too hard to drain hot water from saucepans or the water from tinned foods. You can use a clean tea towel inside either to make them finer too (such as if the recipe needs you to drain yoghurt for instance). If you can only afford one, go for the sieve because you can still drain spaghetti and rice into a sieve, but you can’t drain finer foods through the colander.
25. Food processor
A food processor is a god-send on nights you’re busy. They can help you make burger patties in seconds, or if you use the attachments that come with modern food processors they can grate and slice for you in seconds. For more tips on the food processor see my post on making the most of your food processor.
26. Tea towels
These are a must for cleaning and washing up the dishes, however you can use them to help you squeeze water out of grated vegetables (like zucchinis and cucumbers) for use in other recipes. Always use a clean tea towel for squeezing grated veg and not the one you used for washing up this morning.
So there you have it – 26 things you should have in a kitchen so that you can get started on your own cooking journey.
Do you think I’ve forgotten any really important kitchen tools? Is there something you use that just isn’t on the list? Let us know in the comments.