This list really started a long awhile ago when I began to build my wedding registry. But then I realized that the information was perfectly good for bachelors or bachelorettes, as well as for those who have been married for a while, or even for those who are newly single.
Basically, this is a list of kitchen tools and utensils that one needs (or that would be very handy) to set up a fully functioning home kitchen.
Without further ado, here is my list of recommended kitchen utensils that I believe would benefit any experienced or budding home chef.
For one reason or another, it took me an embarrassingly long time to actually get a pair of tongs. I always just used a fork or my fingers instead, which left me with burns on my hands, and scratches on my cookware.
This is such an inexpensive tool, which makes my lack of a set doubly silly. I like tongs with coated ends, so I don’t have to worry about scratching my nonstick or cast iron cookware.
What to buy: This Duralex Lys Stackable 10-Piece Bowl Set includes a variety of sizes, and it should cover most of your needs. Duralex has a long history of making quality tempered glass – this company has been manufacturing their products in France since 1929.
They can withstand thermal shock, which means you can go from cold to hot or vice versa without breaking a dish. All the bowls are also dishwasher and microwave safe!
You will find that the biggest bowl is handy for mixing up a huge batch of cookies, a large cake, a pan full of muffins, or even double batches of baked goods.
It’s also great for blending ingredients such as a large quantity of hamburger meat for meatloaf or meatballs.
The medium-sized bowls are great for mixing up cake and brownie mixes, and the smaller ones work well for making dips, condiments, or prepping vegetables that you are prepping to be sauteed or steamed.
A second large bowl would be handy if you like to do a lot of baking like I do, but you can supplement with an additional bowl or two. This is one of the most complete and, more importantly, best quality bowl sets that you’ll find.
The glass in these is very thick and heavy duty, and they can withstand a lot of abuse that many other glass products would not be able to handle.
This set will last you for years of service (if not forever) and it will survive drops and other abuse that similar looking products would not be able to cope with. There are many reviewers on Amazon who attest to quality of this set.
A pepper mill almost went into the extras category, but I really think it’s a kitchen essential. Freshly ground black pepper has so much more flavor than the pre-ground variety, and it will bring your food to life.
I currently use disposable mills, but I am putting a more permanent one on my registry.
A basic one is just fine, but there are some pretty fancy ones out there, even electronic models. Just make sure you find one that grinds the pepper to your desired consistency.
If you’re really into spices, get a few for different varieties of peppercorns.
If you’re going to get a peppermill, I’d suggest not taking the cheap route with this kitchen tool, as most low priced models will just lead to frustration and poor user experience. This is definitely the case with about 90 percent of the examples that are out there.
What to buy: There are more types of pepper mills available than you could imagine, but I’d highly suggest the Peugeot 23317 Paris U’Select Pepper Mill. It’s pretty, it’s easy to use, and it’ll get the job done!
Peugeot is a very well known French cookware manufacturer that prides itself on high quality products. The have been producing the highest quality pepper grinders since 1847!
The U’Select line is unique among its peers, as it gives you the ability to adjust the coarseness of the grind by rotating the lower portion of the grinder.
You are able to choose among four coarseness settings, with cracked pepper at the lowest setting up to fine at the highest – about the level that the cheap grinders produce at their coarsest setting!
What does this mean for you? Well, you’ll actually be able to add a little pepper to your baked potato without involving fifteen minutes of frustration while rotating a mill that is (very) lightly powdering your meal, and probably causing more than one sneezing fit in the process. You want a meal – not a CrossFit workout, or an allergy attack!
If you’ve ever been frustrated with disposable models, cheap pepper mills at restaurants, or even cheaper consumer mills, then this kitchen tool would be perfect for you. Its rave reviews on Amazon are testament to the quality demanded by the most discriminating of consumers.
This grinder will last decades and many owners have bought several, as it will also grind salt! It’s available in four different sizes, so make sure you select the right one for you if you place an order for one. Read Foodal’s review of the Peugeot Paris U’Select Pepper Mill, or take a look at Foodal’s Pepper and Salt Mill Buying Guide.
In my post on bakeware, I talked about how creme brulee is my absolute favorite dessert. It’s the one thing that my fiancé has some competition for my heart over.
In order to give creme brulee that crunchy, caramelized topping, you need a torch. Most of the time, that topping is just melted raw sugar. A torch is great for caramelizing other dishes too, as well as melting marshmallows, or even melting cheese!
You can read our review of the top kitchen torches, but take a look below at my personal favorite.
What to buy: When choosing a torch, look for quality, and don’t go too cheap. I like this BonJour Brushed Aluminum Chef’s Torch with Fuel Gauge.
I looked at many cheaper products, and found that most folks had major issues and went ahead and purchased a better quality one later. But why buy twice?
The Bonjour unit is very well constructed, simple to operate, and the output of the flame is very strong on the high setting, which can speed up your work and make it easier to get the job done.
To operate, you merely flick the safety switch and press the button. A convenient switch is also placed on the side that can be activated if you need to use the torch for an extended period, which allows you to remove your finger from the activation button. The flame length is adjusted with a lever on the side.
Moreover, the bottom functions as a handy stand.
It’s powered by standard butane fuel containers, so you won’t have to go hunting for specialty tools. Adding butane to this torch is easy – just flip it upside down and connect the hose to the bottom insert, then press. There is a gauge on the bottom so you can see how much is in there.
If you are going to be using the torch for awhile, there is a switch on the side can easily be flipped to keep the flame going. And as I said, there is another lever on the other side to adjust the flame length. I usually keep this in the middle.
If you are in need of a torch to make creme brulee, s’mores (in the house!) or other recipes that require a touch of flame, then the Bonjour is perfect for you, and it’s available on Amazon.
Mortar & Pestle
In addition to the coffee grinder I mentioned in my small appliances post, a mortar and pestle is a great tool for getting the most from your spices. You can use it to grind spices together, make pastes, prepare pestos, and crush and blend plenty of other things that recipes may call for. I find this is really great for Indian cooking, and you’ll get the freshest flavor by using whole spices instead of pre-ground varieties.
(While you’re at it, if you need a place to keep all of those spices, check out this post where we review the best spice racks.)
As much as I love using an empty glass and a mixing bowl to grind what I need (I really don’t love it at all), I’m super excited to add this tool to my registry!
What to buy: I really like this RSVP White Marble Mortar and Pestle. Marble is one of the best substances around for these tools. It’s smooth, so you don’t have to worry about foods hiding in textured surfaces.
This is a great mortar and pestal. It’s great looking, and more importantly, it is the perfect size. I think it should be large enough to put in all that you might need.
The bowl is not so large that your herbs will be sliding around the bottom, which is a problem when you have too much room, and not enough herbs for use in larger models.
It does produce a slight amount of chalk during the first couple of uses, but nothing that should affect the taste, nutrition, or texture of your ingredients. After the first couple of washes though, the chalk dust will subside.
The marble is not porous like some other stones and materials like ceramic, making this product really easy to clean. The RSVP White Marble Mortar and Pestle is a top seller on Amazon, and at this price, you can’t go wrong.
There are two reasons why you need a meat tenderizer. First, it’s the only tool that’s able to really thoroughly pound meat to an even thickness, and to tenderize tougher cuts of beef and other meats.
Second, it is so much fun to have an excuse to hammer something like that after a long and stressful day. Just don’t get too crazy – you don’t want the neighbors peeking in the windows to make sure everyone’s okay!
I really like using this to pound butterflied chicken breasts to a thin and even thickness. Then I mix up some feta and spinach, lay it on the chicken, roll up the breast, and coat it in breadcrumbs. Repeat with each breast.
Poke a toothpick through to hold the rolls together, and bake for a delicious chicken rolls dinner! They’re great dipped in a good marinara sauce.
What to buy: This OXO Good Grips Meat Tenderizer is double sided, with one rough edge and one that’s smooth, so you can either use it to make meat an even thickness, or to truly tenderize it.
OXO Good Grips Meat Tenderizer available from Amazon
My mom has a mandoline, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve borrowed it. Just for a week. Or four.
It is a seriously awesome tool! I really like to make my own sweet potato fries and potato chips, and this thing juliennes and slices to a perfect thinness.
Despite years of cooking, my knife skills still aren’t all that great, so this thing is a life saver. Not to mention, it’s so fast!
Usually, thinly slicing a potato would take me at least five minutes. With a mandoline, I’m done in less than thirty seconds!
They can be dangerous, though. In order to get the job done, they’ve got a very sharp blade. I recommend wearing a cutting glove when using one, to protect your fingertips.
I am super excited about this registry addition!
What to buy: The Swissmar Borner V Power Mandoline V-7000 comes with three different types of blades, plus it’s adjustable so you can do a variety different cuts. It also comes with a safety guard, which will hold the vegetable (or whatever else you’re slicing) for you, minimizing your chances of getting cut.
This is without a doubt one of the best mandolines available on the market. It is very easily adjustable, and with just a quick setting change, you can adjust the thickness of a cut. It also has rubber feet so that it stays in place on the countertop when in use. A quick rinse off in the sink with a spray hose and a little bit of soap, and it is clean.
The Swissmar Mandoline comes with 3 inserts and 4 thickness settings for each – and these settings are easily changed with a button push. The blade is very sharp, and it can slice vegetables up into translucent slices, if that is your goal.
It works well for slicing daikon, if you’re cooking up some Japanese or Korean food, or cutting root vegetables into paper-thin chips. Made in Germany of a very strong plastic material, this is not your usual wobbly and ill-cutting mandoline like those available at the big box store.
This model is a well-engineered and well-crafted piece of equipment, and it’s a great value for the price. You can even pick one to match your kitchen decor, since it’s available in four colors (red, green, white, and orange) from Amazon.
Fine Mesh Strainer
If you already have a colander that you love, you might not think a fine mesh strainer is necessary. And it might not be – that’s why I’ve listed it in the “extras” category. But, if you’re in your kitchen a lot, this is a good tool to have around.
If you ever make cheese or or something where a fine solid needs to be strained from a liquid – like ghee, for example – this is incredibly useful. Line it with cheesecloth and everything will separate beautifully.
One of my favorite tricks for a beautiful, simple garnish is to press a hard boiled egg through a fine mesh strainer. You’ll get tiny egg ribbons that make salads look so much prettier! Mine also does double duty as a sifter, since it’s made from the same material, and doesn’t take too much more effort to use as one.
What to buy: Just get yourself a basic fine mesh strainer that’s relatively sturdy so it doesn’t warp, like the Cuisinart Mesh Strainers. This set comes with three items of different sizes, so it’ll give you a little more control, depending on what you’re doing. They also have lips around the edge so they’re easier to set over bowls, and they come with lifetime a warranty.
I know it’s safe to say I’m a real life cooking nerd when the thing on my registry that I’m most excited about isn’t the gorgeous new china set, but rather, a probe thermometer. I hate having to open my oven, let out all that trapped hot air, and cut into my gorgeous roast to see if it’s done.
This probe thermometer is inserted into the meat, with a display that sits outside the oven. Set it to your desired temperature (go for medium rare, people!) and a timer will go off when the center of the meat has reached that temperature.
I absolutely need this! I’m dreaming about the perfectly cooked prime rib my fiancé and I could be enjoying…
What to buy: I like the Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer. It’s well-reviewed and replacement probes are relatively inexpensive, which is important because no matter what thermometer you buy, this will go out a few times over the course of using it.
The display piece is magnetic so it can just stick to the front of my oven, and I don’t have to worry about my clumsy self knocking it off the counter and breaking it.
Read Foodal’s Meat Thermometer Buying Guide for more tips on finding the perfect model for you.
I could go on forever naming different tools to add to your cooking collection, but just in case you need a few more ideas, here are some to consider.
First, if you don’t already have a colander for straining pasta and other dishes, you need to get one.
You can’t even make boxed mac and cheese without it! This might be the time to upgrade if you have a plastic one that’s now a bit warped, or if you find that you really need two.
Pastry Brush & Pastry Cutter
If you enjoy baking, especially bread, make sure you have a pastry brush and a pastry cutter in your kitchen. A pastry brush is actually handy for more than just brushing egg wash over rolls – you can use it to spread sauce over meat, and butter over anything (and everything).
A pastry cutter is used to cut cold butter into dry ingredients. It’s much easier to use than a fork, or my favorite technique, crumbling with your hands.
Lastly, a melon baller is a really fun tool for creating gorgeous fruit salads. And it can totally be used on vegetables, too.
Ready to stock up your own kitchen at home? My registry’s definitely full, and I can’t wait to start cooking!
Tell me about all of your kitchen equipment must-haves in the comments.
First published October 25th, 2015. Last updated February 3rd, 2017.
About Chelsea Miller
Chelsea Miller, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, graduated from the University of Oregon where she discovered both her love of football and cooking great food. She's the founder of the food blog "A Duck's Oven" and began writing for Foodal in 2014.