A Complete Guide To Kitchen Essentials
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about setting up your kitchen and a thorough guide on all the kitchen essentials. This guide is part of our many guides to help you cook better.
Introduction: Let’s Set Up!
Sure, creating delicious dishes in the kitchen might greatly depend on what ingredients you use, but it’s imperative not to overlook the importance of having the right tools, too.
Purchasing kitchen items isn’t something that you tend to begin to think about until you move into your own place for the first time. Until that point, you’re likely either using your parents or borrowing your roommates (no judgment here).
Fear not, though!
If you’re a rookie in the cooking department, we’re here to help you figure out what should be marked down on your kitchen list to buy, and what should be scratched-off.
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to break the bank on the latest and greatest cooking utensils in order to whip up tasty dinners on the regular.
In fact, with a little know-how on how to select the right utensils and a little help from us, you’ll know how to spot the best kitchen essentials from the rest in no time.
Whether you’re a recent homeowner, a recent graduate tired of takeouts, or you’ve simply decided to give your kitchen utensils a revamp, you’ll find plenty of helpful advice and information in this guide.
We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know when shopping for kitchen essentials: from selecting chopping boards, the difference in saucepans, and everything else in-between. So, now you have an idea of what this article is going to contain, let’s jump straight in!
Prep, Tools, and Essentials:
Just like with anything else in life, it’s always a good idea to start off with the basic essentials, right? Right!
So, to begin, let’s get our head around the following:
- How to choose the right chopping board
- How to choose the right kitchen knives
However, before we delve into these two areas, let’s first explain what the purpose of these two types of cooking utensils are:
What are kitchen knives for?
Unlike the knife you use to eat your food with, kitchen knives are slightly different. There are several different types of kitchen knives on the market, though, their general purpose is intended to help you cut and prepare different types of meat and vegetables safely and efficiently.
What is a chopping board for?
A chopping board is a type of thick, durable board that is used to prepare food ready to be cooked. Most commonly, cutting boards are used to chop up meats and vegetables so that the kitchen counter does not become damaged, as well as keeping the cooking area hygienic.
How to Choose the Right Chopping Board:
However, you still need to make sure that you’re familiar with the differences between them all, as well as the individual advantages and disadvantages of each.
To help you figure out which chopping board is right for you, here’s a breakdown of the most common types of chopping board on the market:
By far one of the most common (and affordable) types of chopping boards is wooden chopping boards.
They are widely considered to be the best type of chopping board type because they offer a long service life, don’t get damaged easily from knife cuts, and also have natural healing capabilities.
Plus, in addition to wooden chopping boards being a more cost-effective choice, it is also well-known that all types of wood have their very own antimicrobial properties.
Thanks to that, this means that it is more difficult for bacteria to grow and reside, which also makes them a hygienic choice.
The main downside to wooden chopping boards is that they are prone to damage from steam.
Over time, the moisture and heat of cooking can lead to a wooden chopping board becoming warped, which essentially means that the board begins to bend out of shape.
However, many people find that warping is easily avoided, by keeping the chopping board away from the oven, or other places where heat, moisture, and steam can be produced.
Choose a wooden chopping board if:
- If you’re the kind of person who’s looking to create a ‘rustic’ aesthetic, then a wooden chopping board will help to create a traditional atmosphere.
- If you have a large kitchen space (so that you can keep the board away from steam), a wooden chopping board is a great option to consider.
- If you want to get the best value for your money. They can last for many years, aren’t prone to scarring, and look elegant, too. This makes them an ideal choice for anyone that wants a chopping board that will offer a long service life before needing to be replaced.
The next type of chopping board we’re going to cover is plastic boards.
Unlike wooden chopping boards, plastic chopping boards are known for their lightweight designs, which makes them more convenient for transporting prepared food from the board to the stove.
They are also a lot more convenient than wooden chopping boards, as they do not become damaged from exposure to water or heat, so they can be popped in a dishwasher after cooking.
Not just that, but plastic chopping boards are also a lot more durable than other kinds of chopping boards.
They can be exposed to cleaning chemicals, heat, and steam without any warping or damage.
However, they are prone to slipping across worktops due to their texture and are more susceptible to scarring from knife cuts, which means that plastic chopping boards are more likely to harbor bacteria and dirt.
Plastic chopping boards are also a lot more aesthetically pleasing than wooden chopping boards, however, this downside will ultimately come down to your own personal preference.
Choose a plastic chopping board if:
- If you’re the type of person that doesn’t have a lot of time to spare, then a plastic chopping board might be just what you need. They’re low maintenance, easy to clean, and dishwasher friendly.
- If you want a board that isn’t prone to warping. Plastic chopping boards are not affected by moisture, heat, or water damage.
The next type of chopping board that we’re going to be talking about is Bamboo boards. Unlike other types on the market, bamboo chopping boards are marketed as being the most eco-friendly of all, and this is because bamboo grows extremely quickly and is biodegradable.
During the growing process, bamboo is cultivated entirely free of harmful chemicals or pesticides, and, as it grows so quickly, bamboo boards are relatively cheap to make, which means that they are usually pretty affordable.
Another plus point of bamboo chopping boards is their tough surface. It is extremely difficult for knives to be able to ‘cut’ the board, which therefore means that it’s harder for bacteria to reside on them.
However, bamboo boards are prone to warping as they are a type of wood, so it’s important to keep them away from water, moisture, and steam. Bamboo boards are also one of the most high maintenance kinds of chopping boards, as they need to be oiled twice a month with mineral oil.
Choose a bamboo chopping board if:
- If you’re conscious of the environment and are looking for the most environmentally friendly choice, then we recommend considering going with a bamboo chopping board.
- If you want a lightweight chopping board. They’re very similar to a traditional wooden chopping board, the only difference being that they are designed to be lighter, which makes it easier to transport food to different cooking stations around the kitchen.
Though these are the most common types of board, you can also find chopping boards that are made of other materials like rubber, which you can learn more about here.
How to Choose the Right Knives
When it comes to starting your kitchen knife collection, there are a few different kinds that you should be familiar with. Each type has a different purpose, which we’re going to cover below:
One of the most common kinds of knives is what is known as slicing knives.
These types of knives are sometimes referred to as ‘carving’ knives and feature a long, slim shape that features a pointed tip.
They are designed for cutting fish, poultry, and fish, and should be around eight to ten inches, which means that it will be long enough to cut meat, and slim enough to be able to effectively remove meat from the bone.
Not only that but slicing knives can also be used to prepare vegetables and fruit. Though they are intended primarily for meat, as they are so sharp and versatile, they can be effectively used to remove stems, peel the skin and cut fruit and vegetables.
The next kind of knife you should get yourself familiarized with is a paring knife. In a nutshell, a paring knife is a small knife with a little blade in order to make cutting and slicing easier. It is mainly intended for dicing, mincing, peeling, and cutting intricate slices, and is usually around 8-10 centimeters long.
Though they are commonly used by professional chefs, they are also extremely useful and versatile knives to have in your kitchen and will help you to prepare food quickly and cut precisely. They are sometimes referred to as peeling knives and can be used to cut anything from meat, fish, and poultry, to fruit and vegetables.
Just like the name suggests, vegetable knives are intended for chopping up and preparing all kinds of delicious vegetables. Though they might not be deemed an ‘essential’ type of knife, we still think they’re worth considering adding to your collection, as they have been specifically designed to help you chop up large amounts of vegetables safely and easily.
The next kind of knife that should be on your ‘to-buy’ list, is a cleaver knife. Cleaver knives are a kind of large knife that varies in size and shape. However, more often times than not, a cleaver knife features a rectangular design that is intended for heavy-duty purposes, such as:
- Cutting and sectioning out large pieces of meat
- Slicing and preparing hard, tougher vegetables
- Crushing garlic
If you’re building your kitchen from scratch, then we recommend starting off with these knives, and then building your collection as you go. Here’s an additional resource you can refer to when picking which knives are best for you and your needs.
Cookware & Bakeware:
In this next section, we’re going to be talking you through what essential cookware and bakeware items you need, as well as how to choose the right ones.
Saucepans: everything you need to know
Regardless of whether you plan on cooking regularly or just want to have some at your disposal, we highly recommend investing in a collection of pans.
Not only will they stand the test of time, but they’ll equip you with more ways to get versatile in the kitchen!
When choosing your pans, you’ll first need to figure out what type of cooker you have. The most common types are as follows:
If you have a ceramic cooker, then you won’t be able to purchase any type of pan that is made of copper, glass, or stainless steel. You’ll also need to make sure that the pots and pans you purchase have a flat base in order to improve heat distribution.
In contrast, gas hobs are a lot more versatile and are compatible with all types of pans. However, if you do happen to own a gas cooker, then you’ll need to make sure that you purchase lightweight pans, as it will allow you to heat up your food more efficiently, as well as being able to effectively bring food to the boil.
As for halogen hobs (learn more about them here), you can use any pan except those with an exposed copper base, and we recommend that you choose ones that have a dark color, so that the thermal limiter won’t overheat during the cooking process.
The same goes for electric, as they are also compatible with all types of saucepans, except those that are made of copper or have an exposed copper base.
In addition to this, you’re also going to need to decide if you want to purchase saucepans that you want to keep suspended above the hob, or if you would prefer to keep them stacked away in a cupboard. If you decide to keep them on the counter or suspended, then you’ll need to regularly clean them, as they will be more prone to harboring dirt and dust.
Frying pans: everything you need to know
Most importantly, the purpose in which you plan on giving your frying pan should be the main factor that contributes to which one you select. Consider these points below:
- Do you plan on cooking with non-stick pans?
- Are you bothered about whether they’re stainless steel or not?
- Are you planning on searing steaks?
As you will have discovered when reading about how to select the right saucepans, you’ll be aware that there is a big difference between stainless steel and other types of cookware. Many chefs and cooking enthusiasts all agree that stainless steel frying pans are the best.
They’re tough, lightweight, and built to last, which makes them a great choice for those on a budget. Stainless steel frying pans are also totally non-reactive, which means that they are able to distribute heat evenly, all the while allowing you to deglaze your pan using lemon juice or another substance.
On the other hand, you might be interested in cast iron frying pans. These types of frying pans are ideal for avid meat-eaters, or for those that frequently like to cook steak. Cast iron pans are usually very heavy so that they can effectively transfer heat, and are intended for searing meats such as steak only.
One of the main downsides to a cast iron pan is that they are difficult to deglaze, as they react to substances such as wine. If you aren’t planning on cooking steak too often, a stainless steel pan will be able to do the job pretty well and will keep your total spending lower.
By far, the most versatile type of frying pan (and the most popular!) kind are the ones that are non-stick. They are usually cheap to buy, are easy to clean, and suitable for use on a regular basis for multiple foods.
As they feature a non-stick substance, they are almost always non-reactive (which means that you can pour wine and other acidic substances into it, all the while being able to evenly distribute heat.
Grill Pans: Everything you need to know
Grill pans are usually square-shaped and have large sides.
Just like a BBQ grill, they have the same ridges to ensure that meat can cook in its juices for a more flavorful meal.
They’re also suitable for vegetables, poultry, and fish.
Just like other types of pans, grill pans are available in a variety of types, including:
- Cast iron
- Stainless steel
If you want a grill pan that will be able to retain plenty of heat and distribute it evenly, then we recommend going for a cast iron pan. However, if you have a ceramic cooker, we consider going for stainless steel or ceramic pan, as they’re more lightweight.
If you want a pan that can be used for heavy-duty cooking, go for an aluminum pan. However, for the regular home cook, a stainless steel grill pan is a great starting point.
Need more help deciding which grill pan might be best for you? Check out this helpful resource.
How to choose the right baking tins
Besides regular cooking, you might also be interested in purchasing some essential cake supplies.
No matter what type of tin you buy, you’ll need to be able to make sure that it will be able to conduct heat effectively, all the while being large enough to ensure that the cake mixture will rise.
For more detailed explanations on baking tin materials, just click here.
The right greaseproof paper:
When shopping for greaseproof paper, you can choose between either:
- Standard greaseproof paper
- Non-stick baking paper
Both types of paper serve the same purpose, except they are made slightly different.
For example, non-stick baking paper usually will have a silicone exterior in order to prevent the mixture from sticking, while the greaseproof paper is designed to line trays (both sides) to keep the mixture from getting stuck to the sides and bottom.
Both kinds of paper are heat resistant up to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are also other ways that you can prevent sticking, check out some additional tips here.
Essential baking utensils:
You can build your collection as you go, but whether you want to make cupcakes or a frosted cake, these essentials are sure to help you bring your creations to life:
- Measuring cups – these are vital to baking, as without them you will end up with an incorrect mixture.
- Measuring spoons – these are vital as, just like cups, spoons will help you to measure accurately sugar and flour.
- Whisks – these will help you to beat the ingredients together into a mixture.
- Muffin cases – if you’re planning on making cupcakes or muffins, these will be a must.
- Cake tester – this will help you to know when the cake is fully baked.
- Spatula – this will help you scrape the cake mixture out of the bowl and into the baking tin.
Cooking Tools & Kitchen Utensils:
Why is it important to have a Thermometer
Regardless of whether you’re a professional chef or a home cook, a thermometer is a vital piece of equipment to have.
Not only will it alert you as to when the food is properly cooked and at the correct temperature, but it will also ensure that bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, and e-coli are controlled.
The different types of spatulas:
- Fish spatula – this type of spatula is specifically created for flipping fish. These types of spatulas also feature an angled head in order to make it easier to pick awkwardly shaped fish up.
- Silicone spatula – ideal for baking, making soups, or even mixing dough, silicone spatulas are the most versatile kind and can withstand extremely high temperatures.
- Frying spatula – a frying spatula is slightly bigger than other types of spatulas and features a long handle and wide base that allows you to effectively fry food, all the while staying out of harm’s way (aka, hot oil!)
The importance of tongs for cooking and serving:
Though they all too often tend to go overlooked, tongs make all the difference, especially when you need to dish up hot food or want to host a dinner party and need smart tongs for guests to pick pieces of food with.
Cooking tongs are intended for, you guessed it, cooking! They are usually a lot less aesthetically pleasing than shiny serving tons, however, they’re a lot more hardy and built to withstand regular use.
On the other hand, serving tongs are more stylish in appearance, and specifically designed as a way to allow dinner guests to formally pick up their food.
As a home cook, we recommend starting off with cooking tongs, as these will help you to prepare dishes more safely.
Then, once your kitchen is set up and you’re ready to start inviting guests over, you can branch out and purchase serving tongs to make the evening extra special.
Why trivets are essential:
Another essential (yet overlooked) kitchen item is a trivet.
A trivet is a serving ‘tripod’ that is usually made of glass.
You can keep dishes on top of them in order to keep your table (or another kind of surface) protected, all the while adding a lavish, decadent touch to your dining table.
If you plan on baking, you can showcase cakes by placing them on top of them, too!
We recommend having a few of these handy, as you’ll never know when you might need them.
Kitchen appliances will be your one-stop-shop for convenience. Though these will certainly be more of an ‘investment’ piece, we still think they’re essential to have as part of your kitchen, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle and have no time to spare.
Everything you need to know about Blenders:
The most common type of blender, a countertop blender usually features a detachable pitcher with a motorized base.
It’s designed to sit on your countertop (hence the name) and can be used for a variety of purposes, including smoothies, juicing, and pureeing.
These kinds of blenders are a lot more compact than countertop blenders, as they can be held in your hand. It offers a more versatile and innovative way to blend food, as you can ‘take’ the blender to the food you wish to blend. Plus, as it’s immersive, you’ll be able to submerge this blender into the food without any issues.
How easy are they to clean?
Both types of blenders are relatively easy to clean and maintain. They each have their own detachable pitchers that can be submerged in water or a dishwasher, while their motorized bases will never come into contact with the liquid, so they should only ever require a gentle wipe down.
So, which one might be right for you?
As a home cook, there are benefits to purchasing both types of blender. However, as countertop blenders are deemed the ‘traditional’ kind, you might feel more comfortable using one of those. All in all, though, as both blender types are equally as good, the decision will come down to your own preference.
Food processors are intended for more heavy-duty use and are a versatile appliance that is able to cut, grind and puree all kinds of food.
Though they might not be deemed as an ‘essential’ (particularly if you’re currently building your kitchen utensil collection from scratch) having one would certainly be very useful.
They will allow you to cut your cooking preparation time in half, all while stopping you from going to the trouble of using a knife to individually chop up food.
Different Kitchen scales: Choosing the right one:
If you’re a home cook looking, an electronic digital scale will be perfect for you and your needs.
They’re a little smaller than other kinds on the market (which means that they won’t take up too much space) while their electronic measuring system is more precise than mechanical scales.
Other Kitchen Essentials:
Besides the main essentials that we’ve covered above, there are also additional items that shouldn’t go overlooked and are deserving of a spot on your ‘essentials’ list. This section will cover:
- Kitchen towels
- Oven gloves
- Food containers
- How to set up your kitchen sink
Kitchen towels are a useful kitchen accessory to have, as they can be used for a variety of different purposes.
They can be used for drying plates, carrying hot dishes, and even for wiping up accidents or any spills.
Kitchen towels can be made with a variety of different materials, which is an important factor to consider when deciding which kitchen towels to pick for your kitchen.
Some of the most common materials are as follows:
Cotton is the most popular type of material used to create kitchen towels. This makes them both durable, as well as having a high absorbency level.
Linen kitchen towels are mainly intended for decorative purposes. This is because, though they look beautiful, they have a low absorbency level, and can break easily.
This is the least common type of kitchen towel on the market, however, it is rising in popularity. This is because they consist of an innovative design that utilizes mini-fibers that are able to lift food and dirt off of surfaces effectively. However, they are not as absorbent as other kinds of towels.
In addition to material, there’s a variety of different towels on the market, including kitchen towels, dish towels, and chef towels. For your kitchen, we recommend starting off with kitchen towels and dish towels, here’s a breakdown of what purpose each type of towels serves:
Standard kitchen towels:
Just like the name suggests, kitchen towels are towels designed for use in your kitchen. Intended to serve a variety of purposes, kitchen towels are usually made of cotton, which means that they are able to absorb water, all the while being able to withstand regular use for drying, washing, and cleaning.
They also come in a variety of different colors and can be found at any grocery store, so it will be extremely easy to find a set that suits your decor.
- Dish towels:
The next kind of kitchen towel is what is known as a dishtowel. A dishtowel is intended for washing dishes dry, and is usually more absorbent and able to be used for more than one drying session before needing to be replaced.
- Tea towels
Tea towels are usually used for decorative reasons (which is why they are usually either made of cotton or linen!). They are made to be folded across a door or on the handle of an oven to create an elegant finishing touch, or for presenting food to guests.
Well, though many people do use towels to remove hot plates and dishes from the oven, towels are not insulated in the way that oven gloves are, so you will always run the risk of getting a burn.
The different types of oven gloves on the market are as follows:
- Cotton gloves
- Silicone gloves
- Rubber gloves
Cotton gloves are by far the most common and affordable. They are usually built with flame retardant properties and can be found in a variety of different designs and colors. Rubber gloves are a little stronger than cotton and are able to protect from temperatures that reach 200 degrees or more.
However, silicone gloves are by far the best, as they can withstand temperatures that reach upwards of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If you need a little help on which gloves to purchase for your kitchen, you can get some inspiration here.
Food storage containers
A food storage container is a kind of container that is intended for storing and holding different kinds of food.
Usually, food storage containers can be kept in the freezer or refrigerator, and come in multiple different sizes and design variations.
The two most common types of storage containers available are:
- Glass Containers: these can be reheated and even kept in the refrigerator. However, they tend to be pretty heavy and can break easily if dropped.
- Plastic Containers: this type of container is usually the most affordable type, and isn’t prone to breaking if dropped. However, plastic containers do tend to ‘stain’ a funny color from food, particularly spaghetti!
As a side note, storage containers can be pretty difficult to store, especially if you have multiple kinds. However, there are multiple clever ways you can organize them, which you can learn more about here.
Food Storage Containers: What to be aware of
- Be aware of their service life
Like we touched upon above, some food storage containers will be able to offer a longer service life than other kinds. Cheaper food containers will likely stain and harbor odors than those that are of a higher quality, which will lead to them needing to be replaced quickly.
When selecting Tupperware for your kitchen, we think that your future self will thank you if you invest in a more expensive set! The best part is that you can find high-quality plastic and glass sets in almost every grocery or homeware store, so you’ll have some choice to pick from.
- Making sure your containers are BPA-free
This is by far the most important factor to consider before purchasing a plastic food container. You’ll need to double-check that the manufacturers have used BPA-free plastic, as BPA is an industrial chemical known to be very harmful to humans.
- Do you want to use them for reheating purposes?
Though it seems counterproductive, not all food storage containers can be used to reheat food in the microwave. If you plan on using your food containers to warm up ready-made meals, we recommend going for glass containers, as they are almost always suitable for use in the microwave.
Setting up the kitchen sink: The full guide!
Besides there being plenty of additional items that you can keep near your sink, at the very least you should have:
- Washing up liquid
- A dish rack
- A sponge
In addition to your sink area, you’ll also want to consider the space underneath your kitchen sink, too!
Oftentimes, people use this area to store items such as cleaning products, however, you can choose to store different household items under there, too.
It’s entirely your choice! Once you’ve decided on what you plan on keeping under there, it’ll be a good idea to organize it. By doing so, you’ll be able to find products more easily, and not deal with the stress of misplacing items.
Conclusion: Let’s Cook!
So, there you have it! Thank you for reading our guide on kitchen essentials, we hope that you’ve enjoyed delving into it, just as much as we enjoyed researching and writing it. Armed with all the knowledge you’ve now gained, you’re now ready to start building your very own cooking collection. The only question left is, what will you buy first? Happy cooking!