Finally, here it is! The complete list of my Cooking Essentials: every single tool, pot, and gadget I use myself as well as the ones I think are necessary for any home cook to make the most out of their kitchen. These are things that I have personal experience with and use myself to develop all of the recipes you see here. Get comfortable because this is the longest post I’ll probably ever write, but it’s going to cover what y’all ask about more than anything else:
I’ve organized my equipment into four sections. Each has a collage (click any image to enlarge it) of the items in my own kitchen, followed by links you can follow to purchase or learn more about them. Some of these are affiliate links, meaning I’ll earn a few cents if you purchase anything after following them (this doesn’t sway my opinion, of course). After that you’ll find two drop-down sections (click the titles to expand them): the essentials, items I think any home kitchen should have, followed by shout-outs to some of my favorites. I’ll keep this post updated as I add to my collection, so I suggest bookmarking this page if you want to stay on top of absolutely everything that’s in my kitchen.
My Amazon Storefront has always been available as an easy and convenient way for everyone to shop my kitchen but I’m not able to tag everything I own because some items aren’t available via Amazon or any of its affiliates, like the Zodiac spatula I’m always asked about, or my favorite pot for making grits, both from Williams Sonoma. That’s where this long-ass post comes in! I will continue to keep the storefront updated and current, so feel free to still use it as a resource.
Windsor Pan with Lid from ScanPan $170 | Enameled Braiser with Lid from Bruntmor $50 | 10.25″ Cast Iron Skillet from Lodge $30 | 12″ Cast Iron Skillet from Lodge $40 | 9″ Deep Dish Pie Pan from Cuisinart $10 | 8-Cavity Mini-Loaf Pan from Wilton $17 | 9″ Springform Pan from HiWare $10 | 6″ Individual Pie Pan from Fat Daddio’s $10 | 10.5″ Cast Iron Crepe Pan from Lodge $20 | 12″ Deep Saute Pan from T-fal $30 | Broiler Pan Set from NordicWare $10 | Cast Iron Griddle Pan from Lodge $30 | 10″ Frying Pan from Utopia Kitchen $15 | 6 qt. Dutch Oven from Bruntmor $60 | Half-Sheet Pan Set from Nordicware $20 | Silicone Baking Cups from Wilton $15 | Decorative Bundt Pan from Nordicware $45 | Silicone Mini-Loaf Pan from Funbaky $12 | Loaf Pan from OXO $15 | Dual-Handled Wok from Kenmore $50 | 8-Piece Bakeware Set from Wilton $80 | Perfect Pan Braiser with Draining Rack from Staub $250 | 6 qt. Stockpot from Saflon $60 | 3 qt. Saucepan from Cuisinart $30 | 1.5 qt. Saucepan from Calphalon $45 | Roasting Pan with Rack from Calphalon $80 | Dual-Sided Cast Iron Griddle Pan from Lodge $45 | 4 qt. Stockpot from Farberware $40 | 8×8″ glass baking dish from OXO $20 | 8″ Frying Pan by T-Fal $20 | 9’13” Glass Baking Dish by OXO | 3.75 qt. Sauce Pot by ScanPan $150 | 48-cup Mini-Muffin Pan from Wilton $25
Frying Pans ● For sauteing, shallow pan-frying, searing, and beyond. If you’re only going for one (I don’t recommend that) I’d go with a 10″ cast iron skillet. The size is versatile and will let you cook both larger and smaller amounts; cast iron is oven-safe and a great heat conductor. After seasoning it’ll become non-stick, too. Picking up a lid isn’t a bad idea, either.
Saucepans ● For sauces, sides, grits, gravies, etc. If you’re only going for one, go for 3 qt. and it needs to have a lid.
Stock Pot ● For boiling pasta, steaming veggies and shellfish, making soups and broths, and so on. Larger ones sometimes come with inserts that make the aforementioned easier to accomplish.
Dutch Oven ● A multi-purpose workhorse! I deep fry in mine, make stews, braise and roast, etc. It really does so much. I suggest an enameled one so the upkeep is easier – just don’t chip it – but that’s up to you. 5 1/2 qt. is a good, universal size.
Baking Sheets ● Not just for cookies! They make it easy to bake and broil everything from vegetables to bacon. Half-sheets are my preferred size, but find a set including smaller ones if you can.
Glass Baking Dish ● The size is up to you, but I’d spring for both a 9×13″ and an 8×8″ at least. Lasagna, cake, casseroles, mac ‘n cheese – they can really do so much. Make sure you get a decent quality one – a cheaply made one might explode in your oven. Hasn’t happened to me but I’ve seen it in the reviews of too many.
ScanPan TechNIQ Windsor Pan + Lid ● My baby! There is no better pan for making grits than a Windsor, and the TechNIQ line from ScanPan is just glorious. Crazy durable nonstick surfaces that are metal-utensil safe, and they’re sturdy and oven safe up to 500ºF.
Lodge 10.25″ Cast-Iron Skillet ● The “Everything” pan. She bakes up beautiful biscuits and cornbread, fries chicken and fish like a charm, and the sear she provides on steaks and chops is virtually incomparable.
Staub’s Perfect Pan w. Lid + Rack ● I fell in love with this pan through an Instagram advertisement that showed it frying up some bacon, searing a burger, and melting some cheese, and I’ve only grown to love it more and more as I use it. I’ve found that food will stick if the temperature is too high, but that’s common and totally user error.
Wilton Perfect Results Mini-Loaf Pan ● There is always cornbread in my house. It’s almost a ritual: twice a week I make a batch of small loaves first thing in the morning, just to have on hand. I have two of these mini-loaf pans and they’ve held up well under constant use for the past few years.
Gizmos + Gadgets
Smart Waffle Pro from Breville $380 | 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker from Crock-Pot $90 | Professional Countertop Blender from Ninja $100 | Ultra Max Water Dispenser from Brita $50 | Electric Spice Grinder from Cuisinart $50 | Round Classic Waffle Maker from Cuisinart $30 | 8″ Cast Iron Tortilla Press from Victoria $30 | Better Batter Breader Bowl from Cook’s Choice $16 | 8-Cup Compact Food Processor from Hamilton Beach $40 | Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer from OXO $15 | Stainless Steel Potato Ricer from Norpro $44 | Hand Mixer with Snap-On Case from Hamilton Beach $20 | Classic Stand Mixer from KitchenAid $250 | Immersion Blender from Braun $60 | XL Deep Fryer from Butterball $100
Not one of these things is truly essential. If you’re going for a minimalist kitchen you can skip everything here and still be able to crank out most dishes with ease. That’s not to say that these things aren’t super useful to have.
Hamilton Beach Food Processor ● I’ve had this food processor for a few years now and it’s still going strong! I use it least a few times a week mostly to make marinades and shred cheese (it came with a shredding and slicing disc) but it’s good for so much more: forming pie and biscuit dough, making crumbs, chopping nuts, it goes on and on.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer ● This is definitely one of my personal cooking essentials. Bread, cookies, cakes, mashed potatoes, pasta, compound butters – there are so many things that my stand mixer makes an absolute breeze. Mine came with a flat beater, a wire whip, and a dough hook attachment. Separately I purchased a flex edge beater, 3-piece pasta set, and a spiralizer.
Brita Ultra-Max Water Dispenser ● Water is an ingredient most of us probably don’t put much thought into, but it matters. Tap water is fine to use but filtered water just makes me feel better – especially because I live in an apartment complex within city limits, so it’s heavily treated.
Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker ● My Belgian Waffle Maker was one of those items covered in dust in the back of the closet. Maybe it’s our propensity for Waffle House, but we prefer that classic style of waffle. This one is fairly easy to clean – I clean it once with just water while it’s still hot and again with cleaning solutions when it’s cooled down – and the gauge is accurate.
Tools + Equipment
8″ Chef’s Knife from Misen $65 | 7″ Santoku Knife from Mercer Culinary $16 | Paring Knife from Misen $30 | 7″ Chef’s Knife from OOU $30 | Silicone Spatula from VINSTAR $6 | Zodiac Silicone Spatula from Williams Sonoma $10 | Spatula Ultimate from GIR $13 | Non-Slip Cutting Boards from Gorilla Grip $40 | Measuring Spoons from Hudson Essentials $15 | 12″ + 9″ Stainless Steel Tongs from Walfos $10 | Set of Measuring Cups from Anchor Hocking $14 | 11″ Silicone Ball Whisk from WMF $30 | Wooden Corner Spoon from OXO $13 | Small Silicone Basting Brush from OXO $9 | Digital Meat Thermometer from Professional Secrets $99 | Extra Large Bamboo Cutting Board with Juice Groove from Indigo True $25 | Flexible Cutting Board Set from Dexas $20 | 9″ Flat Oval Whisk from Norpro $12 | Large Salt Cellar by jalz jalz $20 | Set of Four Measuring Cups from Farberware $12 | 4’5″ Round Cutter from Ateco $10 | 3’5″ Stainless Steel Donut Cutter from Ateco $7 | Large Chef’s Squeeze Bottle from OXO $6 | Plastic Empanada Press from Imusa $10 | Shears with Soft-Grip Handles from KitchenAid $15 | Wooden Turner from OXO $5 | Stainless Steel Double Boiler from Songziming $9 | Can Opener from KitchenAid $20 | Dual-Action Potato Masher and Ricer by Harold Import Co. $16 | Confetti Mixing Bowl Set from Zak Designs $40 | Set of Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids from Fitzroy and Fox $26 | Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer from OXO $18 | Stainless Steel Julienne Vegetable Peeler from UberChef $10 | Adjustable Rolling Pin from Joseph Joseph $16 | Stainless Steel Spider Strainers from HIWARE $14 |3-Cup Rotary Hand-Crank Flour Sifter from Norpro $12 | Set of Small Porcelain Bowls from Cole & Hammen $22 | Millennia Wide Wavy Edge Bread Knife from Mercer Culinary $15 | Professional Stainless Steel Box Grater from Spring Chef $12 | 5″ Food Grade Stainless Steel Funnel from Lakatay $10 | Medium Stainless Steel Fish Turner from Winco $8 | Digital Kitchen Food Scale from Escali $40 | Milk Street Comfort 11″ Balloon Whisk from Kuhn Rikon $22 | 6″ Granite Mortar and Pestle from Jamie Oliver $30 | Adjustable Spice Mill from Ebaco $9 | Cake Tester from OXO $5 | Pair of Silicone Trivets from Love This Kitchen $20 | Nylon Kitchen Utensil Set from Joseph Joseph $80 | 1/2 Sheet Oven Safe Nonstick Baking & Cooling Grids from Nordic Ware $15 | Stainless Steel Pastry Cutter from Zulay Kitchen $9 | Bench Scraper & Chopper from Norpro $15 | 4-cup Fat Separator from OXO $15 | Silicone Hot Handle Covers from Lodge $14 | Set of 3 Stainless Steel Cookie Scoops from Norpro $43 | Stainless Steel Griddle Spatula from Anmarko $12
Knives • Hands down the most essential of the cooking essentials. You need at least a chef’s knife, which most folks use in its 8″ variation. I like both 7″ and 8″. Find a knife that’s comfortable in your hand: you’ll use it more than almost anything else and it feeling awkward could easily lead to extremities rolling across the countertop. I store my knives on a magnetic knife rack and I have a whetstone I use to sharpen them when needed. You can spring for a complete knife set if you like, but I get by with a santoku, a pairing knife, a serrated knife, and a few chef’s knives.
Cutting Boards • I have more cutting boards than it probably seems because I tend to play favorites (and half of them are grey for some reason). I recommend having multiple so that you can easily prep ingredients without any risk of cross-contamination. Having different colors will allow you to track which is used for which, and you can even find cute ones with little doodles of things like steaks and veggies to help you keep things straight too. You’ll also want a chopping block or wooden cutting board with grooves around the edges for slicing things likes steaks, chops, and whole birds – and serving too.
Utensils (Tongs, Shears, Slotted Spoon, Spatula, Whisk) ● You’ll want an arsenal of tools in a caddy beside your stove. You can usually find complete sets of what you need. Depending on your cookware you can use metal ones, but I prefer Nylon and Silicone. Also useful: wooden spoons and scrapers/turners.
Measuring Equipment ● Dry and liquid measuring cups (yas, there is a difference) and measuring spoons. Even if you’re like me and prefer to cook by the seat of your pants, you need them – if only for baking. I recommend a scale for baking as well. It’s much more exact and a lot easier than any other way.
Mixing Bowls ● Spring for a set with a lid for easy marinating and bread rising. Stainless steel is the most versatile – and best for things like biscuits where you want to keep the dough cold – but plastic will do.
Wire Racks ● I debated whether or not to consider these cooking essentials or not, but they are. It’s likely you’ve seen my rants about not draining fried foods on paper towels, but always on wire racks, and that’s what I use mine for the most. If you don’t fry I’d still pick up a few: they’re also great for reverse searing steaks, cooling cookies, and baking stuff you wanna keep crisp.
Pot Holders ● Silicone is my preference, and I like the ones that can double as trivets. Not a fan of having things on my hands so mitts and gloves are always the last choice.
Can Opener ● Pretty self explanatory. Unless you manage to cook without using cans.
Strainers ● You can get by with just a simple colander, but having mesh strainers of different sizes isn’t a bad idea. You can use them for funneling used oil into a container (peanut oil is great for reuse, sans debris), sifting cocoa powder or powdered sugar over food, straining tea and removing chaff from stone-ground grits.
Digital Thermometer ● I have a surface thermometer, an instant internal thermometer, an oil/candy thermometer and an oven-safe probe thermometer. I pretty much only use the instant internal thermometer, and not often. Mostly for super large breasts if I’m frying, or milk when I’m baking. But if you’re just getting comfortable, you really should pick one up.
Squeeze Bottle ● I keep a squeeze bottle of vegetable oil on the lazy susan by my stove (it also holds my utensil caddy and my salt cellar. I don’t know how I ever functioned without it. Well, I do, but it’s much better now.
Salt Cellar ● A pinch of salt is much easier to measure when you can actually pinch it. It might feel foreign to you at first to not shake it or measure it out, but it won’t take you long to determine how many of your pinches your food needs.
Spider Strainers ● I love them for handling delicate fried things like yeast donuts, but they’re also great for removing pasta from water and lowering heavy objects into hot water or oil, like my Deep Fried Loaded Baked Potatoes.
Serveware + Accessories
18-Piece Storage Container Set from Rubbermaid $45 | Glass Mason Jars from Ball $45 | 10-Piece Storage Container Set from OXO $100 | Set of Deli Containers from DuraHome $20 | 17″ Magnetic Knife Bar $40 | Baker’s Rack with Kitchen Storage from Honey-Can-Do $100 | Utensil Holder from Dowan $32 | Acaia Flat Round Cake Server from Libbey $45 | Prep Table Kitchen Cart from Seville Classics $ 100 | Expandable Cutlery Tray from Joseph Joseph $20 | Stainless Steel Utensil Set for 12 from LIANYU $50 | Floursack Kitchen Towels Set of 3 from Now Designs $12 | Large Porcelain Plate Bowls from DOWAN $35 | Large Porcelain Serving Platter from DOWAN $40 | Porcelain Dinner Plates from Danxia $32 | Acacia Bread Bowl from Libber International $20 | 30-Bottle Spice Organizer from YouCopia $30 | Porcelain Pasta Plates Set of 6 from Amuse Home $25 | Porcelain Cereal Bowls Set of 6 from Sweese $27 | 16 Piece Tumbler and Rock Glass Set from Libbey $45 | Deviled Egg Platter from DOWAN $25 | Acacia Cheese Board Set from Kitchen Chefs $40 | Trifle Dish with Lid from Anchor Hocking $16 | 3 oz. Condiment Cups from Lawei $18 | 12 Cloth Dinner Napkins from Utopia Kitchen $21 | Set of 8 oz. Ramekins from Sweese $20 | 5-Gallon Food Storage Containers from Rubbermaid $35
Serveware ● You can usually find sets that include multiple place settings including plates, bowls, and mugs. CB2 has a great selection.
Flatware ● Enough for 8 place settings is a good start, if only so you don’t have to wash them every time you use one. No one said it had to be silver, either! Black flatware is pretty cool, I think.
Storage Containers ● As essential as any other cooking essentials. If you cook a lot, you’ll find yourself in need of a place to store prepped ingredients and leftovers. I use mine for meal prepping as well. You’ll also want some airtight containers to store your dry goods like flour, rice, oats, etc. This will keep moisture out and make sure they last as long as they should. I’m a big fan of the Rubbermaid Brilliance line. I have countertop containers, and some 5-gallon tubs I use to store unopened or less frequently used items.
Kitchen Linens ● tea towels, cloth napkins, etc. They’re multi-purpose. I use them daily, for everything from securing cutting boards and wiping down counters to a makeshift pot holder when I’m in a rush (I don’t think that’s generally recommended).
Shelving Units ● I have a small, galley style kitchen that is sorely lacking in storage space so I have two baker’s racks and a baker’s cart.
17″ Magnetic Knife’s Rack ● Being as knives are the most important of all cooking essentials and both counter and drawer space is precious for me, I need a rack to store them on. I didn’t want to install any hardware so I found one that would stick to my fridge and this one I have is awesome. Mine currently supports two 8″ chef’s knives, one 7″ chef’s knife, two 7″ santokus, a 4″ paring knife, and a 10″ serrated bread knife.
YouCopia Chef’s Edition SpiceStacks ● I have two of these on the bottom level of my main kitchen cabinet. Each one stores 30 bottles of spices – of multiple sizes – in neat little slide-out trays. Best purchases ever.
Deviled Egg Tray ● I’m a nice Southern lady after all. It’s only right one of these be in my cooking essentials list.
That's All, Folks!
Thanks for reading, and leave and comments, suggestions or callouts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you! I’ve attached a few pictures of my own kitchen below, just in case you’d like to see how I have some of the items listed above stored. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional! Hopefully my next kitchen will be spacious enough to allow both things at the same time.