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in my kitchen / not exactly food

My Cooking Essentials

This is a (new and improved!) comprehensive list of all the culinary equipment I have squeezed into my tiny kitchen, alongside a curated collection of alternative options. Where I wasn’t able to link to what I own exactly, I located a comparable alternative at a similar price point.

Check out my Pantry Essentials post for a list of what I keep stocked in my cabinets.

Introduction

My Amazon Storefront – shown above – has always been available as an easy and convenient way for everyone to shop my kitchen, and it will continue to be. Thing is, I’m not able to tag everything I own because some items aren’t available via Amazon or any of its affiliates. That’s where this post comes in. Enjoy!

Prepware

cooking essentials knife

Knives

A good knife is everything. It’s basically your hand when you’re prepping in the kitchen, so you want to make sure you take the time to find the right one for you. After some trial and error, I’ve settled on the 7″ Santoku as my official favorite.

Prior to breaking my right (dominant) hand a few years ago, it was the classic 8″ Chef’s knife, but the heft and weight are a little much for me now. There are many other styles besides the ones I have listed below, so research and test.

Chef’s Knife – These knives come in various lengths, the average size being 8″. It’s an all-around knife, capable of taking care of any task. The blade is broad and usually can rock on the cutting board, making it great for mincing things like herbs. The ones I use most are my 8″ Misen and my OOU.

Santoku Knife – Santokus are basically Japanese Chef’s knives. They’re lighter and thinner and the flat blades don’t rock. For me, they’re unmatched for my methods of chopping and dicing. Many times you’ll find these knives with grooves on the sides of the blade, making food release from it more easily. I have four, and my 7″ OOU gets the most mileage.

Serrated Knife – These are long, straight, and have “teeth” of varying sizes. You’ll find them often called Serrated Bread Knives and they’re great for that, but they’re also perfect for carving turkeys and getting paper-thin slices out of even the ripest, juiciest tomatoes. I have a Wusthof 8″ Bread Knife.

Paring Knife – Pairing knives are supposed to be essential in the kitchen but they aren’t in mine. I use them most often to trim and clean meat, or to open new packages of things. This Misen one comes off my magnetic knife rack most often.

Other Sharp Edges

Kitchen Shears – I mainly use my kitchen shears for spatchcocking poultry, but they actually have a myriad of uses. You can use them in place of a knife and cutting board to cut meat, vegetables, and herbs. If you use peeled tomatoes you can use shears to snip them into pieces before you even pour them from the can. They’re also great for cutting slices of deep-dish pizza.

Box Grater, Vegetable Peeler, and Zester – I hate shredding cheese and almost always do it in my food processor, but sometimes when I need a small amount, out comes the box grater. Most of them come with multiple sides that you can use for peeling or slicing as well as zesting, but having a separate peeler and zester is nice, too.

Mandoline – Three words: Homemade Potato Chips.

Can Opener – I’m sure the canned section of my Pantry Essentials post is enough to explain why a good can opener is necessary for my house.

Cutting Boards

Having a large selection of cutting boards isn’t necessary, but if you cook as much as I do it’s extremely helpful. I have probably too many, but I’ll allow it! I am never at risk of cross-contaminating food because I have a cutting board for each ingredient if I want.

Flexible Cutting Mats – Flexible cutting mats are easy to store and clean. You can find dual-sided mats or ones that have a non-slip side for safer usage. My favorite thing about these is that they bend, roll and fold, so you can easily funnel chopped ingredients into the pot without spillage. I don’t use them as much as I used to, but my favorites are these from Target.

Bamboo Cutting Boards – Bamboo is harder on your knives and doesn’t last as long as wood – but if you’re looking for the best environmentally friendly option, bamboo is where it’s at. A large bamboo cutting board with grooves for catching stray juices is my favorite for carving poultry and roasts.

Color-Coded Cutting Boards – You’ve probably seen me use my Joseph Joseph Folio Cutting Boards more than any others over this past year. The reason for that is the folio storage case sits right on my countertop so they’re the most easily accessible. It’s commonly thought that plastic cutting boards are more sanitary than surfaces like wood or bamboo, but this isn’t true. Make sure you scrub the hell out of these and sanitize them too.

Wooden Chopping Block – Wood is easiest on your knives and won’t show damage as other types of boards. A chopping block isn’t really a necessity, but it’s beautiful and functional. Not only can you prep your meal on it, but you can serve it, too. Boards from John Boos are trusted in kitchens and restaurants across the country and will last you for many, many years.

Utensils

Wooden – Wooden utensils are safe for all types of cookware as well as durable and versatile. You can get away with just a quality wooden spoon, but I’ve found a use for spoons, turners, scrapers and more in my culinary adventures. Wooden utensils are also super easy to care for. Make sure to toss them if they start to crack or splinter.

Spatulas – Another item I probably have too many of. Some are narrow and long, best for scraping the sides of bowls and jars. Others are short and fat, great for folding whipped ingredients into batters. Everyone that watches me cook has seen my Virgo spatula from Williams Sonoma, as well as my skinny blue silicone babies. Silicone is my material of choice because it’s safe at high heat. I have a bad habit of sitting my utensils on hot burners.

Whisks – I use whisks almost as often as spoons – for gravies, sauces, eggs, and more. My silicone ball whisks are my favorites; they allow me to whisk my grits and bechamel sauces in the pot vigorously without guilt. I’ve replaced all of my cookware with metal utensil safe pieces, but it’s a hard habit to shake without a second thought. For gravies, my roux whisks and sauce whisks are essential, allowing me to work all the corners of a skillet easily.

Tongs – I got by with forks, mainly, for picking stuff up and flipping things over before I started using tongs. Now, I don’t know what I’d do without them. I prefer the ones with silicone tips to protect any fragile surfaces, and the ones that lock into place so I can tell if they’re closed or not (I’m not sure why but I struggle to tell if there’s no locking mechanism). Also in this category are kitchen tweezers, which are useful for plating and garnish purposes.

Slotted Spoon, Ladle, and Pasta Server – If you purchase a utensil set like this one I have from Joseph Joseph, these items are almost guaranteed to be a part of it. You’ll be able to find your way around without them, but they’re useful to have nonetheless. I use my ladle most often for plating grits, my slotted spoons for drizzling sauces and gravies, and pasta servers for straining pasta from the water – not really for serving. I prefer a carving fork for that.

Bowls

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls with Lids – Stainless Steel is my favorite material for mixing bowls. They’re heat safe and can be used in a pinch as double boilers. Try to find some with rubber bottoms and lids. They can be used for storing leftovers, rising dough, mixing batters, the list goes on and on. If they nest together, even better! I have two sets, but this set of three with lids and rubber bottoms are my most used.

Ceramic or Melamine Mixing Bowls – If you’re looking for something decorative, ceramic and melamine bowls usually have patterns or other embellishments. You also don’t have to worry about them reacting to acidic foods like metal. I’m often asked where I got the speckled set I use on IGTV sometimes, and it was Walmart, but they’ve been out of stock for quite a while.

Prep Bowls – You’ve heard of Mise en Place, right? It’s the French term for having all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking. I believe it translates to “everything in its place.” Prep bowls facilitate this, helping keep things organized before and during cooking – which makes the whole process go more smoothly. These cheap plastic bowls from Target have been well worth the $0.79 each.

Pinch Bowls – Another extravagant extra, pinch bowls are usually made of silicone and are very tiny. They’re perfect for adding pre-measured amounts of herbs and seasonings to the pot. These 2 ounce ramekins are also great for this.

Thermometers

For some reason, many laypeople believe thermometers signals being an unsure or inexperienced cook. In truth, cooks and chefs of all levels can find a use for them. Thermometers are integral to some processes while making others foolproof.

Instant Read Thermometer – These are ideal for things like testing the internal temperature of a piece of meat that’s searing on the stovetop or making sure heated milk isn’t so warm it’ll kill the yeast. You can find probe and surface instant-read thermometers.

Oven Probe Thermometer – These make cooking roasts and reverse searing steaks simple and easy. Stick the probe into the thickest part, and into the oven it goes. Set it to chime when it reaches your desired temperature and walk away. The display can sit on the counter or – now that most of them are magnetic – stick right to your oven door.

Candy Thermometer – They’re usually called candy thermometers but they’re good for oil as well. Maintaining the oil temperature is an important part of deep frying on the stove, and it can be harder to master than it appears. Living up to their name, boiling sugars and syrups for candy needs precision and these are best for that. Go for stainless steel and one that clips onto the pot.

Tools

Versatile Lids – These babies are a lifesaver if you have a small amount of room to store your cookware, or you’ve lost or broken a lot of lids over the years.

Basting Brush – Silicone and boar bristles are my favorite bristle materials. Boar is very gentle so best for delicate baked goods like rolls and pastries. I like silicone for basting meat when searing on the stovetop or finishing in a super hot oven.

Meat Tenderizer – I don’t use these very often, but for pounding chicken to an even thickness, or loosening up some round steak before pan-frying, there’s no substitute.

Measuring Cups – I like having a good selection of both dry measuring cups and liquid measuring cups. The way they hold their ingredients is different so the distinction is different. It matters, especially when baking.

Measuring Spoons – The magnetic measuring spoons are my favorite, but I own a bunch. Having multiple allows me to measure many things without washing them or mixing any ingredients. I recommend having at least one of each size: 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 tablespoon, and 1 tablespoon.

Kitchen Scale – If you meal prep for specific reasons or bake a decent amount a kitchen scale is essential. I’ve been using this small digital scale for years now, and there are a whole host of options to choose from.

Cookie Scoops and Food Disher – Cookie scoops with wipers are everything! The scoop ensures that they’re evenly sized and the wiper gives you a clean release every time. I like having small, medium, and large for making cookies. Food dishers are like really big cookie scoops or ice cream scoops. I use a food disher for ice cream, and for things like drop biscuits.

Colander and Mesh Strainers – Draining pasta or canned veggies, sifting dry ingredients together for baked goods, and showering powdered sugar or chocolate for decoration: sifters and colanders are required for all of this. I use metal mesh strainers for small jobs and big plastic colanders for large ones.

Pepper Mill – Spices, seasonings, and dried herbs don’t necessarily go bad, but they do lose their potency. Freshly cracked black pepper is always best, so a pepper mill is vital. You can find manual and electronic ones, and most of them have different settings for how fine you want the pepper. Salt Mills are nice too.

Salt Cellar – They do exactly what they sound like they do: they house the salt in a cool, dry atmosphere. Pinching salt between your fingers is easier than measuring – once you learn how – and more reliable than using a shaker of some sort.

Bench Scraper – If you bake, you’ll want a bench scraper. There’s no better tool for clearing off your work surface of flour and scraps, and it helps keeps your hands free when transferring or kneading a sticky dough. I like stainless steel, but you can find flexible plastic ones as well – those are great for lifting down from mixing bowls.

Stainless Steel Spider and Pig Tail Flipper – If you like to fry, these might be your new best friend. I use the strainer for frying delicate foods like beignets and small foods like nuggets, as well as boiling short kinds of pasta and small or chopped vegetables. The flipper makes turning light fried foods easy and is great for lifting big pieces of meat, too.

Trivets – I don’t like things on my hands, which is why it’s incredibly rare to see me anywhere near a glove. Trivets – specifically silicone ones – are great multi-purpose tools. They protect your counters from hot cookware and work great as oven mitts. The hard ones are good for spoon rests, too. I don’t know why but I refuse to buy spoon rests!

Silicone Baking Mats – A nice way to protect your pans and make sure all your food releases easily. They’re an investment initially but you’ll save a lot on parchment paper or foil or whatever you usually use. I’m still getting used to pulling them out, myself.

Rolling Pin – Rolling out pie dough. Smoothing puff pastry. Beating the crap out of cookies and candy. This tool does all of this and more! I like wood, but you can find metal and marble, too.

Cookware

cooking essentials cookware

After many years of buying cookware from any and everywhere, I’ve replaced virtually all of mine with two kinds: Scanpan – their TechNIQ line, specifically – and Hexclad. These brands are pretty expensive, so it was an investment, but largely worthwhile so far. I expect to get many years out of each piece.

Materials

There are other types of cookware other than the ones I’ve listed below. Stainless Steel, Copper, Stoneware and more. Do your research and play with different materials: you won’t know what you like unless you try them!

Cast-Iron – Cast-Iron has always been my favorite type of cookware, although I’ve been using it less often. The weight is just a lot for me – yes, that pesky hand break again. I tend to be pretty rough on everything, and nothing can take a beating better than Cast-Iron! Not only that, but it just cooks well.

Cast-iron retains and distributes heat evenly, sears like nobody’s business, and once seasoned well the non-stick surface is damn near incomparable. It comes enameled, which looks nice and doesn’t need to be seasoned.

Nonstick – If you’re just starting out, sometimes it can feel like Nonstick frying pans are the only things you can even make grilled cheese in. If you’re experienced but you initially learned to cook using Nonstick cookware it’s possible you need some practice cooking at appropriate temperatures too. This is something stainless steel and other surfaces demand you gain mastery of, while Nonstick is more forgiving.

Like cast-iron, you can usually find Nonstick pans anywhere. Unlike Cast-Iron, you’ll need to be a bit more selective because it’s not all built the same. The easiest cookware to find is usually coated in Teflon, or is Ceramic. Becoming more popular is Carbon Steel, which needs to be seasoned like cast iron before its nonstick.

Cookware with Teflon surfaces is the least expensive but generally doesn’t last as long. You want to avoid preheating these pans and stay away from metal utensils and harsh cleaning tools so the surface lasts as long as possible. When the cooking surface starts to chip and flake it’s time to replace it. If you’re like me you’ll still hang on to them for a VERY long time, but this isn’t recommended.

Ceramic surfaces will also wear away with time, so you need to be gentle, but they tend to hold up better than Teflon. Carbon Steel can last forever and ever.

I like Scanpan’s TechNIQ line because it’s durable as hell. I’ve mentioned that I’m rough on everything. Having nonstick cookware that can be preheated, put in the oven, and is metal utensil safe is a dream. It’s a bit heavy, but no heavier than any other pieces of similar quality and still lighter than cast iron.

Hexclad Short Review

Hexclad 7 Piece Set with Lids and Wok
Hexclad 6 Piece Pot Set with Lids
Hexclad 8" Saute Pan with Lid
Hexclad 10" Saute Pan with Lid
HexClad 12" Saute Pan with Lid
HexClad Hybrid Non-Stick Cookware | 7 Piece Set with Lids and Wok | Metal Utensil Safe, Induction...
Hexclad Hybrid Nonstick Cookware 6 Piece Pot Set with Lids, Metal Utensil Safe, Induction Ready
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
$559.00
$999.99
$179.85
$178.85
$238.85
Hexclad 7 Piece Set with Lids and Wok
HexClad Hybrid Non-Stick Cookware | 7 Piece Set with Lids and Wok | Metal Utensil Safe, Induction...
$559.00
Hexclad 6 Piece Pot Set with Lids
Hexclad Hybrid Nonstick Cookware 6 Piece Pot Set with Lids, Metal Utensil Safe, Induction Ready
$999.99
Hexclad 8" Saute Pan with Lid
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
$179.85
Hexclad 10" Saute Pan with Lid
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
$178.85
HexClad 12" Saute Pan with Lid
HexClad Revolutionary Laser Etched Hybrid Technology Cookware, Non-Stick Interior and Exterior,...
$238.85

I’ve had my 7-piece Hexclad Hybrid Cookware with Lids and Wok for almost a year now (it’s January 2021 and I purchased them in April 2020) and they’re good as new. Not a scratch or scuff, and I treat them like I treat all my other cookware – even my heirloom cast iron. It cleans beautifully and is very light – very important again after breaking my hand – and is truly nonstick.

It’s reminded me to be even more patient and deliberate with the temperature when cooking, as the “revolutionary nonstick surface” will quickly seem like a scam if you go cranking up the heat under your omelet. I’ve put it in the dishwasher and it held up fine, but the hexagonal design can hold onto anything stuck in its surface so handwashing is recommended.

Since my initial purchase of the 7 piece set, I’ve acquired the 12″ griddle pan and 6 piece pot set. I love it all, and will probably keep adding to my collection as long as they keep releasing new items! I expect it to last just as long as the lifetime warranty promises.

Skillets

Often referred to as frying pans, I think skillets are needed in any and all kitchens. They work for sunny side up eggs, seared chops, stir-fried vegetables, crispy-edged pancakes, – the list really goes on and on.

8″ – This small skillet is perfect for scrambling eggs and reheating small amounts of leftovers. It’s also good for toasting spices and chiles, and other small-batch stuff. Single grilled cheeses!

10″ – 10″ is a nice, versatile size if you’re limiting yourself to just one. It’ll allow you to fry, sear, or sautee enough food to feed 2-4 people, usually.

12″ – This is a big one, usually heavier and harder to fit on small stoves, but if you want to cook large amounts at once, it’s great. I use mine the most for breakfast to make a bunch of pancakes at once, or home fries.

Saucepans

As important as skillets are saucepans. Anything that’s mostly liquid – soups, stews, sauces, gravies, porridges, etc. – will come together best in a saucepan of some size. They have high sides so stirring and whisking vigorously is safe, and can be found in the same finishes as skillets (just like all cookware). All of my saucepans are by Scanpan.

2 qt. is generally the smallest (I’ve seen 1 qt), good for sauces. 3 qt. is a nice standard size, good for making about 4-6 servings or so, depending on this dish. I recommend having multiples so you can easily prepare multiple sides. 4 qt. is good for multiple servings of soup or pasta.

Windsor Pan – The Holy Grail for grits. This saucepan is medium-sized has sides that taper out slightly at the rim, allowing for even evaporation and cooking. It makes amazing rice, and oatmeal as well. They can be hard to find, especially by name. Sauciers are good substitutes.

Specialty Pieces

Sauté Pan – These are often confused for skillets. You can tell which is which by the sides. Saute pans have straight vertical sides while frying pans have rims that are slanted outward. They can be used for the same purposes, but I think saute pans are much better for dishes that have to be stirred quite a bit. Like stir-frys!

Stockpot – Every kitchen needs at least one really big pot! Great for boiling pasta, steaming seafood, and making huge amounts of soups or sides.

Dutch Oven – Braising is my favorite way to cook (this is why I don’t have a pressure cooker), so Dutch Ovens are a favorite type of cookware. They are heavy, usually enameled, and have tightly fitting lids that help keep things moist during the long, slow process. They are great on the stovetop and in the oven. In my kitchen, they’re interchangeable with ‘Cocettes’ but I’m sure there’s some distinction I’m not aware of.

Braiser – Braisers are basically shallow Dutch Ovens. I especially love them for one-pot dishes that I start on the stove and end in the oven.

Grill Pan – Who doesn’t like grill marks? These allow you to get them on the stovetop and in the oven. I recommend cast iron or another high-heat and oven safe material so you can preheat it before adding anything.

Double-sided Griddle – Pancakes. Tacos. Smashburgers. Steaks. Chicken. Whatever! Double-sided griddles usually have one smooth side and one with grill lines. I like the cast-iron ones that fit over multiple burners, but you can find single burner joints, too.

Wok – Woks can cook pretty much anything. They distribute heat well thanks to the tall, high sides and those same sides lend well to safely deep-frying and vigorous stirring. I don’t use mine often because they work best over flames, not the radiant rings on my stove.

Bakeware

cooking essentials bakeware

Sheet Pans – If you don’t purchase anything else for your oven, purchase these. Not just for baking cookies, sheet pans are true workhorses. Put them under casseroles and pies before baking to protect your oven. Place one in a 200°F oven and stack pancakes on it as you cook them to keep them warm. Bake an entire dinner – thinly sliced onions, peppers, and chicken for fajitas!

Cooling Racks – If you’re familiar with any of my recipes for fried foods, you’ll know I’m adamant about draining it on wire racks rather than paper towels. Not only does a rack allow the food to stay raised above any puddling oil, but it can be placed into a warm or hot oven.

Baking Pans – You’ll want baking pans of various sizes and materials. Glass, ceramic, and cast-iron are all great choices. I like 8″ and 9″ square pans for brownies and crumbles. For macaroni and cheese, casseroles, and lasagnas I like 9×13″ bakers. For the nicest oven-to-table ones search for “rectangular bakers.”

Round Cake Pans, Cupcake Pans, Loaf Pan and Bundt Pan – 9″ nonstick rounds for layer cakes. Cupcakes pans for cupcakes, muffins, and single serve items. Loaf pans are good for quick bread and pound cake. Bundt pans, for bundt cakes.

Springform Pan – Unparalleled for cheesecakes, quiches, and anything else you need to pop out smoothly after baking.

Pie Pans and Ramekins – I like pie very much. I have fancy ruffle-edged pie dishes and basic boring pie pans in all sizes and in deep-dish and regular depth. Ramekins are great for single-crust individual pies and other random purposes like serving parfaits.

Roasting Pans (and at least one Rack) – If you plan on roasting whole birds and bone-in roasts, you’ll need a roasting pan. You can also find smaller ones for things like potatoes and cornish hens. A rack helps keep it above any fat and drippings during the cooking process, making sure the skin stays nice and crisp all over.

Small Appliances

cooking essentials small appliances

Food Processor – My Ultimate Tool! With the addition of the shredding and slicing blade, it does everything I need it to. Mostly I shred cheese in it, but it’s also good for shortcutting your way to pie dough, making salsa, and crushing graham crackers and cookies for crusts.

Immersion Blender – Also called a stick blender, I use this when I need to blend something still in the pot like refried beans or a creamy pie filling. Mine has a whisk attachment so it’s nice for making small amounts of whipped cream, too.

Blender – To be completely honest my blender is used mostly for one thing: smoothies. When cooking I prefer my immersion blender, but sometimes – especially when using dried chiles in Mexican and Tex-Mex food – it’s needed for cooking, too.

Stand Mixer – I’m gonna be honest: I wouldn’t bake bread at all if I didn’t have this mixer. You *might* be able to squeeze a cake or cookies out of me if I was really pressed, but breads would not happen.

Hand Mixer – That cake and those cookies I mentioned above? If I didn’t have a stand mixer OR a hand mixer you couldn’t even get those either. There’s very little a hand mixer can’t do that a stand mixer can, but the difference in how hands-on you have to be alone is enough to justify me having both.

Slow Cooker – My slow-cooker is a multi-cooker. I don’t use any of the other functions except “browning” but apparently it bakes, too! Maybe I’ll use that one day. Searing in the crockpot makes making beef stew and roasts much easier. Less cleanup is always good.

Water Filter System – We think a lot about our ingredients when cooking, but water seems an afterthought for most. Tap water is fine, but filtered water is better. I live in an apartment complex within city limits, so it’s important to me.

Coming Soon…

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Information last updated on 2021-04-11.

3 Comments

  • MorgTay
    May 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Love this and you! You’re the most genuine chef I follow. Peace and blessings to you and yours❤️

    Reply
  • Angela Pinex
    August 12, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    Gonna get one of those hexclad pans. Do you love or just like?

    Reply
    • María
      August 25, 2020 at 12:57 pm

      Absolutely love the set so far!

      Reply

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