How to Stock Your Kitchen with Essential Cooking Tools: A Basic Kitchen Needs Checklist

Recent consumer insights say that only 10 percent of Americans love to cook. Forty-five percent hate to cook and 45 percent are on the fence. Those who claim to hate cooking tend not to like it because they don’t know how to cook, they think it takes too much time, or they don’t have the right tools to get the job done.

But cooking at home has both economic and health benefits – saving you money and allowing you to be in total control over the foods you eat. You can streamline your cooking routine and minimize the time you spend in the kitchen by equipping your home with items from this basic kitchen needs checklist.

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Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs including Appliances and Cooking Tools


You wouldn’t show up to work without the right equipment to get the job done and cooking in the kitchen isn’t any different. But your commitment to eating healthy doesn’t have to be another full-time job. The appliances on this basic kitchen needs checklist will save you time and energy.

Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs - Appliances
1. Slow Cooker – Program this pot to cook for the day and walk away while it does all the work. This large slow cooker lends itself well to leftovers that can be stored in the freezer for a quick meal in the future or this smaller one works great for single weeknight meals.
2. Food Scale – Food scales are great for portion control. Whether you are weighing out a pound of protein or baking from a cookbook that lists ingredients by weight, this inexpensive food scale will come in handy.
3. Hand Mixer – This simple hand mixer has no bells or whistles. It’s basic, budget-friendly and gets the job done. Whether you are beating egg whites or making your first batch of aquafaba meringue, this hand mixer will do the trick.
4. Can Opener – It may seem obvious, but investing in a nice can opener is a must. This one is durable and dishwasher safe.
5. Toaster – It’s hard to go wrong with a toaster, but one with wide slots (for thick hearty bread or bagels) and a browning dial with a few heat settings is all you need.
6. Blender – A high-end blender can change your life. Make silky smooth smoothies and soups, grind coffee beans and spices, make fresh juice or pulverize fresh nuts and seeds into butter – this thing does it all. The cost per use will make the spend worthwhile in no time.
7. Electric Tea Kettle – Faster than a microwave and safer than the stove top, this electric kettle is a must. Its automatic shut off allows you to turn it on and walk away without fear of forgetting. If you only need hot water for the occasional oatmeal or tea, this simple stove top kettle will also do the trick.
8. Food Processor – Food processors are great for quick chopping, pureeing homemade hummus or even blending salad dressing. This smaller version makes quick tasks more manageable and is easier to clean.
9. Meat Thermometer – You might not think you need a meat thermometer, but you do. Avoid overcooking meat and fish by tracking the temperature as it cooks.
10. Coffeemaker – This coffeemaker is programmable (have a freshly brewed cup in hand the minute you roll out of bed), has a brew strength option (so you can enjoy your coffee Regular or Bold), has a temperature control for the heater plate, and it shuts itself off automatically so you’ll never leave the house worrying again.  If you’re only an occasional coffee drinker, this smaller one will suffice.

Meal Prep Tools

Healthy cooking starts with these essential meal prep tools that will help you measure, chop, grate and mix ingredients for any recipe.

Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs - Meal Prep Tools
1. Chef’s Knife –Nothing is more important to your healthy meal prep efforts than a good, high-quality, sharp chef’s knife. You only need one, but it’s nice to have two on hand for convenience.
2. Serrated Knife –A serrated blade comes in handy to cut through things with a tough exterior, but soft interior – like a loaf of bread (try one of these life-changing seed breads) or a melon.
3. Paring Knife –A little paring knife is great to have for smaller, more delicate cutting tasks like hulling strawberries or slicing garlic cloves.
4. Cutting Board –Select cutting boards that are durable and dishwasher safe – like this one. With a little oil treatment once a year, these cutting boards hold up to the challenge.
5. Mixing Bowl –One big mixing bowl like this 3-quart one is all you need to accomplish most healthy meal prep tasks, but a variety of sizes (small, medium and large) is also nice to have.
6. Grater –The box construction of this grater has four convenient sides that slice, grate, zest and shred foods into various sizes.
7. Peeler –A peeler is used to peel away unwanted skins from carrots, potatoes and more, but it also comes in handy for quick carrot ribbons or zucchini noodles.
8. Apron –Protect your clothes from food splatters as you cook with a fashionable, yet functional, kitchen apron.
9. Corkscrew –Whether you are enjoying a glass of wine or bottle of beer while you cook, this easy-to-store corkscrew will help you enjoy your time in the kitchen.
10. Ramekin – This one might not seem as obvious, but 4-oz ramekins are perfect for your healthy meal prep process – they can hold chopped herbs, toasted nuts or any other garnish until the meal is ready. They’re also great for single-serve snacks and desserts.
11. Liquid Measuring Cup –Liquids should be measured in a liquid measuring cup rather than the dry measuring cup set mentioned below. This 1-cup size will meet most needs and it’s microwave safe – which is convenient for recipes requiring you to melt butter or coconut oil first.
12. Meat Tenderizer –A dual-sided meat tenderizer is great for pounding and flattening chicken (the flat surface) and beef (the raised surface). The more surface area the meat has, the faster and more even it cooks.
13. Kitchen Scissors –Whether you are snipping herbs, opening packaged food, or breaking down poultry, kitchen shears are a necessity for any healthy kitchen – store them somewhere that is quick and easy to access.
14. Measuring Cups –You’ll need a set of measuring cups to guide you through any healthy recipe. Look for a durable, dishwasher safe variety like these stainless steel ones.
15. Rolling Pin –A French rolling pin doesn’t have handles, making it easier to clean.
16. Measuring Spoons –To accompany your measuring cups, you’ll of course need some measuring spoons! Look for a set with 1/8 tsp, 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp, 1 tsp and 1 Tbsp.
17. Pastry Roller –This clever hand tool is great for ensuring pie crusts, pizza dough and no-bake dessert bars are a uniform thickness. It’s also perfect for crushing nuts and crackers for crumbs.
18. Kitchen Towels –Pretty obvious, but worth noting. A kitchen towel that is nearby and easily accessible will help keep your hands clean as you prep.

Cooking Tools

These cooking tools are a necessary part of your basic kitchen needs check list in order to transform nutritious ingredients into delicious meals.  

Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs including - Cooking Tools
1. Large Frying Pan –Great for stir-fries and one-skillet dishes, this large frying pan offers plenty of room so you’ll never have to over crowd your food again.
2. Medium Frying Pan –This size of frying pan is incredibly versatile – it’s perfect for cooking two chicken breasts or steaks, sautéing onions and garlic, cooking a frittata – the list goes on and on.
3. Small Frying Pan –No lid needed for this little guy. This little pan is the great for toasting nuts or frying an egg.
4. Turner –Flipper, turner, spatula – whatever you call this thing, you need it to flip burgers, turn pancakes, and so much more. Make sure you get a heat-resistant one (like silicone) so it doesn’t melt.
5. Spatula –Whether your mixing up some brownies, attempting to get every last drop of a smoothie out of your blender, or using it as a jar scraper to get the last of the peanut butter, you’re going to need more than one of these.
6. Basting Brush –Look for a brush with silicone bristles that won’t shed onto your food. This tool is great for basting ribs with barbecue sauce or brushing baked goods with an egg wash or oil/butter.
7. Dutch Oven –large heavy pot with a lid is great for batch cooking soups and stews. It’s also great for boiling potatoes, pasta, corn on the cob and even a big batch of hard-boiled eggs.
8. Medium Saucepan –You’re also going to need a medium-sized (2.5-quart) saucepan for sauces and grains (oatmeal, rice, etc.). Durable, nonstick and dishwasher-safe are important considerations.
9. Small Saucepan – This 1.5-quart size comes in handy for little projects – like reheating a single serving of frozen soup or steaming a small batch of veggies for dinner.
10. Cooling Rack –A cooling rack is great for letting air circulate around food as it cools. These stackable ones help save space on a crowded countertop.
11. Basting Spoon –Call it a basting spoon or serving spoon – doesn’t matter. This comes in handy when collecting sauce at the bottom of a pan (when the liquid is too shallow for a ladle) and for serving up your delicious dish. Metal spoons will scratch the non-stick coating of your pan, so be sure to get one made with nylon or silicone that will protect your pan, but also won’t melt.
12. Wooden Spoon –Get one with a flat bottom or a cornered edge to make scraping the bottom of a pan easy. Wooden spoons will dry out if you put them in the dishwasher. So either hand wash them or plan to replace them when they starts to dry out and crack (which can cause bacterial build up).
13. Pizza Cutter – This makes cutting homemade pizzas and flatbreads a breeze. This handheld one has a plastic blade guard for safety when you store it.
14. Tongs –Toss a salad, flip a chicken breast, mix a pasta dish, remove potatoes out of a pot of boiling water, pull non-food items out from the garbage disposal…these do it all.
15. Strainer –A strainer (or colander) is great for washing fresh fruits and veggies, draining pasta, rinsing freshly hard-boiled eggs, etc.
16. Baking Dish –You need two – a 3-quart rectangular one and a 2-quart square one. The larger one is great for one-pan dinners and lasagna, while the smaller one is perfect for no-bake bars.
17. Baking Sheet –Baking sheets are a must for roasting veggies and baking cookies. Line them with foil or parchment paper for quick and easy clean up.
18. Oven Mitt –You can’t grab a hot pan from the oven without oven mitts. Get two – one for each hand.
19. Ladle –You don’t need a fancy one, just something that won’t melt for serving up soups, stews and chilis.
20. Muffin Tin –A muffin tin is great for muffins, cupcakes, cornbread, single serving egg bakes, etc.
21. Whisk –Two sizes – a large one for whisking together baking mixes or eggs and a small one for quick salad dressings.
22. Pie Pan –Whether you prefer pumpkin pie or a chocolate torte, you will need this around the holidays at the very least.

Food Storage Needs

Make sure those healthy leftovers don’t go to waste by using these food storage items including containers, labels and more.

Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs - Storage Needs
1. Plastic Sandwich Bags –Whether you are storing something in the freezer or packing lunches for the family, sealable plastic bags of all sizes are a must.
2. Airtight Food Storage Container –Keep dried goods like flours, grains and dried beans and lentils in these – making it easy to buy them in bulk and store them long-term.
3. Plastic Wrap –Similar to aluminum foil, plastic wrap is great for short-term food storage – for covering up a bowl or plate, or wrapping up sandwiches or wraps for lunch boxes.
4. Glass Storage Container –These glass containers have a BPA-free lid and are both dishwasher and microwave safe – making it easy to take leftovers from the fridge straight to the microwave.
5. Aluminum FoilFoil is great for lining baking pans for easy clean-up when cooking, but it’s also great for short-term food storage – like when you need to cover and refrigerate a dinner plate for a family member who missed dinnertime.
6. Parchment Paper –Parchment paper is great for when you need to stack leftovers (think cookies, nut bars, hamburger patties, etc.) and you don’t want them to stick together when you store them. It is also heat resistant and can be used to line pans when cooking or baking.
7. Canning Jars –Look for various sizes – 4-ouncehalf pintpintquart and half gallon. These are the perfect leak-free solution to storing anything liquid. So whether you need to take a small jar of salad dressing to work, toss a smoothie in your gym bag, or store a half gallon of homemade iced tea in the fridge, these will do the trick.
8. Plastic Storage Containers –Sometimes glass is too heavy to take with you on your away-from-home adventures. Use plastic to-go containers for leftovers and snacks that don’t require reheating. These 1.2-cup stackable plastic containers are the perfect single-serve size for freezing soups, stews and oatmeal. If you do need to reheat something, transfer the food out of the plastic container before microwaving to avoid deterioration
9. All-Purpose Clips –These magnetic clips are great to keep on your fridge and use to securely close snack bags.
10. Permanent Marker –For labeling leftovers and items stored in the freezer. Twin tips with both a fine point and a thick marker side are great for any labeling needs.
11. Masking Tape –Masking tape is easy for labeling any storage container and peels off easily. Label and date leftovers you store in the fridge or freezer – even you think you’ll remember what it is when it comes time to eat it.


Presentation is everything – the way you serve your food is just as important as the way you prepare it. Round out your basic kitchen needs checklist with dinnerware that will boost the flavor of your finished dish.

Checklist of Basic Kitchen Needs including - Dinnerware
1. Dinner Plates –Large (11-inch) dinner plates are great for big meals, holidays and family gatherings; white works well for any season. Be sure to purchase dishwasher-safe dishes to save you time at the sink after your guests go home.
2. Salad Plates –Smaller (8.5-inch) salad plates are great for everyday use. Of course you can use these for a salad course at a dinner party, but using them on a regular basis helps to keep portion sizes under control.
3. Flatware –You can’t eat without silverware, so you might as well keep a variety of salad forks, dinner forks, dinner knives, soup spoons and dessert spoons on hand.
4. Steak Knives –Lean protein is part of a heart-healthy diet and using serrated steak knives to easily cut through meat significantly improves the overall eating experience.
5. Pasta Bowls –These medium-sized (9.5-inch) pasta bowls are perfect for entree salad dinners or any kind of healthy “bowl” type dinner when you just want to throw together some grains, greens and lean protein.
6. Cereal Bowls –These microwave-safe, 5-inch bowls are great for oatmeal, cold cereal or even soups and stews.
7. Water Glasses –Enjoy a refreshing tall glass of water at every meal to get you closer to your goal of drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
8. Stemless Wine Glasses –Sometimes a meal calls for a glass of wine. Stemless wine glasses are great for casual, everyday use. Save the fancier stemmed wine glasses for company.
9. Coffee Mugs –Nothing fancy here – just a trusty mug for hot coffee or tea. For all of you on-the-go coffee drinkers, this 16-ounce Thermos Commuter Bottle will change your life. Coffee and tea stay warm for the entire day – plus, it’s 100% leak-proof and dishwasher-safe.

Yoon, Eddie. The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking. Harvard Business Review. September 2017. Available at

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