1. A Sharp Chef’s Knife
A sharp knife is an absolute necessity. The most versatile type of blade is a chef’s knife or a Japanese santoku knife. A blade that has significant length and width will be the best for chopping, dicing, cubing, mincing, shredding, slicing, and scooping/transferring. Chopping is accomplished by leaving the tip of the blade on the cutting board and rocking the base (near the handle) down onto the food. Leaving the tip on the cutting board provides stability while the heavy base of the knife does the chopping. Feasibly, one could get by with only one knife in the kitchen; if you only own one knife, it should be a chef’s knife.
2. Dutch Oven
A competent kitchen needs a large cooking vessel. I personally use my dutch oven more than any other pan. It is shorter than a typical soup pot and can be used both on the stove and in the oven. In it, you can blanch, braise, boil, slow-cook, simmer, and sear. They come in all different sizes, but I would recommend getting one at least 6 quarts like this affordable Lodge one. Or if you want something a bit more high quality, this Le Creuset Signature French Oven is a sure-fire winner.
3. Large Cutting Board
Every serious home chef needs a cutting board with ample workspace. More room for prep means less maneuvering and more safe space for chopping without feeling cramped. No one likes to feel crowded when they’re cooking. This large cutting board is durable, easy to clean, and a great value. Don’t mess around with a small cutting board. Get a large work area for a more enjoyable cooking experience.
4. Microplane grater
Everyone needs one of these. Period. This the best zester/grater hands down. I heard rave reviews about these over and over and over, and I put off buying one because I thought it would be expensive. Until I saw it at the grocery store one day, and it was only $12. No kidding. Now I use my Microplane graters LITERALLY every day. Why didn’t I buy it before?! Don’t waste almost a year like I did NOT having this in your kitchen. Get it now, and maybe throw a party while you’re at it because this zester/grater is so awesome! This company makes plenty of different graters, too, so if you don’t want the fine one, you have options!
5. Cast Iron Skillet
Every kitchen needs a large cast iron skillet (or two!). You can use it for sautéing, roasting, baking, frying—nearly anything! And unlike non-stick skillets that degrade over time and release toxic fumes, cast iron only gets better with age. As you cook with it, the cast iron becomes more “seasoned,” which means it becomes non-stick naturally. Lodge makes a great cast iron skillet that comes pre-seasoned, and Le Creuset makes top of the line enameled cast iron skillets, but they are more pricy. Regardless of which skillet you choose, remember not to use metal tools on the surface and to only wash with hot water, but never soap. (The soap removes grease, and you want your cast iron to always remain oiled because the oil gives it its unique non-stick quality.)
6. High Powered Blender
I personally own a Vitamix, and I love it. In fact, I’ve never met someone with a Vitamix that didn’t absolutely love it. The reason so many people love this machine is because it can do so many things in your kitchen to make your life EASIER. It is more than just a blender. It can heat, blend, chop, cream, whip, knead, frappé, emulsify, churn, purée, grind, powder, crush, and it’s easy to clean. All you have to do is add a drop of dish soap and some warm water and then run for 30 seconds on High speed. Are you wondering how you are going to find that many different uses? No worries! It comes with a DVD and a cookbook to help you get started using your new Vitamix. And at the end of the day, if anything were to go wrong, it comes with a 7 year full warranty.
7. Wooden Spoon
You just can’t beat the classic wooden spoon. Every kitchen needs one, and it’s perfect for all your stirring and scraping and tasting needs. But, because wooden can absorb bacteria and degrade over time, you should replace your wooden spoon every 1-2 years. I highly recommend the OXO line of wooden spoons. They are inexpensive, durable, quality spoons. My personal favorite? The wooden corner spoon. It’s a spoon that also can scrape the bottom of a pot. Boom. Two for one. Perfect.
8. Nested Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls are irreplaceable in the kitchen. How can you prepare food without them? I have a set of 5 mixing bowls (13 qt, 5 qt, 3 qt, 1-1/2 qt, and 3/4 qt), which work for all of my food prep needs. Next to my chef’s knife, I probably use these bowls more than any other single thing in my kitchen.
My favorite little red spatula works so well, I bought three of them so I can have one clean, one dirty, and one as a back up when the other two wear out. I also have a thicker spatula I love just as much and use for scraping out large bowls.
10. Pan scraper
Believe me, you don’t want to live without a handy-dandy pan scraper. Use it to scrape off tough food residue, burnt food, and things that a sponge just can’t tackle. It makes cleaning dishes a breeze, and it lasts virtually forever.