15 Kitchen Essentials That Will Make Your Life Easier
There are many people that do not enjoy cooking, but there are many among them that have never given themselves the opportunity to. Chances are, your cooking tools are not doing much to help you if you are still using kitchen tools a family member passed down to you or that you picked up at Value Village. Cooking generally feels like a chore when what should be simple tasks like cutting vegetables, browning meat or boiling water feel like laborious feats.
When your cookware starts to work against you instead of with you, it might be time to upgrade your kitchen tools. We have compiled some awesome products that will make cooking much easier, and maybe even enjoyable. Everybody will have different needs when it comes to which tools and cookware they need, based on their cooking style and budget, so we tried to reflect a general list of basic and versatile tools that anyone could use to a degree.
Below, you will find 15 Kitchen Essentials that will certainly make cooking easier.
How to choose kitchen essentials
There are so many items that could be treated as “kitchen essentials” that many criteria that apply to one “kitchen essential” will not apply to others. Some general things to consider before buying kitchen essentials include the following.
- Cleaning: Understanding how something gets cleaned is an important consideration that anyone should make before buying kitchen essentials. Some products will be dishwasher safe, and some might not, and knowing which is which will save you from disappointment. Regular upkeep is the best way to ensure you get your money’s worth, but not everybody has the time to hand wash and dry their kitchen essentials.
- Cost: Cooking can be super expensive. But it does not have to be. Before buying anything consider if the product is designed more for restaurants or home use: while restaurant quality is often seen as a description of quality, it can often indicate a product may have functionality that is inefficient in home cooking.
- Durability: You may look at a $20 pan and an $80 dollar pan and have your price made up by the time you see each’s price tag. However, you will save more money if you buy quality off the start and take care of it, than if you buy cheap equipment and replace it every time it starts to wear out.
- Material: Different cookware is made from different materials and knowing how that material interacts with other cookware and foods is important. We tried to explain some important material interactions and limitations in this buying guide but looking further into what materials are used is super important.
Why trust us
There are so many different styles to cook, as well as so many things to cook that shopping for kitchen essentials might be overwhelming. That is why it was important for us to select kitchen tools that really were essential. We took a stance so hardline against useless single-use kitchen tools that Alton Brown would be proud. We spent over 20 hours researching kitchen essentials, to ensure that we only represented quality products in our list. Additionally, I have 5 years of professional experience working in different restaurant and kitchen settings, while being a passionate home chef in my free time as well.
Steinbrucke Chef’s Knife
There was a saying I heard a lot working in the kitchen: “A sharp knife is a safe knife”.
If there is one kitchen item that gets the award as most essential, it would be your knife. Having a sharp knife that cuts well and feels comfortable to use will make cooking much more enjoyable, as you cut through fruit, veg or different cuts of fish or meat effortlessly.
You do not need to spend a lot of money either: the most important thing is how the knife feels in your hand and how it performs. While this is difficult to determine shopping online, and newer home cooks may not know what they are looking for in a knife, the important part is solid, sharp knives are available for affordable prices.
The three most important knives in your arsenal will be a chef’s knife, a pairing knife and a serrated knife. A chef’s knife is larger, around 8 inches in length, and has a wider, curved blade. This is ideal for chopping, slicing, and dicing, and is the most important knife in the chef’s arsenal. A cheap, effective and sharp chef knife that can be had for cheap is from Steinbrucke. This knife has the heft that signifies its strength while still being lightweight.
A paring knife is another important knife, which is typically smaller, at approximately 3.5 inches, and features excellent precision and maneuverability, great for more delicate tasks that need more control.
Another useful knife is the serrated knife, or bread knife. Great for cutting crusty loaves, but also well suited for cutting more delicate things like slicing cake or a fresh tomato.
One thing that is important to note is that knives dull with each use. To ensure your blade stays sharp, we recommend getting a sharpening stone or steel. With some regular upkeep, your blade should stay sharp for a long time.
Tools like this 4-in-1 knife sharpening tool should be able to sharpen most knives back to a sharp edge, but it is important not to cheap out on tools like this, as they can potentially damage knives.
Others prefer sharpening steel, which ultimately requires more technique to successfully sharpen a knife, but is great for keeping a lightly used knife sharp and for general knife upkeep. If you pick one tool to keep your knives sharp, we recommend a sharpening steel, however, keep in mind a sharpening steel will do little to an already dull knife.
Another technique-intensive method of sharpening knives involves using a Whetstone. A whetstone requires time and patience yet can be much cheaper than the cost you would need to pay for sharpening tools to ensure you are not cheaping out and buying an ineffective product. To use a whetstone, you first need to run the blade’s edge over the coarse side of the stone, then the find side of the stone, ensuring you are keeping the blade at an angle of 20 degrees and using firm pressure.
If you want to read more about which cutting board is best for you, we compiled a list of Canada’s best cutting boards.
Cutting boards are a very important part of any kitchen, and we recommend you have a number to choose from, since they will always be in use. Most cutting boards are either made from wood or plastic, which have very different properties and looks. I prefer having a couple of plastic cutting boards at a minimum since they are generally more resistant to bacteria and dishwasher safe – two huge advantages of plastic cutting boards which make them much better suited to cutting meat or fish.
For an excellent plastic cutting board, we recommend the OXO Good Grips Prep Cutting Board. This cutting board has tapered handles, non-slip edges, and is made from non-porous and odour-resistant polypropylene, making it a great cutting surface for most foods. With four sizes available, you can pick the board best for your style of cooking and the space you are in.
On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of wooden cutting boards, due to the fact they require more upkeep and very infrequently have anti-bacterial properties. They definitely look nice though; serving things from Charcuterie to Pizza make the experience much classier. If you have some extra money to spend, and do not mind oiling and hand cleaning a board, these beautiful Walnut cutting boards from Virginia Boys Kitchens are antimicrobial, non-porous and sustainably sourced, checking all our boxes for what we want in a cutting board.
Pans & Skillets
T-Fal Signature 32cm Frypan B2920874
If you are interested in reading about some of our favourite frying pans, we compiled a buying guide of some of the best options Canada.
Having one or more pans in the kitchen is essential, as pans are one of the most versatile cooking vessels there is. Knowing what type of pans you need for your kitchen is also essential because you do not want to struggle cooking an egg in a stainless-steel pan or a steak in a non-stick pan. There are a number of types of pans that one can use in the kitchen, but if you only buy one pan, we recommend something non-stick.
Non-stick pans are easy to clean, are great for cooking delicate items like eggs and pancakes and are versatile. T-Fal is easily one of the best makers of non-stick frying pans there is. They are easy to clean and stay non-stick after many uses. The logo in the middle glows red when pre-heated, taking out the guesswork.
Having a stainless-steel pan is great for searing food and making saucy dishes like stews, chilis and curries, mainly due to the fact that non-stick pans really struggle at searing and browning foods, as well as the acidity from these foods can break down non-stick cookware. For this purpose, getting a stainless steel saute pan is recommended, due to its steep sides that keep liquid inside the dish and the inclusion of a lid. Warning: stainless steel is known for being sticky, which is great for developing fond (colour and brown bits in the pan, which leads to intense flavours), but suck for sticky foods.
I recommend looking for a pan with a thicker bottom, and when looking at Stainless steel, ensure that the pan uses a heat conductive material on its base, like copper or aluminum, which will evenly distribute the heat and prevent hot spots. I also enjoy having at least one pan that is oven safe up to 450 F, which should let you put the pan in the oven to finish off meals – other pans may say they are oven safe but what is the point if they are not recommended to be used beyond regular oven temperatures?
Pots & Saucepans
Just like pans, owning one to two pots or saucepans opens a whole world on dishes you can make. Most home cooks should only need a few pots or saucepans of varying sizes. Look for a pot with a thicker bottom, as well as a bottom partially made from aluminum or copper if you are looking at stainless steel pots. Additionally, we recommend investing in a little extra for good quality pots; a quality stainless-steel saucepan can last you years if you treat it right.
If you are not ready to invest in high-end cookware or doubt you could ever invest over $200 dollars for a single pot, this Cuisinart saucepan is inexpensive and comes in 4 sizes. While it may not last you, it will do the task required sufficiently.
Users cooking for themselves and few others will get the most benefit from a small saucepan, from 1 to 2.5 quarts in size. However, I think most people should also have a larger saucepan, from 3 to 4 quarts, due to their versatility – you should be able to make most things you need a pot for in a large saucepan.
Additionally, if you enjoying making soups and stews, meal prepping, or feeding many mouths, a large Stockpot will be excellent for any recipes that involve large quantities. Look for something with eight or more quarts in size like this Cuisinart stockpot.
Measuring tools are more a category that encompasses several tools that are important in the kitchen. Every kitchen should have at least one set of measuring cups for quantities of a cup and under, one set of measuring spoons for quantities of a tablespoon or under, and a 2-cup glass measuring cup is always handy too. Between these, you should be able to measure any quantity of any material you will need to measure.
For measuring spoons and cups, there are many products that measure perfectly, but we like these magnetic measuring tools for the easiness finding the one you need and separating it from the others.
For liquids, you cannot go wrong with a classic 2-cup Pyrex measurement cup. Microwave safe and easily pourable, this cup is a mainstay in kitchens everywhere. Pyrex is known for its durability: treat it right and it will last you years.
Other essentials: Not as essential, but have established their role
Baking foods can be one of the easiest ways to cook, and while everyone knows how to bake a tray of fries or throw a frozen pizza in the oven, cooking from scratch using the oven is one of the most-rewarding ways to cook.
Ceramic bakeware is a fantastic addition to cooking: ceramic is a naturally non-stick surface that is also very sturdy and scratch-resistant, so keeping care of it is easy. Ceramic bakeware is fantastic for lasagna, casseroles, and desserts.
If you are interested in reading about some of our favourite Blenders on the market, we compiled a buying guide of some of the best blenders in Canada.
There are a lot of ways to utilize a blender in the kitchen – from making smoothies, sauces, desserts and more. But not all blenders are created equal. Cheaping out on a blender often means you are cheaping out on performance, and a blender that gets stuck making smoothies is going to cause more frustration down the line than it is worth.
While I dream for the days of enough financial stability that I can rationally buy a Vitamix, until then my favourite type of blender to use in the kitchen are immersion blenders. With an immersion blender, you can blend in almost any container within reason, which makes it perfect for soups and sauces.
At home, I use this immersion blender from Cuisinart. It is inexpensive, and it gets results. Some users do not like the fact you have to awkwardly depress the safety button to use, but I do not find this too difficult. Immersion blenders also come with plastic cups that work great for making sauces and smoothies. While not needed, this immersion blender also comes with a whisk attachment that can substitute for a hand mixer and the chopper/grinder attachment can make sauces like salsa and bruschetta on the fly.
Great for grating cheeses, a box grater adds an incredible amount of utility to any kitchen. While some people may only use one side, anything that can be grated, zested or shaved can be used with a box grater. Box graters can be great shaving vegetables thin for sauces or salads, zesting an orange or lemon for an added burst of flavour, thinly grating spices or nuts, and countless more I am sure I am missing. This KitchenAid Box Great is both inexpensive and comes with a container designed to catch whatever you are grating. However, box graters are so simple that it is hard to find a box grater that is not effective.
Digital food scale
If you are into baking, a digital food scale is a very important element to your kitchen tool set. If you measured out a cup of flour, and I measured out a cup of flour, and your friend or partner measured out a cup of flour, there would be a significant difference in the weight of each cup. This is why more and more professional chefs and bakers rely on weighing their measurements – to ensure consistent results every time. I do not think a digital scale is essential if you do not bake, but it can add precision to your cooking as well – which is important for beginner chefs. Digital food scales are great ways of keeping track of your portion sizes as well.
For an inexpensive digital scale that will do its tasks well, we recommend this Nicewell digital scale. Users find that this scale weighs quickly and accurately and is both easy to read and clean. While it does not do super small quantities well, this scale works perfectly for measuring the weight of a cut of meat or baking ingredients that you are weighing out.
Hot water electric kettle
I feel as if people underrate the electric kettle these days. In a world where making café-quality beverages just needs a press of a button, many people are skipping out on the hot water kettle. While I seldom use my electric kettle to make a cup of tea, I find my electric kettle is great for aiding in making pasta or rice, speeding up the time it takes for boiling water drastically. Additionally, you will never make microwave oatmeal as good as oatmeal made with boiling water.
This HadinEEon Electric Kettle can boil a lot of water – 1.7 L to be exact – and can boil it very quickly as well. The glass design makes it look sharp while also BPA-free. Users found the construction of this kettle excellent, which makes it stand out compared to all the cheap water kettles available.
A super underrated part of any kitchen, and a super important one to not skimp on: you do not want to burn your hands because your oven mitts were cheap. Silicone is a great material for oven mitts, as they are super heat-resistant while being flexible. Many people love oven mitts with individual fingers, like these Geekhom potholders, as they feel the individual fingers provide better control.
I highly recommend a meat thermometer for any carnivorous person. Cooking meat can be a daunting process, especially for new cooks, as it can be hard to determine when meat is done as a beginner chef. Using a meat thermometer takes out the guesswork when cooking any type of roast or whole animals like roast beef or a chicken.
Of course, there are plenty of other uses for thermometers, as anything with specific temperature requirements, like deep frying, or making candy or jellies. If you need a thermometer for these purposes specifically, a Thermometer that can continuously monitor temperatures like the following are excellent.
If there is one kitchen utensil I recommend everyone needs, I would suggest a solid pair of tongs, preferably one with silicone on the end to prevent scratching on your nice new kitchen gear. Tongs can be quite versatile, great for stirring, moving and picking up food while cooking. There simply is not another kitchen tool that is as versatile and easy to use as tongs.
Toasters are an underrated part of any kitchen. Sure, they only toast bread and similar baking items. Yet toasters make preparing breakfasts on the go so much quicker, as well as help step up your sandwich game to the next level.
While almost everybody has a toaster laying around somewhere, I believe replacing your old college toaster is a sort of a rite of passage. It signifies growing up and getting to that point where you have to wake up early every morning. That’s why it’s important to get a toaster that toasts evenly and quickly, so you can grab breakfast on your way out the door. If you live with somebody, a four-slot toaster is also an indispensable upgrade. For an effective toaster that checks all these criteria, we like this 4-Slot Extra Wide toaster from Black and Decker.
A vegetable peeler like the one suggested below is a restaurant mainstay and the only peeler I have used that I can say truly works. Other peelers just do not have the accuracy or speed that this style of peeler has. While everybody knows that a peeler well, peels vegetables, I frequently use a vegetable peeler to shave vegetables thin for salads, sandwiches and pizza toppings.
Great kitchen essential sets
If you or someone you know are moving out for the first time, or you want to overhaul your kitchen, here are some great all-in-one sets that make the process of shopping for your kitchen easier.
Cuisinart 10 Piece Stainless steel Cookware Set
Cuisinart TPS-10 10 Piece Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Cookware Set, Silver
If cooking with Stainless steel is something you are interested in or something that you are used to, this 10-piece set from Cuisinart features a range of pots and pans that will nicely round out your kitchen. Including two stainless-steel frying pans, and a saute pan, a stockpot and two saucepans with lids.
Users like the range and the quality of this cookware set, finding these pans easy to cook with, quick-heating and brilliant looking, albeit sometimes harder to clean.
The lack of a non-stick frying pan in this set is unfortunate, and we do not recommend trying these stainless steel frying pans in lieu for cooking eggs, but overall, this Cuisinart set is a good value for the money.
- Material: Stainless steel
- Colour: Silver
- Dimensions: 58.8 x 34.7 x 23.7 centimeters (L x W x H)
T-Fal Professional 12 Piece Non-stick cooking Set
T-fal C515SC Professional Total Nonstick Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator Induction Base Cookware Set
Another super versatile cookware set that will make your life plenty easier, this T-Fal 12 piece set includes a 5 qt Stock Pot, a 3qt and 2qt covered saucepan, a steamer insert, and 3 different non-stick frying pans of different sizes, as well as a large spoon and spatula. Users love how easy these pans are to use and clean, and find the long-stick coating is overall pretty durable.
One thing I personally do not like is it seems that all the saucepans and the dutch oven all have non-stick spray, which makes it less than optimal for certain dishes with high acidity. However, this set covers every other basis at an affordable price, making it an excellent moving-in or moving-out gift.
- Material: Aluminum.
- Colour: Black:
- Dimensions: 55.9 x 33 x 26.4 centimeters (L x W x H)
AIKKIL 26-piece Kitchen Utensil Set
AIKKIL Kitchen Cooking Utensils Set
With a wide range of spoons, spatulas and measuring cups, this silicone kitchen utensil set has everything an aspiring chef could need. Users like the utility of all the unique tools this set provides, as well as the fact the silicone is gentler with their other cookware.
Despite marketing as being dishwasher safe, some users have noted that their utensils might hold on to some of your dishwasher’s water after a wash, so you might want to reconsider putting them in your dishwasher. However, otherwise, these utensils have impressed many new chefs.
- Material: Silicon
- Colours: White, Grey or Black
Mercer Culinary 5-piece set
Mercer Culinary 5-Piece Millennia Knife & Magnetic Acacia Board Set
If you are looking for a decent knife set on a budget, this five-piece Mercer knife set has impressed many users. With a chef’s knife, a santoku (dimpled) chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife, with a magnetic wood cutting board that can be used to store the knives. Users liked the quality, sharpness and feel of the knives included in this set, which makes this knife set an absolute steal. However, it does seem like the wood cutting board is more of a storing area for your knives, keeping them sharp when not in use. Cutting on a magnetic cutting board seems like a weird idea, and if you are determined to use a wooden cutting board with these knives, getting an additional one seems like a good idea so you do not wreck the look of this magnetic board (which should be much nicer and cleaner than your old knife block).
- Colour: Black
- Material: Alloy Steel
- Dimensions: 40.6 x 20.3 x 45.7 centimeters (L x W x H)
Wüsthof Classic 3-piece Knife Set
Wüsthof – Classic Knife Starter Set – 3 Pieces
Wüsthof is a very respected name in the world of knives, which many chefs worldwide have trusted to aid them in their craft. If you feel ready to maintain high-quality knives, these Wüsthof are a brilliant investment. Included are all the basics: a chef knife, a serrated bread and a paring knife give you all the versatility you could need.
Users have complimented these knives for being wickedly sharp, powerfully hefty and well balanced. While not everyone can justify spending $300 on a set of knives, for those who can, you should check out why chefs and internet personalities alike swear by Wüsthof.
- Dimensions: 38.3 x 15.2 x 3.6 centimeters (L x W x H)
- Colour: Black
- Number of pieces: 3
YJHOme Mixing Bowl Set
YJHome BPA-Free Healthy Plastic Mixing Bowls
For anybody who has a small space, this bowl and measuring cup set packs up neatly for a reduced footprint in your kitchen. With a range of measuring spoons, cups, 3 bowls and a sieve, this is a great set for anyone in a smaller space that loves cooking. Also included is a silicone spatula. The bowls in this set are made from natural wheat straw, so they are BPA-free and bio-degradable, while also being anti-bacterial and high temperature resistant.
Users love the versatility, high-quality and pastel colour scheme of these bowls. However, some users have commented that the measurements on the measuring cups are hard to read, and the sieve is on the larger side. Overall, this is still a great set for new chefs.
- Colour: Multi-colour
- Number of pieces: 10
How we picked our kitchen essentials
With so many kitchen gadgets on the market, it can be overwhelming determining what is needed and what you can skip. That is why we focused on products that are either versatile or work best at what they do. The fact of the matter is that specialized avocado tools and pizza scissors do not improve your cooking skills and take up valuable space on your shelves.
In making this list, we reviewed many celebrity chef’s kitchen essentials lists and combined them with our own experience of what we used most in the kitchen. Then, when selecting which products to buy, we looked closely at verified Amazon reviews, selecting only products with a 4-star rating or higher.
Questions about kitchen essentials
What is a kitchen essential?
A kitchen essential should be exactly that: essential in the kitchen. However, kitchen essentials vary depending on what type of food you regularly cook, how you like to cook, and your budget.
For our list, we tried to pick 15 items that would widely appeal to any home cook. We also ensured that every item has real pertinent uses, that you might use in your daily cooking. We avoided any item that we felt did one thing, regardless of how well it does that one thing.
Where to buy kitchen gadgets in Canada?
You can buy kitchen gadgets in kitchen stores like Stokes or Crate & Barrel, some supermarkets, and online retailers like Amazon.
What should I buy for my first kitchen?
Don’t get caught in product hype: for your first kitchen, you only really need a cutting board, a good quality knife, cookware including at least one pot/pan and baking sheet, and of course dishes and cutlery. This will cover a general basis of many popular dishes you can cook, and as you cook more, you will find out what products you need and which you can skip.
Where can I learn more about cooking?
While there are countless books, classes etc, there is a free resource for anyone looking into learning more about cooking that you may overlook: YouTube. YouTube has established itself as one of the biggest cooking communities in the world, and many channels with experienced, professional chefs have taught millions how to improve their culinary skills, myself included. However, you should know where to start: Tasty and the like are not going to teach you any cooking skills. But big culinary names like Gordon Ramsay, Alton Brown, Kenji J Lopez Alt, and Binging with Babish’s Andrew Rea have many videos that can teach you countless styles and techniques.
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