June 13, 2024


Taste the Home & Environment

22 Essential Kitchen Tools I Actually Own (And Use Daily)

Table of Contents

My kitchen is basically just a hallway, so let’s just say I’m *very* selective with every single thing I buy.

When it comes to kitchen equipment, I am picky. There’s no way around this…but honestly, I wear that picky badge with pride. Food is pretty much my entire life — in addition to writing about food for a living, I’m also a recipe developer, food stylist, and I do a little catering on the side every now and then. So yeah, food is everything to me.

Ross Yoder

I live in New York City, and my kitchen (like most!) is horrendously small. I’m used to it now, but in the beginning it was a complete nightmare to shop for the kitchen equipment I’d need to make this place my own. There are days when my kitchen is literally my office, and when your office is more or less just a hallway with limited storage space, things get tricky.

Over the years, I’ve streamlined my kitchen belongings in a major way — letting go of small appliances that I hardly use (and hate to store), and making room for multi-functional items that save me on a daily basis. I’ve curated quite the collection of kitchen products that I simply couldn’t live without as a direct result.

Ross Yoder

I’m a firm believer that you don’t need the most ridiculously expensive or fancy kitchen items to cook like a pro, so I’m sharing the items that I use more than any others — from the $8 essentials that’ve served me well for many, many years, to the reasonable investments that’ll last a lifetime and are worth every penny — plus exactly why I’m obsessed with each.

Whether you’re trying to outfit a new kitchen, stock up on the essentials you’ve always needed, or just wanting to hone in on kitchen products you’ll actually use, I think you’ll find what you’re looking for here.


Ballarini Nonstick Fry Pan Set — I don’t know who needs to hear this, but that $200 set of nonstick pans that some Instagram influencer convinced you to buy are probably going to break down more quickly than you think. For $70, buy these instead.

Ross Yoder

I feel like ultra-branded nonstick skillets (I won’t name names) are reaaaally having their moment on social media these days. Here’s the thing about nonstick skillets: They’re going to stop working after a while. I don’t care how “durable” the finish is or how “safe” the ceramic nonstick coating is. At one point or another, your food is going to start sticking, and the hundreds of dollars you spent on your cookware might as well have been for nothing.

I’m not here to tell you that this set of nonstick skillets is magically going to work perfectly for the rest of your life. Nonstick pans have a pretty short life, in general — it’s just the price we pay for the convenience of our food not sticking to ’em. However, I do think these pans are the best combination of quality and value out there.

Ross Yoder

I’m pretty aggressive with my cookware and tend to put these over heat that’s probablyyyy higher than I should. Sorry. Even then, I’ve had these skillets for years and they’re just as nonstick as they were on day one.

You can buy the two-pack (10″ and 12″) from Amazon for $69.95.


Scrub Daddy — Yeah, I KNOW the name is funny…but swap one of these in for your regular (smelly!) sponge and there are soooo many reasons you’ll never go back.

Ross Yoder

As a food writer and recipe developer, I do a lot of dishes. Probably more than the average person, and even better: I don’t have a dishwasher! There are days when just looking at another dirty dish makes me want to crawl in a hole and stay there forever, but finally giving into the Scrub Daddy hype has honestly changed my life.

The brand itself assures customers that they “resist odor for eight weeks,” and I can fully back up that statement. Unlike regular sponges that get reaaaaal gross after just a few uses, these stay in tip top shape for weeks. Plus, running them under cold water turns them completely stiff, which makes them perfect for cleaning your more stubborn pots and pans. Hell, I even use these on my glass shower door to get rid of soap scum every once in a while. They’re truly my everything.

If you’re ready to make doing dishes way more fun — and way less stinky — you can grab a Scrub Daddy from Target for $3.59; or a 2-pack for $7.82, or a 8-pack for $27.99, both from Amazon.


OXO Good Grips Handheld Mandoline Slicer — It’s the best tool ever for making thinly-sliced anything look incredible (without having to store a big, scary mandoline in your kitchen).

Ross Yoder

Traditional mandoline slicers definitely have their time and place, but truthfully, they can be pretty intimidating. More than that, they’re a nightmare to store, and limited storage space in my tiny lil’ kitchen means I have to be selective about the products I purchase. This slicer is so compact that I can store it in my utensil drawer. It makes thinly-slicing anything an absolute breeze, and there’s a dial on the side to adjust the thickness of whatever you’re slicing.

These paper-thin radishes?! Only possible with this slicer, TBH. Even if you’re thinking you “don’t really have a use” for this, you’ll probably use it more than you’d think. Uniformly-sliced veggies for salad, sliced apples for a pie in half the time it would normally take, even homemade pickled red onions are all possible with this small-but-mighty slicer.

Ross Yoder

You can grab one of these slicing life-savers from Amazon for $17.99.


Tweezer Tongs — Laugh all you want, but I’d use these over regular tongs any day. In fact, I do.

Ross Yoder

My partner bought me some tweezer tongs as a “sort of gag gift” one year. Well, joke’s on him, because they’re my favorite kitchen utensil ever.

Regular tongs certainly serve an important purpose. If you’re trying to turn a big ol’ hunk of meat, they’ll do just fine! But in most other circumstances, I find them cumbersome at best. Turning over a single shrimp? Impossible. Flipping around some roasted veggies? No, no, no. Even worse, the nonstick ones have absolutely zero grip and even the most careful cook won’t be able to avoid scratching up their nonstick cookware with the metal ones. Enter: the funny (but useful) tweezer tongs.

They won’t totally replace a pair of standard tongs, but for most applications I find them to be far more user friendly. Plus, you get to look like a VERY dedicated professional while you turn whatever it is that you’re cooking, and honestly, that’s just fun.

Get a pair from Amazon for $17.95.


Williams Sonoma Wooden Spatula — This one’s wildly specific, but the fact that it works like a dream with any piece of kitchen equipment and only costs $8 means that I’d like every single person on the planet to own one.

Ross Yoder

Williams Sonoma might not be the most budget-friendly brand, but their Open Kitchen line is always affordable and suuuuper dreamy. Case in point: this spatula. Not gonna lie, I use it daily.

The quality alone is unbelievable — it’s pleasantly heavy and it just feels inexplicably good to hold. Add in the fact that it’s less than $10 and it will last you so many years (I’m on year five, I believe), and I’m sold.

Ross Yoder

Spatulas are a tricky buy. The metal ones can scratch up your nonstick cookware (thought they’re a dream when used on metal equipment), and the plastic ones aren’t a great choice for high-heat cooking. This wooden spatula is heavy-duty enough to use in pretty much any application and it’ll never, ever scratch up your equipment. Stir your stew with it! Flip those pancakes! Toss that salad! It’s endlessly versatile, and TBH, I would be VERY lost without mine.

Grab the kitchen tool you’ll use every damn day for $7.95.


Deli-Style Food Storage Containers — If you, like me, find traditional tupperware to be INEXPLICABLY ANNOYING, just know that switching to low-cost deli-style containers changed my life (and if a lid goes missing, it doesn’t matter).

Ross Yoder

Truthfully, I forget where I learned this hack…but I will never, ever, EVER go back to storing my food in regular tupperware. Period.

They’re listed as BPA-free so I’m not really concerned about the “plastic” of it all. I try to never microwave food in them as a practice, but TBH, the once in a while heating of food in them doesn’t bother me. Truth be told, the sheer ease of storing and using these outweigh any teeeeny tiny worries I have about food x plastic. The best part? If I have guests over for dinner, I don’t feel bad about sending them home with leftovers in my containers. The second best part? ALL THE LIDS FIT 😌.

Buy a 44-piece set of these deli-style containers (including three different sizes) from Amazon for $23.91.


Escali Primo Kitchen Scale — If you’re a coffee-lover or home baker extraordinaire, this is the cheapest kitchen scale I’ve found that’s also ridiculously precise without fail.

Ross Yoder

For the longest time I rolled my eyes at people who used kitchen scales daily — they’re the go-to method for measurements pretty much everywhere except the United States, but IDK, I guess I just wanted to go against the grain or something. Then I finally purchased one for myself, and I was forever changed. Consider this my formal apology to the rest of the kitchen scale-using world. Y’all know what’s up.

Kitchen scales are awesome for precisely measuring things like coffee grounds, but they also make baking so much easier, and you won’t have to dirty every single one of your measuring cups. Measuring ingredients is as simple as dumping the correct weight in, pressing the tare button to zero it out, and repeating. Using a kitchen scale has made me enjoy baking a lot more, and the precision only means that my baked goods come out consistently great every time.

Buy the Escali Primo scale (in one of nine very fun colors) on Amazon for $24.95.

If you’re looking for a good blender, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a fancy one. Trust me: I was somehow swindled into buying a Vitamix and at this point, it’s just collecting dust and dog hair. Instead, these two items are my absolute favorite combo for blending up anything (and everything) you could possibly need.


Cuisinart Hand Blender — From sauces to soups (and everything in-between), this small-but-mighty immersion blender will get more use than you could possibly imagine.

Cuisinart / Via amazon.com

I was once told that my kitchen appliances would probably be jealous of the immersion blender for how much I use it (compared to the others), and honestly, that’s entirely correct. If you’ve ever tried to use a standard blender to blitz up anything hot, you know that it can be a tricky, sometimes dangerous chore.

I make a lot of soups and stews, and I love that I can just put this into the soup vessel itself and blend away. This immersion blender is surprisingly powerful for the price, stores easily, and OH MY GOD it’s so much easier to clean than a regular blender.

Ross Yoder

Plus, for smaller applications, it even comes with a handy blender cup that’s perfect for sauces and even salad dressings. 

Grab this immersion blender from Amazon for $44.99.


Nutribullet — For all your smoothies, frozen beverages, and other cold items, the Nutribullet reigns supreme.

Ross Yoder

For hot soups, warm sauces, and high-volume foods, the immersion blender above should be your go-to. But for everything else (as long as it’s not hot!), the Nutribullet the most powerful and convenient blender out there. Nutribullet’s marketing loooves to talk about “nutrient extraction,” and while I can’t testify to that being an actual thing or not, I can confidently state that this can handle everything my rarely-used Vitamix can. It’s also far easier to handle and store, which just means I use it way more often.

You can order a Nutribullet for yourself on Amazon for $79.99.


Lodge Dutch Oven — Yes, Le Creuset and Staub Dutch ovens are the “gold standard,” but Lodge’s version is nearly just as good at a fraction of the cost.

Ross Yoder

Here’s the thing about Le Creuset and Staub: They’re seriously amazing and long-lasting products, but unless you’re planning on using a Dutch oven every single day for the rest of your life, it might not be worth the money. In fact, if you cook as much as the average human, I’d say you’d be better off with Lodge’s Dutch oven and your wallet will be MUCH happier about it.

I own an Instant Pot and a standalone slow cooker, and neither of them get as much use as my Dutch oven does. Perhaps I’m alone here, but I find that I actually keep it displayed on my stovetop at all times due to its size and weight, plus the fact that it’s genuinely pretty to look at. This means that I use it whenever I possibly can.

Ross Yoder

Here’s a pro-tip for you: Pretty much anything you could make in a slow cooker you could also cook in a Dutch oven (along with myriad other dishes, too). Instead of letting something simmer all day long in my slow cooker, I’ve been known to follow the instructions exactly and then let the whole thing cook in my Dutch oven, inside my actual oven, at a very low temperature. The versatility can’t be beat, and I find that food cooks more evenly in a Dutch oven anyway.

You can buy your very own Lodge Dutch oven from Amazon for $79.90.


Microplane Zester — Using a box grater is always annoying, but I always keep this compact zester within arm’s reach so I can zest citrus and grate cheese with very little effort — and it’s way easier to clean, too.

Ross Yoder

If you’ve ever tried to clean a box grater without the help of a dishwasher, I feel genuinely sorry for you. As a dishwasher-less cook myself, let me tell ya, it’s rough…but after getting this handy dandy Microplane, I’ve only had to use my clunky box grater a handful of times.

While a Microplane won’t replace your box grater for things like shredded potatoes or shredded cheddar (where you’d use the biggest holes on the grater), I use this thing daily for hard cheeses, like parmesan, or for quickly and easily zesting lemons and limes. I’m a hardcore believer in adding citrus zest to pretty much anything, so believe me, I put my microplane to WORK.

Get it on Amazon for $15.99.


OXO Swivel Peeler — Peeling anything is always a horrific chore, but somehow this peeler is *so comfortable* it almost makes the job…dare I say…fun?

Ross Yoder

I distinctly remember using this peeler for the first time in my parents’ kitchen, and the first thing I did upon returning home was buy one immediately. No one likes peeling vegetables — end of story. That said, the comfort grip on this one makes it way more comfortable, and the blade is so sharp you’ll wonder why you didn’t switch to this peeler sooner. Seriously, this thing could peel a five-pound bag of potatoes in half the time it would take using a regular metal peeler, and the blade stays nice and sharp for years.

The only downside to this vegetable peeler? Using any other brand’s version will feel horrible, and you’ll wish that you could take your OXO with you everywhere you go. It’s a weird thing to be this specific about, I know, but I’ll truly never buy another brand of vegetable peeler again.

Buy your soon-to-be favorite vegetable peeler from Amazon for $10.95.


Misen Carbon Steel Pan — If you’re tired of your nonstick pans eventually starting to “stick” on you, this one will last forever. No lies.

Ross Yoder

Carbon steel skillets certainly aren’t the same as nonstick ones, but they can develop a legit nonstick coating over time through proper care and seasoning — just like a cast iron skillet would. The great part about carbon steel pans specifically is that they’re much easier to use than cast iron, weigh significantly less, and they pretty much mirror your nonstick skillets in their form and function.

Cast iron and carbon steel enthusiasts have a lot of opinions when it comes to “seasoning” your pans — or, to grossly oversimplify, letting a polymerized coating develop on your pan to prevent food from sticking to it. Personally, I’m a fan of letting that seasoning set in over many uses and just being mindful to use more oil or butter than you normally would in the beginning. As you’ll see below, it totally works.

Ross Yoder

Here’s the last thing I’ll say about these pans: Unlike nonstick, you can seamlessly move carbon steel from stovetop to oven, which makes them the perfect choice for cooking a multitude of things: like perfectly-seared chicken breasts or even frittatas.

You can buy the 10-inch pan from Misen for $75, or the 8-inch for $65.


ThermoPop Instant-Read Thermometer — I never thought I could be this obsessed with a literal thermometer…but here we are.

Ross Yoder

I became a better cook the second I started using an instant-read thermometer. Celebrity chefs and foodies will tell you that there are many easy ways to check meat for doneness, but respectfully, I don’t think those “easy ways” are very easy for most beginner cooks.

The great thing about this thermometer is that it’ll never lie! The temperature you read is the actual temperature, and it’s scarily accurate at that. I’ve used many meat thermometers over the years, and let me tell ya: For the price, this is the most accurate one out there and it can normally register the temperature in less than three seconds. Restaurant-quality thermometers can easily sell for $100+, but for most home cooks, the $35 price tag on the ThermoPop can’t be beat. They also come in a variety of fun colors, so choose one that’ll spark joy whenever you need it!

If you want to take the guesswork out of cooking, buy the ThermoPop from ThermoWorks for $35.


Large Steel Mixing Bowl — I know this is incredibly basic, but let me assure you that having one of these handy at all times will be a lifesaver to you AND your cooking.

Ross Yoder

Every 👏 cook 👏 needs 👏 a 👏 big 👏 metal 👏 mixing bowl 👏. I will die on this hill. There’s nothing more frustrating than tossing a salad or mixing up some dough in a bowl that’s just not big enough for the job. With this bowl, that problem is a thing of the past.

I’ll admit that my mega-size mixing bowl isn’t the easiest item to store, but the pros far outweigh the cons here. I’ve never had to shout out in frustration “I WISH I HAD A BIGGER BOWL FOR THIS,” and that, my friends, is the biggest blessing of all.

Ross Yoder

Grab this mega mixing bowl through Amazon for $21.92.


Cuisinart Mini-Prep Food Processor — It’s as functional as it is adorably cute, and its apartment or small space-friendly design means that unlike conventional food processors, it can be easily stored just about anywhere.

Ross Yoder

Food processors are total workhorses when it comes to food prep, but the full-size units are absolute behemoths. I have one, and I swear it weighs just as much as a fully-grown adult and it’s just about impossible to store.

While the standard food processor’s miniature-sized cousin lacks some of the features of the former — like a shredder and slicer — it’s endlessly useful for prepping sauces, salsas, and turning the horrible job of mincing garlic or onions into a task that’s complete in mere seconds. It also has less parts overall, which means that you won’t have to scrub a zillion tiny pieces by hand every time you use it.

You can grab my favorite mini food processor for $49.95 on Amazon.


Joseph Joseph Y-Rack Dish Drainer — If you live and cook in a small space, especially one without a dishwasher, buy this dish rack right now. I implore you.

Ross Yoder

When I moved into my apartment and audibly gasped when I realized just how small my kitchen was, this dish rack was the first thing I bought. I genuinely don’t understand the physics of it, but the amount of dishes you can stack on this thing genuinely shocks me every now and then. I wash dishes multiple times a day, every day, without the help of a dishwasher. This dish rack is the true MVP.

The “Y” rack on top fits exactly 15 plates (or a gazillion mason jars, if you’re like me) and there are times I’ve dried just about 15 plates on it. It hardly takes up any countertop real estate, and it’s also incredibly easy to clean.

Ross Yoder

To be clear, I aspire to have a massive kitchen someday (a guy can dream, right?) — but in the meantime, I’ll take this dish rack with me to every single tiny kitchen I have to operate in.

You can buy this space-saving dish rack from Amazon for $40.25.


USA Pan Sheet Pans — As someone who admittedly puts his sheet pans through the wringer (and some super high temperatures), USA Pan’s sheet pans are not only heavy-duty, they’re actually nonstick and really easy to clean, too.

I own USA Pan sheet pans in pretty much every size and configuration that exists, and I’m as obsessed with them now as I was on day one. Unlike other sheet pans that can be a bit thin and flimsy (and tend to buckle when moving in and out of the oven), these pans are the perfect weight and thickness. They’re heavy-duty without feeling cumbersome, and the nonstick coating on these is seriously astounding. Scrubbing sheet pans clean is never a fun activity, but considering the fact that practically nothing sticks to these, I haven’t had to do that in a while.

You can buy a set of two half sheet pans from Amazon for $37.72.


Taylor Oven Thermometer — If you’re reading this, I have news for you: Your oven probably isn’t at the temperature it thinks it is.

Ross Yoder

This $8 oven thermometer is the best investment you could ever make if you’re a baking enthusiast…or if you ever use your oven for any reason. Oven temperatures fluctuate pretty wildly. When I bought one of these, I realized that my oven’s actual temperature floats somewhere between 40–50º lower than whatever it’s set at. I thought I was roasting veggies and chicken in the most intense heat known to humankind, and that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

If you purchase an oven thermometer for your home, chances are you’ll be in the same boat as me. Unless you have a luxury kitchen with a seriously-fancy oven or range, your oven temperature will definitely be a bit off…or, a lot off. Even a few degrees can make all the difference in the end, so yes, this is an $8 purchase I think every home cook should make.

Buy this oven thermometer from Amazon for $7.99.


Misen Chef’s Knife — If you’re looking for a quality chef’s knife (and TBH, I think it’s the most important thing any new cook could buy), it’s not uncommon to spend $200+. This one clocks in at $75 and works just as well as the pricier ones.

Ross Yoder

Buying a good knife is sort of like going clothes shopping. Our hands (like our bodies) are all different, which means knives aren’t exactly one-size fits all. For me, this knife is a dream come true at a price point I am VERY happy about, but it’s not going to work for everyone…and that’s ok!

Personally, I find this knife to be the perfect blend of weight and comfort — it’s not so heavy that it’s a pain to use, and it’s balanced in a way that makes it really comfortable to use in my everyday cooking. It rivals the $200+ brands in terms of its functionality, and if you take care of it properly, it’ll last you for many, many years. My cooking changed for the better as soon as I invested in knives that weren’t $20, and considering it’s a tool you’ll likely use every time you cook, I think a good chef’s knife is perhaps the most important piece of kitchen equipment you could buy.

Elevate your slicing and dicing skills and grab this chef’s knife from Amazon for $75.


Presto Electric Knife Sharpener — It might not produce the same “wow-worthy” results you’d get from doing it manually (please don’t @ me, chefs) but for the average home cook, it’ll keep your knives sharp and make using them a lot safer.

Ross Yoder

On the subject of knives, here we are! If you’re a beginner cook, please absorb this bit of advice and take it with you forever: Sharp knives not only make cooking a lot more enjoyable, they also keep you safe. I know it feels counterintuitive as hell, but work with me here. If your knife is dull, you’re more than likely to slip at one point or another and cut something that you probably didn’t want to. I pray it’s not a finger. Keeping your knives sharp will keep you safe in the long run, and it’ll also make the process of slicing and dicing your food more enjoyable.

No, an electric knife sharpener won’t get you the same results you’d get from sharpening them manually on a whetstone, but I don’t care how many times people say doing it by hand is “so easy.” It can be intimidating! This machine won’t grant you the ability to cut a tomato in midair or slice a sheet of paper in half with the flick of a wrist, but it surely is easy and user friendly. Frankly, I think that’s what matters to most people.

Treat yourself to actually-sharp knives with this $34.05 knife sharpener from Amazon.


Field Company’s No. 8 Cast Iron Skillet — I’ve cooked on a variety of cast iron skillets, from the multi-generational family heirlooms to the cheapest ones imaginable, and I’d choose this one in a heartbeat.

Ross Yoder

At over $100, this item might not exactly fall into the “cheap” category, but please hear me out.

I’m very against splurging on items that are eventually going to deteriorate and cease to do the thing you bought it to do. Cast iron skillets are, however, the only piece of kitchen equipment I can think of that actually becomes better with each use, and they’ll last a lifetime. This isn’t a cute marketing slogan, either — it’s grim, but your cast iron skillet with likely outlive you.

It’s a lot to spend on a skillet…but when you factor in the virtually-indestructible nature of this pan (and the fact that you’ll never have to replace it), it’s money that I can justify spending. Unlike other, cheaper cast iron skillets that come “pre-seasoned,” there’s also no awkward break-in phase when you start using this one.

Field Company / Via fieldcompany.com

Pre-seasoned skillets are usually bumpy, and this one is perfectly smooth. IMO, it makes for a genuinely pleasant cooking experience, and I found that it built up its layer of tried-and-true seasoning really quickly.

You can buy this skillet directly from Field Company for $145.


SHARDOR Electric Burr Coffee Grinder — For a budget-friendly burr coffee grinder, I’m constantly impressed with the quality of the grinds this one produces.

Ross Yoder

If you love coffee as much as I do but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a pro-grade coffee grinder, I think you’ll love this small-but-mighty unit. There are so many things I love about this thing — it’s compact, easy to clean, and grinds coffee beans into the uniform size of your choosing — but the best part is that it’s a lot quieter than other models at this price point.

Before switching to a burr grinder, I used a blade grinder for many years. They’re definitely cost-effective, but you have baaaasically no control over the size of the grinds. It’s pretty much just intuition, and if your intuitions are as bad as mine are, it can be an occasionally frustrating process. This one takes out all the guesswork, and considering you can also store a bag of coffee beans in the hopper, it occupies a permanent spot on my counter.

Grab this burr coffee grinder from Amazon for $49.99.

Do you own any kitchen products that you simply couldn’t live without? Let us know in the comments — and happy cooking!