You don’t need to buy all of these things. You don’t even need to buy any of these things if you don’t want to. You can ignore my recommendations and find kitchen equipment that you like better, or think is better value, or just have in your kitchen already.
But I spend a lot of time finding the right tools to make my time in the kitchen as pleasurable and efficient as possible and it’s a waste not share that knowledge.
I have no connection with any company listed here and I’m only going to recommend items that I’ve either owned myself or have good reason to believe are high quality. I do get a small commission if you buy anything via the links on this page, and I’m grateful to you for doing that (it doesn’t cost you anything extra!) – it helps pay for some of the costs of producing this site, so thank you!
The left column has links to the Amazon UK site and the majority of these are products I use. Where I can find the same product in US I’ve linked that in the second column, otherwise I’ve selected the best equivalent I can find (if you can’t see them – try turning your ad-blocker off on this page).
The products are organised into categories to make searching through them easier. If you have any comments about anything I’ve recommended (either good or bad) or if I’m missing something that you can’t believe I’m trying to live without, please let me know.
—- Cleaning —-
Thick strong gloves mean that you can use boiling water to do the washing up and that makes cleaning up faster! These are the seemingly little things that make a difference to how you feel about the effort involved with cooking
I find it very helpful to have lots of tea towels – maybe it’s because of my time as a chef – for wiping your hands, holding on to hot things etc. Cheaper than microfibre towels and cope better with being washed, so I don’t mind getting them mucky.
Any bin will do. But if you have the budget…get one like this Brabantia with a lid that can stay open for the duration of your cooking so you can easily lob things in. Paying attention to little details like this makes your time in the kitchen more pleasurable!
—- Cutting —-
One sharp chef’s knife. Yes, one knife. Invest in one good one if you don’t want to get a whole set. It doesn’t need to be expensive. This Victorinox knife comes very highly rated (I used it in some kitchens when I was a chef and I had a Victorinox serated knife for years).
I personally use Wusthof and Henckels – I have a soft spot for German engineering. Or there are wonderful Japanese knives out there too. Good German and Japanese knives are an investment but they usually last a very long time. My Henckels from almost 20 years ago is still going strong.
Not yet available (at time of writing) but very promising looking is the kickstarter-funded knife from Misen.
Cheap, but good quality and in a choice of colours to fit in with any kitchen range, I have about a half-dozen of these Kuhn Rikon Colori Paring knives in my kitchen to ensure I’m never trying to fish a used one out of the dishwasher. The sheath helps protect the blade and your fingers.
I’ve tried many (many!) garlic presses, and the Zyliss Susi 3 is the best I’ve found. The hopper is big and fits large cloves, there’s no need to peel the garlic and it’s much easier to clean than many others.
A grater is very handy and I prefer the stability of a strong box grater to a flat grater like this – one with a wide base is ideal. I have the Kitchen Craft Box Grater on the left and it’s fine-but-not-particularly-amazing so you might find you prefer an alternative option. Choice of grater depends on several things:
- What you would most commonly grate
- If you have a food processor
- If you have a microplane/fine grater
One large chopping board is helpful. I like wood (some people are terrified of nasties lurking in wood though that’s been debunked a while ago). The type of wood doesn’t matter very much – go with whatever looks good to you – but it can be worth avoiding the true bargain-basement offerings.
Do not get glass! It hurts your knives and generally chopping on it is like scratching your nail along a chalkboard. And don’t put it (or rather, allow your boyfriend to put it…) in the dishwasher unless you want to end up with two smaller versions.
The wooden one shown has notches on its sides which makes it easier to pick up than other thick boards. The thicker, heavier boards tend to stay steady on your surface as you chop. If you get a a thinner, lighter board make sure you secure it in place.
This £12 huge chopping board from Ikea could be great if you oil it – I didn’t and it has warped.
—- Flipping —-
Wider is not always better as it makes it trickier to flip when cooking in smaller pans. Better to get ones that are one molded piece rather than an attached head as the cheaper ones often fall off. I use this nylon fish slice from Master Class which is inexpensive, well made and suitable for non-stick pans. In the US, the Kitchen Craft version looks to be identical.
—- Frying —-
A heavy base pan is the best thing you can get. It has the downside that it takes longer to heat up but the benefit of an even distribution of heat far outweighs that…plus there’s often a bunch of things you can do while you wait for the pan to heat up. Maybe get a separate small pan for the times you just want to fry an egg or two for breakfast.
I have the Circulon Infinite Hard Anodised Skillets which take an especially long time to heat up! But I’m very happy with them for the price (if you buy the pair linked above).
I like pans that you can put in the oven – it’s a luxury as you’ll need to get pans with suitable handles but it means less washing and you can retain the flavour that’s on the pan too.
A medium-sized pan can be helpful but you can just use one large frying pan for everything – I did for years – the downsides are that it takes longer to heat up and there’s more washing up, plus the areas without food are likely to get splutters from whatever is cooking and that can burn
I’ve not tried these Swiss ILAG ones personally but they seem to get great reviews and are very cheap!
If your pans warp when you heat them, here’s a chance to invest in new ones!
For a smaller frying pan I have an Anolon Copper Base one (as part of a set that we got a couple of years ago). It’s still brilliantly non-stick. Heavy duty yet heats reasonably quickly but is not cheap, especially on its own.
A cheaper alternative is the Tefal Specifics Plus range (note that it’s not suitable for induction stoves).
If you’re very short of space or have a limited budget I would get a Procook Lidded pan. The downside is that when you’re just frying (say an egg), the straight, higher sides make it a little less convenient to flip the food but it means that you can cook things with sauces more easily, bung it in the oven etc.
You could instead go for what chefs use! No potentially poisonous non-stick coatings, they heat up fast, don’t warp, are hardy and will last you for a while if you take care of them. And you can put the pan in the oven at high temperatures too (which is something only the much more expensive pans above (“profession” versions) with metal handles allow. Most cheaper pans with plastic handles are limited in their ability to be used in an oven, if at all. You do need to season them – here’s a good video that shows you how.
—- General Cooking —-
If you’re using non-stick pans (and you should be), silcone tongs have a nicer feel than plastic and won’t damage your pans in the same way metal tongs will. These Zing! tongs are the ones I have – they’re inexpensive, decent quality and come in a range of colours if black isn’t your thing. In the US, VonShef provides an similar alternative.
We have eggs for breakfast regularly, and the Kitchen Craft “Poacher” is great for producing consistently good “poached” eggs. Technically you’re actually steaming the eggs, but I like steamed eggs and Tom doesn’t know the difference. Very convenient and makes for an easy breakfast.
I lived without a colander for many years – I used the lid of a pot to drain the water – but lots of people like using a colander. The things to look out for are:
- A decently high base so that the colander is not sitting directly in the sink/whatever you’re draining into
- Plentiful and well-distributed holes so that there aren’t pockets where the liquid struggles to escape
- Holes small enough that you can use it for draining smaller grains etc.
I recently bought this Culina finely-perforated colander which fits the bill.
I got this Salad Spinner just to test for the course! So I survived for years without one…mostly because for the past 8 years or so I’ve been buying pre-washed leaves! But unwashed are often cheaper and if you go to markets instead of supermarkets, it’s handy to have one of these.
If you have the space and the budget, an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is actually a useful piece of kit. You can brown within the pot before pressure cooking, and unlike the scary stovetop machines from the 1980s, this one is trivially easy to use. Or conversely, if you have very little space…there are quite a few Instant Pot fans on YouTube who have small kitchens and love that they can cook just about anything in here.
It’s hard to rate the importance of having a dutch oven. If I could only have one cooking container, it would be a dutch oven. You can sear, fry, boil, stew and even bake delicious crusty bread in it. But if you already have things that do all of those things, then it’s probably not necessary to get a dutch oven as well.
—- Measuring —-
You need something to measure with. Sure, you can get away with just using your normal spoons, but a set of measuring spoons will allow you to be more accurate. I have Kitchen Craft Colourworks set, and they’re cheap and colourful, but anything similar will do.
If you cook meat, why live in dark ages and guess the doneness? A probe thermometer will help you get that perfect level of juiciness and, especially in the case of chicken, will avoid you getting sick from eating undercooked meat too.
You could get away without any measurements but I think it’s very useful in the beginning to be accurate while you train yourself to eyeball the measurements so that you get consistent results and build your confidence.
—- Processing —-
A stand mixer is the workhorse in the kitchen, and the KitchenAid stand mixers are the best out there. Solid and reliable, these things last forever (give or take). I prefer the ones with the side bars such as the K5 series for better stability than the the pivoting versions, but they’re not cheap in the US and they’re much more expensive over here in the UK.
My other big electrical item is a food processor. I have the Kenwood FP920 series. The newer version, the FDM781, is essentially the same thing, and the glass (rather than plastic) blender is much more stable and pleasurable to use than some cheaper options. This food processor whilst not amazing is decent for the price.
For a good quality tool it’s better to step up rather than try to go cheap, but you can cut the cost in half by finding half-price barely-used versions on ebay.
—- Shaking and Storage —-
You need a container for liquids…you don’t need to buy one especially. If you don’t have a spare jar at home, you can use any container in which you can shake up a dressing (tupperware) or you can whisk in a bowl (less convenient and you’ll still need somewhere to store the leftover dressing sometimes). I use the Kitchen Craft bottle on the left but anything water-tight will do, though sometimes it’s helpful to have glass rather than plastic as it doesn’t stain. Lakeland offers similar Milk Bottles.
For those who want to go a little more up-market, Oxo Good Grips has a good quality and visually appealing range that includes this salad dressing shaker. This one is plastic, so beware of staining, but has a really good pouring lid and measuring indications on the side so it works brilliantly for mixing sauces, dressings and marinades.
Speaking of Oxo Good Grips, their POP Containers come in a range of sizes and are my preferred choice for flour and other dry storage. They’re not cheap, but they are good. You can buy them individually (as on the left) or as a multi-piece set if you want to splash out.
They are plastic and some people are wary of plastic for health reasons. I do not believe that the scientific research gives us particular reason to worry, but if you prefer to stick with glass move on to the next recommendation…
I don’t actually own these Brabantia Glass Storage Jars, but they have been recommended to me by other chefs and I do have other Brabantia products which have proven to be of a consistently high quality. So if you’d rather have glass than plastic…
Unless you’re averse to plastic (or understandably horrified by environmental unfriendliness), zip freezer bags are a terrific way to store food. Food can be stored in flat, relatively thin layers which mean that they defrost easily
—- Stirring —-
I much prefer these Kitchen Craft Colourworks silicone spatulas to wooden spoons, very easy to wash and less waste of food as it’s possible to scrape almost everything from the pot/bowl and off the spatula