Six Must-Haves for Your Kitchen


If you've just started cooking or are moving out on your own, chances are you don't own a lot of kitchen equipment. For you, we’ve assembled a simple list of tools that will make your time in the kitchen productive. As time passes, you will acquire more kitchen gadgets. Until then, here are six key must-haves for your kitchen.



A must-have! Without a knife, you will be unable to chop or prepare anything beyond Cup Noodles. A solid and sharp knife will go a long way toward assisting you in food preparation. We recommend going to a brick-and-mortar store to hold the knives in your hands to determine which one you prefer.

The three most common and useful knives are: 1) chef’s knife 2) serrated knife, and 3) paring knife.  Of the three, the chef’s knife is most versatile, allowing for cutting and chopping of most anything.  The chef’s knife is what you think of when you think of a kitchen knife- solid and imposing looking at typically 8 and 10 inches in length.  The serrated knife is the scalloped-edge knife.  This is useful when you need to slice something delicate, such as bread or tomatoes.  A paring knife is your knife for precise and small cutting tasks.  Instances for using a paring knife include cutting berries, segmenting citrus or deveining shrimp.


Cutting Board

Because it can be difficult to cut anything without one, a cutting board is an essential item to purchase. A cutting board is extremely useful, since on it, you can chop nearly anything; from onions to potatoes, from chicken to beef, from bread to pizza.

Some individuals prefer to have different cutting boards for meat, dairy, and produce. Others purchase several different sized chopping boards, and use them according to the amount of food being cut. We recommend starting with one medium sized one, then determine if you need other ones.

Cutting boards come in a variety of materials: hard wood, plastic, glass and marble. There are pros and cons to each, but wood and plastic are the most commonly purchased. Hard plastic cutting boards are easier to clean and store, but can be easily cut by the knives themselves.  These cuts allow bacteria to lodge in the cutting board. A well-cared for hard wood cutting board is less likely to suffer from cuts, but can be more expensive and difficult to store.


Large Pot

A pot is needed for almost everything, from boiling pasta to cooking soups to stewing vegetables to cooking rice. We recommend first buying a medium-large pot to accommodate all sizes of food. Whether a small amount of corn or a large amount or pasta, the medium-large sized pot will do.

Some pots may be purchased individually or as a set.  What you decide to buy should be based on your budget and storage situation.  For a new home-chef, we would not recommend purchasing more than three pots- small, medium and large.

Some pots include colander inserts, making it easier to drain your food such as pasta. You may also acquire a colander separately if so desired.


Frying Pan

I adore my frying pan, and use it all the time – from toasting delicious gyoza to frying up tofu to creating a simple vegetable stir-fry dish. A frying pan is extremely useful. I even use mine to make crepes.

As for sizes, frying pans are sold according to diameter measurements – from the top wall of one side to the top wall of the opposite side.  As the measurements include the wall height, it doesn’t necessarily reflect the flat cooking surface. The common frying pan measurements are 8 inch (small), 10 inch (medium) and 12 inches (large).  The smaller the pan, the faster it is to warm up, but also the smaller the surface area on which to cook. For a first time pan, we recommend the versatile and medium 10-inch pan.

Non-stick, ceramic, stainless steel, cast-iron, and other materials are used to make frying pans. If you only need one, we recommend a heavy-duty, tri-ply or multi-clad stainless-steel pan. They can be pricey, but with diligent care, they will last a lifetime. If you want to stick within a budget, you may want to consider an affordable non-stick frying pan to reduce chances of your food clinging to the pan, but take care not to scratch it by using a metal utensil on it. For your first pan, we advise against a cast-iron frying pan as they can be expensive, heavy and require a lot of care for upkeep.


Baking Sheet

Do you plan on making batches of chocolate chip cookies?  Roasting cauliflower? If so, you’ll need a baking sheet. Sure, you can put that frozen pizza directly on the oven rack, but those cookies and cauliflower will fall right through the oven rack without a baking sheet!

Many people want to know if they should buy a cookie sheet or a baking sheet.  A cookie sheet is completely flat, whereas a baking sheet has rimmed edges.  These edges are great for capturing any drippings such as vegetable juices that might otherwise overflow, which makes a baking sheet very useful.

For your first baking sheet, we recommend a half-sheet pan which measures 13 by 18 inches.  This size will fit in most conventional ovens and accommodate most first-time home cooks. If you opt for the common aluminum baking sheet, please note that acidic foods such as tomatoes should be cooked with parchment paper to protect the tomatoes from developing an acidic taste.


Sense of Humor and Adventure

There are bound to be mistakes when cooking, and that’s okay!  Trial and error are part of the culinary experience.  Cooked your pot of pasta a little too long?  Oh, well.  Set off the smoke alarm again with a batch of burnt cookies?  Oh, well.  We all make mistakes, especially in the kitchen. Laugh it off, learn from the mistake, and try again.  Don’t get discouraged.

As you get comfortable with the basics, branch out a bit, too. If you’ve mastered your grandmother’s recipe for oatmeal cookies, why not try a different cookie recipe or dessert altogether? Been flavoring your roasted vegetables with the same herbs and spices?  Mix them up different flavors.  Want to explore your German heritage through the kitchen?  Try making a traditional Gruene Sosse. Or even import foods from your home or heritage country to use in your kitchen.


If you’re new to cooking, don’t be nervous. Begin by purchasing the items we mentioned, then gradually expand your kitchen equipment collection. And remember this saying from famed French chef Paul Bocuse once said: “If an architect makes a mistake, he grows ivy to cover it. If a doctor makes a mistake, he covers it with soil. If a cook makes a mistake, he covers it with some sauce and says it’s a new recipe.”