I’m not exaggerating when I say that some kitchen items can totally transform your cooking for the better. People say that a bad workman blames his tools, but the right ones really can enhance your skills, however basic.
I always thought my knife skills were terrible, until I tried cutting something with a properly sharpened knife. It turns out I was better than I thought, so trust me on this one.
This list of kitchen essentials you should own isn’t exhaustive, it’s more a good starting point for setting up your kitchen kit. Having just a few of these basic items can make cooking from scratch easier and frankly, much more fun.
Don’t expect to see weird, unnecessary things like spiralizers, boiled egg slicers or tubes of silicone that claim you can peel garlic with them either. This really is a back to basics list of a few good items that I believe every cook should own. Theoretically, you should be able to fit the whole lot into even the smallest of kitchens.
These things don’t have to be expensive, though there are some items that are worth investing in. If you treat them right, they can last a lifetime.
You don’t need absolutely everything on this list either, but if you are going to be investing in some new kitchen items anytime soon, this is my advice on what to get.
In a home kitchen, I find everything I need doing can be achieved with just 3 knives.
A chefs knife is the workhorse. You want a sturdy handle and a long blade. The blade should always be longer than what you’re cutting through, so you can always see it and reduce the risk of cutting yourself.
A serrated edge knife is perfect for slicing anything with an exterior harder than its interior, like bread or tomatoes.
Finally a paring knife is like a smaller, more flexible version of a chefs knife, that you can use to cut small fruits and vegetables, fillet fish and take meat off bones.
You should also get a knife sharpening steel so you can sharpen your knives at home and keep them in the best condition. You can buy the most expensive knife in the world, but if it’s blunt, it’ll still be useless.
Just as important as your knife, is your chopping board. Wooden boards are best, although they can be expensive, so bamboo is a great budget option.
If you can’t get a wooden board then plastic is an alternative, just don’t get a glass cutting board. As well as being slippery, it will blunt your knives much faster than plastic or wood.
It sounds silly, but a good, sharp Y peeler makes veg prep, which let’s face it, is the most tedious job in the kitchen, that bit easier. They do blunt over time too, so get a hard wearing stainless steel one if you can.
Wooden spoons are pretty ubiquitous in most kitchens, but it’s worth a mention here. A wooden spoon really is a multi-tasker, useful for making everything from gravy to cake. It won’t scratch your pans, it won’t melt if you leave it in a hot saucepan, and it could last for years. I still have a wooden spoon that my mum gave me when I went to University. It was about a decade old when I got it and it’s still going strong.
I reach for my kitchen scissors all the time. I use them to open packets, snip herbs, cut up slices of pancetta straight into the pan and sometimes, I even dice chicken with them when I really can’t be bothered to wash up a chopping board. Every lazy cook needs a good, sharp pair of kitchen scissors.
Cast Iron Casserole
A casserole dish might not seem like an essential, more of an old school bit of kit you’d find in the back of your granny’s cupboard, but I truly love mine and couldn’t be without it.
Cooking a stew in a cast iron pot gives it this lip smacking quality and really even cooking that I can never get with other dishes. Some bakers recommend baking bread in a cast iron casserole with a lid, for its even heat distribution and ability to keep steam in.
I’d recommend getting one with a lid, that’s big enough to fit a chicken in so you can use it as a roaster too. If you get a wide, shallow one, you can even double it up as a frying pan.
Like the casserole, a good frying pan is worth its weight in gold. One that you can use on the stovetop and in the oven is even better.
If you want that golden brown crust when you’re frying meat or fish, get one that’s really heavy bottomed so it heats up really well.
Unlike casseroles and frying pans, the thinner your wok is, the better, because you want to get it screaming hot as quickly as possible, for a really short, intense cook.
If you have an Asian or Chinese supermarket nearby, you can pick up a great wok for very little cash. They often have a variety of sizes, and a choice of flat or rounded bottoms, depending on whether you’ve got a gas or electric hob.
Don’t worry about it being non-stick either. Most come with instructions of how to season your wok, which— done properly– will stop if from sticking anyway.
If you only buy one saucepan, make it a stock pot. Having such a large one might seem excessive, but it really is more useful than its smaller counterparts.
Having plenty of space in your pan is key. Adding too much to a small pan can decrease the heat too much, ruining your cooking, and overcrowd the pan so things don’t cook evenly.
As well as making the obvious, a stock pot is great for cooking pasta—as you’ve got enough space in there for longer varieties like spaghetti and linguine – as well as mussels, curries, Bolognese… you get the idea.
Pestle & Mortar
Spices have the ability to transform otherwise boring food from into something exciting. Grinding them freshly yourself takes them to a whole new level.
While a pestle & mortar might seem like a faff, the improvement in flavour compared to ready-ground supermarket spices, is well worth it.
They’re also great for bashing garlic, ginger or lemongrass into a paste for curries. If you get one big enough, you can even make things like pesto in a pestle & mortar if you give it enough welly.
From grating parmesan, mincing garlic to zesting lemons, a microplane grater makes it so much easier than trying to use a clunky box grater.
You’re guaranteed a lovely, fine texture with minimal effort and less mess.
Having a mandoline is like having instant knife skills. You can get paper thin slices, perfectly julienned carrots, evenly sized chips, all with no skill required.
Mandolines are super sharp, so you do need to take care, but if you get one with a safety guard that you can stick into your food instead of holding it by hand, you’ll be golden.
Lets face it, blenders are clunky, take up a lot of space in a small kitchen and probably don’t get used that often.
A stick or immersion blender is small enough to stick in a drawer when you’re done with it, and a lot easier to clean than the counter-top version.
Stick it straight into the pan to blend soup, a bowl to whizz up fruit, or even into a glass to blend a smoothie.
Electric Hand Mixer
If you’ve watched the Great British Bake Off, you’ve probably drooled over the delightful, brightly coloured Kitchenaid stand mixers on each bakers bench. And yes, they are lovely, but you can do just as well with a good old hand mixer.
Go for one which has beater, whisk and dough hook attachments for maximum versatility.
The humble slow cooker seems to be having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. This simple, cheap kitchen appliance is the lazy cooks best friend, as it does nearly all of the work for you.
At your laziest, you can literally chop up your ingredients, dump them into the slow cooker, put on the lid, leave it for 8 hours, and end up with a lovely meal.
Even a little prep, like browning meat before putting it in there, is hardly a chore when you can leave the cooker to do its magic while you’ve got better things to do. Just buy one. You can thank me later.
Anything I’ve missed? Got an essential you can’t live without? Let me know!