kitchen tools you can't live without

by Debra Caffrey

I’m a minimalist in many senses of the word. I like to be efficient with my time and eliminate things that don’t fit into what I chose to focus on. But I also like minimalism on a literal level. When some people come to my house for the first time, they are surprised and confused at my sparse kitchen countertops. Knowing how often I cook, wouldn’t I have more stuff around? The reason I don’t is twofold: I simply have a minimalistic aesthetic, but I also know that in order to make great food easily, you honestly don’t need a ton of gadgets and appliances!

These days, it’s easy to be convinced that you need every cool tool and trendy appliance to get dinner on the table. It’s easy to see the appeal of the current cooking gadgets out there, but frankly, I’m not interested in trends! No offense to these items. I say, whatever inspires you to cook, go for it! But it’s my opinion that you truly only need a few basic kitchen essentials in order to prepare healthy and easy food. So whether you’re looking to streamline an already-bustling kitchen, or if you’re just starting out and wondering what to invest in, here’s my list of the most important and perhaps the only kitchen essentials you need to get dinner done!

A good knife.

It may take some experimentation to figure out which style you prefer, but a good quality and consistently sharp knife is all you need for chopping, dicing and mincing. Forget all gadgets that promise to chop veggies with the pump of a fist. Good knife skills are invaluable and improve greatly over time, and they are the foundation of all prep work. There are dozens of videos out there on basic skills to help you get started. And don’t be worried about being a pro; everybody has slightly different approaches to knife holds. The most important thing is to make sure you are working with a sharp knife! There is nothing more dangerous in the kitchen than a dull blade! Sharpen and hone your knife regularly.

A big, heavy cutting board.

Fresh ingredients for cooking: pasta, tomato, mushroom and spice

Go for a heavy, solid wooden board for all your daily basic chopping. Keep a separate plastic board for raw meats. Your main cutting board, along with your knife, are the foundations of meal prep – it’s where all the magic happens!

Food processor.

single electric food processor

This is a bigger and pricier item that many might argue isn’t essential. But if you commit to actually using it, it’s one of the most important items you can have. You can prepare salsas, dips, hummus, pestos, spreads, as well as prep dough for baking recipes. Most have attachments that can help you shred veggies for quick cole slaws and similar recipes.

A few pairs of long tongs.

These can become like an extension of your hands in the kitchen. Use them to separate spaghetti while boiling, turn skewers on the grill, flip hot things over in the oven, toss salads and turn meats.

A large stoneware sheet pan.

I’m not sure I could live without my well-seasoned rectangular stoneware. I cook pizzas and all breads on it, roast vegetables, broil everything, bake cookies and bake frozen items like French fries and veggie patties on it. The list is endless!

A few good pots, pans and skillets.

Set of stainless steel pots and pans

No, you don’t have to buy the most expensive set out there, but make sure you do some research and invest in a good quality set of pots and pans that can withstand wear and heat. The handles should be comfortable and oven safe for easy transferring. A few good saucepans are where you’ll make pasta, sauces, boil eggs, whip up some potatoes or polenta, reduce syrups and cook rice. These will be the workhorses of your everyday.


So there’s my list of essentials, but perhaps you have a few more beloved items you can’t live without in the kitchen! That’s fine, too. Remember…even a kitchen filled with cooking gadgets that you actually use is going to be healthier and cheaper than take out and impulse food. The most important thing is to not feel intimidated by the idea of cooking, and just get in there and do it! Good luck!