I actually like to keep a pretty minimal kitchen. I try not to have a lot of multiples of tools, and I don't like to keep many items that only do a single thing (umm...Hi spiralizer).
But cooking great food takes more than simply buying quality ingredients and following a well written recipe. You're going to need some useful must have kitchen tools to make those meals happen.
So if you're in the market for some new or updated kitchen tools, here is a list of the essential tools that I use on a daily or almost daily basis.
Using a thermometer when you're cooking is important for so many reasons. Thermometers help keep you safe by checking to see that the internal temperature of foods such as meat and leftovers are hot enough to kill any potential bacteria. They also prevent overcooking meats because you can stop cooking meats just as they reach your desired doneness instead of accidentally overcooking. Thermometers are also necessary if you make any candies like marshmallow or caramel.
This thermometer in particular is super accurate, easy to use (open the thermometer probe, and it's on and ready to use) and comes in lots of fun colors.
I have been using these sturdy plastic bowls for at least 10 years and they're still going strong! Though I have many other mixing bowls, these are the ones I always reach for first. They're lightweight, yet don't slide around on the countertop because of the grippy bottoms. They're easy to clean (I just throw them into the dishwasher), and can be used for many uses due to the 3 convenient sizes.
I have at least 4 or 5 pairs of silicone tipped tongs just like these. Some are large, some are smaller, all of them lock in the closed position. I use them every single day. I use them to toss salads, to flip items I'm cooking (like bacon or other meat) and I use them to stir when I'm stir-frying or sautéing. You probably don't need as many pairs as I have, one or two should suffice.
A good whisk is indispensable. You can use it to make salad dressing, whip sauces and cream, and mix dry ingredients together. I have had many whisks over the years, many of them terrible, even possibly dangerous (once one the the wires popped out forcibly and hit me in the face!) This one is restaurant quality, and I have loved it since the day I bought it.
This has been my very favorite mixing spoon for a long time. I just threw away the original one I had for years because it was worn out, but lucky for me, I had a backup! I like it because it feels comfortable in my hand, and it's silicone head means I can safely use in on all of my cookware without worrying about scratches.
I use a small silicone spatula on a regular basis to scrape batter out of bowls, stir browning butter, etc.
You might not use a basting brush all that often, but you really can't replace it when you need one. It's great for brushing an egg wash before baking bread or pastries, melted butter on cooked baked goods, or sauce on meat as it cooks. The silicone ones are the most convenient due to their easy clean-up.
A slotted turner comes in handy for flipping things while you're cooking (like pancakes) or removing cooked or baked goods from baking sheets (like cookies). I have used both nylon and silicone versions, and both were fine. Avoid uncoated metal ones if you use cookware or bakeware that has a non-stick coating.
Good knives are probably one of the most important items you can buy for your kitchen. The good news is that you don't need to spend a ton of money on them, and you don't need a lot of them. You can do a lot with a good chef's knife, and I use mine pretty much on a daily basis.
If you take good care of it (eg. don't put it in the dishwasher) and learn how to sharpen it (Mr. Dreamboat collects knives, so he takes care of this for me), it will last you a long time.
If you're only able to get two knives, this would be my other one to have. It's small and easy to use for things like peeling and coring vegetables and fruits, and slicing smaller items like strawberries and radishes.
Cutting boards are one thing you're going to want to have several of. That way, if you're cutting up meat, but need to switch to cutting up vegetables, you can just pull out a clean cutting board instead of taking the time to wash the one you were using. I want my cutting boards to be sturdy and easy to clean, and these ones are. I like to keep a variety of sizes on hand.
This is one exception I make for avoiding tools that only do one job. I know, I know - people love to hate the garlic press. I have learned the proper way to mince garlic, but I will not give up my garlic press. I use garlic in a LOT of recipes, and I will take any opportunity I can get to save a bit of time. And this garlic press does that for me. This is just another example of a kitchen tool I've been using for a decade plus.
A box grater is a useful tool for shredding anything including cheese or vegetables. I like to shred my own cheese if possible, as I find pre-shredded cheese can be a little gritty. I also use it often to shred carrots, zucchini, or beets for various recipes.
While a box grater is good for softer cheeses, a microplane does a better job with hard cheese like Parmesan. I also find it useful for grating frozen ginger into recipes, as well as fresh nutmeg.
Everyone needs a set of liquid measuring cups, to measure sauces, water, milk, whatever. I have all three of these sizes and use each on a regular basis.
I've had other brands of glass measuring cups, and the markings always seem to come off over time. These Pyrex ones are as good as the day I got them.
Unless you have no intention of ever baking or measuring dry ingredients like flour or sugar, you need a set of dry measures. I also prefer to use them to measure semi-solid ingredients like peanut butter. Look for metal ones because they're less likely to break than plastic ones.
Measuring spoons are critical to following a recipes. Sure, some things can be eyeballed, but if you're baking, your measurements will need to be more precise. Look for measuring spoons that are sturdy so they won't break, will fit into your spice jars, and come with a ⅛ teaspoon spoon. These ones will fit the bill perfectly.
I use my metal colander on a regular basis for draining pasta or perogies, or for rinsing fruit or vegetables. I have a large one and a small one, but if you're only going to have one, it should probably be a large one.
I have several baking sheets - two smaller than this, and two larger half sheets. I prefer the larger ones for most things, because they fit more. They allow me to bake more cookies at once (less batches means saved time FTW), and to spread my roasting veggies more which helps with browning.
A good, 9x13" rectangular baking pan is a great multi-use tool. It can be used to bake cakes, brownies, lasagna, casseroles, and even pizza. If you plan to use it to bake cakes, look for one with square corners and straight sides. If not, one with slightly rounded corners will work just fine.
Nobody wants to burn their hands when taking your delicious baked goods out of the oven. That's why good oven mitts are an important investment. I recently upgraded my decade plus old pair to this silicone model, which has better insulation and is easier to keep clean.
I have tried a lot of different dish towels in my kitchen - from microfiber to terry towel to cutesy novelty ones. Plain old white flour sack towels are my very favorite. After a couple of washes, they're very absorbent and great for drying dishes without streaks. I like to keep a large pile on hand so I can wipe up any spills and toss them straight into the laundry as needed without running out.
Well, you've reached the end of my list of must have kitchen tools. I know there are some things missing, like cookware. I didn't include it because I consider it a very personal choice that is dependent on many factors.
Other than that, what do you think? Are any of your favorite kitchen tools on the list?