Every cook needs a few essential kitchen tools at their disposal. Most kitchens will have pots and pans, plates, and silverware, but there are other odds and ends you might not realize you need until you're in the middle of prep. Though not the most basic of basics, these tools aren't hard to find, and most of them don't even have to be expensive.
Don't have room in your drawers? We're willing to bet there are some less-practical pieces you could donate to make space for these handy kitchen tools.
This is a handy tool have in your kitchen drawer. They are available in a variety of shapes, but the mallet style is the most common. Tenderizers usually have a smooth side for flattening meat and a spiked side that pierces the skin, for adding flavor with marinades and seasonings.
True, a meat tenderizer is probably not something you'll use on a daily basis, but when you come across a tough cut of meat, you'll be glad you have this and don't have to dig out — and later sanitize — your claw hammer!
Meat basters are great for helping keep meats tender and juicy during cooking. The tool is a long tube with a flexible rubber bulb top that allows you to suck up and expel liquids. They're particularly handy when cooking something like a turkey that takes a long time, because you don't need to remove the pan from the oven — most baster tubes are long enough that you can just reach in and move the juices around.
Basters can be made from tempered glass or plastic. They're usually clear with gradations along the tube so you can read the liquid measurements as you go. Make sure to look for one that can be used for hot and cold liquids alike.
A set of good-quality knives ensures you can easily and safely perform all kinds of food prep. The ideal knives should feel comfortable in your hand and have good blades that can be honed or sharpened and hold their edge.
Despite the huge collections you'll see for sale, you really only need about five knives to properly outfit your kitchen — and you can even get away with three. Don't pass on a chef’s knife for chopping food, and make sure you have a paring knife to peel fruits and vegetables and a serrated blade for cutting bread and other foods that call for sawing. You might also invest in a boning knife, a carving knife, and a utility knife, but these aren't vital. Make sure you have a good honing steel and a sharpener if you're going to do that step at home. Note that often your knives just need their edge straightened out, not sharpened!
Whether you are chopping vegetables or tenderizing meats, a good-quality cutting board makes meal preparation easier. Available in a variety of sizes and material types, finding one is not too difficult. Bamboo and wooden styles are popular and provide a more forgiving surface for your knives. Materials like glass, granite, and marble are harder and may dull your knives quicker. Regular cleaning and sanitizing your cutting board are necessary to eliminate cross-contamination of foods. Ideally, have one for meats and one for vegetables.
A standard set of measuring cups has four sizes: 1-cup, 1/2-cup, 1/3-cup, and 1/4-cup. Additional sizes of 1/8-cup, 3/4-cup, and 2-cups are also available, and these days many 1-cup measures have a line inside at the 3/4 mark.
Standard sets of measuring spoons are usually grouped with 1-tablespoon, 1-teaspoon, 1/2-teaspoon, and 1/4-teaspoon. Whether you need different measuring tools for liquids and dry ingredients is up for debate. One measuring cup or spoon can be used for both if you clean and dry it between uses or prioritize the dry ingredient.
When it comes to mixing utensils spoons, whisks, and spatulas are primarily used during food prep, cooking, and serving meals. Since each utensil comes in multiple sizes, the one to use is dependent on the task being performed. Some tasks require a teaspoon, while others may require a large serving spoon. The same is the case for whisks and spatulas.
While you'll probably want one of each close at hand, it's your call whether you opt for metal, silicone, plastic, or wood.
Straining tools make quick work of separating liquids, such as draining boiled pasta or a can of beans. These practices call for a colander, while rinsing quinoa or finer grains might require a mesh strainer.
You don't need a sifter for dry ingredients unless you bake a lot, and a mesh strainer can do the trick, but some people like to have this fancy tool around.
Kitchen thermometers ensure food temperatures reach necessary temperatures during cooking and remain at safe temps afterward — both steps vital to food safety. Instant read digital thermometers are used after the cooking to check the internal temperate of the food. Meat thermometers can go in the oven while you're cooking a turkey or roast so you can keep an eye on the progress.
If you cook a lot, a thermometer is important since, for some recipes, the temperature is the best or only way to tell if the food is done.
Forget about your bathroom scale, but you might not want to toss the little one in the kitchen just yet. A small digital scale can quickly let you know the weight of your dry and wet ingredients, and weight is usually more accurate, and this can make all the difference in baking (though it's usually less picky in cooking).
You don't need to go wild with a heavy-duty scale for this purpose. If it can weigh a roast and is designed so you can still see the readout when your food is on it, that's all most home chefs need.
Even the priciest meats and vegetables leave something to be desired if they are not seasoned well. There are hundreds of spice rack styles out there, but if you're starting from scratch, it's easy to find one pre-stocked with the most common herbs and seasonings.
In addition to the obvious salt and pepper, most people in the U.S. like to have garlic and onion powders, bay leaves, cinnamon and nutmeg, oregano, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes. If you're going for that super-fresh taste, buy unground spices and invest in some grinders.