Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
When it comes to crafting your ideal kitchen, there are a lot of different things that come into consideration. This makes total sense; the kitchen is the soul of your home, after all. It's a place where we come together to celebrate the tastiest parts of life, dive into some creative expression, nourish ourselves and others, and (hopefully) have some fun. However, one of the things that can be a certain spoilsport when cooking is a lack of proper home kitchen essentials. You may have designed the perfect aesthetic and installed top-of-the-line appliances, but what about some of those often overlooked yet always appreciated pieces of equipment?
When it comes to home cooking, there are some items that should always be present in the kitchen, even if they're not always top-of-mind. The quality of these appliances and tools is important not only for making dinner taste great but also for pulling it together quickly. (Because sometimes, food needs to happen fast.) Of the items included in this list, a few are basics that might already be found in your kitchen, and many others are a little less common. Still, all of them have been considered from a decade-long career in professional kitchens, and their utility in your home kitchen can't be overstated. Here are our picks for "can't forget" kitchen essentials.
1. A Quality Cutting Board
We'd be willing to wager that a cutting board falls under the "I already have this item" category for you, however, we think you should hear us out: The difference between a cutting board, and a good cutting board, is massive. As the New York Times reports, the material a cutting board is made out of can drastically affect your knives' level of sharpness — and potentially put you at risk of foodborne illness. This is why boards made of softwoods are important. They keep the edges of your knives keen, and the small pores provide antibacterial properties.
John Boos began crafting cutting boards in 1887. The longevity of his woodworking business could be the only guarantee of quality you need, but the fact that a Boos block is an industry-standard is also a qualifier for why having one of these boards is essential. Maple is a particularly supple type of wood to cut on; you'll notice fewer grooves in the board, which means it can double as a serving tray during parties. Additionally, your blades will stay sharper for longer, saving you money from having to replace damaged knives. Maple is a native wood to the U.S., meaning your Boos block is made from sustainable materials.
2. Heat Water Quickly With This Nifty Kettle
Despite having one sole and primary function, an electric tea kettle can serve a multitude of uses. Anything requiring hot water will benefit from the addition of a tea kettle to your kitchen. Want to cut the time of boiling pasta in half? Fill up the pot! Need to make a bowl of instant ramen on a rainy day? Press the button and get this boiler bubbling. Has food residue clogged the drain? You know what to do. Coffee and tea are just the beginning of what this handy device is capable of.
When it comes to qualifications, the KRUPS digital calendar is loaded with them, yet comes in at a budget-friendly price. As opposed to many other electric kettles on the market, this pot has a digital display and preset functions that will land you at a precise temperature. This feature can be useful when blooming yeast, for example. KRUPS double-layer insulation keeps water hot for an extended period of time while the cool touch material of the 12-cup carafe prevents accidental burns.
3. A Deep Dutch Oven
In the world of Dutch ovens, there is one brand that stands out among the rest. This may or may not be a surprise, but Le Creuset is not a Dutch company (which might be fortunate since the French are often considered better cooks than the Dutch — but we digress). A cast-iron, enameled coated Dutch oven is a kitchen essential that can give you access to many particular recipes: Cajun gumbo, beef bourguignon, and braised chicken are just a small sliver of the potential that comes with this cookware.
What makes Le Creuset so special? For nearly a century, the design of these deep ovens has been honed for optimal heat distribution. The enamel cover of a Le Creuset pot is more than just brilliantly colorful; it's also oven-safe up to 500 degrees and can even be cleaned in the dishwasher. The lid stabilizers keep the top firmly placed for optimal moisture retention, while the cream-colored interior (delightfully nonstick) allows you to monitor the status of your food as it cooks. You can fry, boil, bake or complete a multitude of tasks in this pot, which is sure to be a new family heirloom.
4. A Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet for Simple Weeknight Recipes
Along with a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet is an irreplaceable piece of cookery to have in your kitchen. They are useful for a number of techniques. There are the obvious ones (sauteéing, pan-frying, searing), but cast iron pans are also great to have when baking, braising, and broiling as well. With a cast iron, you can brown meat like the hottest fires or flat-tops.
Lodge brand is classic as they come. The brand offers the best pre-seasoned pans on the market, meaning it's ready to offer non-stick cooking straight out of the box. The edges are sculpted for optimal spatula uses and feature a pouring spout to get all of those good juices back onto your plate. Pick your pan up using the ergonomic handles and take it with you wherever you go, from the grill to the campfire.
5. Mix it Up
Like good government, mixing bowls should have a utilitarian yet benign presence in your life. To bring it back to cooking terms, a quality set of mixing bowls isn't the most glamorous of kitchen essentials, but they do serve an invaluable function. Whether blending your ingredients together, organizing food prep, or utilizing them as serving vessels, a multi-sized set of bowls deserves some respect.
OXO's 9-piece set comes in an aesthetically pleasing color (sea glass blue) with more than just bowls. Two separate size colanders are also included and are cut with draining slots tall enough to be easily cleaned yet thin enough not to leech ingredients into the sink. Best of all is the top and bottom of these bowls: Rubber pads around the bottom keep things from sliding, and clear lids sit on top for proper storage.
6. Save Time on Prep
Mandolin slicers can be a scary tool to use, which is why a lot of home kitchens often don't have them. This makes sense as they can be really dangerous when not used correctly. In a professional kitchen, however, they are crucial. A mandolin slicer saves time when preparing fruits and vegetables. It also allows you to change the style and size of the cuts you're making, extending the range and creativity of the dishes you're making. With the DASH, safety is no longer a concern.
The DASH Mandolin works with a spring-loaded blade that's fed by a chute, neither of which will have contact with your fingers, thanks to a plastic pusher. The straight blade can be swapped out or adjusted to slice in 30 different ways, including dicing, a julienne cut, and a matchsticking — and different thicknesses. With the DASH, your produce will be prepped faster, and more beautifully than ever before.
7. Nonstick Spatulas
High-temperature, BPA-free, silicone spatulas are a must for any kitchen. The flexibility of this cooking utensil can't be found in any of the other tools you're likely to pull from your drawers, and that flexibility is paramount whether you're baking, frying, sauteéing, or pan-searing. Silicone spatulas will support you through all of cooking's stickiest situations, and they'll also never hurt you — literally, they cannot scratch the surface of your favorite nonstick pans.
This set from UpGood includes four separate spatulas in a range of sizes. The spatulas are melt-tested up to 600 degrees, and the food-grade, BPA-free silicone is wrapped around a sturdy core that keeps the spatula from warping or breaking. Toss them in the dishwasher for concern-free cleaning. These spatulas are an artist's tool (or a busy cook's best friend).
8. Discover Your Process
The worst time to think about buying a food processor is when you need a food processor. You may have been surviving in the kitchen before this appliance came into your life, but in 2022, we're trying to thrive. With such a great device at such an affordable cost, there's no need to keep yourself separated from all the good things a food processor can do for your kitchen game.
This Hamilton Beach processor can fit 10-cups of fruits, vegetables, sauces, or cheese (that's right, you can use a food processor to shred cheese). The S-blade on this Hamilton Beach unit is honed to turn your raw ingredients into whatever prepared food your recipe calls for. Unlike many less functional models, the appliance also has a built-in bowl scraper to reduce your stop-and-go time. Along with these winning elements, a large chute beckons with a hungry mouth for everything and anything you can think to feed it. Mix up the two speeds for variable crafting, and get your homemade guac on. You deserve it.
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.