If you’re just beginning to build up an arsenal of kitchen supplies, or if you’ve found your cupboard lacking a few essentials, start here. By making sure you have the absolute basics on hand, you’ll be able to make most recipes without cluttering up your kitchen. And if you’ve got more than one junk drawer of kitchen tools, we’ll tell you what you can toss, too.
1. Need: Measuring Cups and Spoons
You can’t bake without measuring cups (liquid and dry) and spoons, so having these tools handy in a kitchen drawer is a must. Just make sure you’re using them all correctly so your recipes turn out well (don’t use dry measuring cups for liquid ingredients and vice versa). You really only need one set of each, though, so if you have extras, you can toss them if you’re trying to declutter.
2. Need: Chef's Knife
If you have only one knife in your whole kitchen, make it this one. The wedge-shape blade (second from the top, above) is good for a variety of purposes, so you can transition from chopping vegetables to slicing meat without missing a beat. To get the most mileage out of your chef’s knife, invest in a good one and take care of it by washing it by hand and honing and sharpening it regularly.
3. Need: Skillet
You can go with cast iron or stay with nonstick, but your kitchen really, really needs a skillet. You can make everything from breakfast to dinner (and even dessert) in a skillet, and most recipes require one for browning meat, sautéeing, or pan-frying. If you do choose to go with cast iron, you can also use it for baking!
4. Need: Saucepan
When it comes to making pasta, soup, or any other recipe that calls for boiling water (including steaming veggies and hard-cooking eggs), you’ll always reach for your saucepan. This handy pan has tons of different uses and generally won’t take up as much space as other larger pots, so it has definitely earned its spot on your shelf.
5. Need: Mixing Bowls
Is there anything that mixing bowls can’t do? Whether you’re stirring up a batch of cookie dough or tossing together a quick side salad, you'll find that mixing bowls play a role in nearly every recipe you make. Because they’re so versatile, it helps to have a few in your cupboard, especially since some recipes might require mixing in multiple bowls (it helps to have a variety of sizes, too!).
6. Need: Can Opener
Just about every ingredient that comes in a can requires a can opener (think canned tomatoes, canned beans, and canned soups), and you don’t ever want to be caught without one. Though there are some hacks out there for opening cans without this essential tool, they can often be messy and even dangerous. Rather than risking a mess or an accidental cut, just keep one of these handy kitchen gadgets in a drawer.
7. Need: Cutting Board
Make sure you have a good cutting board before slicing or chopping anything—they're crucial for protecting your countertops. For the best food safety practices, it makes sense to invest in two (one for raw meats and one for fruits and veggies). Wood and plastic boards are the most common, but keep in mind that wood cutting boards need a little more care and can be harder to clean than plastic.
8. Need: Sheet Pan
Sheet pans can be an absolute life-saver when you’re making dinner on a busy weeknight (not to mention for baking cookies!). Because they’re so large, it’s super easy to fit both the main dish and a side on one pan. Trust us: Once you discover the convenience of cooking a batch of chicken breasts and roasted carrots together, you’ll reach for your sheet pan almost every night.
1. Toss: Special Cutting Tools (Apple Slicers, Avocado Slicers, Pineapple Slicers, etc.)
Seriously—all of these specialty tools that claim to make cutting up produce easier can be replaced by a regular knife. Plus, be realistic—how often are you actually using your avocado slicer or pineapple corer? All of these tools take up space and keep your kitchen drawers from closing. Toss 'em out!
2. Toss: Old Storage Containers
We’re willing to admit we hang on to some of our food storage containers until they’re well past their prime. All those years-old containers that have lost their lids and don’t quite close properly anymore are occupying valuable cabinet real estate. Avoid a container avalanche and toss out any that have cracks, don’t close, or are just unbelievably old (they’re probably not keeping your food airtight and safe to eat, anyway).
3. Toss: Anything You Have Multiples Of
We hate to break it to you, but you really don’t need three wooden spoons and five different spatulas, especially if you’re trying to cut down on kitchen clutter. Just one of each will be fine, and you can quickly wash your favorite wooden spoon if you need it to stir a few different dishes while you’re cooking. Other items to toss are those that serve duplicate purposes—if you have an electric mixer, you’re safe in getting rid of your old rotary beater.
4. Toss: Garlic Press
It might seem like this is a faster way to mince garlic, but by the time you’ve gotten all the garlic out of it, was it really any quicker? This gadget can be bulky and difficult to clean, so it’s a great candidate for tossing out when you finally clean out your kitchen drawers. Trust us: You’ll save more time and space just mincing your garlic with the kitchen knife that you already have.