Whether you’re stocking your first kitchen (congrats!) or committing yourself to investing in learning how to cook, you’re going to need some materials…and perhaps some advice. That’s where we come in. From cutting boards to mixing bowls, here are the nine kitchen essentials we think all beginner cooks should have.
1. Sheet Pans
We owe a lot to our trusty sheet pans, for countless batches of cookies and effortless one-pan meals. A half sheet pan (the most common size in home kitchens) is the most versatile, but once you develop your chef skills you can also add quarter sheet pans to your collection for smaller jobs like roasting veggies. We like the cheerful blue sheet pan from Great Jones, but plain aluminum ones are less expensive and work just the same.
2. A Cutting Board
You can’t just chop those onions on a bare countertop, can you? The options can be overwhelming, but we prefer bamboo and wooden cutting boards over plastic, even for beginners. They’re easier on your knives and naturally bacteria-resistant, so there’s less risk of cross-contamination. (You can read all about the best types of cutting boards here.)
3. Liquid and Dry Measuring Cups and Spoons
Instead of “eyeballing it” when a recipe calls for a half cup of milk and a cup of flour, invest in a few measuring devices: namely, liquid measuring cups, dry measuring cups and measuring spoons. These OXO liquid measuring cups are made of silicone, so they’re microwave save, flexible and won’t warp over time. But remember, you need dry measuring cups for dry ingredients too: They’re designed to hold the exact amount of ingredient, where liquid measuring cups have more space to account for easy pouring (and potential spillage).
4. A Nonstick Skillet
A slick nonstick skillet is ideal for beginners because there’s one less thing to worry about when searing and sautéing (and it’s irreplaceable for cooking eggs). A ten-incher is a good all-purpose size. We like Our Place’s Always Pan because it’s nontoxic and comes with a nesting steamer basket and spatula (and it’s pretty darn cute).
5. A Stainless-Steel Skillet
Nonstick, while lovely, can’t do everything. You’ll need a regular ol’ stainless-steel skillet that can go from stovetop to oven and will give steaks and chicken thighs an appealing crusty sear. Again, ten inches is a good starter size, and look for one with a metal handle so it’s fully oven-safe.
6. A Stockpot
No, you don’t have to buy a bright orange stockpot (isn’t she pretty though?), but you will want a pot large enough to boil pasta water, simmer homemade stocks and whip up large batches of soup. A six-quart stockpot (like this one from Le Creuset) is a good size for beginner cooks and small households, but FYI, they make sizes up to 100 quarts.
7. Mixing Bowls
Every well-stocked kitchen needs a set of bowls for prepping and mixing. While plastic bowls are inexpensive and glass are microwave-safe, we prefer stainless steel. Why? They’re lightweight but durable and won’t break if you drop one from the counter (it happens). Choose a set that nests for easy storage and versatility.
8. A Chef’s Knife
With approximately a billion types of cooking knives out there (boning! utility! cleaver!), it can be confusing to know which ones are actually worth the investment. If you’re only buying one, make it a chef’s knife, which can do almost any cutting job in the kitchen. The knife you choose will come down to personal preference based on length, weight and feel, but an eight-inch blade will feel balanced in most hands.
Think of tongs like an extra set of invincible hands—they’re irreplaceable for flipping cuts of meat, moving hot food from skillet to serving dish, stirring pasta and even grabbing things from hard-to-reach shelves. But not all tongs are created equal: There are many different locking mechanisms and materials, but we prefer the kind with a pull-tab on the locking end and nylon-covered heads that are safe for using with nonstick pans.
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