Kitchen Must Haves

I’m not trying to brag or anything… but I’m actually getting pretty comfortable in the kitchen. After sitting at a desk all day, I really start to look forward to cooking a meal. I’m not quite ready to just whip something creative up with what I have in the refrigerator, but I’m not intimidated by following recipes or cooking our “every week” favorites. 
(I’ve said it a million times already, but using Plated has been such a huge help. After doing it for a few months, I know how to do simple things and I’ve been able to see “patterns” in recipes. Making a pasta sauce from scratch is super easy now and even knowing different ways to cook meat has been super helpful.)
The kitchen I had in NYC really limited what I was able to do in there, including what kinds of dishes and utensils I could store. (You may recall that my kitchen was a skinny hallway.) One of the first orders of business when we moved into our Connecticut apartment was stocking the kitchen. Now that I’ve been cooking for a few months, I thought it would be helpful to share the things I love and use the most.
If you’re building out your kitchen or will be in the next few years, I would consider this a helpful start! There are obviously other items in the kitchen that will come in handy and I certainly use other things frequently, but you can get a lot done and improvise just enough with the following:
Photo via Williams-Sonoma 


Whisk– While a fork can work as a substitute, there’s nothing like a great whisk. I use mine nearly every day, whether I’m whipping up eggs in the morning, cake batter, or a sauce for a dinner dish. It’s constantly being washed to be used for the next item on the menu. (Not necessary, but a friend of mine had a stash of these mini whisks. They were super cute and very easy to handle.)

Spatula– No matter how small your kitchen is or how short on space you are, a spatula is a must. I’ll use mine throughout the day too. From flipping pancakes or omelets to sautéing onions. It’s important to get one that won’t scrape your the coating off if you have non-stick pans.

Knife– We got a block of knives for the kitchen, but I often find myself reaching for one in particular that I feel the most comfortable using. I still need to take a cooking class that teaches knife techniques, but I do know that feeling comfortable makes a huge difference in how I handle the slicing and dicing of ingredients.

Tongs– Even though tongs don’t scream “useful” to me, I’ve found that they are super helpful for preparing many dishes. I probably use them most to handle meat and transfer between pans/plates. I reach for them all the time. If I’m roasting vegetables or even pan frying them, I use tongs over anything else because they have the most control. Even flipping something as small and round as Brussels sprouts is a breeze.


Prep Bowls– I received these as a gift after attending an event with Martha Stewart. I thought I’d never use then because, well, I’m no Martha Stewart! Except now I actually use them every night while cooking. It’s so easy to prep all the ingredients (particularly onions, herbs, and garlic) and throw into a little bowl until I need to use them. And, it doesn’t hurt that I feel like I’m on a cooking show with everything prepped and ready to go in colorful bowls.

Measuring Cups– Duh, you’ll need to measure what your ingredients. I prefer this measuring cup for liquids because you can measure looking down (instead of looking at it at eye level). Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients are a good option because the labels won’t wear off like they will on plastic ones.

Cutting Boards– I have a couple of wooden cutting boards, but I reach for a handy plastic one more often than not. I hate cleaning wood boards and the plastic are so much easier to throw into the dishwasher.

Clear, Stackable Bowls– If you don’t have these, you need them. The stacking bowls are super affordable and you’ll have one for anything you need. A super tiny one to melt butter in the microwave? Check. A large one to whip up your favorite cookies? Check. Even a bowl for a serving of popcorn. These are the best for mixing, prepping, and storing food. LOVE.

Dishtowels– I bought two packs of these when we first moved in and I love using them on a daily basis. I keep one hanging on the oven to use for small cleanups and one for handwashing while cooking. They wash wonderfully so I always have a few folded in the cabinet ready to be used, one or two in use, and a handful in the hamper waiting to be washed.


Cast Iron Skillet– THESE ARE AMAZING. I have never had one and as far as I know, my parents either don’t have one or never use them. [UPDATE: my mom just texted me to say they have three different sizes… haha.] The versatility of a cast iron skillet is unreal. You can use it just like any other pan or thrown into the oven to continue to cook a dish. They’re a little bit of a pain to clean (hot water and brush or just a wipe down if you’re a hard core cast iron), but worth it. (My dream is to upgrade the whole kitchen to Le Creuset!)

Saucepan & Frying Pan– While I bought a huge multi-piece set of pots and pans, I really only use a medium saucepan and a standard frying pan.

Glass Baking Dish– I’ve used this for baked goods, lasagnas, stuffing… I had been using disposable tins and finally broke down for the real deal. Everything turns out better and the little bit of clean up is worth it.

Airbake Cookie Sheets– These baking sheets are hands down the best. I wrap them in foil if I’m roasting vegetables and just plop cookies right on them to bake. There’s a tiny layer of open air between the bottom two layers so everything bakes more evenly.

Cooling Racks– Even though I mostly use these for baked goods, they do come in handy when dishes need to cool down too.

Did I miss anything?! What’s one of your must have items for cooking?

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Hi Carly,
You should check out TJ Maxx/Home Goods for Le Creuset – they're half off and I've seen a variety of styles and sizes!


I couldn't do without my silicone spatulas! They are really useful in the kitchen and I use them everyday. Great post!

emily rose

Last Christmas I received the Cooks Illustrated "Cooking for Two" cookbook. This book has been a life saver to my meal planning! Each recipe is perfectly formulated to make fool proof two serving recipes. Definitely check it out! I'm also a big fan of Plated and Blue Apron to help meal plan in a busy week.

Shapin up

I recently got a food processor and it is a GAME CHANGER! It is seriously such a useful tool in the kitchen, giving me the opportunity to experiment with new recipes that would otherwise be very time consuming to create. My current obsession is cauliflower rice. You can use a grater for this but a food processor makes it so simple.


I have a food processor… just haven't used it yet! Will definitely need to look into this cauliflower rice. (Roasted cauliflower is my favorite snack!)


I have such a tiny kitchen in my lil studio apartment I live in with my husband!! I wish I had the space to have an elaborate kitchen with all the proper fixings!! One day soon! =)

Melanie | Blog: Toots + Dill

Rachel S.

I'm obsessed with my new Kitchenaid stand mixer. I was given it this past Christmas as a gift from my parents, and it is a total game changer. I got the professional one rather than the artisan model because it is more powerful. I really don't have the space for it in my apartment, but I make it work!


Hey Carly! If there's a Sur La Table store near you, check them out. They offer knife skills classes, among other cooking classes. It's a great way of meeting people and you'll end up eating what you cook. The instructors are usually very knowledgeable and the recipes are easy to replicate at home.