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.
COOKING & BAKING
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!)
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?