Everything You Need in a Starter Kitchen

The pros give us a definitive list of essentials that every cook should have in their kitchen.

Stocking up your first kitchen can be exciting—and overwhelming. There are so many useful tools and nifty-looking gadgets that it can be difficult to determine which ones are necessary and which ones are just nice to have.

First things first: Think about your typical day and week—if you’re not a baker, then an oven isn’t a necessity. On the other hand, if you like having a freshly brewed cup o’ joe every morning and you’re on a strict budget, then a coffee maker is a must-have that will save you from making a daily coffee shop run.

The list of essentials may vary from person to person, but the pros give us a definitive list that every cook, no matter what his or her interests and lifestyle, should have in the kitchen.

“The basic tools that every kitchen needs are a set of knives, frying pan, sauce pan, non-stick pan, pots, skillet, stainless bowls, strainer, wooden spoon, spatulas, tongs, whisk, measuring spoons and cups, peeler, rice cooker, and toaster oven,” enumerates Chef Lica Ibarra, a contestant on season 1 of MasterChef Asia.

On a budget and still need to whittle it down some more? You don’t have to purchase entire sets of stuff; just go for the basics instead. Chef Roselle Miranda, a food editor, details the specific items that can help you accomplish basic kitchen tasks:

1 Frying pan (preferably nonstick). It’s great for everything from scrambled eggs to pancakes to chicken, pork chops, and fish. “The slick surface of a nonstick pan won’t allow most food from sticking to its surface, so for the novice cook, this can save even the simplest of dishes from becoming ruined,” says Chef Roselle.

2 Pot. Love your stews and soupy dishes? “A pot will do the job that the shallow pan cannot accommodate,” explains the chef. “You can boil, simmer, braise, deep fry, and even steam with the right insert when necessary.” Hello, sinigang and adobo!

3 Silicone spatula. “Silicone is a fantastic heat-resistant material,” says Chef Roselle, who loves the versatility of this tool: It can be used for scrambling eggs, stirring sauces and stews, scraping down the sides of a pot or bowl, and cleaning food off of pans.

4 Tongs. “You can lift freshly cooked pasta from boiling water straight into a bowl of spaghetti sauce and remove chicken nuggets from hot oil.”

5 Ladle. You’ll need this for scooping out soups and stews from a pot.

6 Turner/flipper. “Whether slotted or not, this is perfect for turning over pancakes, fish fillets, and burgers,” says the chef.

7 Chef’s knife and paring knife. No need to go for a fancy set of knives—these are the only two you need. The chef’s knife can handle most chopping tasks while a smaller paring knife can handle your finer slicing needs. Chef Roselle reminds you to maintain the sharp edges of your knives.

8 Chopping board. You don’t want to be chopping all your ingredients on a regular plate or on your kitchen counter.

9 Kitchen shears. You can use it to open packages and even cut through chicken that you’d like to chop up.

10 Can opener. When you’re hungry and in a hurry, nothing is worse than finding some canned tuna without an easy-open top in your pantry!

11 Rice cooker. This is an essential in the Filipino household. Even if you’re cutting back on carbs, a rice cooker will come in handy. You can use it for steaming and for making one-pot meals; just choose ingredients that can cook in 20 minutes. “When you’re too busy and tired to do more than throw ingredients into a pot, you’ll thank the rice cooker for helping you do the cooking for you,” says Chef Roselle.

Once you have these essentials, you can start thinking about add-ons, depending on how you use your kitchen. Chef Lica says that nice-to-haves include a cast-iron pan, food processor, grinder, blender, and stand mixer. Happy cooking!

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