Building a kitchen takes time and work. Should you really splurge on that Le Creuset skillet? Do you actually need all those knives? Especially when you first move in by yourself (goodbye, roommates), you need to truly figure out which things are worth the investment, and which things you’re only buying because your mom told you to.
To make things easier, we spoke to experts, kitchenware manufacturers, and chefs to figure out exactly which items you should invest in when you start your first kitchen, like the adult you are.
“Tongs sometimes get overlooked,” says Material co-founder Eunice Byun. “The modern-day chopstick, it can be used for just about everything, and then get rinsed and placed at the table for serving. Anytime you need to flip something (other than a delicate piece of fish) or pull noodles from a boiling pot, reach for your tongs.”
Quality wooden spoon
“A wooden cooking spoon is another necessity,” says Byun. “Nothing beats the feel of a wooden spoon in your hand, and the sound of it scraping up browned goodies in your pot. Use a wooden spoon for deglazing, soups, risottos, custards… you get the picture.”
There are way too many knives out there to choose from, but Chef Mike Franzetti of Brooklyn hot spot Alice’s Arbor recommends that every home cook should invest in an offset serrated knife. “They are cheap but durable, and you can cut almost everything without sharpening,” he says. Franzetti loves the Victorinox Forschner 9’ Bread/Deli Knife, in particular.
“It seems like the obvious choice, but there’s always a need for newer, better, sharper, sexier knives,” says Windsor Court’s Executive Chef, Vlad Ahmadyarov. “Knives are to cooks what golf clubs are to golfers: essential tools that come in a variety of styles and shapes, and also have very specific uses. Just like golf clubs, knives are constantly undergoing technological innovations to make them sturdier and more effective. Global, Shun, and Wusthof are all popular brands with many kitchen professionals.”
Stainless steel cooking spoon
“From stirring soups and sauces to tossing and serving salads, a good stainless steel cooking spoon is a go-to in every cook’s set of tools,” says Byun. “Bonus points if it’s pretty enough to go from stove to table, too.”
Spider (a large, mesh-like slotted spoon)
“While this item may seem new to you, you’ve definitely seen it before—many Asian cooks utilize the spider. It looks like a larger, mesh-ier slotted spoon (or a smaller wired colander),” says Byun. “Spiders are perfect to use when blanching vegetables (scoop up from the pot, and immediately transfer into an ice bath), fishing out ravioli, or draining shorter pastas like rigatoni or penne. It’s much better than pulling out a big colander—promise!”
“Every enviable kitchen you see on Instagram has one thing in common—a countertop with almost nothing on it,” says Byun. “There are no canisters overflowing with kitchen tools you’ve collected over the years, no spice rack that inevitably gets dirtied from all the grease and oil from the stove. I recommend a stylish holder for those ‘can’t cook without them’ items. Pair that with an easy-to-clean bowl that holds and displays fresh fruits and vegetables, and your kitchen will look infinitely better (and more organized) in no time.”
Chinese wok set
For Tavolo chef and co-owner Nick Accardi, an essential starter kit includes a Chinese cleaver, wok pan, wok spoon, and wok spatula. “Similar kitchen tools have been in use for over 5,000 years, and if you have to pick four to start your gear set with, these would suffice,” he says. “They’re extremely versatile for any type of cuisine.”
“A great at-home chef should have a couple of prep bowls no larger than a cup, and a few larger sized ones. Smaller bowls should be kept close to where you prep, so that you can keep all the things you’re chopping up nice and neat prior to cooking,” says Byun. “This also makes the whole process easier, so you don’t have to keep everything on the same cutting board. For larger bowls, keep them pretty straightforward, with some good stainless steel bowls. Make sure they’re not heavy (like some glass bowls), prone to chips (again, glass bowls), or easy to stain (like some plastic bowls).”