Whether you're a beginner or pro, these tools will help you tackle everything from pasta to pies.

Alex Loh
Updated February 03, 2021
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Whether you're setting up your kitchen for the first time or need to replace some worn-out items, keeping your kitchen stocked with the proper tools is the first step to a great meal. Investing in these kitchen tools will make cooking an enjoyable and easy activity that you'll look forward to. Here are our must-have kitchen tools.

Credit: Leslie Grow

1. Knives

Without a proper chef's knife, food prep can be miserable. So if you're in need, go for the affordable 8-inch Misen Chef's Knife. It is a favorite of both our Test Kitchen manager, Breana Lai Killeen, and food editor, Carolyn Malcoun—who rave about how well it handles and its great price. (You really can't find a good chef's knife any cheaper.) Plus, Misen offers a 60- day trial with a free return if you don't love it, and a lifetime guarantee if you do!

Those butcher blocks full of knives look nice on your counter, but you really only need three: a serrated knife, an 8- to 10-inch-long chef's knife and a paring knife are good basics. Buy the best knives you can afford—they will last for many years. EatingWell's senior digital food editor Megan Steintrager likes the Henckels, Wusthof or Shun brands for her paring and chef's knives, and Oxo for a serrated knife.

2. Knife Sharpener

Once you have the right knife, you'll need to keep it sharp. (A dull knife is a danger to you and whatever food you're chopping.) But there's no need to go through the hassle of hiring a sharpening service or to spend big bucks on a fancy electric gadget. This $18 J.A. Henckels 2-Stage Manual Sharpener (Bed, Bath & Beyond, $17.99) is our go-to. (Trust us, we've tested all sorts of methods. This. Does. The. Trick.) With both coarse and fine grits and slots for Western and Asian-style blades (which need to be sharpened differently), all of your knives will be covered.

3. Cutting Boards

Two cutting boards are ideal—one for raw proteins and one for cooked foods and produce—to avoid cross-contamination when cooking. For raw proteins, we prefer using dishwasher-safe plastic cutting boards like this one with a no-slip grip (Bed Bath & Beyond, $18). As for cooked foods and produce, either a plastic or wooden cutting board will work. (We like this wooden cutting board from Bed Bath & Beyond, $15.)

4. Bowls

A set of 3 stainless-steel mixing bowls that fit inside one another is a space saver. They are inexpensive, versatile and will last a lifetime. (This set comes with lids, Bed Bath & Beyond, $25.)

5. Measuring Spoons & Cups

You'll need one full set of measuring spoons and two sets of measuring cups. One set of cups should be for measuring liquids—these usually have handles and pour spouts—and one set, for measuring dry ingredients, that can be leveled off. (This set from Williams Sonoma comes with both spoons and cups for measuring dry ingredients, $50.)

Credit: Leslie Grow

6. Cookware

Nonstick skillets are great tools for beginner cooks, but remember never to use metal utensils on these pans—scratched surfaces negatively affect their nonstick surfaces. You'll want both small and large nonstick skillets. You'll also want small and large stainless-steel skillets, as well as small and large saucepans and a stockpot.

A wok is a necessity for high-heat, quick cooking dishes like stir-fries. Our wok of choice is whatever Grace Young—the "Poet Laureate of the Wok"— is using. She favors this large carbon-steel model with a flat bottom and a long wood handle to keep your hands safe during high-heat cooking. So, we look no further.

Credit: Leslie Grow

7. Instant-Read Thermometer

Found in nearly every supermarket meat section or with other kitchen gadgets, an instant-read thermometer is essential for making sure meat and poultry are safely cooked and done to your preference. (We like this one from Oxo, Williams Sonoma, $20.)

8. Utensils

Having a variety of utensils is helpful to make different recipes. If you like to cook, go-to utensils like a vegetable peeler, wooden spoons, a meat mallet, slotted spoon, tongs, a ladle and nonstick spatulas are perfect. If you like to bake, a wire whisk and a rolling pin are especially useful. 

9. Colander

With colanders, we like ones that have feet and that can fit a lot of pasta. It's also important to make sure it will fit in your sink! (We like this set of two with handles, Bed Bath & Beyond, $10.)

Credit: Leslie Grow

10. Bakeware

Whether you're baking a cake or roasting a chicken, it's important to have the right pans for your oven. Standard-size 9-by-13 baking pans and 8-inch-square glass baking dishes are useful for any meal, while specialty pans for pizza, roasting and baking are also good to invest in. 

11. Storage Containers

Storage containers aren't just for storing leftovers; they're also helpful to hold any unused ingredients that come from making dinner. (We like this 22-piece set that is microwave-, dishwasher- and freezer-safe, Bed Bath & Beyond, $40.)

12. Slow Cooker

A slow cooker, also known by the brand name Crock-Pot, is the perfect tool for busy families. You can easily throw ingredients into the cooker before work and dinner will be ready when you get home. Make sure to buy a size that will feed your whole family. (We like this 8-quart one from Hamilton Beach, Bed Bath & Beyond, $50.)

13. Electric Hand Mixer

Baked goods—and trendy drinks like whipped coffee!—are so much easier with a hand mixer. (This KitchenAid one comes in several different colors, Bed Bath & Beyond, $35.)

Credit: Leslie Grow

14. Blender

Having a blender on hand is great for making smoothies or salad dressing. Depending on your needs, you can choose between a high-speed blender and a standard one. EatingWell's test kitchen manager Breana Killeen likes Vitamix or Wolf brands for high-speeds and KitchenAid for everyday use. (For a Vitamix, Bed Bath & Beyond, $290; for a Wolf blender, Williams Sonoma, $450; and for a KitchenAid, Bed Bath & Beyond, $100.)

Credit: Leslie Grow

15. Vegetable Steamer

We love the convenience of steaming vegetables in the microwave. It's so much quicker than doing it on the stovetop, and this handmade Stoneware Microwave Veggie Steamer (uncommon goods, $54). It keeps the veggies warm and can go straight to the table when they are ready. Way easier than the plastic-wrap-covered-bowl situation we used before. Nope, never going back now.