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How to equip your kitchen for cooking

Learn what you need to equip your kitchen for everyday cooking.

By cooking and eating at home, you’ll save money and prepare healthier meals, but it means you need the right tools. You can pick up kitchen basics from yard sales or thrift stores, family donations, or even when friends or neighbors downsize.

You can purchase all the kitchen basics for roughly $200–300, but compare that to the amount you might spend each year on eating out. Your pieces don’t need to be lavish or color-coordinated, only functional. Remember: Each cook and kitchen are different, so make your choices based on your habits, needs, and space

Get a jump on food prep.

  • Box grater. Use the four different sides to quickly grate carrots, cabbage, cheese, chocolate, and spices.
  • Colander. Use it to drain pasta or rinse vegetables.
  • Measuring cups and spoons. Use glass cups with markings to measure liquids and one set each of measuring cups and spoons for dry ingredients.
  • Plastic cutting boards (2). To prevent cross-contamination, use one for bread, fruits, and vegetables and the other (in a different color or size) for meats, poultry, and seafood.
  • Mixing bowls. 3 or 4 different sizes should accommodate most cooking needs.
  • Peeler. Use this to peel the skins off fruits and veggies.

Stock up on tools of the trade.

  • Knives. Choose 3 good-quality, reasonably priced knives: chef’s knife (for slicing and dicing fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish), utility knife (for small tasks), and serrated knife (for cutting bread and tomatoes). Handle each knife before you buy it: Make sure it feels balanced and has a comfortable grip. And safely store your sharpened knives. It’s harder to work with dull knives, so get a knife sharpener too.
  • Kitchen scissors. Use these to cut poultry, fresh spices, pizza, tortillas, etc. Look for a pair that can be taken apart for cleaning.
  • Kitchen tools. Pick up wooden and slotted metal spoons for stirring. Use tongs to serve salads, turn foods in a pan, and grill. Use a whisk for beating eggs, mixing dry ingredients, and making gravies. Choose a spatula for flipping eggs or pancakes.
  • Can opener. Choose one that’s dishwasher-safe or otherwise easy to clean.
  • Food thermometer. Use this tool to make sure meat, poultry, and egg products are cooked to the proper temperature.

Choose baking and roasting dishes.

  • Baking sheet. Select one 17”´14” sheet (for baking cookies and roasting vegetables).
  • Baking/roasting dishes. Basics include a microwave-safe, one- or 3-quart casserole with lid, 9”´13” and 9”´9” baking dishes, loaf pan (for baking breads and meatloaf), pizza pan, pie pan, and a cooling rack.

Power up with small appliances.

  • Crockpot. Choose one to fit your household size. Toss ingredients into the crockpot in the morning, and you’ll have a hearty meal waiting for you at dinnertime.
  • Hand blender. This tool makes smoothies, soups, and sauces a snap to prepare.
  • Toaster. A basic toaster can be inexpensive.

Pick pots and pans.

  • Cooking pans. Choose one of each: fry pan with universal lid, stockpot, saucepan, sauté pan, and hot pad. Pans don’t need to match. Flimsy cookware can warp and develop hot spots, so get the best you can afford. Otherwise, your food might burn.

Top it off with tableware.

  • Eating utensils, plates, bowls, drinking glasses, and mugs. Buy enough for each person in your home and a few extra for when you host guests.

Visit the MedlinePlus page for more information about the selection and care of cooking utensils.