You really don’t need a lot of fancy kitchen tools and equipment to be a good cook, but I do recommend the following handful of basic cutting, blending, cooking, and baking tools to make your at-home meal preparation easier and more enjoyable.
Blenders: I love my blenders and use them almost daily! They are used most often for making smooth dressings, sauces, and gravies. I also use them to grind seeds and nuts, whole grains into flour, and to process dates and other dried fruit I might be using in baking. My primary blender is a Vitamix (a powerful home blender), and I also have a smaller, less expensive, but still powerful blender (my Tribest Personal Blender) to do quick, smaller-volume jobs. I really recommend a high-powered blender, like the Vitamix or Blendtec, but if you’re on a tight budget, you can get by with the smaller Tribest blender and a standard home blender, which I did for years.
Cutting boards: Recommending a cutting board seems obvious, but I have been in so many kitchens (professional and home) where the cutting boards were pretty scary. I encourage you to use a good one, which means not old, stained, warped or having deep cuts. I prefer an 18×12-inch wood cutting board for most of my cooking because I like the feel of it when chopping, it has plenty of room to work on, and it’s solid and heavier than plastic. But I do use plastic at times, too. Give yourself the gift of a nice, new cutting board; it will make cooking so much more enjoyable.
Knives: Knives come in all sizes, qualities and costs, but I recommend having at least a 7- or 8-inch chef’s knife, a smaller 5 or 6-inch utility knife, and a paring knife. You can go high-end with your chef’s knife or more toward the “good and economical” end. The most important thing about knives is to keep them sharp. This, like having a good cutting board, will make your cooking life so much more enjoyable as well as efficient and safe. You can sharpen your knives at home with a sharpening steel or electric sharpener, or send them to the cutlery shop for service. Search “knife sharpening” online to learn how to sharpen your own knives at home.
Food processor: Even if you have a blender, I still recommend a food processor. The difference is that a blender is used most often to create a very smooth consistency (as with gravy, frosting or sauce), while a food processor allows for a more coarse consistency (as with applesauce, salsa, pesto, or hummus/dips). A food processor also has attachments that allow for chopping, shredding, slicing and grating. I recommend at least an 11-cup size. I use a 14-cup size.
Pots and pans: Most handy will be a large soup pot (6 to 8 quart), a smaller sauce pot (2 or 3 quart), and a fry pan or skillet (11 or 13 inches). I use mostly stainless steel cookware, but I do have one 11-inch, high-quality, non-stick skillet for things like veggie burgers and pancakes (since I don’t use oil). If you have a large family, you may want larger sizes of pots and pans, but these sizes are fine when cooking for one to four people.
Baking needs: Baking pans (metal) and baking dishes (glass) sized 9 by 13-inch and 8 by 8-inch are staples. A 12-cup muffin pan and a standard 9 by 5-inch loaf pan are also handy to have in the cupboard. Many people prefer metal pans for things they want to cook up drier, firmer and with crusty edges (like breads, cookies, and meatless loaves), and glass dishes for moister dishes (such as casseroles and cobblers).
Smaller kitchen tools: Aside from the above items, I also use many smaller kitchen tools, such as a potato peeler, lemon juicer, garlic press, measuring spoons, measuring cups, parchment paper, wooden spoons, and silicone spatulas. For more specific recommendations of smaller, inexpensive kitchen tools, see my article “My favorite kitchen tools under $10.”
“Once in a while” tools: I also keep certain tools on hand for when I’m cooking something special, including Belgium and traditional waffle irons, immersion blender (to make creamy soups right in the pot), rotary cheese grater (using nuts instead of cheese), French fry cutter, kitchen scale, and mandolin (produces thin, consistent vegetable slices).