The Kitchn’s Guide to Essential Cooking Tools & Utensils

updated May 12, 2022
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What are the essential tools every cook needs in the kitchen? Last week we shared our guide to essential prep tools and utensils. So you’re prepped: now what? Our new guide to the most important cooking tools takes you to the next step.

Note: Don’t be perplexed that you don’t see pots and pans on this list. This is a guide to essential cooking tools and utensils—the small stuff. Our guides to essential cookware and bakeware are on their way, so keep a look out.

As in our last guide, we’ve offered a few product recommendations in each category based on personal preferences, experience, and editor and reader reviews. Most of these tools can be bought on Amazon, but a terrific and cost-effective resource for basic kitchen tools is a restaurant supply store. Just buy the best quality you can afford!

1. Tongs: A multitasking kitchen powerhouse! Lift, flip, mix, move, tongs are a fantastic all-around cooking tool. Stainless steel are the most versatile.

OXO Good Grips Locking Tongs ($12.99)
Progressive International 12 Inch Silicone Gripper Tongs ($16.99)

2. Rubber or Silicone Spatula (or Four!) A good spatula scrapes, scoops, stirs, and mixes. They can be narrow-ish for scraping jars, flat and angular, or large and spoon-shaped. Variety is the spice of life! Having a few spatulas in different sizes never hurt anyone. If you plan to use it to sauté or do anything heat-related, look for silicone or another heat-resistant material.

Large Le Creuset Silicone Spatula Spoon ($11.95)
Chef’n Switchit Dual Ended Long Spatula ($12.85) – read our review here.
Rubbermaid Commercial Products Scraper ($6.56) – read our review here.

3. Metal Spatula or Turner: Thin, metal spatulas are necessary for scraping, sliding under food, and other instances where thicker, blunter spatulas won’t do. Make sure your metal spatula has a very thin front edge.

Calphalon Slotted Turner ($9.95)
Wusthof Gourmet 7 1/2-Inch Slotted Spatula ($35.00)

4. Slotted Spoon: slots allow excess liquid to drain back into the pan, so it’s great for dishing out foods like eggs or ravioli. Make sure the holes aren’t too big, because you don’t want any small foods (like peas) to slip through.

Olive Wood Slotted Spoon ($21)
OXO Good Grips Brushed Stainless Steel Slotted Spoon ($9.99)

5. Oven Mitts or Hot Pad: They can be bulky and unwieldy, yes. Which is why we like the following options:

Ove Gloves ($17.80) – read our review here.
• Kitchen reader oven mitt recommendations.

6. Steamer Basket: for steaming vegetables. Make sure it’s adjustable so it’ll fit in a variety of pot sizes.

Amco Collapsible Steamer, Stainless Steel ($7.81)
Chef’n Sleekstor VeggiSteam Silicone Steamer ($11.99)

7. Silpat or Parchment Paper: Parchment paper creates a disposable non-stick surface, great for baking cookies or roasting vegetables. A non-disposable option is Silpat, a silicone based non-stick pad that can be reused.

Silpat Silicone Cookie Sheet Liners ($24.95)
Beyond Gourmet Unbleached Parchment Paper ($6.99)

8. Timer: it should be easy to use, accurate, and loud!

Kitchen Timer from MUJI ($19.95) – read our review here.
5 Timeless Kitchen Timers

9. Cooling Rack – an elevated cooling rack ensures freshly backed goods cool evenly and stay crisp.

3-Tier Stackable Cooling Rack ($9.99) – read our review here.
Chrome Plate Wired Cooling Rack($15.95) – read our review here.
Expandable Cooling Rack ($19.95) – read our review here.

10. Instant Read Thermometer – It might seem fussy, but it’s extremely useful to help you get the perfect roast/steak/cake.

Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen ($93) – read our review here.
RT600C Super-fast Water-resistant Digital Pocket Thermometer ($19)

Readers, do you have anything to add?