What Are the Most Essential Dishes & Kitchen Tools?

updated May 11, 2022
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Q: I have a quandary to crowdsource to your smart readers. I am moving halfway across the country from home and Hubs for a year for work (I’ll come back a few weekends a month). I have to be pretty picky about what’s worth lugging out there. I don’t bake much, but I love to cook and eat just about any kind of cuisine. I’m pumped to be moving to the West Coast, Land of Magical Wintertime Farmer’s Markets, so I want to be able to cook for myself and the occasional visitor or two.

So–from dishes and utensils to gadgets–what do you think are the absolute essentials?

Sent by Kat

Editor: Kat, I just spent a week in a rental kitchen in Colorado, and so I feel uniquely suited to answer this question! The kitchen was kitted-out quite well, but it really was the basics; nothing extra or over-the-top. Here are the things I had, more or less (the quantities are different) — and I managed to cook nearly ever single night for a crowd of 14 hungry skiers!

This list obviously depends on how you cook. Personally, I always want a larger, deeper sauté pan (4 to 6 quarts is ideal) for searing and braises. But this list here will fit in just one big box and will get you quite far in the kitchen.

Dishes & Utensils
• Six to 8 white plates and small bowls
• A handful of mugs, matching or not
• One serving bowl and one platter
• A handful of serving spoons
• Glass tumblers (can double as wine glasses and cocktail glasses)
• Flatware (forks, spoons, table knives) for 6 to 8

Tools & Pans
• Chef’s knife and paring knife
• Peeler
• A few wooden spoons and a good spatula
• Baking sheet/roasting pan
• 10-inch sauté pan (with high sides)
• 4-quart pot (or Dutch oven)
• Two chopping boards
• At least two kitchen towels and hot pads
• One set of measuring cups and one set of measuring spoons, as well as a glass liquids measuring cup
• A small set of glass bowls and storageware with lids (Updated: Including one large bowl, with lid, that doubles as storage and as a mixing bowl.)

Here are a few more past posts and lists, too.

The Well-Stocked Kitchen: Our Essential Serving Dishes
• Essential Kitchen Tools: A Roundup of Basics
• Five Essential Baking Tools: Pans
• Five Essential Baking Tools: Prep

Readers, what did I leave off? What would you suggest to Kat?

Related: Skillets & Mandolines: 13 Chefs Share Their Favorite Tools

(Image: Collage via The Kitchn)