Listen, not everyone joins a cookbook club and binge watches old episodes of Chopped while shouting at the television. Some people are casual cooks. You, for example, might just have a few go-to recipes that you make when you aren’t too lazy to light up your stove. If so, you don’t need to spend several hundred dollars on a new set of pans and several hundred more dollars on some knives that you probably won’t sharpen. You just need the bare minimum, and that’s what we have for you right here.
To be clear, this isn’t a guide to the absolute cheapest things to buy for your kitchen. We did try to find relatively inexpensive options for everything — but if you’re only getting a few tools and appliances, you might as well choose some decent ones. Think of this as a blueprint for a stripped down but still functional kitchen, and be sure to grab all these pieces of cookware, regardless of how passionate you are for the culinary arts.
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A Quality Chef's Knife
If you only own one knife, make it a chef’s knife. This option from Material holds a nice edge, the ergonomic handle is a big plus, and it isn’t so pricey that you’ll constantly worry about damaging it (although you should still hand wash and dry after every use). From mincing garlic to breaking down a whole chicken, this knife can do it all. (Except for slicing bread. That’s what bread knives are for.)
A Slightly Cheaper Option
You could argue that $75 is too much to spend on a chef’s knife if you only sort of like cooking. And, yeah, you might be right (although you should know that knives can be much more expensive). Here’s a somewhat cheaper option from J.A. Henckels. It’ll last forever and serve you well.
Your Prep Surface
A proper cutting board will help you keep your knives from getting too dulled or dinged up — and, also, it’ll give you a place to cut things. We’re partial to the recycled plastic/renewable sugarcane reBoard from Material, but you can also get something in bamboo if you want to spend a little less money.
A Do-It-All Pan
Alright, hear me out here. The Always Pan might seem like a highly aesthetic gimmick, but it’s actually a very useful piece of cookware, and it’s perfectly geared toward people who only sort of like to cook (not so much professionals). This can work as a frying pan, saucier, saucepan, and sauté pan, and it also has a ceramic non-stick coating to keep your cooking (and cleaning) experience stress-free.
An Alternate Route
If you’d rather get a few basic pots and pans, here’s one that you can’t skip. It’s called a saucepan, and you might recognize it the thing you use to boil noodles. That’s certainly one great use for it, but you can also make sauces, soups, and stews in here. You likely already know this, so just pick up a decent stainless steel saucepan already. A three-quart one should be good for most purposes.
Another Part Of Your Basic Setup
You can honestly get most things done with just a saucepan and a frying pan. Cooking enthusiasts should probably go the stainless route here — but if you only sort of like to cook, go for a user-friendly non-stick version. For maximum versatility grab a 12-inch pan, such as this well-reviewed and relatively affordable one from Tramontina. Just remember: don’t use this (or any other non-stick) over high heat.
A Sort-Of-Optional Extra
Could you survive without a cast-iron pan? Yes. The thing is, cast-iron is amazing for its heat-retention properties, and this pan from the cast-iron specialists at Lodge is only $18. Plus, it also comes pre-seasoned. Sear your steaks with this, and be grateful that we aren’t telling you to get a pricier cast-iron Dutch oven (arguably the best piece of cookware, although that’s a conversation for another time).
A Tool You'll Use Daily
Flip, stir, mix — you know the deal. Get a silicone spatula. You need one.
A Key Specialist
What are you going to do? Stir your grits with a fork? That sounds exhausting. Invest in a whisk. It’ll come in handy for baking scenarios as well.
Avoid Burning Yourself
A pair of tongs might seem like a luxury, but you’ll quickly find that this tool is indispensable. It’s like an extra pair of hands that you can stick in boiling water or hot oil.
An Easy Way To Add Flair
Whether you want to grate some fresh spices, zest a lemon, or completely douse a dish with cheese, a microplane provides you multiple ways to take a dish to the next level. You might not use this every day (or every week), but the time will come when you need this tool. We promise.
Get The Right Measurements
The bad news is: if you don’t cook that often, you probably aren’t great at eyeballing measurements. The good news? Measuring spoons exist. Make sure you have a set, and get a scale for extra credit.
Save Yourself Some Headaches
You’re going to find it extremely frustrating when you blanch vegetables or boil some pasta only to realize that you have no way to strain your food. You might even give up cooking altogether. So buy a colander, please.
An Oven Necessity
If you have an oven and you’d like to use it, you’re going to need some sheet pans. Here’s a set that I currently own.
Always Be Prepared
Trust me when I tell you that you need more than one mixing bowl. Yes, even if you only cook (or bake) once a week. You never know when you’ll have to mix two parts of a recipe separately, and you also never know when one bowl will be dirty and you’ll be too lazy to wash it. This nesting set will provide the ultimate peace of mind, for under $30.
A Versatile Appliance
Smoothies are great. But that’s not why we’re telling you to buy a blender. Well, it’s part of the reason — and the other part is because you can use this as a food processor too. So many recipes become infinitely easier with a blender (hummus or pozole, for example), so you should always have one on hand.
An Appliance For Everyone
Finally, a microwave. Did you know you can cook in a microwave? You can — and, surprisingly, it works pretty well. Mostly, however, we expect you to use this to heat frozen food and warm up leftovers. There’s no shame in that