organized kitchen drawer

10 Essential Kitchen Tools for an Organized Working Kitchen

Whether you’re a newlywed, a recent grad moving into your first apartment, or perhaps one of the 52% of millennials that RealSimple reported as living at home with their parents—surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind.

organized kitchen drawer

Here’s the deal: There are a few basic essential kitchen tools you absolutely need—ten to be exact—without which you are not likely to use that kitchen for more than a place to pile takeout containers. We’re not talking about a mountain of stuff—just ten basic essentials to get started.

1. Fire Extinguisher

My personal experience makes this an absolute requirement and first on the list. It was one of those lazy Saturdays. I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I set the greased skillet over high heat and ran out to the garage to say something to my husband. A neighbor wandered over and we started talking. It was the smoke alarm that caught my attention and sent me flying.

MORE: Burn Down the House? I’ll P.A.S.S.

In those few moments that pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet. My kitchen was on fire! This rechargeable fire extinguisher sitting on the counter saved the day. I am still surprised that I’d learned and reacted, almost intuitively, how to use the thing. Your kitchen must have a fire extinguisher that is fully charged.



2. Knives

You need good knives. And I’m talking about knives that can be sharpened and you will keep sharp. That means they need to be handy and super easy to use. If you can find an exceptional set that comes with a block and shears, steak knives, plus at least a chef, carving, and a paring knife like this 15-piece set, that’s exactly what you need.


3. Pots and Pans


You can go broke on pots and pans or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set of cookware to last for decades.

You want to make sure you have at least a skillet, a couple of saucepans, and a larger pot for soups and stock—and that your cookware is induction-ready, even if you do not have an induction cooktop. You may in the future. This set comes with three interchangeable glass lids and a steamer basket.


4. Measuring Cups Spoons

These kitchen tools don’t need to be fancy. They don’t need to be expensive. What you need is a set of cups and a set of spoons that will help you to measure accurately.

This  11-piece measuring set fills the bill. The measuring cups and spoons are made with high-quality stainless steel with engraved markings (not printed with ink or decals that will soon wear off) in both traditional and metric size markings on the handles. Dishwasher safe.


5. Bar Mop Towels

Also known as restaurant cleaning towels, you need a stack of them—clean and ready to go. You’ll save a ton of money not buying paper towels. As they become soiled, throw them in the laundry hamper. You want at least one 12-pack white cotton professional grade like this set from Utopia. They’ll last for years. And years.

MORE: 11 Money Savers That Will Pay for Themselves in a Year or Less



6. Colander

I can’t tell you how many times I reach for my colander in a typical day. I use it for so many things. And now that I have begun cooking rice as I do pasta (in a lot of water, uncovered, boiling rapidly until rice is done then draining and rinsing under hot water), I’m using it even more.

This 5-quart stainless colander with fine-mesh sieve is perfect for all of your colanderizational (is that a word?) needs!



7. Tongs

Essential in any kitchen, for sure. You need tongs! This OXO Good Grips 12-inch stainless locking model is my first choice. Wouldn’t know what to do without them. Truth be told, I have three pairs.

Locks in a closed position for easy storage. Dishwasher safe, too. 




8. Baking Dishes

Whether it’s a cake or a casserole, you’re going to need something to bake it in. You want Pyrex and this 2-Piece Pyrex Basics Set will let you bake both a cake and casserole at the same time! One each 2-qt. and 3-qt. size.



9. Instant-Read Thermometer


You need this—you really need this kitchen tool! With a reliable thermometer who won’t suffer the heartbreak of overcooked steak or undercooked chicken.

This super affordable instant-read kitchen thermometer will keep you looking good, Chef!



10. Cutting Board


Face it: cooking means a lot of cutting, chopping, and mincing. You need a good cutting board to protect and preserve your cutlery and countertop, too.

And you need a board that is easy to clean and sanitize. This OXO 10 x 15 inch Good Grips nonporous polypropylene board is ideal. It’s safe in the dishwasher!


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4 replies
  1. Eileen H says:

    Another must have for me is my OXO peeler which I have had for years and absolutely love. It peels everything from carrots to cubes to squash effortlessly. When I am using it I remember trying to do this job with the cheap metal peelers we used to have and fighting with every stroke. Now that I’m on Weight Watchers and eating tons more veggies it is a lifesaver.

  2. Cally Ross says:

    two thoughts, 1) knife sets can be a waste of money if you’re not going to use the half-dozen steak knives. I like to buy knives singly for specific purposes as needed. 2) collapsible colanders are a great space saver, and just as sturdy.

    • KR says:

      I totally agree-knife sets are a waste of money. It’s much better to buy individual knives that you’ll actually use, and either buy a wall mounted magnet strip, or an in-drawer knife block, to store them. Never store knives randomly in a drawer, both as a safety measure and for the sake of the knives.

  3. Karin says:

    Check out thrift stores, Salvation Army and your local restaurant supply store for what you may need, cheaper. I got my fully-clad famous-name pots and pans from a store specializing in retail seconds at discounts of 40% to as much as 60%: I never noticed any cosmetic issues when I bought the pieces. 🙂 I use them every day and now they have my lovingly well-used look, plus scratches and dings.


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