A woman standing in a kitchen preparing food

Kitchen Drawer Makeover: Top 10 Essential Kitchen Tools

Whether you’re a newlywed, recent grad moving into your first apartment or perhaps one of the 25% of millennials that Forbes recently reported as living at home with mom and dad—surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind. I’d love to help you get started. 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 mountain of stuff—just ten basic essentials to get started.


A person preparing food in a kitchen, with Soup

1. Fire extinguisher

Kitchen toolsMy 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.

In those few moments that pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet. My kitchen was on fire! This First Alert 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.


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

2. Knives and sharpener

kitchen tools




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, plus at least a chef, carving, and paring knives and perhaps even a bread knife like this 15-piece set—at that amazing price—that’s exactly what you need.




kitchen toolskitchen toolsYou also need a knife sharpener that you will actually use in your drawer of kitchen tools. This Block Sharpener is the one in my kitchen. It’s small, and fits easily in my utensil drawer. It’s so easy—foolproof—to use (watch tthe video. And boy does it work!


MORE: 5-Minute Artisan Bread: The Master Recipe, Tools, Resources


3. Pots and pans

kitchen tools

You can go broke on pots and pans or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set like this Tramontina 9-Piece  Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Set.

You want to make sure you have at least a skillet, a couple of sauce pans and a larger pot for soups and stock. This set comes with three interchangeable glass lids and a steamer basket. 

4. Measuring cups and spoons

kitchen toolsThese 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 Accor 11-piece measuring set fills the bill. The measuring cups and spoons are made of highly satin brushed with best quality stainless steel with engraved marking written in both metric and metric size markings on the handles ensure measuring they are durable and attractive. Easy to clean, too.

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5. Dish towels

Kitchen and MopAlso known as “bar mops” or “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 24-pack white cotton professional grade like this set from Utopia. They’ll last for yea




6. Colander

kitchen toolsI can’t tell you how many times I reach for my colander in the 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

kitchen toolsEssential 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

A close up of a windowWhether 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

kitchen tools

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 affordabl  Thermopro Instant Read Digital Thermometer will keep you looking good, chef!




10. Cutting board

kitchen tools

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!



Revised & Updated 6-25-19

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9 replies
  1. Chrissy Goff says:

    I have vintage dish towels that I collected over the years when I lived in Germany. I love them. A lot of them are linen with calendars on them and some have different places in Europe on them. I have some from Paris and some from Austria. I use them all the time. I love the linen ones the most.

  2. Diane says:

    Sorry, but please make that 12 must haves. A set of at least 3, but better 4 mixing bowls and a wisk. New cooks, = lumpy gravy, = must have wisk.

      • Chrissy Goff says:

        I agree. I have an old vintage tupperware container for making gravy but I have also been known to use a clean bottle like my mother used to.

  3. Susan Kemp says:

    Mary, there is so much going on at your site, I can barely read your column. I have clicked ok numerous times on the cookies disclaimer it won’t go away. Then add the ads and almost half the page is taken up, with x es so small, it takes you to the site, rather than deleting!
    Can’t deal with this

    • Mrs. M says:

      I agree… having the same problem. I think it’s because I can no longer update my phone.
      I miss being able to read the posts in their entirety in my email.

  4. tboofy says:

    I wouldn’t buy baking dishes without lids anymore. It’s so easy to throw a lid on a cake that didn’t get completely eaten or a casserole to throw in the fridge. Don’t get the type of lid that lays flush with the pan, though; make sure it’s got a bit of a rise to it so it goes over any raised portion in the middle of the pan (like a cake).

    • Chrissy Goff says:

      I love my old Pyrex. I agree that I won’t buy them without lids either. It makes it so easy for my brothers to put the food away. I do the dishes but they put the food in the fridge after dinner. I still use all those Pyrex refrigerator dishes for leftovers along with my vintage Tupperware. I scored some primary Pyrex bowls at the goodwill (set of 4) for $10 and they are my perfect find.


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