The Stuff You REALLY Need in Your Kitchen (from the Mouth of a Chef)

If you are planning on unleashing your inner master chef, but don’t know where to start, here is a list of tools that can get you on your way. The list may seem a bit long for those just starting out, but believe me when I tell you that trying to use the wrong tool for a task can be a big pain and not provide the desirable result.

Chef’s Knife. Everyone agrees this is the most important tool for any cook. Take your time to choose the right one. Make sure it feels comfortable in your hand and always take care of it. Keep it clean and sharp because a well taken care of knife can last a lifetime.

Serrated Knife. Perfect for slicing bread and tomatoes.

Paring Knife. Ideal for peeling, trimming and working with smaller fruits and vegetables.

Tongs. Great for flipping meats, pulling hot pans into reach from the oven, and plating.

Peeler. Get a Y shaped peeler. They’re more comfortable and easier to use. Great for peeling, but can also be used to shave Parmesan.

Ladle. If you’ve ever had to use a spoon to scoop soup into bowls, you know why a ladle comes in handy. If you get ladles of varying sizes, they can help measure and keep mind of your servings.

Wooden Spoons. These are cheap and always good to have a few around. Always be mindful of the type of spoon and pan you use together. Some non-stick pans aren’t made to be used with metal spoons or tongs because they can remove the lining of the pan, which is both bad for the pan and your health if consumed.

Slotted Spoon. Anything but a slotted spoon to remove braised meats or poached eggs from a pot can be a struggle.

Rubber Spatula. Great for using in non-stick pans, as well as clearing out a mixing bowl or food processor.

Metal Spatula. Always comes in handy when flipping delicate foods, like fish filets and pancakes.

Sheet Pan. Always comes in handy for roasting proteins and vegetables, as well as baking. You can also use it to keep food warm in the oven, while you finish up a component before serving.

Cast Iron Pan. My favorite pan. Great for making steaks, frying chicken, baking cornbread, and so much more. The ability to seamlessly be used on the range or in the oven makes this pan both valuable and versatile.

Immersion Blender. I like these because they are so handy and take up such little space. You can puree a soup in the same pot, or use the mixing glass that comes with it to zip up protein shake or throw together my personal favorite, an aerated Bloody Mary.

Food Processor. Perfect for throwing together a biscuit dough, guacamole, aioli, purees, you name it. The accompanying blades can also chop, slice and grate, which is a huge time saver.

Microplane. You could just get a box grater, but I like the comfort and control from a microplane when grating garlic, Parmesan or zesting a lemon. Plus, your peeler and food processor make up for the missing box grater functions.

Salad Spinner. This is the only way to quickly wash and dry your greens. Get one and you’ll love the time it saves you.

Fine Strainer. Get one that is either medium or large and is durable. Then it can be used as a regular colander, while also able to strain sauces and purees if you are so bold.

Instant Read Thermometer. No need to guess, just use an instant read thermometer. You can of course test yourself by checking your meats by touch as you take the temp. After plenty of practice, you may not need to thermometer anymore, but if you do want to continue using it, don’t sweat it-I always use one.

Measuring Cup and Spoons. These are always necessary. If you plan to start baking, make sure to throw a cake and/or pie pan on this list to get you started.

— Aaron A., SideChef’s resident *real* chef

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