Everyone needs the basics on hand—we'll help you figure out which kitchen tools you actually need, and which ones you're likely to reach for the most often. If you like getting creative with your cooking, we've also included a few non-essentials that you won't use as often but that could come in handy.
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There's nothing worse than getting started on a recipe and realizing halfway through that you don't have all the essential kitchen tools to make it. Not to worry, we're here to get your kitchen equipped with all the necessities to make sure you can properly blend, measure, chop, grate, and mix every ingredient in your pantry. Use this guide of basic kitchen gadgets and tools to help you get your cupboards in order. While there are a few kitchen tools on this list that you can get by without (i.e. you can still make meringue without an egg separator), having these basics on hand will make cooking and baking easier.

Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets to Have on Hand

This is our Test Kitchen's list of the most useful kitchen tools they find essential to accomplishing recipes at home.


If you're a big smoothie drinker, you'll definitely need a blender in one of your cupboards. It can also be helpful to blend soups and sauces to make them smooth.

Bottle/Can Opener

You'll need a can opener to open most canned foods in the pantry, so make sure you keep this kitchen tool in a handy spot.


Use this perforated bowl-shape utensil to wash produce or to drain liquids from solid food. When solids are very fine, use a sieve (more on this below).


Wine drinkers can't go without one of these handy kitchen tools. Many models are available, so choose the type you're comfortable with.

Cutting Boards

Stock up on two that are easy to tell apart, and reserve one solely for raw meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish, and the other for ready-to-eat foods like fruits and veggies.

Egg Separator

This easy kitchen gadget is used to separate egg yolks from whites. It is not safe to separate eggs by passing the yolk from shell to shell (bacteria from the shell can easily be transferred to the eggs if you use this method).

Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Electric mixer

Use for mixing wet and dry ingredients together, especially in baking. You can use a handheld electric mixer, or buy a standalone countertop mixer if you consider yourself more of a baker than a chef.

Food Processor

You can get by without having this kitchen gadget, but it can make a lot of tasks much easier. Use it to crush cookies or crackers into crumbs, make sauces like pesto, grind nuts, chop veggies, and more.

Fork, Long-Handled

Use when carving or moving large pieces of food, such as roasts.


This kitchen tool avoids spills when pouring ingredients from one container to another. It's especially handy when canning produce or homemade jams.

Credit: Kritsada Panichgul


This tool generally has a metal surface punched with sharp-edged holes or slits that are used to break foods into smaller pieces. Graters come in many shapes and sizes. Tools with larger holes are sometimes called shredders, while those with the largest holes are sometimes called slicers. The size of the holes or slits determines what task the grater is best suited for. Smaller holes or slits will break food into finer pieces. Box graters have different-size holes or slits on each side.

Kitchen Shears

Use this must-have kitchen gadget for snipping fresh herbs, kitchen string, or even breaking down a whole chicken.


A good set of knives is crucial for any kitchen because you'll use them for just about everything. To learn more about the different types of kitchen knives and which ones you can't live without, check out our guide to knife basics.

Buy It: Henkels Knife Set ($95, Amazon)


Soup fans will definitely need this kitchen tool around to fill their bowl. In a pinch, substitute a heatproof cup.

Buy It: Faberware Ladle ($3, Walmart)

Measuring Cups and Spoons

You'll need these for most recipes (make sure you have both wet and dry measuring cups in your drawers). For more information, check out our guide to measuring ingredients (yes, there's a right way).

Meat Mallet

No one likes cutting into a tough cut of meat, and there's no kitchen tool out there that'll tenderize your steaks and chicken breasts better than a meat mallet. A mallet is also a handy tool to pound things like chicken to thinner thickness for faster cooking.

Meat Thermometer

When you're cooking meat, having a food thermometer on hand is a must to ensure meat is cooked to a safe temperature. For more info, check out our guide to using kitchen thermometers.

Mixing Bowls

For most cooks, a set of four mixing bowls in the following sizes will suffice: small (1 quart), medium (1½ quarts), large (2½ quarts), and extra-large (4 quarts or more).

Get Our List of Essential Baking Tools

Pastry Blender

For cutting fat (such as shortening) into flour to make piecrust, pastries, biscuits, etc. If you don't have one, cut in the fat using two knives in a crisscross motion.

Pastry Brush

Often used for brushing glazes over baked goods; also useful for greasing pans.

Rolling Pin

This essential kitchen tool gets your cookie dough, pastry, and more rolled evenly. If you don't have one, use a clean, heavy bottle with smooth sides.

Rubber Scrapers

Also known as rubber spatulas, these essential kitchen utensils are used for scraping batter from a bowl and for folding ingredients together.


Stock up on one large and one small, and use these circular wire-mesh utensils to separate small particles from large ones (think removing seeds from a raspberry sauce). This basic kitchen tool is also called a strainer.


If you don't have one, pour flour or powdered sugar into a sieve set over a bowl, then stir it to force the grains through the holes.


These thin, pointed sticks are made of metal or wood and are used to hold pieces of meat, fruit, and vegetables in place. To use wooden skewers for grilling or broiling, be sure to first soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from burning.

Slotted Spoon

A long-handled slotted spoon is useful for removing solids from liquid mixtures.


These flat utensils can be made of metal, rubber, plastic, and wood. A turner-type spatula is used for flipping foods (hello, pancakes!); a narrow, flexible, metal spatula works well for spreading. For rubber or plastic spatulas, see Rubber scrapers, above. When using a spatula for cooking on the range top, make sure the one you use is heatproof.

Spoon, Large Long-Handled

Long-handled spoons are handy when stirring large volumes such as soup in a large pot.

Steamer Basket

Placing food in this cooking tool helps quickly steam your produce (or yummy soup dumplings) without them getting wet or mushy.


Tongs are a necessary food tool for lifting and turning foods, especially on the grill or in a skillet. You can also use tongs to avoid touching raw meat with your hands, to turn foods while they're cooking, to serve salads, and more.

Vegetable Brush

Useful for scrubbing fruits and vegetables when skins will not be removed.

Credit: Jason Donnelly

Vegetable Peeler

Essential for peeling vegetables; in a pinch, peel skins with a paring knife.

Wire Cooling Rack

Allows air to circulate around baked goods to cool them quickly and keep them from getting soggy.

Wire Whisks

These kitchen tools are perfect for beating ingredients such as eggs. They can also help smooth out lumpy sauces.

Wooden Spoons

Sturdy tools for stirring thick dough and batter. Also useful for stirring mixtures while they heat, as wooden handles stay cool longer than metal handles.

If you're new to working with some of these kitchen gadgets, get started with our best cooking tips and tricks as well as essential cooking basics for working in the kitchen by our Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen.


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