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12 Kitchen Essentials For Every Home Cook

April 19, 2020

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A couple weeks ago during the Chris Cooks Instagram Live, we received questions numbering not a few about which kitchen items I would say are “essential.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, because “essential” really forces some editing.

Chris Loves Julia Kitchen: Knife Storage

I have drawers full of utensils. Cupboards full of cookware. A wall of cutlery. Everything has a task, and I use all of it when occasion arises. But if push came to shove I could cut a loaf of bread with my Chef’s knife instead of a bread knife, or mince garlic with my Chef’s knife instead of using a garlic press. I could also make stock in my dutch oven instead of a stock pot, or I could bake a casserole in it instead of a casserole dish.

Chris Loves Julia: Essential Cookware

So this is my list of essentials. Things that pull double, triple, quadruple – and whatever five or beyond would be – duty. Things a cook should use every time they step in the kitchen. The items and ingredients that make food great and cooking fun.

1. Le Creuset Signature Cast-Iron Round Dutch Oven (7 1/4-Qt. Matte White): $320
Cast iron is so amazing to cook with, but cleanup and upkeep can be a bear. I always opt for enamel-coated, so I can wash it with soap. Plus you can cook acidic things in it, like tomato sauce.

2. OXO Good Grips 7 Piece Glass Bowl Set: $52
I have glass bowls out every time I cook. Prepping ingredients, discarding vegetable or meat trimmings, making sauces. Whatever I need, they’re great for. Bonus, they look great on the table so we serve in them all the time, too!

3. Daterra Ceramic Pan with Natural Nonstick Coating: $89
I’m not a fan of Teflon nonstick, and have been using this ceramic pan for a couple years now. I use it for eggs and it does great, but I also use it to sear meat. Does it all really well.

4. Microplane Zester Grater: $14
Grating ginger, grating garlic, grating nutmeg, grating citrus zest, grating hard cheeses. A Microplane grates things super finely, so pungent and vibrant flavors are easier to control. 

5. Manual Juicer Citrus Squeezer: $9
I add fresh citrus juice to just about everything I cook. Either during the process, or just a hit right at the end. Wakes every dish up, as well as the tastebuds. 

6. Multipurpose Flat Wooden Spatula: $15
This little tool has replaced just about all of my wooden spoons. Great for stirring, but also flipping meats or fish. I have 5 of these in a crock on my counter and I use multiple every time I cook.

7. OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Stainless-Steel Tongs: $12
OXO perfected the locking tongs. They aren’t expensive, they last for years, and I use them every day. You can get metal tipped, or nylon.

8. OXO Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board: $27
A large cutting board can be used for everything. Small cutting boards cannot. If you have to choose, get large, and as large as you can find. I have several of these and can’t recommend them enough.

9. Wüsthof Classic 8″ Chef’s Knife: $179
I get it. You can buy one knife for $180, or an entire set for $200!!! A $200 set of knives will not hold up, and I’d wager you won’t use half of the knives in a set anyway. Spend the money to get one great Chef’s knife, take good care of it, and it will be your best friend in the kitchen.

10. Peugeot 9-Inch Pepper Mill: $44
I love the grind on these pepper mills. Coarse to super fine, easy to adjust – and they last for half a decade or longer. And yes, Jim Gaffigan, people can tell the difference between fresh and stale pepper. 

11. Redmond Real Sea Salt: $5
Not all salt tastes the same. My personal favorite is Redmond kosher salt, for the texture and trace minerals. But I’m also a fan of Himalayan pink. 

12. Paesanol Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $22
I’m finding I enjoy my food more when I do as little as possible to it. And I appreciate ingredients that are the same. I love this olive oil, for everything. It’s a bit hazy because it’s unfiltered, and tastes like actual olives for the same reason. 

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What do you think?

  1. Kiana says:

    Chris, thanks so much for this list. Could up please do another list about your preferred cleaning items? I have been hunting for a dish sponge that never smells moldy and can be thrown in the compost bin but also looks nice. It’s driving me crazy. I also don’t know if you’ve ever addressed this but what dish rack do you have? And do you put it away when the dishes are dry? I don’t see it in any of your kitchen pictures?

  2. Elisa says:

    Great list. A not so small saucepan would be in my list instead of the lemon squeezer (I normale squeeze by hand) and a stainless sieve gets tons of use in my kitchen (washing salad, draining pasta or canned food, smashing potatoes, etc). I am a huge fan of wooden spatulas and your look perfekt and can be used by lefties.

  3. Melina says:

    you probably mentioned it somewhere but what is that dark grey paint color in your kitchen?

  4. Julie says:

    This list is awesome, and I completely agree! I had a hard time thinking of things to add that weren’t redundant. If I had to expand the list, while still keeping it tightly edited, I’d add an aluminum baking sheet and an oven mitt (or at least a hearty dish towel). Next in line would be a serrated knife and a paring knife, and possibly a fish spatula (thinner and longer than a typical metal spatula – I use it for everything, everyday) and silicone bowl scraper/spatula. But, you could probably get by in a pinch without those. Thanks for sharing this! :)

  5. Tara says:

    I agree with every single one of these, and I second the vote for a pantry essentials list!

  6. Vanessa says:

    This is a great list! Simple and not very expensive items.
    If you were to chose a material for pans/frying pans, would it be ceramic like the one on this list or any other preference?

  7. Summer says:

    This was great! Thanks so much for sharing. I am definitely going to add a few of these to my list!

  8. Angela says:

    I agree whole heartedly with these choices!

  9. Jaimie Gobert says:

    Thank you SO much for this post! I was on the live and put in a request for it and am so happy to have it. Excited to not only pick these up for myself but use them as a gift guide for others who love to cook. Thank you Chris!

  10. Rachel says:

    This is so helpful! Would also love pantry essentials.

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