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The fall is near, students are going off to college, and young adults are moving into their first apartment.
Outfitting a kitchen for the first time can be daunting: there’s so much stuff available in cookware stores, what does one really need?
I have put together a selection of (what I consider to be) kitchen essentials for beginner cooks, allowing them to spread their wings and begin their cooking life on a solid foundation.
You will notice that I did not select the cheapest option for each item, but rather I picked models that will last a lifetime.
Certainly each cook will have to adapt the selection to their financial constraints and see what they can afford. But if you’re the parent, the big sister, or the older friend who wants to get them something nice as a housewarming present, this is what I would wholeheartedly recommend.
You’ll be giving them the gift of learning to cook with equipment they can trust, and these are pieces they’ll take with them from one apartment to the next.
They’ll hold that saucepan in their hand for decades, remembering the pasta days of their youth.
For the experienced cooks among you: is there anything you would add to my list? If you had to start again from an empty kitchen, what would you get?

The Essentials

Paring Knife

For cutting out of hand and peeling; I like an 4 1/2-inch blade.

Couteau de chef

For slicing and chopping; I recommend an 8-inch blade.

Cutting Board

Bamboo is pleasant to slice on, and doesn’t damage blades. This model can also be used to carve meats. I recommend a large size because it’s much more comfortable to work on.

Combo of spatula, scraper, and spreader

The best-selling kit from Earlywood, gorgeous and cleverly designed. (The spreader is not a requirement, but it’s super nifty.)

Large Saucepan with Lid

I like cast aluminum or stainless steel, and a glass lid.

Small Saucepan with Lid

To complement the big one: reheat small quantities, boil eggs…

Large Skillet with Lid

Don’t get one with a nonstick coating; they are not built to last.

Large Baking Dish

For roasting meats and vegetables, and baking casseroles, gratins, crumbles, etc.


For washing vegetables, and straining pasta and grains.

Salad Spinner

Nothing worse than soggy salad leaves: you want to dry them well!

Box Grater

For grating cheese and vegetables, with a comfortable handle.

Vegetable Peeler

To peel vegetables, yes, but also to slice vegetables into tagliatelle and pappardelle.

Baking Sheet and Cooling Rack

For roasting vegetables and meat or fish. Don’t get one with a nonstick coating; they are not built to last.

Nesting Glass Containers

For storing prepped ingredients and leftovers. The large one doubles up as a salad bowl.

Mixing Bowl

For mixing ingredients; I recommend you get the matching lid so it can be used to store ingredients and leftovers.

Digital Scale

More and more recipes use weight measurements, to much more accurate results.

Measuring Cups

For those recipes that still use volume measurements!

Measuring Spoons

For measuring small quantities of condiments, spices, etc.

Nice to Have

Instant Pot

The appliance that rules them all: a slow-cooker, a steamer, a rice cooker, and a pressure cooker. In a kitchen with a tiny cooking range or no oven, this is ideal.

Bread Knife

To slice bread without a fight, and also quick breads and tomatoes!

Immersion Blender and Mixer Combo

Super handy to make smoothies and soups, whip egg whites, chop nuts, and mix dips and sauces.

See also:
• Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook
• Inside Earlywood
• Best Gifts for French-Loving Cooks
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