A guide to the necessary kitchen tools, whether you're a beginner in the kitchen or a serious cook
Credit: Illustration: Heather Diane Hardison

It’s possible to spend thousands, even tens of thousands, on equipping a home kitchen, but that’s certainly not necessary. However, craftsmanship is important in ensuring that you select kitchen equipment that will last decades, if not a lifetime or beyond. When it comes to small appliances, invest. Research. Read online reviews. And if it feels like a box of feathers, leave it on the shelf. These are tools. You want ’em durable. Spend maximum possible dollars (based on your budget, of course) on knives, cookware, and cutting boards. You can go leaner on almost every other kitchen gadget. 

Basic (The Kit)
A solid, reliable, utilitarian collection of pots, pans, knives, and such. Very good.

  • Knives: paring, chef (8 to 10 inches), serrated, knife block or wall magnet for safe storage
  • Cutting board (ideally one large butcher block–style board and a couple small boards)
  • Hand tools: stainless steel tongs, wire whisk, wooden spoons, a medium-sized silicone spatula, a ladle or two, box grater, stainless steel solid and slotted spoons, swivel-blade vegetable peeler
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Can opener
  • Grill (either gas or charcoal)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Mini food processor
  • Steamer basket
  • Stockpot with lid
  • A couple saucepans with lids
  • Large skillet (10 to 12 inches)
  • Large, straight-sided skillet
  • Cast-iron skillet
  • Basic roasting pan
  • A couple baking sheets
  • A couple wire racks
  • Small ramekin or bowl for salt and black pepper
  • Pepper mill
  • A place to store spices
  • A packet of wooden skewers
  • Colander
  • Hand strainer
  • Pocket probe-style thermometer 

Intermediate (The Collection)
A nimble, broad assemblage of everything a serious cook might need to pull off a meal. Excellent. 

  • “The Kit” knives + cleaver, oyster knife, clam knife, bird’s beak knife, pizza wheel, a meat-carving fork
  • "The Kit” hand tools + basic mortar and pestle, meat mallet, harp vegetable peeler, apple corer, various microplanes (from fine to coarse), rasp grater, rotary grater, nut cracker, lobster cracker, needle-nose pliers
  • Kitchen shears
  • Salad spinner
  • Rice mill
  • Mandoline
  • Gravy separator
  • Grill pan
  • Enameled Dutch oven
  • Pro-grade pots and pans
  • Half-sheet pan or two Silpats
  • A nice spice rack
  • “Salt pig”
  • Long, flat stainless skewers
  • Soufflé ramekins
  • Stand mixer 

Advanced (The Exhibit)
This category is for the serious cook who wants a very well outfitted kitchen. Extraordinary. 

  • “The Kit” and “The Collection” knives + various Japanese knives, one specific for cutting fish, “Chinese cleaver” (Japanese-made), cheese knives, scimitar, cake knife, double-bladed mezzaluna
  • “The Kit” and “The Collection” hand tools + an oversized ladle, kitchen tweezers, whisks in all shapes and sizes, Chinois and China cap, top-quality mortar and pestle
  • Top-of-the-line pots and pans, including a collection of enameled cookware and French black steel skillets
  • Rondeau (a wide, shallow pot)
  • Large baker’s peel
  • French mandoline
  • Professional blender
  • A fancy vegetable juicer
  • Professional-grade stand mixer
  • Professional-grade kitchen scale
  • Standing citrus juicer
  • Kettle-style porcelain smoker grill