10 Essential Kitchen Items I Use Everyday

I have a friend who sends me a text or email every year in November and asks what’s on my holiday wish list. Why? She knows that I love quality (over quantity), that I thoroughly research products before buying them, and that if it’s in my kitchen (or I want it to be) it will serve a purpose and get used. . . A LOT.

We celebrate Christmas in our family followed shortly by my birthday so a running wish list comes in handy (FYI we use a Google doc and share it with those who ask). It allows us to ask for what we really want if people are buying us gifts and seriously reduces the amount of things in our house that we just don’t need.

My friend’s question made me think though. If I didn’t have a fully stocked kitchen, what would be on my wish list to enable me to quickly cook healthy and delicious real food meals everyday? To be honest, many of the items on this list are in my kitchen because they first appeared on my wish list. Others I purchased (or handmade in the case of our main cutting board). I’m really happy with our kitchen essentials and EVERY item on this list I consider to be essential kitchen items that I use every day in my home kitchen.

When I tell my friend what’s on my list, she cherry picks some of the items I include on my wish list to add to hers. Since you’re reading this and the gift-giving and gift-buying season is here, I thought you might want to do the same. These 10 essential kitchen items may also help you come up with a super useful and thoughtful gift for someone on your list who likes to cook or wants to prepare healthy meals more quickly and easily.

Note that most the links below are affiliate links. This means that when you click an affiliate link, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to my business at no additional cost to you. My affiliate participation does not influence product recommendations. These are essential kitchen items I own and genuinely love and recommend.

Essential kitchen items I use everyday

10 Essential kitchen items I use everyday

1. Chef’s knife: This is number 1 for a reason. Having a good quality chef’s knife that maintains a sharp edge over time is one of the most important and helpful kitchen items. It allows you to make short work of vegetables, fruits, or whatever your cutting. We have a Wusthof 8″ chef’s knife (given to us at our wedding) that we use but I’ve also purchased the Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8″ chef’s knife for cooking demos and highly recommend it as a more affordable option. Note that the number of inches refers to the blade length. It took me a while to get comfortable using an 8″ chef’s knife but it’s amazing how having more blade makes veggie prep so much easier. If you’re more comfortable with a shorter blade, go with a 6″ like this Victorinox Fibrox Pro 6″ chef’s knife. Want to improve your knife skills? Start by getting a good quality chef’s knife and learn how to use it- practice, practice, practice.

2. Paring knife: What you can’t accomplish with a chef’s knife, a paring knife will likely be the right tool for the job if you’re peeling, de-seeding, or cutting small things like jalapenos or cheese. We love our Wusthof 3.5″ paring knife (another wedding gift) as our primary paring knife in our kitchen and keep this Victorinox 3.25″ paring knife as a back-up in our kitchen and in our picnic bag for when we’re on the go (which is a lot with 3 little kids). The Victorinox paring knife is inexpensive, lightweight, and totally awesome- I highly recommend it.

3. Large cutting board: Ours is handmade by my husband and is 15″ x 22″, sorry, it’s not for sale. It’s big enough that it always sits on our counter as a cutting surface. Here are three great options for large cutting boards: Extra Large Bamboo Cutting Board, 20″ x 15″ plastic cutting board, or this Sonder Maple Cutting Board with juice groove (made in USA). Another great place to find high quality cutting boards is your local farmers’ market. You may even be able to tell the vendor what size you’re looking for and they will make it for you. The trick with cutting boards is you want them to be larger than your knife while also fitting on your counter or in a cupboard to store! If you’re using an 8″ chef’s knife to cut vegetables, you want your cutting board to be bigger than your knife so you have plenty of room to maneuver the food.

4. Microplane: I’ve owned a microplane since college. This one tool zests citrus, minces ginger, garlic, or turmeric, and grates nutmeg or hard cheeses. It’s a simple gadget that takes up little drawer space and is super useful. A microplane could also make a great stocking stuffer or gift exchange item for the holiday party with your co-workers.

5. Cast iron skillet(s): I believe that the best cast iron skillets were made a long time ago. Our cast iron skillets range from 6″ to 14″ and we use at least one of them everyday. We bought them from garage or estate sales and re-seasoned them. This is an option but don’t expect them to be cheap, people are catching onto the value of good quality cast iron. I fully expect we’ll have our set for life and they’ll still be useful for another 100 years. Next best are these ones: Barebones cast iron skillet 12″ and Barebones cast iron skillet 8″ .

Antique cast iron skillet we use daily (it looks like it needs to be re-seasoned but we take good care of it)

6. High quality pots and pans: Pots and pans are like cast iron- if you’re buying them new, they should last for life. We’ve used ours daily since we received a few as wedding gifts and the rest we’ve acquired over time. We have this All Clad 10-piece set with some variations and if you have the budget, these pots and pans are amazing and will last a lifetime. There are lots of other great pots and pans but I can’t speak to them, do your research!

7. Instant Pot: This appliance replaced our slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, and stove-top pressure cooker. Worthwhile? 100%. Admittedly, we have two: the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 6 quart and the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 3 quart. For at least 6 months while our kitchen was under construction, our two Instant Pots were my primary cooking tools. I learned how to cook quinoa, boil sweet corn, saute greens, pressure cook meat dishes in them and tons more. Two seems totally excessive to me but I do use both all the time. With 3 kids and a nutrition practice, I don’t always have time before dinner to cook healthy dinners. Enter the Instant Pot, I often make dinners (and sometimes breakfasts) using the programmable slow cooker features when I have the chance and it’s hot and ready at dinner. I also will make a dish like chili in the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 6 quart and pressure cook beans to add to the chili in the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 3 quart at the same time.

Lentil vegetable soup with ginger anyone? These are the tools I’d use to make it in the morning and leave it ’til dinner

8. Blender: Some kind of blender is a kitchen essential. High quality, high powered blenders are incredibly useful- they can make smooth and creamy smoothies with veggies, boil or puree soup, and make nut milks and nut butters with ease. After using our VitaMix like this one for 13+ years, we upgraded to the VitaMix Professional Series 750 Blender last year. It’s amazing and we use it daily for making nut and seed milks, smoothies, soups, energy balls, and loads more. It’s a significant investment, no doubt. It’s easily saved us more than the purchase price in the past year by enabling us to make more food at home like nut and seed milks. Worthwhile? Yes. I personally have not used the affordable NutriBullet Pro, but I’ve heard really good things from friends and family, especially if your main use of your blender is making smoothies.

9. Electric kettle: I don’t drink coffee (I know, gasp) but I do drink a lot of tea (black, green, herbal, and medicinal). In our house, the electric kettle is a mainstay. There are fancy tea kettles with temperature controls but the tried and true Secura electric kettle does the job of boiling water quickly and efficiently really well. Not only is this kettle inexpensive, it also looks really nice. Most of the electric kettles on the market are stainless steel but what sets this one apart is the stainless steel lid. Most are plastic. When you boil water, it condensates on the lid and then drips back into the water you’re adding to your tea, coffee, or other hot beverage. I prefer not to have leached plastics in my tea, you?

10. Baking sheets with silicone liners: We roast veggies a lot, especially during the fall and winter when we get an abundance of winter squash and root vegetables from our garden and CSA (community supported agriculture) share. High quality baking sheets that don’t warp in a hot oven are really helpful along with silicone liners. I really like parchment paper but don’t like that I have to throw it away after a single use. Silicone liners literally last for years and they are awesome. We use both 1/2 sheet and 2/3 sheet pans. Be sure the ones you choose fit in your oven! I’ve made the mistake of buying full sheet pans that didn’t fit in my oven in the past. Oops. To find high quality baking pans and silicone liners locally, check out the closest restaurant supply store.

There were a lot of other helpful kitchen items that didn’t make this essential kitchen items list. What would you include as an essential kitchen item for you in your kitchen? Share it in the comments below.

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Erin Harner

Erin Harner is an Integrative Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), author, and speaker based in Ithaca, NY. Erin melds functional medicine and culinary nutrition to help her clients uncover their unique diet and confidently cook healthy nourishing meals that meet the needs of their whole family. Learn about Erin's services and connect on Instagram.

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