Kitchen Must Haves

Refurbishing your kitchen is an exciting opportunity to start fresh and equip your space with the best tools and gadgets for cooking, eating, and living well. When setting up your kitchen from scratch, it’s crucial to focus on simplicity, efficiency, and health. Here are essential kitchen must haves that tick all these boxes, along with tips on materials to avoid for a healthier kitchen environment.

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Cookware

1. High-Quality Chef’s Knife

A sharp, high-quality chef’s knife is the cornerstone of any kitchen. Look for a knife made of high-carbon stainless steel, which combines durability with ease of maintenance. Brands like Wüsthof  or Global  offer excellent options that stay sharp longer and provide better control.

Avoid knives with non-stainless steel blades, as they can rust and harbour bacteria, posing a health risk.

2. Cutting Boards

Invest in two types of cutting boards: one made of bamboo  and one made of polypropylene. Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial and eco-friendly, perfect for cutting fruits and vegetables. Polypropylene boards are dishwasher safe and ideal for handling raw meats.

Steer clear of glass cutting boards as they dull knives quickly and can shatter, posing safety risks. Wooden boards, while aesthetically pleasing, can be difficult to sanitise thoroughly.

3. Stainless Steel Cookware

A good set of stainless steel pots and pans  is essential. Stainless steel is non-reactive, ensuring that it won’t leach harmful chemicals into your food. It’s also durable and easy to clean.

Avoid non-stick cookware coated with Teflon or similar materials, as these can release toxic fumes when overheated. Aluminium cookware should also be avoided unless it’s anodized, as plain aluminium can react with acidic foods.

4.  Cast Iron Skillet

A seasoned cast iron skillet   is a versatile tool that can last a lifetime. It provides excellent heat retention and can be used on the stove, in the oven, or over a campfire. Properly seasoned, it also offers a naturally non-stick surface without harmful chemicals.

Crockery and Cutlery

1. Dinnerware Set

For an average household, a dinnerware set with a service for 4-6 is usually sufficient. Opt for porcelain for everyday use and elegance, or Corelle for durability and practicality.  Personally, based on past experience, I avoid stoneware as I find it chips easily.

If you often entertain or have a larger family, consider a set for 8-12 to ensure you have enough matching pieces.

2. Cutlery Set

A basic set should include dinner forks, salad/dessert forks, dinner knives, soup spoons, and teaspoons. Additional pieces like steak knives, serving utensils, and specialty cutlery can be added based on specific needs and dining habits.

Go for stainless steel which is durable, rust-resistant, and easy to maintain. 

A service for 8-12 is ideal, ensuring durability and sufficient pieces for everyday use and entertaining.

3. Glassware

For most homes, a basic set of glassware for 4-6 people including water glasses, red and white wine glasses, and perhaps a few highball and old fashioned glasses will suffice.

For larger households or those who entertain often, an expanded set for 8-12 people that includes champagne flutes, beer glasses, cocktail glasses, and juice glasses will cover all needs.

Tempered glass provides durability and everyday use, while crystal or lead-free crystal can add elegance for special occasions.

4. Mugs

As with the previous recommendations, a basic set of 4-6 ceramic or porcelain mugs will cover most needs whilst 8-12 mugs is ideal for larger families or those who frequently host guests.

5. Serving Bowls

Having two to three medium-large serving bowls in porcelain, glass, or stainless steel will cover most serving needs. Consider adding a few smaller bowls for serving condiments, sauces, or individual portions. Wooden bowls are a great addition for rustic or themed presentations. 

Be sure that the bowls are suitable for both everyday use and special occasions to maximise their use.

6. Serving Platters

One or two medium-large serving platters in porcelain, ceramic, glass, or wood will cover most serving needs.  When choosing the shape and material for your platters, consider the occasion and type of dishes you frequently serve.

Additional smaller platters can be useful for presenting desserts, cheeses, or individual appetisers.

Bakeware

1. Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Stainless steel mixing bowls are durable, non-reactive, and versatile. They are perfect for everything from mixing ingredients to serving salads.

2.  Silicone Baking Mats

Silicone baking mats are perfect for baking without the need for parchment paper or cooking sprays. They are non-stick, reusable, and easy to clean.

3. Baking Sheets

When choosing the best baking sheets for your kitchen you should generally avoid non-stick coatings like Teflon.  This is because such coatings can degrade at high temperatures and can release potentially harmful chemicals into the air.  They can also scratch over time and this compromises their non-stick properties.

We also would advise you to steer clear of uncoated copper baking sheets as these can react with acidic foods.  Additionally, uncoated copper requires regular polishing to maintain its appearance- and who’s got time for that?!?!

Our preferred choice when selecting high-quality baking sheets is to go for ones made of aluminium, stainless steel, or aluminized steel and avoiding materials that can pose health risks or durability issues, you can ensure your baking endeavours are safe, efficient, and enjoyable.

We also recommend having at least three baking sheets:

  • Two Half Sheets (13″ x 18″): These are versatile and fit most standard ovens, suitable for cookies, roasting vegetables, and baking sheet meals.
  • One Quarter Sheet (9″ x 13″): Useful for smaller batches, toasting nuts, and reheating food.

Having three allows you to rotate them during cooking and baking sessions, ensuring you always have a clean sheet ready to go. If you bake frequently, you might consider adding an additional half sheet

4. Baking Trays

If you are a baking enthusiast like me, then I would recommend the following items as kitchen must haves:

5. Baking Tins

If you are a baking enthusiast like me, then I would recommend the following items as kitchen must haves:

6. Cooling Racks

Avid bakers will always have at least two or three cooling racks in their kitchens.  Two will be ideal for most baking needs such as cooling batches of cookies, cakes or bread.  However, for those of you who bake in large quantities or make multiple types of baked goodies on any given day, then I would definitely suggest investing in three!

Using cooling racks allows air to circulate around your baked goods helping prevent condensation from forming on the bottom, which can make items soggy.  By transferring baked goods to a cooling rack, you will also prevent residual heat from the baking sheet from continuing to cook them, which can result in over baked or dry items.

Additionally, cooling racks can be used for more than just cooling. They are also excellent for glazing or drizzling icing over cakes and pastries as they allow the excess to drip through the rack onto a tray or parchment below.

7. Decorating Tools

Whether you’re an avid baker or someone who decorates cakes occasionally, having the right icing tools can make the process easier and more enjoyable.  A cake decorating set such as this one includes all the basic icing tools that all households should have in their kitchen:

  • Offset Spatula  – use this for spreading and smoothing frosting on cakes and cupcakes.
  • Straight Spatula – use this for applying icing and levelling cake layers.
  • Baking Turntable – A baking turntable allows you to easily rotate a cake as you frost and decorate it. This will ensure an even and smooth application of frosting. A baking turntable also allows you to maintain a comfortable position without the need to twist your body or stretch awkwardly while decorating thus making the whole process more enjoyable.
  • Piping Bags – use these for applying icing, frosting, and decorative details.  
  • Piping Nozzles – these help you create various shapes and designs with icing.
  • Couplers – these allow you to switch out piping tips easily without changing the piping bag.
  • Icing Smoother (Bench Scraper) – use this to smooth the sides and top of cakes for a clean finish.  This set also includes a textured scraper so you can add different textures to your icing
  • Cleaning brush – Cleaning your piping nozzles is fiddly.  You will need a small cleaning brush like the one in this set to get yours clean
  • Cake Leveller – perfect for levelling cakes for even stacking and icing 
  • Decorating Brushesuse food safe brushes to apply edible dust, food colour or details with precision.
  • Reusable Silicone Spatulas use this for mixing and scraping icing from bowls.

Small Appliances

1. Blender

A high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix  Ninja or a Blendtec, is a must-have for making smoothies, soups, and sauces. These blenders are powerful, durable, and can help you incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Be cautious of blenders with plastic jars containing BPA, which can leach into food and beverages. Opt for BPA-free plastic or glass jars.

2. Food Processor

A food processor simplifies many kitchen tasks, from chopping vegetables to making dough. Brands like Cuisinart  and Ninja offer reliable models that are easy to clean and highly efficient.

Again, avoid food processors with BPA-containing plastic components.

3. Electric Pressure Cooker

An electric pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, can significantly reduce cooking times and retain more nutrients in food compared to traditional cooking methods.  The Instant Pot is versatile and combines multiple appliances in one, such as a slow cooker, rice cooker, and yoghurt make

4. Mixers

We recommend having both a Stand Mixer and a  Hand Mixer.

(a) Stand Mixers are powerful and can handle large batches of dough, batter, and other mixtures. They are ideal for making bread, cookies, and cakes in large quantities.  They allow for hands free operation which means you can get on with other tasks while the mixer is running.  Additionally Stand Mixers often come with various attachments (like dough hooks, whisks, and paddles) and can be used for tasks such as kneading dough, whipping cream, or making pasta.

(b) Hand Mixers are lightweight and easy to use for quick tasks, like whipping cream, beating eggs, or mixing smaller batches of batter. They also take up less space and are easier to store which makes them ideal for kitchens with limited space.

5. Kettle and Toaster set

his goes without saying really doesn’t it?  A kettle and a toaster set is really one of the first things needed for any new kitchen

6. Coffee Machine

Now whilst I detest coffee, a coffee machine may be a top kitchen must have for all you coffee aficionados.  I know that it’s one of the first things my husband wanted for our new kitchen! According to him, coffee from a Coffee Machine  tastes better, similar to what you’d find in a café. They  also allow you to customise your coffee by adjusting the grind size, temperature, and strength.  Finally, he adds, a Coffee Machine just looks good in our kitchen!

Storage Solutions

1. Ceramic or Glass Storage Containers 

Plastic containers, even if labelled BPA-free, can still contain other harmful chemicals.  For storing leftovers, ceramic or glass containers are the safest choices. They don’t stain or absorb odours and are microwave and dishwasher safe.

Avoid plastic bowls that can stain and harbour odours and glass bowls which can be heavy and breakable.

2. Spice Jars

You might be thinking why buy spice jars when spices already come in glass jars, right?  I get you however, having identical jars helps create a clean and organised look in your kitchen.  The uniformity of the jars will also mean that they are stackable and can therefore be arranged more efficiently, saving space

3. Bread Bin

A bread bin helps keep bread fresh by providing a controlled environment that balances humidity and airflow. It also helps to protect bread from pests and contaminants.

4. Utensil Holder

Utensil holders keep frequently used tools easily accessible on your countertop, saving you time when cooking.  While drawers are great for less frequently used items, a utensil holder is ideal for the tools you reach for regularly.  Utensil Holders help keep your utensils organised and prevent them from getting jumbled together, scratched or damaged  in a drawer. 

Gadgets and Utensils

1. Peeler

Peelers allow you to peel vegetables quickly and efficiently, saving time compared to using a knife. They remove only a thin layer of skin, minimising waste and preserving more of the vegetable.  I also find that having a peeler means that you can ask your little ones to help out with the cooking if this is something which they enjoy doing as they are simple to use for all cooks of all skill levels.

Besides peeling, many peelers can be used for other tasks like shaving chocolate, slicing cheese, or making vegetable ribbons for salads.

 We like this one by OXO.

2. Can Opener

Of course many canned goods now come with a pull-ring however, some don’t so a can opener is a must have to safely and quickly open these types of tins.

We like this one by  OXO.

3. Grater/Zester

A grater/zester is a versatile and essential tool for any kitchen. There are however several different styles so, which one is best?  That can depend on what you need it to do.  

  • Microplane Zester/Grater: –  these type of graters are best for grating citrus zest, hard cheeses, spices, garlic, ginger.
  • (b) Box Grater: these types of graters have multiple sides with different grating sizes (fine, medium, coarse and slicing.  They are great for cheese, vegetables and fruit.  This one by  OXO allows you to  grate onto a plate, cutting board or directly into container
  • (c) Rotary Grater: these grates feature a hand-cranked mechanism that grates food as you turn the handle allowing you to effortlessly grate large quantities

You can also find electric graters however they usually come with a fairly hefty price tag.  When I need to grate really large quantities or just want the convenience and speed of an electric grater I use one of the attachments on my food processor.

4. Whisk

For an average household, having one balloon whisk and one flat whisk will cover most needs. A ball whisk can be an optional addition if you often make recipes requiring thorough mixing in corners or if you want a more versatile tool.

  • Balloon Whisk: Ideal for incorporating air into batters and whipping cream or egg whites.
  • Flat Whisk: Useful for making sauces, gravy, and other items that need to be stirred over a flat surface.
  • Ball Whisk: Has individual wires ending in small balls, great for reaching into corners of pots and bowls.

5. Tongs

For an average household, having one pair of silicone-tipped tongs and one pair of stainless steel tongs will cover most cooking needs. That said, if you often entertain or cook large meals, having an extra pair can be convenient.

  • Silicone-Tipped Tongs  are heat-resistant and non-scratch, making them perfect for your cookware.  Be sure to choose a pair which are made from BPA free silicone.
  • Stainless Steel Tongs: Durable, easy to clean, and can handle high temperatures, ideal for grilling and heavy-duty use.  A pair such as this one is perfect for handling larger food items on your BBQ. 

6. Spatulas

There are a variety of different spatulas each specialising in a different task.  For an average household, having two silicone spatulas  (in different sizes), one turner spatula and one fish spatula  will cover most cooking and baking needs. This variety ensures you have the right tool for mixing, flipping, spreading, and handling delicate foods.

7. Ladle

Having one stainless steel ladle  and one slotted ladle  will cover most needs. If you use non-stick pans be sure to chose BPA free silicone ladles so as not to damage your cookware.

8. Measuring Jugs

When choosing a measuring jug I would go for Pyrex glass.  These are durable, heat-resistant, and can be used for both hot and cold liquids. They are usually also microwave-safe, making them versatile for melting butter or heating liquids.

I use a 1 litre Pyrex measuring cup such as this one and I also have these great little shot glasses which are perfect for accurately measuring smaller liquid quantities. 

9. Colander

One medium sized  colander will meet most needs.  For those with limited storage space, a collapsible colander is a perfect choice.  

Health and Safety

1. Water Filter Jugs

We highly recommend investing in a water filter jug due to its many benefits.  A water filter jug:

  • Improves Water Quality by filtering out impurities thus improving taste and odour of tap water.
  • Removes potentially harmful contaminants, providing clean drinking water.
  • Allows for easy access to filtered water at home without the need for bottled water.

2. Fire Extinguisher

Kitchen safety should always be a top priority.  Ensuring kitchen safety involves having essential equipment like a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors  installed and maintained. Follow safety guidelines, keep flammable items away from heat sources, and have an escape plan in place to protect your household from potential hazards. Regular maintenance and awareness are also key to ensuring a safe kitchen environment.  Check out our Home Safety Guide for more information. 

3. Cut-Resistant Gloves

Cut-resistant gloves are essential safety equipment for any kitchen where sharp tools are used regularly. Choosing gloves made from durable materials with appropriate cut resistance ratings ensures protection while maintaining comfort and dexterity.

These NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves are highly recommended.

Choose Quality over Quantity

By carefully selecting the right tools and materials for your kitchen, you can create a space that is not only efficient and stylish but also promotes healthier cooking and eating habits. Investing in quality over quantity ensures that your kitchen will be well-equipped to handle any culinary challenge while maintaining a focus on simplicity and health.

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