(This is written as a resource for a friend of mine who is getting married soon! I thought it would be easier to write a blog post than send her a wall of text. While I haven’t written this with profit in mind, I have included a few affiliate links to help offset the cost of running this website. I hope you find this guide helpful!)
I sat down this morning to text you back about my kitchen essentials. Several paragraphs later (plus an accidental deletion of the looooong message I wrote on my phone), I decided it might be easier to read (and write) a blog post. So here is a list of what I consider my kitchen essentials.
One caveat: a lot of this is my own opinions, and the items I chose to put on my wedding registry are based on the fact that I anticipated spending a lot of time in the kitchen as I wanted to cook from scratch and I love to bake. Think about your priorities and invest in those (for example, I wanted an amazing knife set, as Asian cooking involves lots of chopping).
Also, if you were still wanting to make a registry on Zola, here’s my referral link so you can have $50 in store credit: Zola. (Other readers: this should work for you too!) This will be especially handy after the wedding as you settle into your new lifestyle and realize you needed, say, a shoe rack, and forgot to register for one. Also, Zola gives you a 10% discount on everything in their store for a year after your wedding, not just the items left on your registry.
Without further ado, here are the things I use most frequently in my kitchen:
I got Wusthof’s 18pc block set, which is $299, mainly because I knew of the high reputation German steel has. I am definitely very happy with it. I can’t yet vouch for how they will stand up to years of daily use, but I can tell you that when I first got them, they were so much sharper than any other knife I used that I kept accidentally giving myself small cuts while cleaning them. They’re not the most expensive knife set out there, but they’re not the cheapest either. My main advice is to look for knives that have a full tang – meaning that the blade extends into the handle – as they will last much longer than knives without it (the handles will loosen and fall off). If you really want quality I also recommend forged knives over stamped; however, my knives are stamped and are still really great knives. Whatever kind you get, hand wash them, as the dishwasher will damage any knife.
Side note on cutting boards: Regardless of whether you go with wood or plastic, I recommend keeping a small bottle of a weak bleach solution to sanitize when you are done, especially if you use a wooden cutting board that can’t go through the dishwasher. A bonus for wood cutting boards though is that after it’s got some grooves from cutting on it, you can take it to a carpenter to have it sanded back down. As another side note, sharper knives will reduce the amount of deeper grooves because you don’t need as much force to slice through your food.
I initially thought one had to spend $300+ to get good cookware, but fortunately I ended up getting a set from Cuisinart for around $180 and have been very happy with it. It looks like this set but with glass lids instead of steel ones (I wouldn’t worry about it; I heard the advantage to glass is you can check on the food without lifting the lid, but mine just get steamed up). The main thing I was looking for was even heating and riveted handles (so that they don’t fall off in a few years). I most frequently use the two saucepans, the 8-inch skillet, and the saute pan.
Something I learned: don’t use steel wool to scrub them, as it will leave little scratches and over time damage the pan’s ability to heat evenly. Related to this discovery is learning that the pan must be preheated for nonstick cooking. You can test for when it’s ready by putting a drop of water in the pan; when it dances, it’s ready. I think this is super cool to watch and it’s called the Liedenfrost effect. 🙂 #nerding
As yet another side note: it costs less to buy sets than individual pieces (for both cookware and knives). I wouldn’t buy individual pieces unless space was really strict.
I recommend getting glass over stainless steel or plastic because it can go in both the oven and microwave. The set I registered for is Creo’s 4 pc set in Shanghai Red, because I liked the vivid color, plus there’s a pour spout (though it doesn’t always work super well – but it’s easier than not having any pour spout). Right now the largest bowl is holding all our fruit. Whatever your aesthetic, get a set you love – I truly believe it impacts how happy you feel while making food. Also, if the mixing bowls look nice you can use them as serving dishes too!
I would consider my Pyrex 18 pc food storage set to be pretty essential for leftovers, especially since Sean packs his lunch every day. The glass is, of course, microwave safe, but the lids will warp a little if they get too hot.
For pantry food storage, I really like the Oxo POP canisters. The 4-quart container can hold a 5lb bag of flour, and I use those for rice, cornmeal, and sugar. I also have some of the smaller containers to hold spaghetti, lentils, powdered sugar, and a 10-grain pancake mix that I buy in the bulk section of WinCo. For labeling, I just use a wet-erase marker.
If you have the space and inclination to get things like flour and rice at Costco, I recommend you swing by Home Depot and get a 5-gal food-safe bucket and a screw-top lid. It’s not the prettiest storage solution, but it also doesn’t cost $30 or more per container.
If nothing else, get a pair of baking sheets. I have two of NordicWare’s Big Sheets, depending on your oven or storage space you might want something smaller. I use these not just for cookies, but also for things like fries and frozen seafood.
For baking pans, I have Pyrex’s Bake n Store 11 pc set, which has so far met all my non-baking-sheet needs. Honestly, I don’t know why I thought I needed to hoard a dozen pie plates before I got married…as much as I love pie, one only needs at most two pie plates. And that’s if you’re obsessed enough with pie to make two at once. Anyway, having a square pan and a rectangular pan with lids is helpful for making things like cornbread or potluck dishes.
Word of warning: do NOT put hot glassware on wet surfaces, or they will shatter!
If you anticipate doing a lot of from-scratch baking, you might also consider a stand mixer. I got a KitchenAid mixer because I anticipate using it weekly to bake cookies like my family did growing up. While I currently do not use it that often for just the two of us, I consider it an investment in the future, especially because there are a zillion attachments that increase the mixer’s versatility, from a meat grinder to a spiralizer to the ice cream maker you got me. <3
Miscellaneous Little Things
Other pieces of kitchen equipment I find helpful:
Waffle maker – Get one unless you are both strictly pancake people. Nothing like making waffles for Saturday breakfasts! Also, cake mix works just as well as waffle batter. 😀
Tongs – I never realized how useful it was to have tongs until I got a pair in a set. It makes serving spaghetti a million times easier.
Round cookie cutters – I got this heavy-duty 11pc set and I love it! The rings are so sturdy, I’ll never have to worry about bending them. I have so far used them for making copycat thin mints and homemade burger patties (which taste a million times better, imo). The next thing I want to try with them are crab cakes (with the help of Gordon Ramsay videos – this one cracks me up).
That’s all I can think of for now. I hope you find this list useful!