Every product covered here is independently selected by opinionated humans. But so you know, buying stuff through our links may earn us a small share of the sale or other compensation.

Brooke Greenberg / BuzzFeed

13 Essential Cooking Tools for Whipping Up Almost Any Meal

Be prepared for whatever recipe a meal kit or cookbook throws your way.

As the editor of Taste, an online food culture magazine, I cook a lot at home in my small Brooklyn kitchen. We rent (see: journalism as a career), and I’ve had to maximize my tight space by keeping my cooking equipment to a select dozen or so key items. I’ve got no spare room for bulky fad appliances or novelty roasting pans. Just the essentials. And guess what? I have a blast cooking with this minimal approach.

We just published a cookbook, Lasagna, and I tested many of the recipes in my cramped kitchen. This is to say that small spaces and limited equipment should never hold you back from culinary pursuits or curiosity.

Here, I’ve offered some of my favorite tools and cooking gear that will help you establish or supplement your kitchen setup. Whether you’re new to the kitchen, subscribing to meal kits, or cooking through the latest recipes from Alison Roman (shout out to a BuzzFeed alum!), these 13 items will help you tackle almost any meal.

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Seki Magoroku 7” Chef Knife and Vegetable Cleaver

Seki Magoroku 7” Chef Knife and Vegetable Cleaver 

Many convincing arguments have been made that you must spend over $100 for the perfect knife (and sometimes triple that amount for Japanese and German blades). Not necessary! Years ago I was introduced to the brand Seki Magoroku while shopping at a hardware store in Tokyo — and I haven’t looked back. The carbon–stainless steel hybrid blade stays sharp for months at a time without sharpening. Sure, the handles are plastic, but it feels great in hand. Buy the chef’s knife and vegetable cleaver and rotate them however you feel.

Seki Magoroku 7” Chef Knife and Vegetable Cleaver, $34 each at Global Kitchen Japan
BUY IT HERE

Ninja Blender/Food Processor

Ninja Mega Kitchen System

The Ninja is the perfect blender and food processor for a small kitchen space. The powerful pod latches atop three bowls: 72-ounce pitcher for frozen drinks, 64-ounce processor bowl for sauces and purees, and two small 16-ounce for chopping onions, garlic, or anything you don’t want to crack out the knife for or, you know, smoothies. When I was co-writing a Korean cookbook, Koreatown, the Ninja saved my ass so many times. It’s great for breaking down dozens of Asian pears and Vidalia onions for a Korean barbecue marinade.

Ninja Mega Kitchen System Blender/Food Processor, $146 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Joyce Chen Utility Scissors

Joyce Chen Utility Scissors

A pair of really sharp scissors are essential for home cooking. They cut through bones, trim vegetables, and open packaging fast. Joyce Chen scissors have long been my go-to because they stay sharp for a very long time, plus they’re available in some pretty great colorways (I’m team yellow).

Joyce Chen Utility Scissors, $31 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Field Company #8 Cast Iron Skillet

Field Company #8 Cast Iron Skillet

Ever heard of the Maillard reaction? It happens when the cooking temp reaches 300°F. Cast iron will get you there quickly, giving your burgers and steaks a golden crust that only high temps will award. The lightweight, easy-to-clean Field Company skillet is my brand of choice (and a BuzzFeed Reviews top pick). It’s pre-seasoned and naturally nonstick, and there’s some great cleaning and care intel on the company website too.

Field Company #8 Cast Iron Skillet, $125 at Field Company
BUY IT HERE

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Le Creuset 7¼-Quart Dutch Oven

Le Creuset 7¼-Quart Dutch Oven 

The Le Creuset 7¼-quart is my go-to Dutch. I went with the red, but there are plenty of color options to choose from. What exactly does a hulking piece of enameled iron do to warrant such a high price tag, though? First, I’ve had it for over a decade, and I’ve used it almost weekly. You’ll only have to buy one — ever. I leave mine out on my stove, where not only does it look cool but it also reminds me that there are so many ways to use it. It’s great for cooking pasta, slow-roasting large chunks of meat, slow-simmering chili, roasting a chicken, roasting a large bulb of fennel, or serving a punch at a party.

Le Creuset 7¼-Quart Dutch Oven, Starting at $365 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer

Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer

Citrus juice is key to so many recipes — ceviche, salad dressing, the French 75 — and the Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer is the best around. They say it squeezes 20% more juice, which I’m totally buying. Get a juicer because the alternative is not as fun or easy.

Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer, $18 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Anolon Nonstick Skillet

Anolon Nonstick Skillet

Yes, I cook with nonstick cookware. Quelle horreur. Revoke my foodie cred card if you want! This 8”/10” combo set from Anolon is priced incredibly well, easy to clean, and oven-safe, plus it feels great in the hand. It’s the best way to fry an egg.

Anolon Nonstick Skillet, $40 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Fish Spatula

Kmeivol Fish Spatula

A chef friend once cornered me to preach the virtues of the fish spatula. He was right. The flexible frame is great for fish (duh), but also for sautéing that requires a lighter touch. I find these are great to cook with in a wok, and also for flipping grilled cheese.

Kmeivol Fish Spatula, $8 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Craft Wok Traditional

Craft Wok Traditional Carbon Steel Pow Wok

Buy a wok, please. High-heat stir-frying is SO much fun, and just a great way to cook up a bunch of meat and vegetables with sauce and seasoning. Note: Once your wok is seasoned, it will transform into what is essentially a nonstick pan. I bought the one I’ve used for years at a kitchen supply store, but this one on Amazon, made from carbon steel with a traditional wood handle, is great too.

Craft Wok Traditional Carbon Steel Pow Wok, $48 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Lavatools Thermometer

Lavatools Thermometer

Yeah, poke and take the temperature for that steak, pork, roasted chicken, or delicate halibut. It’s the only way to not overcook the $89 worth of protein you just shelled out for at Whole Foods. Lavatools is a brand I can get behind. I love mine.

Lavatools Thermometer, $27 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

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Surgical Towels

Simpli-Magic Surgical Towels

This is a tip I stole from life hacker Tim Ferriss. Surgical towels are the best for kitchens. They’re cheap, fast-drying, and super-absorbing. And if one gets nasty from oil and dirt buildup, just chuck it in the trash — but these can be used over and over.

Simpli-Magic Surgical Towels, $23 for a pack of 100 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Cooks Standard Stock Pot

Cooks Standard Stock Pot

Every kitchen needs a large, multi-use stock pot. It’s great for blanching, boiling, and making big pots of stew, soup, sauce, and chili. This one is sold in many sizes, from 8 to 30 quarts, because you can honestly never have enough Sunday sauce around.

Cooks Standard Stock Pot, Starting at $37 at Amazon
BUY IT HERE

Ikea Cutting Boards

Ikea Cutting Boards

Finding the right cutting board can actually be really tough, as many fail for a variety of reasons.  They slip in an unsafe way, they’re too bulky for small spaces, they’re made of glass (who uses those?!). I found my perfect match a few years ago at Ikea. They sit flat, feel great with many sizes of knives, and are super cheap. Buy five at a time and replace every couple months.

Ikea Cutting Boards, $3 at Ikea
BUY IT HERE

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Every product covered here is independently selected by opinionated humans. But so you know, buying stuff through our links may earn us a small share of the sale or other compensation.

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