Skip To Content

    As Someone Who Cooks For A Living, These Are The 23 Kitchen Products I Literally Cannot Live Without

    My kitchen is basically just a hallway, so let's just say I'm *very* selective with every single thing I buy.

    When it comes to kitchen equipment, I am picky. There's no way around this...but honestly, I wear that picky badge with pride. Food is pretty much my entire life — in addition to writing about food for a living, I'm also a recipe developer, food stylist, and I do a little catering on the side every now and then. So yeah, food is everything to me.

    Author standing in narrow kitchen with text "just standing in my kitchen hallway"

    Over the years, I've streamlined my kitchen belongings in a major way — letting go of small appliances that I hardly use (and hate to store), and making room for multi-functional items that save me on a daily basis. I've curated quite the collection of kitchen products that I simply couldn't live without as a direct result.

    Whether you're trying to outfit a new kitchen, stock up on the essentials you've always needed, or just wanting to hone in on kitchen products you'll actually use, I think you'll find what you're looking for here.

    1. Ballarini Nonstick Fry Pan Set — I don't know who needs to hear this, but that $200 set of nonstick pans that some Instagram influencer convinced you to buy are probably going to break down more quickly than you think. For $70, buy these instead.

    I'm not here to tell you that this set of nonstick skillets is magically going to work perfectly for the rest of your life. Nonstick pans have a pretty short life, in general — it's just the price we pay for the convenience of our food not sticking to 'em. However, I do think these pans are the best combination of quality and value out there.

    Spaghetti in a nonstick skillet

    2. Scrub Daddy — Yeah, I KNOW the name is funny...but swap one of these in for your regular (smelly!) sponge and there are soooo many reasons you'll never go back.

    Holding a scrub daddy sponge over a dirty Dutch oven in the sink

    3. OXO Good Grips Handheld Mandoline Slicer — It's the best tool ever for making thinly-sliced anything look incredible (without having to store a big, scary mandoline in your kitchen).

    Thinly slicing apples on a mandoline slicer with caption "cuts with literally zero effort"

    These paper-thin radishes?! Only possible with this slicer, TBH. Even if you're thinking you "don't really have a use" for this, you'll probably use it more than you'd think. Uniformly-sliced veggies for salad, sliced apples for a pie in half the time it would normally take, even homemade pickled red onions are all possible with this small-but-mighty slicer.

    Thinly-sliced watermelon radishes on a piece of toast

    4. Tweezer Tongs — Laugh all you want, but I'd use these over regular tongs any day. In fact, I do.

    Holding tweezer tongs over a wooden cutting board

    5. Williams Sonoma Wooden Spatula — This one's wildly specific, but the fact that it works like a dream with any piece of kitchen equipment and only costs $8 means that I'd like every single person on the planet to own one.

    Wooden spatula in a utensil holder with text: "one utensil to rule them all"

    The quality alone is unbelievable — it's pleasantly heavy and it just feels inexplicably good to hold. Add in the fact that it's less than $10 and it will last you so many years (I'm on year five, I believe), and I'm sold.

    6. Deli-Style Food Storage Containers — If you, like me, find traditional tupperware to be INEXPLICABLY ANNOYING, just know that switching to low-cost deli-style containers changed my life (and if a lid goes missing, it doesn't matter).

    Deli containers on a wire shelf with caption "deli containers >>> everything else"

    7. Escali Primo Kitchen Scale — If you're a coffee-lover or home baker extraordinaire, this is the cheapest kitchen scale I've found that's also ridiculously precise without fail.

    Kitchen scale being used to measure coffee

    If you're looking for a good blender, I'm here to tell you that you don't need a fancy one. Trust me: I was somehow swindled into buying a Vitamix and at this point, it's just collecting dust and dog hair. Instead, these two items are my absolute favorite combo for blending up anything (and everything) you could possibly need.

    8. Cuisinart Hand Blender — From sauces to soups (and everything in-between), this small-but-mighty immersion blender will get more use than you could possibly imagine.

    Promo image of the Cuisinart immersion blender

    I make a lot of soups and stews, and I love that I can just put this into the soup vessel itself and blend away. This immersion blender is surprisingly powerful for the price, stores easily, and OH MY GOD it's so much easier to clean than a regular blender.

    9. Nutribullet — For all your smoothies, frozen beverages, and other cold items, the Nutribullet reigns supreme.

    Nutribullet on a counter

    10. Lodge Dutch Oven — Yes, Le Creuset and Staub Dutch ovens are the "gold standard," but Lodge's version is nearly just as good at a fraction of the cost.

    Red Dutch oven on a stovetop

    I own an Instant Pot and a standalone slow cooker, and neither of them get as much use as my Dutch oven does. Perhaps I'm alone here, but I find that I actually keep it displayed on my stovetop at all times due to its size and weight, plus the fact that it's genuinely pretty to look at. This means that I use it whenever I possibly can.

    Creamy pasta dish in a Dutch oven

    11. Microplane Zester — Using a box grater is always annoying, but I always keep this compact zester within arm's reach so I can zest citrus and grate cheese with very little effort — and it's way easier to clean, too.

    12. OXO Swivel Peeler — Peeling anything is always a horrific chore, but somehow this peeler is *so comfortable* it almost makes the job...dare I say...fun?

    Vegetable peeler peeling two carrots

    13. Misen Carbon Steel Pan — If you're tired of your nonstick pans eventually starting to "stick" on you, this one will last forever. No lies.

    Cast iron and carbon steel enthusiasts have a lot of opinions when it comes to "seasoning" your pans — or, to grossly oversimplify, letting a polymerized coating develop on your pan to prevent food from sticking to it. Personally, I'm a fan of letting that seasoning set in over many uses and just being mindful to use more oil or butter than you normally would in the beginning. As you'll see below, it totally works.

    14. ThermoPop Instant-Read Thermometer — I never thought I could be this obsessed with a literal thermometer...but here we are.

    Author holding a green ThermoPop thermometer registering at 70º

    15. Large Steel Mixing Bowl — I know this is incredibly basic, but let me assure you that having one of these handy at all times will be a lifesaver to you AND your cooking.

    Author holding large metal mixing bowl with hand for size comparison

    I'll admit that my mega-size mixing bowl isn't the easiest item to store, but the pros far outweigh the cons here. I've never had to shout out in frustration "I WISH I HAD A BIGGER BOWL FOR THIS," and that, my friends, is the biggest blessing of all.

    Author holding large metal mixing bowl with a kale salad inside

    16. Cuisinart Mini-Prep Food Processor — It's as functional as it is adorably cute, and its apartment or small space-friendly design means that unlike conventional food processors, it can be easily stored just about anywhere.

    Mini food processor on a counter

    17. Joseph Joseph Y-Rack Dish Drainer — If you live and cook in a small space, especially one without a dishwasher, buy this dish rack right now. I implore you.

    Tall dish rack with a "Y" wire rack on top, loaded with dishes

    The "Y" rack on top fits exactly 15 plates (or a gazillion mason jars, if you're like me) and there are times I've dried just about 15 plates on it. It hardly takes up any countertop real estate, and it's also incredibly easy to clean.

    Mason jars stacked on top of a drying rack

    18. USA Pan Sheet Pans — As someone who admittedly puts his sheet pans through the wringer (and some super high temperatures), USA Pan's sheet pans are not only heavy-duty, they're actually nonstick and really easy to clean, too.

    19. Taylor Oven Thermometer — If you're reading this, I have news for you: Your oven probably isn't at the temperature it thinks it is.

    Oven thermometer registering at 375º

    20. Misen Chef's Knife — If you're looking for a quality chef's knife (and TBH, I think it's the most important thing any new cook could buy), it's not uncommon to spend $200+. This one clocks in at $75 and works just as well as the pricier ones.

    21. Presto Electric Knife Sharpener — It might not produce the same "wow-worthy" results you'd get from doing it manually (please don't @ me, chefs) but for the average home cook, it'll keep your knives sharp and make using them a lot safer.

    Sharpening a knife in an electronic knife sharpener

    22. Field Company's No. 8 Cast Iron Skillet — I've cooked on a variety of cast iron skillets, from the multi-generational family heirlooms to the cheapest ones imaginable, and I'd choose this one in a heartbeat.

    It's a lot to spend on a skillet...but when you factor in the virtually-indestructible nature of this pan (and the fact that you'll never have to replace it), it's money that I can justify spending. Unlike other, cheaper cast iron skillets that come "pre-seasoned," there's also no awkward break-in phase when you start using this one.

    Field Company cast iron skillet

    23. SHARDOR Electric Burr Coffee Grinder — For a budget-friendly burr coffee grinder, I'm constantly impressed with the quality of the grinds this one produces.

    Coffee grinder on the author's countertop

    Do you own any kitchen products that you simply couldn't live without? Let us know in the comments — and happy cooking!