You’ve moved out and finally have your own place. Yay! So who’s making dinner tonight? That would be you! Getting your own place is one of the most liberating feelings, but with freedom comes responsibilities. In addition to being the head of your household, you’re also your own head chef. It has taken me a few years to figure out which kitchen tools work best for me, and today I’m going to share my 12 favorite ones with you!
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2. Silicone Bakeware & Utensils
Cook food in a snap! Griddles are great for when you need to cook a batch of food for multiple people or meal prep for the week. I got this Black + Decker griddle for Christmas last year and have used it to make many different things, from pancakes, french toast, tilapia, to burgers. Typically, I can fit 4-5 food items at once on this, which really cuts down my time preparing food.
Because I have to store mine above the refrigerator, I needed a griddle that wasn’t too heavy. Some griddles out there are really heavy duty and can weigh like 20 pounds – I don’t need that kind! This one is a little over 5 pounds and is easy to grab from the top of the fridge and place on the kitchen table (the handles and legs stay cool). Also, find a griddle that has a removable, dishwasher safe grease cup to make cleanup easier.
4. Crock Pot
Me and my crock pot go wayyy back. I was using one before I knew how to actually cook anything. What they say is true – you can “set it and forget it.”
Crock pots come in different sizes, and the one you buy should depend on the number of people in your home and how much you like having leftovers. For 1-2 adults, a 4-quart sized option will provide a meal with a few leftovers. If you want to meal prep and have more leftovers, I recommend buying a 6-quart model. This is what I have, and it allows me to meal prep one main dish for the week (sometimes I’ll also freeze half of what I made for a quick meal option later on down the road).
Another feature to look for in a crockpot is that it has a removable insert. Because the insert can be removed from the electrical part of the crockpot, this makes cleanup a breeze (I honestly have no idea why manufacturers even make crockpots without removable inserts?).
Right now, I’m content with my old-school crockpot that has 3 heating features – low, high, and keep warm, but one day when I need to invest in a new one, I am definitely going to get a programmable crock pot with a digital timer that counts down the minutes and has an auto keep warm function. #cantwait
5. Square Grill Pan
If you enjoy the smell and taste of bacon, do yourself a favor and get a square grill pan. Okay, you can actually cook a ton of stuff on this, but bacon is one of my favorite things to eat so I had to do a shameless bacon plug. Bacon, bacon, bacon!
Seriously, though, get yourself a non-stick grill pan with deep ridges that drains unnecessary fat from the food you’re cooking. When it’s too cold outside to grill, which is like 8 months out of the year (thanks, East Coast), I’ll throw some burgers on there or cook asparagus with minced garlic until it has those nice grill lines on the stalks and I can’t resist the delicious smell of garlic any longer.
6. Hampton Forge Tomadachi Knives
Long story short, a brand new set of these Tomodachi knives were left at my apartment (the previous tenant was evicted), and I decided to keep them. At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the brightly colored knives (I’m a neutral color enthusiast), but after I tried these knives out, I didn’t care about their color because these knives are AMAZING. I have always had trouble cutting spaghetti squash – it’s just a hard thing to cut. But not with these!! Spaghetti squash, watermelon, meat – cuts ’em all like butter.
I’m so thankful that these little gems were left at the apartment. I am fully loyal to Tomadachi knives now!
7. Martha Stewart Mixing Bowls
Another free and amazing kitchen essential that I was given is this set of Martha Stewart mixing bowls. One day I was randomly chatting with my neighbor about wanting to bake something, and I mentioned that I needed to go buy some mixing bowls because I literally didn’t have even one mixing bowl. She looked at me and was like, “Oh I have an extra set that’s brand new if you want it.” Boom! There it is. Seriously, thank you universe. I use these mixing bowls practically every day. They are durable, stack perfectly into one another, and are also really colorful. The smallest bowl is meant to hold just a tiny amount like herbs and spices; the biggest mixing bowl is really wide, and you can mix an entire dish in there (think cake mix, 2 lbs. of meat, etc.). Overall, they’re just really versatile and well made.
8. Cutting Mat Set
I’m assuming that you know to chop produce on a separate mat away from raw meat to avoid cross-contamination, right? This set of 4 cutting mats with food icons is the best option that I have found to make this process easy-peasy. They have small icons to show you what to cut on each mat, which I find super helpful.
The plastic cutting mats are more sanitary than a regular wooden cutting board, and they’re actually flexible, so you can bend the mat to create a funnel to transport food into the container or pan that you need it to go into.
9. Measuring Tools
My Type-A, process-oriented-self loves to follow recipes. I’ll never forget a few weeks ago when I was trying out an adaptation for my bite-sized banana nut muffins recipe and I couldn’t find the 1 tablespoon measuring spoon anywhere. I basically tore apart my kitchen looking for it, and guess what? It’s still missing! I have no idea what happened to it. Once I faced this realization, I reluctantly used the 1/2 tablespoon spoon twice. haha!
Get yourself a durable set of measuring tools for all your recipe-making needs. They are cheap and save you from all the guesswork of freehanding it.
10. Food Processor
Do you dream of easy chopping, slicing, and shredding but lack the sweet knife skills needed to get it done? Welcome to the no-knife skills club. Population: me and you. I picked up my 3 cup food processor at Aldi for $15 about 6 months ago, and it’s been more helpful than I ever imagined for my meal prep game. I’m linking to a bigger food processor because I know it would be helpful to have 8 cups instead of 3 (hey, I’m making do!). I love using the chop function for chunkier sized vegetables like onions and peppers. The slice function comes in handy for uniform cuts of veggies like celery and carrots. The least used (but still great) shredding function creates flake-like carrots for a nice salad topping.
11. Water Infuser
Okay, this technically isn’t a cooking tool, but it is a tool to quench your thirst. I am obsessed with infused water – it just tastes soo good. About a month ago, my boyfriend surprised me with an Amazon Prime box filled with a water bottle infuser just like this one, and I’ve been using it every day since.
A few of my favorite infused water combinations are strawberry + mint, lime + watermelon + cantaloupe, and lemon + raspberry + cucumber.
12. The Inspiralizer
I wanted to save the best for last. Regardless of your ability level in the kitchen, The Inspiralizer is one of the easiest tools to help you incorporate more veggies into your meals, and the food you make looks great, too!
I have been following food entrepreneur and creator of Inspiralized, Ali Muffaci (a fellow Jersey girl!) for a couple years now. She takes the most traditional dishes and camouflages them into nutrient-dense veggie dishes that are soo tasty. I’ve been working my way through her first cookbook, Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals and have really enjoyed expanding my own palette. Who knew you could make a dish made with beet pasta noodles and it actually taste good?! She has foods of all kinds – breakfast dishes, sides ‘n snacks, dinner, and even dessert recipes. I can’t say enough good things about her! I need to get her newest book, Inspiralize Everything: An Apples-to-Zucchini Encyclopedia of Spiralizing asap.
And those are my 12 favorite kitchen essentials that I can’t live without! Remember, it took me a few years to acquire all of these items. I suggest investing in a few items up front that you think you’ll use the most then ask for some of the other ones that you want as gifts for your birthday or during the holiday season.
What are some of your own kitchen essentials that you can’t live without? Looking forward to getting more kitchen inspo in the comments below!