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Kitchen Essentials: A Checklist for Home Cooks


Whether you’re setting up your first kitchen or editing down your kitchen utensils drawer, there are certain essentials you need to cover all your bases in the kitchen. We pulled together a list of the must-haves you’re actually going to use to prep, cook, and clean up after everything from simple weeknight meals to wow-worthy feasts. 

The Ultimate Kitchen Essentials List

Here it is, the first glance at your ultimate checklist of kitchen essentials. You’ll find everything you need to chop, stir, and sauté your latest culinary creations -- and give you a hand with clean-up. Keep reading to explore why each item is worth the real estate in your kitchen. 

Kitchen Prep Essentials

  • Set of Knives
    • Must have: Chef’s knife, bread knife, and paring knife; nice to have: Santoku knife and utility knife
  • Knife sharpener
  • Kitchen shears
  • 2-3 cutting boards
  • Colander
  • Mesh strainer
  • Mixing bowls
  • Kitchen utensils
    • Tongs
    • Whisk
    • Ladle
    • Slotted spoon
    • Can opener
    • Metal spatula
    • Silicone spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Box grater

Kitchen Cookware

  • 12” non-stick skillet
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Stockpot
  • Large and small saucepans
  • Sheet pans
  • Baking dishes: rectangle and square
  • Potholders
  • Cooking thermometer

Cleaning Up

  • Food storage containers
  • Drying rack
  • Towels
  • Paper towel holder

Kitchen Prep Essentials

Having the right tools of the trade will make whipping up everything from Sunday pancakes to Friday night pizza a snap. 


Your knives are the workhorses of your kitchen. A good set of kitchen cutlery to start out with includes a chef’s knife, a bread knife, and a paring knife. But if you have the space, we also love that Santoku knives can be easier to handle. A utility knife is another good tool to have in your arsenal for trimming items your chef’s knife is just too big for. 

Kitchen Shears

You might be amazed how often you reach for a pair of scissors in the kitchen. And not just for snipping open a bag of spring mix. Kitchen shears are durable enough to tackle everything from cutting up a chicken to slicing delicate herbs.

Knife Sharpener

Maintaining a sharp edge on your kitchen cutlery is key to keeping your kitchen safe. A stainless steel sharpener is a compact option that you can slide right into your drawer. Electric sharpeners are the more powered up way to go -- and make quick work of this task. 

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards protect your countertops and keep your knives sharp. They also make it easy to tidy up when your prep work is done. We like to keep a couple on hand so we can swap them out between julienning veggies and chopping up chicken. Wood cutting boards like this one also make stylish serving trays that you can hang on your wall as chic kitchen decor. 


If you ever plan to cook pasta, you’re going to need to drain it in a colander. But you’ll also use your colander to drain anything boiled and for washing fruits and vegetables in your sink. You may even use it as a steamer. A colander with a stand is a convenient option so you can also set it on your counter with ease. 

Mesh Strainers

If the holes in your colander are too big for what you’re rinsing -- like small pasta -- a mesh strainer won’t let you down. You can also use mesh strainers for sifting flour and other dry ingredients into your baking creations, straining fruit purees, or rinsing the coffee grounds out of your French press. 

Mixing Bowls

A set of three nesting mixing bowls take up minimal space, but be sure to place them in a handy spot because you’ll use them all the time. These kitchen essentials will be right there for you when you’re mixing up waffle batter, tossing salads, or stirring together sauces. 

Kitchen Utensils

Make good use of every inch of your kitchen utensil drawer by being selective about what goes into it. You’ll definitely use all of these. 

Tongs. You can toss pasta, turn meat, and serve up dinner with a sturdy set of tongs

Whisk. Your whisk will get a lot of mileage scrambling eggs or whipping up baked goods. 

Ladle. Spooning up servings of soup, stew, sauce, and gravy is next to impossible without a ladle

Slotted spoon. When you need a hand-held-sized strainer for removing small pasta or veggies from your pot, voila: slotted spoon. 

Can opener. Get a nice, sturdy can opener to make opening your can of tomatoes or dog food for Fido a breeze. 

Metal spatula. A flat, sturdy metal or plastic spatula is one of those kitchen utensils you’ll use for all kinds of things. Flipping pancakes, turning over eggs, lifting fish out of the pan -- just to name a few. 

Silicone spatula. A silicone spatula will help scrape up the last bit of batter out of the bowl, stir your simmering sauce, even frost a cake. 

Measuring cups and spoons

You’ll need a set of measuring cups for leveling off dry ingredients in addition to liquid measuring cups, which are usually clear and have a handle and a spout. 

Measuring spoons will take away the guesswork, so you don’t over-spice your sauce. Look for nesting sets that fit in your drawer -- and your spice jars. 

Box Grater 

A box grater with 4 -- or even 6-- sides is a veritable multitool in the kitchen. Not just for grating parm over your pasta, you can shred veggies, zest citrus, and shave down a cold stick of butter when you need it softened stat. A box grater is a space-saving solution, especially compared to a food processor. 

Kitchen Cookware 

When it’s time to put the soup or steaks on, you’ll need a variety of kitchen cookware at the ready. These kitchen essentials will have you covered for all your cooking and baking needs. 

Non-stick pan

If you can only have one pan to start with, a 12” non-stick pan is the one kitchen essential you should have in your cupboard. Non-stick pans are also the very best option for cooking eggs, since they stick to stainless and cast-iron skillets. 

Cast-iron skillet

Once you buy a cast iron skillet, you’ll have it in your kitchen cookware collection for the rest of your life. So you can look forward to an eternity of searing steaks and scallops to perfection. And since they are also oven-safe, you can bake cornbread, deep-dish pizzas, and apple cobbler right in your cast iron skillet. 


A stockpot, Dutch oven, or other large pot will be your go-to for boiling water for pasta and making big batches of cozy soups and stews on cold-weather days. 

Large and small saucepans

Whether you’re heating up soup, making a single serving of pasta, or boiling potatoes, small and large saucepans are sure to get plenty of use. 

Sheet pans 

Sheet pans are a must-have for baking cookies, but you can also use them for roasting veggies, broiling fish, baking frozen french fries, or whipping up a full sheet pan dinner. 

Baking dishes

A good set of baking dishes in a variety of sizes will serve you well for years. A rectangular baking dish is perfect for baking birthday cakes and lasagnas, while small square baking dishes are just right for brownies, side dishes, and baked casseroles. 


If you’re just starting out, don’t forget to stock your kitchen with potholders. These are not only practical for protecting your fingertips and your countertops, but they’re pretty, too. So no need to stash them behind closed doors. Hang them on cute hooks where you can easily grab them -- and gawk at them. 

Cooking thermometer

A cooking thermometer is essential in the kitchen to ensure you cook your meats thoroughly. No need to guess if your chicken is still pink. Cooking thermometers are also useful in baking, so you don’t need to rely on the toothpick test to see if your breads or cakes are done in the middle. 

Clean-up Must-Haves

Cleaning up your kitchen can be quick and easy when you have all the essentials within reach. 

Food Storage Containers

Meal prep for the week or pack up leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch in this set of food storage containers. The lids snap securely in place, and the bright color makes them easy to spot in the fridge so they don’t get left behind.  


A good set of kitchen towels should look good and work hard -- whether they’re draped over your pizza dough while it proofs, standing in for a trivet, or drying your dishes.  

Drying rack

Even if you have a dishwasher, there’s always a few things that need to be washed by hand. A drying rack will keep your kitchen counters neat and tidy. 

Paper towel holder

Keep your paper towels within reach at all times to make clean-up even easier. A stylish countertop paper towel holder will add a decorative touch to your kitchen -- or you can mount a rack on the wall or under your sink. 

Stock Up On the Essentials

Ready to outfit your kitchen? Look no further than Pier1 for all the kitchen essentials like cookware and bakeware, kitchen utensils, food storage, kitchen linens, and more. Soon you’ll be chopping and searing like a chef and getting rave reviews from your guests. 

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