Anyone who has been in one of my classes will have heard me tell why I’m a tough customer when it comes to gadgets. So I decided to write my ultimate list of the pieces of equipment I can’t live without.
How to use this list
I’ve split the list into my absolute essentials, nice to have, baking kit and investments. Use this as an opportunity to have a good clear out of old, useless things. Donate them to charity or sell them on eBay. Read my post about how to organize your kitchen here.
How buying from this list helps
If you buy these bits of kit through the UK and US Amazon links below, the price you pay doesn’t change, but I get paid a small fee. This helps fund the time I spend blogging and recipe testing and keeps my class prices down. I will never ever recommend anything I don’t love, even if I’m offered a fortune!
Just click on the red links (double tap if you’re on a phone or tablet) and you can add the item straight into your Amazon cart to buy later.
If you’re debating a big purchase just let me know and I can help you find the product for what you need.
These are the things I am tempted to put in my case when I travel. They are also the items my students find the most life-changing.
Microplane fine grater
Microplane coarse grater
I have 8 of these as I use them for everything – don’t just keep them for baking as I know many people do. Throw away your wooden spoons and use these instead. They can go in the dishwasher and can be used at super-high temperatures so they are great for stirring food in a pan. They get every last bit out of your pans and bowls so you don’t waste a spot of food, making clean-up easier. Buy in the US or UK.
Mini silicone spatulas
This is probably the thing most of my students rush to buy after class. I love how easy it is to refill – just pour your peppercorns through the wide chute, instead of scattering them all over your counter, like what happens with most fiddly pepper grinders. It grinds a ton of pepper in one go, making you quicker in the kitchen. Buy in the US or the UK.
Scanpan pans are fabulous and well worth the investment and have a lifetime guarantee. They are non stick without being coated in scary Teflon. Health benefits of avoiding Teflon aside, these pans are great to cook with, they work on induction as well as gas and electric. You can use metal in them without the non stick surface being affected.
I use mine every day. I use a bigger one for meals for our family of four – stir fries, meat and fish with pan sauces, eggs, pancakes etc. I use a smaller one for cooking smaller amounts, or when I need two pans on the go. If you are just getting one, get the bigger one. Be sure to buy the ones with metal handles so that you can brown something in the pan and then put it in the oven or under the broiler [grill] to finish off cooking. Buy in the US or the UK
I’m trying to convert all my lovely Americans to the merits of weighing rather than using volume when cooking. And if some of you decide to start using grams instead of ounces too I’ll be over the moon! Weighing is more accurate and less messy than using volume cup measurements; meaning you’ll get much more consistent results when you bake. They are also a brilliant way to get children to practice their numbers. Just put any bowl on these scales. Press the re-set button to cancel out the weight of the bowl then add your ingredients. Zero out (or re-set) after each ingredient and add the next. Simple. Buy in the US or the UK.
Because so many US recipes are in cups, I keep a set of these on hand. They work best when recipes are less precise or less fine-tuned. Think rough and ready cookies rather than recipes that require more precision. Buy in the US or the UK.
I love the way these jugs have the measurements on the side but can also be viewed from above, meaning you’re not always bending down to see how much something measures. I have them in various sizes as I cook a lot. If you’re just buying one, get the biggest size. Buy in the US or the UK.
Dutch oven or cast iron pans
I love my enamel-coated, cast iron Le Creuset pans. They are one of the most expensive items in my kitchen but the quality is unbeatable and I will have them forever. They work on induction as well as gas and electric. I don’t have a crockpot [slow cooker]. Instead, I use my Le Creuset pans to cook stews and soups low and slow in the oven while I go off and do what I need to do. Buy the biggest you can afford – round or oval doesn’t make any difference. Be sure to buy the cast iron enamel rather than the stoneware pans as Le Creuset make both. I’ve bought all of mine by being lucky (and not fussy about the colour) in the sales at and TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US).
Cookie sheet/baking tin
I use this really sturdy baking sheet for much more than baking. I mainly use it to roast vegetables or other one-pan meals as it copes well with high temperatures and doesn’t buckle like cheaper ones can. But it is also great for all kinds of baking and is a handy pan lid for lidless pans! I often use mine to transport food around instead of a tray too. Just be sure to check that this size will fit in your oven! Buy in the US or the UK.
Baking tin liners
I usually line my baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat reusable silicone liner to make clean up easier and to avoid things sticking. Again, check you are buying the liner that fits your tray. Buy in the US or the UK.
I like stainless steel pans with a nice heavy bottom, metal handles and lids so I can put them in the oven. Even with all the cooking I do, I only have a set of 3 saucepans. I actually got mine at TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US), I find they always have the best quality at the best prices and I usually mix and match between ranges to get what I need. Be sure to check yours are induction compatible if that’s what you cook on.
I use this for potatoes but also for mashing other veggies and beans and for mashing soup when I want a chunkier texture. I’m a mashed potato addict so trust me that I’ve tried all sorts of mashers to come to this verdict. Buy in the US or in the UK.
Or if you want to be super fancy, buy a potato ricer in the US or the UK. I use my ricer for fancy dinners and Christmas and Thanksgiving as it takes more effort but the results are restaurant quality. Be sure to add plenty of warm butter too to get that restaurant effect.
I use these to snip bacon, sausages and chicken into a pan rather than a knife and board. I also use them to snip herbs or salad greens. The blue ones from Ikea are brill – I buy 5 pairs at at a time (see the picture at the top of this article). If you can’t face an Ikea run, buy in the US or the UK.
I don’t like to use wooden boards as I find them hard to clean. I also don’t like glass boards as they blunt knives. I buy 2-3 of these inexpensive plastic boards and change them every 6-12 months when they start to stain or scratch. They can go in the dishwasher which is the best way to get them clean. If you are in Ikea any time soon, theirs are also brilliant and cheap as chips. Buy in the US or the UK.
These should feel like an extension of your hand and essential for lifting and flipping things in pans or on trays. I have 4 pairs because I like to use one pair when I’m handling raw meat or fish and then switch to a clean pair when I’m handling the finished, cooked item. Buy in the US or the UK.
Most people only use these to grate cheese. I use it mainly to get my raw veggies into chewable sized prices. The more work the grater does, the less work my jaw has to do! Use the slicing side (two, horizontal blades) to shred fennel and cabbage for slaw. When my boys were younger, I used it to grate raw apple into their oats in the morning too, easier than using apple sauce. Be sure to buy one that is sturdy and ideally has a rubber anti-slip base. Buy in the US or the UK.
To drain pasta, boiled vegetables and potatoes. Also to wash lettuce, berries and other fruits and vegetables. I like to have a bigger one. Buy in the US or the UK. And also these little ones for washing berries and draining canned beans. Buy in the US or the UK.
I was amazed how many people in the US don’t have this. In Britain, a kettle is usually the first thing anyone buys when they leave home. Even if you don’t drink tea, use this to quickly boil water for boiling pasta, rice or vegetables and you’ll save at least 10 minutes of waiting time. Buy in the US. I’m guessing everyone in the UK already has one!
You only really need three knives; a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated bread knife, maybe a smaller knife for children to use too. The blocks with loads of knives in only really serve to make the knife companies lots of money rather than to help you. I’d much rather you use a good chef’s knife for most jobs and really get used to using it confidently.
My favourite knife manufacturer is Global as the handle and blade are all from one piece of metal so are not going to break. They are pricey but will last a lifetime. At a lower price point I like Victorinox. I’d spend money on a Chef’s/Cooks knife and spend less on the bread and paring knives rather than but a cheaper set of all 3.
These are the 4 knives I’d invest in…
- Cook’s or Chef’s knife (at least 8-10 inch) To chop and slice meat, fish and vegetables. I use this knife for 90% of the jobs in my kitchen. Buy in the US or the UK.
- Paring knife To cut smaller, more fiddly things Buy in the US or the UK.
- Serrated bread knife To slice bread, cakes, tomatoes and peppers and to carve joints of meat. Buy in the US or the UK.
- Children’s knife This is the knife my children have used from being toddlers. The round ended knife in particular is great for little hands and gets them used to using knives safely. I also use this to cut tomatoes. Buy in the US or the UK.
Knife sharpener Technique aside, the biggest impact you can have on your knife is to get it sharpened regularly. Ask the chef at your local restaurant where they get theirs done or use one of these knife sharpeners. And please don’t put knives in the dishwasher as it blunts them really quickly. Buy in the US or the UK.
My advice to buy the one with the biggest capacity and high powered motor you can afford. I tend to only use a couple of the blades my processor came with – the grater and the standard chopper. Don’t be swayed by food processors with multiple blades as you won’t really need them for most recipes. I use my processor at least five times a week to make pesto, bread crumbs, curry paste, cauliflower mash and this lifesaver cake. Buy in the US or the UK.
Glass mixing bowls
I like to have a sturdy metal deep sided roasting pan for roasting turkey, chicken or other meats. I like metal because I can use it on top of the hob/stove too, usually to make a pan sauce after the meat has finished roasting. You can also use it to bake a lasagna. Buy the metal roasting pan in the US or the UK (investment) or this UK (mid price).
I also have ceramic roasting pans in various sizes which are great for any foods you want to make and freeze, or to bake in the oven and then serve straight to the table in the same pan. Buy the ceramic roasting pans in the US or the UK.
The modern way to go to make the food you’ve worked hard to make look pretty. They also mean no delicious ingredients get buried as they can in a bowl. I like to use plain white plates and platters so that food stands out. Most of mine have come from yard sales and junk shops as I like to mix and match patterns. Buy them new in the US or the UK.
Nice to haves
Mini food processor
I only bought one of these recently. I’d never thought I needed one as I use my big food processor so much. But, this little one is so useful for making quick pestos and for grinding breadcrumbs and nuts for my dukkah. Because it is so small, it is easy to grab out of the cupboard and can be washed very easily. If I had to only have one food processor I’d still go with a bigger one but if you can fit two in your life this is really handy. Buy in the US or the UK.
I use this so much. It is the easiest way to blend soups in the pan you cooked them in. It is so easy to wash. I also use mine to make speedy homemade mayonnaise and smoothies. You don’t need to buy one with lots of add ons. Buy in the US or the UK.
I tried bamboo and metal steamers in the past but never got along well with them. Then I found this brilliant silicone one. The feet sit on the bottom of any pan and the flexible shape bends to fit inside any size pan. And it goes in the dishwasher and doesn’t absorb smells making it wonderful for spicy foods and fish. I have both the large and small, but if you’re just getting one I’d get the large. Buy in the US or the UK.
Pyrex storage containers
I avoid storing food in plastic, especially when I’m freezing. These containers come in various sizes but can go straight into the freezer and can also be used to cook in. Ditch your plastic containers and re-stock in a range of sizes, you’ll find leftovers more inspiring and will fill your freezer with goodies. I have most sizes from 1 cup size for leftover sauces and pesto all the way through single serving soup and curry sizes (about 2-3 cup size), up to containers big enough to hold a family-size lasagna or shepherds pie. Buy in the US or in the UK.
In addition to the spatulas, whisks, bowls and scales I’ve included in the list above, these are my top bits of baking kit:
I use my Kenwood Chef stand mixer to make cakes, cookies and to whip cream and egg whites. My grandma and mum both had a Kenwood so it was not even a question what I’d buy when I got married and finally had the budget for one. They have just launched stateside and are brilliant. Alternatively, you can buy the American classic, Kitchenaid, stand mixer. If you are a keen baker it is well worth investing in a spare mixing bowl, particularly if you are making recipes that involve egg whites to be whipped separately from other ingredients. Buy a Kenwood in the US or the UK. Buy a Kitchenaid in the US or the UK.
These Jadeite cake stands display your creations in the most beautiful way. To avoid storing mine, I use it to hold bananas instead of a fruit bowl when I’m not using it for cake. Buy in the US or the UK.
Disposable piping bags
These are not just for rolling dough. I use mine to bash meat to make it thinner. I use it to crush ice cubes or cookies for crumbs. My sons try to use them as weapons. The list goes on. Buy in the US or the UK.
Sturdy muffin pans
A non stick spring form cake pan/tin
The classic pie plate
Pastry or basting brush
Scone or cookie cutter set