15 essential tools every kitchen needs

Have you decided on adulting this year? Or did you adult a long time ago and now your kitchen is a cluttered mess? No matter what life situation you're in, this article will help you figure out exactly what you need in your kitchen for maximum efficiency.

Alina Bradford
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Large appliances

There are two major appliances -- the refrigerator and oven -- that are must-haves. If you're just starting out and still need the big two, check out our buying guides for refrigerators and ovens.

Dishes in a kitchen
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If you absolutely hate washing dishes, then you may consider adding a dishwasher to your appliance list. 

If you don't have a lot of room, there are portable dishwashers that can sit right on your counter or bigger ones that you can roll away to store when it isn't in use.

Insinkerator Evolution Compact garbage disposal
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Garbage disposal

If you prefer to wash dishes by hand, or don't have room for a dishwasher, I suggest getting a garbage disposal installed. This appliance will save you from clogged sink pipes and a lot of aggravation.

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Small appliances

Once you have the big appliances purchased, you're ready for small appliances. The key to getting what you need without cluttering your counters is buying smart. Choose small appliances that can do a lot of various cooking tasks. 

There are only three workhorse appliances that I think every kitchen needs: a toaster oven, an Instant Pot and a stand mixer.

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Toaster oven

Toaster ovens can do so much more than make toast, unlike your basic toaster. Look for one that has multiple cooking options such as broil, bake, warm and toast. 

If you need help finding a good one, the Panasonic FlashXpress Toaster Oven is our pick for the best toaster oven of the year. We also really like the Breville Smart Oven.

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Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is another versatile appliance. It can do the work of a rice cooker, pressure cooker and a slow cooker. It can also make desserts, proof bread and boil eggs. 

Here are 13 Instant Pot tips, recipes and features to get you started with this appliance. 

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Stand mixer

A good stand mixer can nix your need for a hand blender, whisk and bread maker. 

If you choose a high-end mixer, like a KitchenAid, you can also get attachments that turn it into a juicer, food processor, sausage maker and more.

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Coffee maker

In my opinion, the only appliance that should go into a kitchen that can't do more than one thing is the coffee maker. 

Don't take choosing a good one lightly, though. Here's our guide to the best coffee makers of the year.

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A set of knives

A proper kitchen needs a good set of knives. While there are a lot of options out on the market, you only really need three versatile knives: a chef knife, a paring knife and a bread knife. 

We have knife guide that can help you sort out which is which.  

Kitchen Utensils hanging from wall
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Kitchen utensils

You can get swamped in kitchen utensils, but you really don't need that many. 

Typically you should have a potato masher, grater, plastic spatula, metal spatula, meat fork, can opener, ladle, spaghetti spoon and a whisk. 

11 of 15 Alina Bradford/CNET

​Kitchen tongs

Kitchen tongs are a utensil that can seem extraneous, but they actually have many uses. 

Tongs can be used as a manual juicer for citrus fruits, to remove dumplings and other foods from hot oil or water or be used to flip meats on the grill without singing your arm hairs.

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Big spoons

A set of four mixing spoons that can double as serving spoons are also good additions to a well-stocked kitchen. Be sure these spoons are metal or wooden. Plastic spoons tend to bend and warp as you use them.  

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Dishes and cutlery

You should have one place setting for each person that lives in your home or visits on a regular basis. A place setting includes a bowl, saucer or salad plate, dinner plate, fork, knife and spoon.

This is provided, of course, that you wash dishes after every meal. If not, you may consider purchasing an additional place setting for each person. 

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Pots and pans

Until recently, my kitchen was overrun with hand-me-down pots and pans. You really only need a few, though. A well-stocked kitchen has three saucepans (of various sizes), a skillet, two baking sheets, a large baking pan and three baking dishes. 

If you like to bake, you may also want to add a bread pan, two cake pans and a muffin tin to the list. 

Of course, if you have a large family, you may need a few more of these pots and pans. Don't be afraid to add to your collection as the need arises, but remember not to stock up for a wild cooking day that may never come.

cleaning supplies on kitchen counter
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Cleaning supplies

I am a firm believer that the kitchen should have its own set of cleaning supplies. For easy cleaning you need a broom, mop, mop bucket, cleaning rags (microfiber clothes, cotton washcloths or disposable wipes), dish towels, disinfectant spray, floor cleaner and dish soap. 

I also like to keep baking soda and vinegar on-hand because they can be used for many different cleaning situations. Here are 25 household uses for baking soda and 17 uses for vinegar

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