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
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
1 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

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
2 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET


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
3 of 15 Insinkerator

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.

4 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

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.

5 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

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.

6 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

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. 

7 of 15 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

8 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

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.

9 of 15 Taylor Martin/CNET

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
10 of 15 Junophoto/Getty Images

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.

12 of 15 Alina Bradford/CNET

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.  

13 of 15 Alina Bradford/CNET

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. 

14 of 15 Chris Monroe/CNET

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
15 of 15 Josh Miller/CNET

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

More Galleries

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone

18 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work
iphone 15 in different color from an angled view

Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work

21 Photos
2023 BMW Z4 Is 100% More Purple
2023 BMW Z4

2023 BMW Z4 Is 100% More Purple

17 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos