This is the ultimate guide to all my favorite kitchen essentials. From countertop appliances to tools, to pots and pans, these are my favorite kitchen products!
I am often asked about what is the best pan or the best instant pot model or air fryer, and today I am sharing all my favorites in one place.
I am not one for a lot of tools, so if it is lives in my house, it is something I love and use. There is not one thing on this list that I don't full-heartedly recommend.
Slow Cooker: I have had a Crockpot brand slow cooker for over 20 years now. You just can't go wrong with a standard crockpot. I love the fact that the lid locks into place--perfect for transporting to parties!
Blender: My go-to blender is a fairly basic KitchenAid Blender. I have had it for years and it does a great job making smoothies and blending sauces, for a decent price. If you are looking for a high-powered blender that can handle anything, I highly recommend a Vitamix. I love my Vitamix, but it is a splurge item that is not necessary for making delicious family meals.
Food Processor: I use my food processor more than my blender! I use it to shred cheese, cabbage, make granola bars, biscuits, even cheesecake batter. If you can only afford either a blender or a food processor, I would tell you to get a food processor! I used cheap food processors for years but had to replace them frequently. In my opinion, the price of a Cuisinart food processor is well worth it. Now that I have one, I have used it nearly daily for several years without issue.
Instant Pot: I test all my recipes in both a 6-quart and an 8-quart model. And I have to tell you, more often than not, I pull out my 6-quart. It is 5 years old and does the job. It does not have a bunch of fancy functions--which frankly I do not think you need at all!
Air Fryer: The air fryer is not a product that everyone needs, but I am often asked which model I recommend. I have a basic GoWise Air Fryer that has worked well for me for several years. If you need a larger air fryer, I would recommend purchasing one that has an 8-quart capacity.
Handheld Mixer: I love my handheld mixer and use it to make quick bread and muffins or shred meat. I even use it to stir peanut butter!
Pots and Pans
Cast-Iron Skillet: A cast-iron skillet is a must for making perfect steaks and also works well for making fajitas, oven pancakes, or skillet meals. I recommend having at least having a 10-inch skillet, as it works for most meals. A 12-inch cast-iron skillet is nice for larger meals as well.
Non-Stick Skillet: My all-time favorite nonstick skillets are All-Clad Hard anodized nonstick 10 and 12-inch skillets. They are pricey, but they stand up over time, heat evenly, and can safely be placed in the oven up to 500 degrees F. For half the price, you can purchase Calphalon nonstick skillets and they are great, but only can be heated to 450 degrees F.
Saucepans: While the All-Clad stainless steel cookware is AMAZING, it is really pricy. I have the Williams Sonoma stainless steel cookware, that I was able to get on sale--but frankly, it is most often the same price as the All-Clad. I have also used Calphalon stainless steel cookware and I have to say it does the job well for a fraction of the price. I think it is important to have both a 1.5-quart and 2.5-quart saucepan, a 3-quart saute pan, and a 6-quart stockpot.
Dutch Oven: Perfect for making stews or no-knead bread a heavy-bottomed dutch oven is a useful tool to have in a well-stocked kitchen. Staub are known as one of the best brands for dutch ovens, but I love my less expensive Lodge dutch oven.
Sheet Pan with Rack: I use my sheet pan that came fitted with a wire cooling rack to make anything with a crispy breading, like Chicken Strips. It allows the air to circulate evenly so that whatever I am cooking browns up perfectly--on all sides.
Loaf Pans: I love these loaf pans! They are inexpensive, nonstick, and cook evenly! A must for any quick bread recipe!
Cookie Sheets: You don't need expensive cookie sheets to make good cookies. These nonstick cookie sheets bake cookies up perfectly.
Parchment Paper: I use parchment paper all the time when baking. It makes for easy clean-up and keeps baked goods from sticking to pans.
Silicone Muffin Liners: I LOVE LOVE LOVE using silicone muffin liners when baking muffins--no more muffins sticking to paper muffin cups or pans.
Utensils and Gadgets
Microplane: A Microplane is a must for grating fresh Parmesan, zesting citrus, and using for grating fresh ginger and garlic.
Handheld Citrus Juicer: You can totally use your hands to juice lemons and limes, but this metal juicer is inexpensive and gets EVERY drop of the juice out of the citrus while leaving the seeds behind.
Meat Thermometer: The only way to GUARANTEE you cook your meat to the right temperature, not overcooked or undercooked, I can't recommend using an oven-safe digital thermometer enough. You set the temperature and the thermometer will beep when your meat is cooked--just the way you want it! Getting an oven-safe thermometer is just a couple more dollars than a regular digital thermometer and it lets you set the temp and forget it--no need to keep checking on your meat.
Fine Mesh Strainer: A stainless steel fine mesh strainer is a must for rinsing grains or sifting powdered sugar or flour. I have a set of strainers in 3 sizes that are perfect for all your cooking needs.
Cutting Boards: I adore my BOOS wooden cutting board for cheeses, bread, and vegetables, however, it is a splurge! It will last forever if you take care of it, but you can certainly get away with a less expensive brand. For meat, I prefer cutting boards that are dishwasher safe.
Knives: My husband sold Cutco in college, and we still have that set! We do have a set of Sky Light Steak Knives and for only $40, they are absolutely fantastic!
Instant Pot Accessories
I am always asked what are must-have accessories when using the Instant Pot and I only think you need a couple of items.
Stainless Steel Bowl: Many glass bowls are now recognized as unsafe for use in an electric pressure cooker, so I highly recommend using a stainless steel bowl designed to fit inside the instant pot.
Egg Rack: You can certainly make hard-boiled eggs by just stacking the eggs on the metal rack, but an egg rack helps to keep the eggs from cracking.
Strainer Basket: This is certainly NOT necessary, but I love using my strainer basket when making potato salad or veggies in the Instant Pot.
For all my favorite kitchen essentials, be sure to check out my list on Amazon.