Basic Cookware and Utensils

A photo of some basic cookware such as a stock pot, frying pan and strainer, along with basic utensils including a large spoon, a chef's knife, a potato masher, a spatula, measuring cups, a grater, measuring spoons, a brush, a whisk, a peeler and a cheese slicer

I’m not a professionally trained chef, just a person who, over the years of experimenting with cooking (and baking) has come up with some very “no bullshit” ways to make healthy food that not only tastes good, but is pretty quick and doesn’t take years of experience to make.

So here’s a quick list of things I have found over the years that I think are good essentials.

QUICK TIP: if you’re on a tight budget (or even if you’re not and want to save some $), hit up your local thrift stores and I guarantee you’ll find pretty much everything here for way cheaper than retail.

Stove Top Cookware

Over time, I found that most dishes I made (unless I was cooking for a number of people – so factor that in if you have a family of 3+) I could get away with using 1 large frying pan. Also, I’d recommend stainless steel (avoid aluminum), or the newer non-stick (ceramic / non-toxic).

The Essentials

  • 1 large (at least 10″) frying pan with a glass lid (if it doesn’t come with one, which many don’t, you can get glass lids in standard sizes separately). I’d go with the newer non-stick types here (ceramic / non-toxic).
  • A steamer pot (I actually like steamer pots – the base pot, and then a separate steamer and a lid – rather than the thin inserts. They’re just more versatile.). You absolutely can use the bottom pot separately for whole bunch of basic cooking so get a size that works for your needs. You can also use the steamer top as a strainer if you don’t want to buy or don’t have a separate strainer.
  • A larger stock pot with a lid (my 10″ lid that fits the frying pan, also fits my stock pot).
  • A small sauce pan with a lid (2-4 quarts)

For Oven and Baking

  • 2.5 quart casserole dish (Corningware is a good brand for this – NOTE: if you’re thrifting these look for ones that are all white as they’re usually the newer ones. There’s a whole internet debate about vintage bakeware containing lead … you can Google down this rabbit hole yourself. You can also find Corningware bakeware sets on sale at major retailers pretty frequently).
  • 1.5 quart casserole dish
  • 13″ x 9″ baking dish
  • Cookie sheet
  • Pie pan (I personally like the glass ones)


  • All purpose kitchen knife – aka Chef’s knife (and a knife sharpener) (Note: check out the post on safely using a Chef’s knife)
  • Paring knife
  • Slotted spatula (food turner-style)
  • Large slotted spoon
  • Large spoon
  • Ladle
  • Potato masher
  • Kitchen tongs
  • Peeler
  • Whisk
  • Colander / strainer
  • Grater
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Baking spatula (the silicone ones are pretty good)
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • 2 cup liquid measuring cup (Pyrex makes a good glass one)
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Cutting board (get one with rubber grip on the bottom side so it doesn’t slide around on you)
  • Oven mits

Other essentials

  • Mixing bowls (You can usually pick these up pretty inexpensively in large retail stores – if you go thrifting, I’d look for clear glass or stainless steel.)
  • A set of storage containers (I prefer glass myself, but BPA-free plastic gets the job done was well)

People might add “prep bowls” to the “other” list, but honestly, you can just use bowls from your dishes set for this sort of thing. You really don’t need a dedicated prep-bowls set unless you want to get fancy.

Some nice things…

These are some items that you will absolutely drop some dollars on. They’re in no way “essential” to being able to cook tasty, healthy food, but I’ve found I use mine A LOT.

  • Toaster oven (mine is an old convection one – what they called “air fryers” before that was a marketing phase)
  • Food processor (I have a Cuisinart but honestly, there are a lot of great food processors on the market)
  • Blender (I shelled out for a Vitamix and 10/10 would recommend saving up for that one – look out for sales)
  • Rice cooker (Zojirushi is a great brand)
  • Waffle maker (if you like waffles … I scored my mini one at Marshalls for $9)
  • Runner up: Instant Pot (I am still exploring more ways to use mine)

That’s it! Happy cooking.

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