14 Must-Have Kitchen Essentials You Need In Your Apartment

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It’s easy for a big cook to say that you need those super expensive (“but totally necessary”) chef knives, but what if you just want the basics? No stress — we’re here to walk you through the true must-haves for your kitchen, regardless of whether you’re moving for the first time on your own or you’re just ready to replace your six-year-old soup pot that smokes when it’s heated. Here’s exactly what you need to turn you into a fully-functioning home cook without going totally overboard.

1. Basic Pots And Pans Set

When it comes to pots and pans, you can keep it pretty simple without shelling out hundreds of dollars and be able to make a decent meal. We like this simple nonstick eight-piece set because it’s less than $28 (score) and it includes only the pots and pans you really need — an 8-inch fry pan, 10-inch fry pan, 1.5-quart saucepan with a lid, 2-quart saucepan with a lid and 3-quart casserole pan with a lid. The fry pans are perfect for stir-fry or pancakes while the saucepans come in handy for cooking rice and pasta. As for the casserole pan, think soups, chili or heating up a big batch of warm drinks. Also, look for nonstick pots and pans! (You’ll thank us later when you’re trying to flip that pancake.)

2. Baking Sheets

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Nope, you don’t just use baking sheets to make cookies. You can toss a chicken breast in the oven for 30 minutes or reheat your favorite slice of pizza to get that nice crisp that a microwave just can’t create. Or, you know, you can bake cookies. Again, look for a nonstick variety here. The last thing you want to do after you just made something yummy in the oven is scrape it off into one big mess. We like this three-piece set with silicone handles (so you don’t burn your hands when your mind goes blank and you reach haphazardly into the oven without mitts… whoops).

3. Nesting Bowls And Measuring Cups Set

No matter what kind of food you like to eat, we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll need to mix something in a bowl at some point, and the same goes for measuring ingredients. (If the recipe says you need half a cup of Parmesan cheese, you probably should measure that out, right?) Luckily, both of these things are typically very inexpensive. One of our favorite finds is a seven-bowl set that includes measuring cups and spoons. All the wins!

4. Silverware Set

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Long gone are the days of stealing plasticware from your college dining hall. You need a proper silverware set, but you’d be surprised by how cheap they can be. Unless you plan to have dinner parties all the time, you can stick with a standard 20-piece set like this one, which includes four knives, small spoons, large spoons, small forks and large forks.

5. Dinnerware Set (Plates, Bowls, Glasses, Mugs)

Your mom’s china set is #goals, but it’s definitely not necessary when you’re looking at the basics. We suggest finding a dinnerware set that includes small and large plates, bowls and mugs all in one go instead of buying everything separately. This one covers full service for four people and clocks in at under $30. And while glasses can be a bit pricey, we found this set of four tall glasses for a great price.

6. Cutting Board

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You’ll be doing some chopping if you plan to cook, so get a set of sturdy cutting boards for different purposes. Why the different purposes, you ask? Well, when you’re cooking chicken and vegetables and you cut your chicken on a cutting board, do you want to go through the trouble of cleaning it off before tackling the vegetables? Nah. We found a three-piece silicone set that’s dishwasher safe, BPA-free and non-porous (so you won’t have any nasty germs lingering after you’re done cutting your food).

7. Colander

Perfect for draining pasta, washing greens, draining canned foods and more, a colander can work wonders in the kitchen, so you definitely need one on hand. Bonus: It can do a bunch of other cool things, like prevent splatter when you’re frying something (you just invert it and place it on top of the pan) and keep produce fresh by storing it in the colander and putting it in the fridge. We say play it straight and find something close to this variety.

8. Bigger Utensils Set

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If you’re gonna cook, you’ll need some cooking utensils. Our basic list includes tongs, a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon (for taking small items out of boiling water without getting that boiling water all over you), a whisk (for stirring creamy sauces or cake mixes), a spatula (remember that pancake?), a can opener and a meat thermometer (optional if you’re not a meat eater). Like the dinnerware, we prefer to make it easy on ourselves and buy these utensils in one big set instead of hunting each of them down individually. This set has everything you need to be fully functional in the kitchen.

9. Pot Holders And Oven Mitts

Hot damn… literally, if you don’t have a set of oven mitts and pot holders on hand. These babies will come in handy even if you’re not baking. Think about that steaming, scalding hot pot of pasta you have to carry over to the sink to drain and not having something protecting your hands from second-degree burns. Yup, they’re necessary. We love that this simple set includes both oven mitts and pot holders.

10. Cheese Grater

You may think, Ah, I’m not grating my own cheese, so this isn’t actually necessary, but friends, you are so wrong. A cheese grater is one of those multi-use tools that people don’t realize can be helpful beyond cheese. You can use it to shred vegetables for a salad or a stir-fry, or grate chocolate to make a nice topping for a cake or pie. Get the picture? The world is your oyster, and your cheese grater can turn any food into a perfectly shredded creation. Opt for a no-fuss option like this one.

11. Kitchen Hand Towels

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You know when you’re doing a ton of dishes and you finally pull your poor arms out of the murky water and immediately want to sanitize yourself? Start by having a hand towel on hand to hang on your oven or keep in a drawer that will, at the very least, keep you dry. Also, you’ll feel fairly fancy when you find a set of hand towels that offer a pop of color or personality to your kitchen. We love this minimalist set, but we highly recommend you go crazy with your personal tastes here.

12. Paper Towels (And A Paper Towel Holder)

When you can’t or don’t want to do a ton of laundry every day by dirtying dish towels every time you have a kitchen spill, paper towels are perfect. Keep them on a paper towel holder to keep the roll itself out of the way of messes. We recommend heavy-duty paper towels so you don’t waste the entire roll on a single incident, and we love this super straightforward paper towel holder that keeps everything in line.

13. Knife Set

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Oh yes, we’re coming back to the knife set. Hey, we never said you’d get away with having no knives (and believe us, you won’t), but you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a nice one. Look for a set that includes a few steak knives (for those fancy nights in), a big chef’s knife to do all the chopping, a serrated knife to cut bread and fragile foods, and a paring knife to make peeling apples and potatoes a breeze. We love this inexpensive set, which even includes scissors and a sharpening rod for when the blades get dull.

14. Dish Rack

You gotta put your just-cleaned dishes somewhere! Trust us when we say that drying your dishes as you go isn’t sustainable, especially if you just had friends over and you’re washing up alone. Get a simple dish rack that can do the drying while you do the socializing (or Netflix binging). We love this collapsible dish rack, which comes in clutch as a serious space saver for small kitchens.

We hope you find these products useful! Swirled may be compensated when users click on the affiliate links in the story below. Prices are accurate and products are in stock at the time of publication. 

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