Essential Cooking Tools for Beginner Home Cooks

The world of home cooking equipment is expansive. Here’s what you need as a newcomer.

Published Jan. 8, 2021.

In my family, cooking is an act of love. My siblings and I were lucky to have parents who taught us how to cook and emphasized the value of sharing meals together. I’ve held onto this way of thinking about food throughout my life. I often express my care for my partner by making our favorite meals like macaroni and cheese or pulled pork. The dishes are not always elaborate, but sharing a meal is a way for us to slow down and center ourselves in a chaotic world.

Although I grew up cooking, my partner is not as confident in his cooking skills. We were recently chatting about how he wants to develop his culinary abilities to show his appreciation. Since starting my role as the Assistant Digital Editor of ATK Reviews, I’ve become increasingly interested in finding cooking equipment that works for beginners.

The world of kitchen equipment can feel like you’re entering a maze where around every corner is a new gadget that claims to make the process easier. When you’re first starting, using the most expensive or high-end equipment can be intimidating. It’s a good idea to start with a solid foundation of equipment that doesn't require a lot of maintenance and that can be used for a variety of cooking techniques. I’ve created a short buying guide for people like my partner who are beginning their culinary journey.

Nonstick Skillet

A good nonstick skillet is a great place to start, especially if you don’t want to worry about the extra step of seasoning cast iron or carbon steel. Nonstick pans are great at effortlessly releasing foods like eggs, delicate fillets of fish, and caramelized onions. Dishes that have sticky sauces like Skillet-Barbecued Pork Chops won’t leave behind traces of food that can burn if you get distracted. The surfaces become less nonstick with continuous use and will need to be replaced, but they are still a good option for beginners because they require little to no maintenance. Our winner is the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 12" Open Frypan

Nonstick-Safe Spatulas

It’s a great idea to purchase a nonstick-safe spatula in tandem with your nonstick skillet to avoid scratching its surface when you’re sautéing vegetables for dinner or flipping pancakes at breakfast. They’re made from materials that are gentler than metal utensils on the surfaces of your pans. The spatulas that performed the best during our tests were made from nylon or resin, had thin heads that are long and tapered towards the handle, and had handles around 4.75 to 5.5 inches in length. Our winner is the Matfer Bourgeat Exoglass Pelton Spatula.



Test out your pancake flipping skills with this recipe!

Chef’s Knife

A reliable knife is a kitchen essential. Chef’s knives, in particular, are incredibly versatile tools that can be used for chopping peppers for a quick stir fry, dicing potatoes for Home Fries, or slicing up a roasted chicken. Especially when you’re just getting started in the kitchen, your knife should feel secure in your hand and easy to grasp. Our favorite knife is the Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Classic 8" Chef’s Knife due to its razor sharp steel blade and simple, comfortable handle.

Plastic Cutting Board

Although wood cutting boards are generally more durable, plastic cutting boards are easier to clean, don’t require seasoning, and are typically lightweight. Oh, and they can be cleaned in your dishwasher! All that washing and drying can sometimes cause warping, making it harder to cut evenly (and easier to injure yourself). Look for cutting boards that are at least one inch thick or have a medium thickness to prevent warping. We also like models with stability features like rubber grips that secure your board to the counter while you’re chopping and cutting. Our winner is the Winco Statik Board Cutting Board 15" x 20" x ½".

Measuring Cups

Liquid and dry measuring cups are essential for accuracy and consistency in your cooking and baking. They’re typically inexpensive, easy to store if you don’t have tons of cabinet space, and can last for years. Liquid measuring cups are also multipurpose. You can use them to melt butter in a microwave or whip up a quick dressing for a salad. Winning attributes in liquid and dry measuring cups include accuracy, clear markings, and durability. The Pyrex 1 Cup Measuring Cup won us over in our tests of liquid measuring cups because of its bold markings, sturdiness, and comfortable handle. Our favorite set of dry measuring cups, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, took the gold for its ease of use and durability.



Ever wonder why it’s important to use different measuring cups for dry and wet ingredients?

Read about the results of our measuring tests.

Stainless-Steel Mixing Bowls

Mixing bowls don’t get a lot of attention but they play a crucial part in the cooking process. We found that it’s easier to stir or incorporate ingredients efficiently in mixing bowls with walls that are not too shallow and not too tall (no taller than around 4 inches). Look for models that have around ¼ inch to ½ inch rims for a secure grip when you’re mixing or pouring. Overall, stainless-steel bowls are more durable than their glass counterparts and can last for years. The affordable Vollrath Economy Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls were the winners due to their durability, broad shape, and lightness. 


Want to learn how to cook some of your favorite dishes from the folks at ATK? Check out our Online Cooking School. The first two weeks are on us!


For more equipment advice from our ATK Reviews experts, check out these articles:

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