The 10 Essential Items of Kitchen Gear for a New Home

Stock your kitchen with these tools to cook the widest variety of recipes using the least amount of gear. 

Published Nov. 29, 2023.

Moved into a new home? Congratulations!

Longingly staring at an empty kitchen? Equipment experts Lisa McManus and Hannah Crowley have got you covered.

In their new book Kitchen Gear: The Ultimate Owners Manual, Lisa and Hannah guide you in great detail through all things equipment related. Included are practical tips and real-talk advice for how to fully optimize your kitchen. 

But first, let’s get you stocked up on the top 10 essential items you should start with. Or as Lisa and Hannah like to call it, the “capsule kitchen.” 

The following capsule kitchen tools allow you to cook the widest variety of recipes possible using the least amount of gear. If you have limited space or are just starting out, stock your kitchen with these basics to provide a solid foundation for your future cooking endeavors.

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1. Chef’s Knife

This is the most versatile knife in our kitchen, used for everything from mincing herbs to chopping vegetables to doing basic butchery (think breaking down a chicken or filleting a fish). Look for a knife with a sharp, gently curved blade that’s lightweight and comfortable to hold.


Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 8" Chef’s Knife

Our longtime inexpensive favorite remains a pleasure to use. With a sharp, gently curved blade, it effortlessly dispatched every task we set before it, mincing garlic precisely and breaking down chicken and dense butternut squash with authority.

2. Cutting Board

A cutting board provides a stable surface for all your prep work, keeps your counter clean, and helps prevent your knife from dulling too quickly. Boards made of either wood or plastic are fine—the choice depends on what you prefer. Plastic boards can be used for all types of food, but steer clear of using raw meat on a wooden one.

Great Smaller Option

Teakhaus Edge Grain Cutting Board (L)

We love this smaller version of our winning cutting board just as much as our favorite. It provides ample room to work, is a pleasure to cut on, and requires very little maintenance. Because it’s smaller, it’s also lighter to lift, making it especially easy to transport and clean.

Winco Statik Board Cutting Board 15" x 20" x ½"

Our favorite cutting board impressed testers with its rock-solid stability and excellent durability. Thanks to its moderate weight and four small but capable rubberized grips, it never budged on the counter.

3. Measuring Spoons and Measuring Cups

Accurately measuring ingredients is important in all cooking. We prefer sets of measuring spoons that come with a ⅛-teaspoon measure (not all do). And even in a pared-down capsule kitchen, you should have a set of dry measuring cups as well as a liquid measuring cup. Because yes, it matters which one you use.


Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons Set

Comfortable and accurate with long handles, this set nests nicely. The rim of each spoon is flush with the handle so it is easy to sweep accurately.

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Measuring Cups

Accurate and extremely durable, this set snaps together for compact storage. The handles are seamless with the cups themselves, making them easy to level off.
Winner - Glass

Pyrex 1 Cup Measuring Cup

This classic model was accurate and had bold, easy-to-read measurement lines that clearly corresponded to specific numbers. The handle, though small, was smooth and wide enough to be comfortable. We also liked that the glass resisted staining and was durable.

4. Mixing Bowls

A mixing bowl is used for everything from whisking together a vinaigrette to melting butter to stirring together cake batter. A good bowl should be so steady, durable, and comfortable to handle that it goes almost unnoticed while you work.


Vollrath Economy Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

The broad, shallow shape of these inexpensive bowls put food within easy reach and allowed for wide turns of a spatula. These were also the lightest bowls in the lineup—the combined weight of all three that we tested was less than 1 1/2 pounds.

5. Fish Spatula

Despite the specificity of its name, the thin metal edge and subtle curve of a fish spatula actually make it the best all-purpose spatula for flipping food. Look for a spatula that’s easy to hold with a pronounced curve. The extra leverage allows you to flip foods such as pancakes, eggs, and home fries with ease.


Wüsthof Gourmet 7" Slotted Fish Spatula

Our former winner continues its reign: Its perfectly proportioned head supported foods of all shapes and sizes and maneuvered nimbly even in tight spaces. And because it's also moderately thin and flexible, it excelled at getting under food.

6. Silicone Spatula

A silicone spatula is your best friend for all things mixing, stirring, and scraping. Its flexible, slightly rounded head is built for getting right into corners. A good silicone spatula should feel like an extension of your arm. It should be firm enough for scraping and scooping and tight enough to fit into the corners of your bowls.

Winner: Best All-Purpose Spatula

Di Oro Living Seamless Silicone Spatula—Large

This model is firm enough for scraping and scooping but also fit neatly into tight corners. Its straight sides and wide, flat blade ensured that no food was left unmixed. The all-silicone design eliminates any crannies that could trap food.

7. Tongs

Tongs let you securely grab hot foods with ease. We use them to turn and transfer large roasts, toss and portion pasta, and manipulate fiddly pieces such as dumplings or vegetables. Look for tongs that have scalloped, uncoated features. You also want them to be easy to use and not cause any pain in your wrist from the tongs’ tension.


OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs

The scalloped, uncoated pincers on our longtime favorite tongs felt very precise. This model was also comfortable to use, not only because of the silicone-padded handle but also because the tension didn’t strain our hands or wrists.

8. Instant-Read Thermometer

An instant-read thermometer tells you when your food is done, when oil is hot enough for frying, when meat has reached its ideal doneness, when pie fillings are set, and more. Find an instant-read thermometer that has a good handle, indicates the temperature quickly, and is easy to read.


ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE

The newest instant-read thermometer by ThermoWorks is the best we’ve tested yet. It has all the features we loved in our previous favorite. The ONE improves on its predecessor, though: As its name indicates, it takes just 1 second to measure a temperature.

9. Cast-Iron Skillet

Skillets come in a variety of different materials, all of which have their own properties. A cast-iron skillet is a versatile choice for everything from searing a steak to shallow-frying to oven-roasting to baking. A seasoned cast-iron skillet is also naturally nonstick.


Smithey Ironware No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet

Silky-smooth from the get-go, this roomy pan didn’t let food stick and stayed impressively slick throughout testing. Its heavy weight helped it retain heat, so it seared food evenly and deeply.
Best Buy

Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

While this skillet started out with a rougher surface than those of the artisan pans, its gently nubbly texture quickly gained seasoning, and by the end of testing it released food and cleaned up perfectly. At about 8 pounds, it’s heavy, but that weight helps with heat retention and browning.

10. Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens do it all. You can use them for boiling, braising, searing, frying, and baking. Use one to boil pasta, make corn on the cob, cook up a batch of soup, develop fond, make a one-pot dinner for the whole family, and bake bread. You can even turn one into a makeshift steamer or panini press.

WINNER—6.5 to 7.5 Quarts

Le Creuset 7¼ Quart Round Dutch Oven

This perfect, pricey pot bested the competition again. It was substantial enough to hold and distribute heat evenly without being unbearably heavy. This pot is expensive, but it was exceptionally resistant to damage.
Best Buy

Cuisinart 7 Qt. Round Covered Casserole

This model costs a third of what our favorite Le Creuset Dutch oven does and performed almost as well. With a very similar design—low, straight sides and a broad, off-white cooking surface—it allowed us to easily move food, sear in fewer batches, and monitor browning.
New Release!

Kitchen Gear: The Ultimate Owner's Manual

Calling all curious cooks: Get more, much more, out of your kitchen tools. Packed with science-backed advice from professional equipment reviewers, practical how-to guides, engrossing trivia, beautiful full-color photography, and 100+ recipes that showcase great gear, this guide is an indispensable source of collected wisdom found nowhere else.
Watch Hannah and Lisa explain all the necessary equipment for your capsule kitchen.

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