If you stick with it, cooking at home will become a fulfilling and (dare I say) life-changing habit.  But it’s a little tricky to adopt without some basic equipment.  My recommendations for outfitting a very functional kitchen are outlined below.  This goes a step beyond the barest basics; arm yourself with the items on this list and you’ll be well-equipped to handle a very broad repertoire.

For convenience sake, most of the links here are to Amazon - I think it’s the easiest way to see reviews and browse similar items.   Target is a great place to find inexpensive pieces, and you might be surprised by the kitchen section of your local grocery store.  To maximize your budget as you add bigger-ticket items to your collection, watch your mail for single-item discount coupons (I’m thinking of the ubiquitous 20%-off coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond; adapt as needed to your local offerings).  TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and their equivalents are also good places to browse for cookware.

Essential Equipment






  • A few cutting boards
  • Strainer/colander
  • Mixing bowls - small, medium, large (I have these; and these)
  • A big pile of dish towels - buy in bulk packs so you can use them wherever you need

Other things that are nice to have but aren’t necessary:


  • Stock pot (basic; fancy)
  • Griddle
  • Dutch oven (I have two - a 2 3/4 qt and a 6 qt - these are so awesome but can be expensive. Check Williams-Sonoma regularly, though, as they sometimes have amazing sales on Le Crueset. The Emeril line is also pretty reasonable.)
  • 8×8 brownie pan
  • Loaf pan (here’s one)
  • Muffin tins
  • 8″ or 9″ cake rounds, 2 of them
  • Silpat silicone baking mat (here’s one)
  • Wire cooling racks (here’s a pair)



  • Bread knife
  • Instant read thermometer (here’s one)
  • Extra small glass bowls for mixing little things or prepping things to add in advance (like these)
  • Rolling pin

For additional guidance, see this article by Mark Bittman.  We don’t entirely see eye to eye (on this or anything else, really), but he does a nice job of explaining his thought process.