10 Best Kitchen Must Haves For Every Home Cook in 2021

As a Private Chef working in people's homes around the world for over 20 years, I'm always asked the same questions normally starting around October each year. "What holiday kitchen gifts should I give someone who loves to cook?" or "If I wanted to buy myself something for the kitchen, what should I buy?", or the inevitable "What's your favorite kitchen gadget?"

We all have those ancient items in our kitchens that were either hand-me-downs from others, family, garage sale bargains, or from your college years when you shopped exclusively at the dollar store, because hey, that's all you could afford at the time, right?

When it's either time for a kitchen equipment upgrade, or you're looking for that perfect gift for a home cook or a new aspiring chef, we've got the perfect ideas for must-have home kitchen items!

a luxury home kitchen

10 Must-Have Culinary Items For Every Home Kitchen: 

javatools javelin instant read thermometer

1. LavaTools Javelin Digital Instant Read Thermometer 

By far the most important item you should have in any kitchen is a trusted LavaTools Javelin Digital Instant Read Thermometer the same one that I use every day. Having a trusted thermometer when cooking is essential not only for food safety but also to prevent overcooked menu items. From cooking that perfectly moist chicken to making candy, to getting the cream at that perfect temperature for Crème Brulee. Digital thermometers are absolutely critical in the kitchen for daily use.

mercer genesis knife set

2. Mercer Culinary Genesis Knives 

These knives are built to last! From the experts of all things cutlery, The Mercer Genesis Series 5 piece knife set are my "daily drivers" both at work and at home. These knives feature superior blade durability, a nonslip comfort grip, NSF certification, and are backed by an incredible warranty. I've been personally using Mercer Genesis series knives for years! This basic 5 piece set features almost all of the knives you will need for at-home cooking. A chef's knife, a bread knife, a utility knife, and a paring knife.

The best way to care for these or any of your fine kitchen knives is simply to wash them in hot soapy water, and towel dry them. They will last you a lifetime if you never put them in the dishwasher, and have them routinely professionally sharpened.

3. Oxo Good Grips 11 Inch Balloon Whisk

The OXO Good Grips 11 inch Balloon Whisk is perfect for most cooking tasks from whipping egg whites, to make things like emulsions, hollandaise sauce, etc. When shopping for a whisk, you want wires that are thin, but not too thin that the whisk becomes flimsy and the wires bend on you. Whisks with thicker wires don't emulsify nearly as smoothly. The Oxo also features a comfort-grip handle, making your cooking task more comfortable. Dishwasher safe, and will last for years.

high temperature silicone tool set

4. Culinary Couture High Temperature Silicone Spatulas 

High Temperature Silicone Spatulas from Culinary Couture make quick work of stirring, scraping, and spreading. When looking for a silicone spatula set, you always want to ensure that the spatulas are high temperature safe. This means that you can use them in a hot pan without worrying about melting or deforming the spatula and leaving behind undesirable textures in your food. Most spatulas only have a medium heat rating of somewhere between 300-400 degrees F or so. These bad boys are rated all the way up to 608 degrees F and can not only be used on your stovetop safely but also on your BBQ Grill.

Easy to clean up and dishwasher safe, plus they have reinforced stainless steel insides to prevent excessive flexing and bending like other cheaper models.

tramontina 6.5 quart dutch oven pot

5. Tramontina 6.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Probably one of the most versatile pieces of cookware you will ever own, the Tramontina 6.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven will quickly become your new best friend in the kitchen. These heavy-duty enameled Dutch Ovens can go from stovetop to oven, to tabletop to serving.

You can use a Dutch oven for soups, stews, braising, searing, and even baking bread! To have your Dutch oven last a long time never put it in the dishwasher, or run cold water in it right after it's come off the stove or out of the oven. Always allow it to cool to room temperature first, then use hot water and dish soap for cleaning. To protect the enameled finish, always use silicone or wooden utensils inside the vessel. This is one of those cookware pieces that if you take great care of it, you can pass down for generations to come.

3 piece silicone tipped tong set

6. U Taste High Temperature Silicone Kitchen Tongs (Set of 3) 

Rule # 5 in any kitchen is you can never have enough tongs! The U Taste High Temperature Silicone Kitchen Tongs fit the bill for almost every kitchen task. This set of three tongs features high-temperature silicone meaning that you can go into a hot pan, or even use them on your BBQ grill without melting. Also, the silicone tips prevent scratching of your non-stick and enameled cookware pieces. These come in two different options, both 480 degree, and 600-degree heat tolerances. I suggest the 600 degree for grilling compatibility.

Dishwasher safe, and comes in 3 different sizes to tackle a wide variety of tasks involving serving, cooking, or carving hot or cold items. Go ahead and give them a few "test clicks" before you start your next culinary task.

stainless steel cookware set

7. Cuisinart 17pc Stainless Steel Cookware Set

The Cuisinart 17pc Stainless Steel Cookware Set has all of the favorite sized pots and pans needed for virtually any cooking task at home. Containing a 1.5 Quart Saucepan with cover, 1 Quart Saucepan with Glass Cover, 2 Quart Saucepan with Glass Cover,3 Quart Saucepan with Glass Cover,3.5 Quart Sauté Pan with Helper Handle & Glass Cover,4 Quart Dutch Oven with Glass Cover,8 Quart Stockpot with Glass Cover,8" Skillet,10" Skillet,12" Skillet with Glass Cover, and Steamer /Pasta Strainer Insert with Cover.

Stainless cookware will last you a lifetime if you take proper care of it. Never put it in the dishwasher, use simply hot water, Dawn, or Bar Keeper's Friend for cleaning. Use silicone or wood utensils inside. The only non-stick pan you will need is a single sauté pan for things like omelets, crepes, etc. Beyond that, all of your cooking should be done in stainless. This cookware can go from freezer to stove, to oven to tabletop is versatile and long-wearing.

micro plane grating parmesan cheese

8. Microplane Classic Series Premium Grater Zester 

The Microplane Classic Series Premium Grater Zester is so incredibly versatile in its uses. It makes quick work of citrus zest, grating hard cheeses, garlic & fibrous ginger, making fine grates of chocolate, or even hard spices like nutmeg. I use my Microplane constantly, a few quick flicks of the wrist, and everything is grated in no time.

Microplanes are hard-working, razor-sharp kitchen tools that should be used with supervision when the kids are helping out. Dishwasher safe, and will last 3-5 years before needing to be replaced if they dull out. A quick cleaning tip, use a stiff-bristled kitchen brush on the underside of the blades, it will make quick cleanup of sticky or clogged teeth from softer items.

blender with accessories

9. Ninja Professional 1100 Watt Blender BL660 

The Ninja BL660 Professional Blender packs the performance and power to turn ice into snow in seconds. Perfect for those desperately needed adult beverages when the kids are at their friends' house! This powerhouse comes with an 1100 watt motor, a 72 ounce BPA-free blender pitcher, and two "to go" style 16oz blender cups for smoothies, etc.

A powerful blender like this will make light work out of not only crushing ice for that margarita or whiskey sour, but will also make velvety smooth soups, and fruit smoothies. To prevent premature failure of the blender pitcher or blades, never put them in the dishwasher. The high temperature of the dishwasher environment will cause premature failure and crazing of the pitcher. Also, any time you are blending anything hot, leave the pitcher pour spout open, and place a triple folded kitchen towel over the top to prevent splashing, and to allow steam to escape.

barkeepers friend with scrubbies

10. Barkeepers Friend Soft Cleanser w/ Non-Scratch Pads 

The secret weapon in your clean kitchen arsenal! Barkeepers Friend Soft Cleanser w/ Non Scratch Scrub Pads will be your lifesaver! I have absolutely no idea what's in this stuff or makes it better than other scouring cleansers but it takes grime, grease, and baked on, stuck, burned food off any surface without damaging the finishes.

I use Barkeepers Friend Soft Cleanser on my cooktop, cookware, and also countertops to clean up messes quickly. We all have those really dirty, baked-on sheet trays, right? Put a layer of this soft cleanser, and let it soak in for a minimum of 30 minutes, overnight if it's really grimy. Then simply add some hot water, and use the non-scratch scrubby to easily wipe away the ick.

Bonus Item: Virtual Cooking Classes with a Certified Master Chef 

For the food lover who has everything, how about a virtual cooking lesson with a Certified Master Chef? When you’re not sure what to get that special person in your life who wants to take their skills to the next level, let AWG Private Chefs help. Whether savory or sweet, comfort food or crustaceans, a virtual lesson is one-on-one time that the recipient will treasure. Contact our Concierge Team to inquire.

Check out our other recipes, tips & tricks for Easy, Effortless, Entertaining from AWG Private Chefs! 

About the Author: Certified Master Chef, Sommelier & Wine Educator, Sean Andrade is the executive chef/owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, and private event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.

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