If there’s one thing that setting up a new studio kitchen has taught me, it’s that I am very particular about my kitchen gear.
For me, it’s not about wanting the most expensive, trendy or what matches my kitchen decor. It’s foremost about what will last, what’s practical, what has multiple uses and of course what lets me cook/chop/stir faster (mostly because I’m always in a rush – every spare second counts!!)
So you will find almost nothing “cool” on this list, not even anything cute and pretty! That might disappoint some of you looking for gift ideas. However I’d offer you to look at this another way: The items on this list are practical things that the lucky people you gift them to will use for 10, 20, or 30 years – and think of you every time they do.
And isn’t that what gift giving is all about? (I mean, being at the front of their mind, not making the recipient happy – hah! 😉)
And so I present to you, the inaugural RecipeTin Eats’ Essential Kitchenware Guide!!!
The RecipeTin ESSENTIAL Kitchenware Guide
About product links – no affiliate links!
There are no affiliate links, nor was I given free product or paid to promote any of the items you see here. I have purchased all these items myself.
I’m in Australia, so most links are to Australian websites, but I’ve tried to note how widely available the items are. Most items link to the product sites so you can read first hand information about it. But search to find the best prices from reputable online stores.
* I like going to these stores in person rather than ordering online. Big discount kitchenware stores – just drop me off and leave me there for the day!
#1 A really good chef’s knife
1. Chef’s Knife – the all rounder to use for “everything”
Japanese handcrafted Chef’s knife (this is what I use, pictured above): SETO VG10 Gyuto 21cm/8.5″ blade with Mahogany Handle (sorry to say it’s only available in Tokyo, Japan. No online or telephone orders)
Wüsthof Chef’s Knife (third pick, popular in the US): Wüsthof 8” Classic Chef’s Knife.
I’ve included other recommendations and the full list of my knife collection in the My Favourite Kitchen Knives post.
Top tip: Never buy a knife without an appropriate sharpener!
The single most valuable item in the kitchen! The difference between a sharp, good knife and a cheap knife is speed, accuracy and keeping all your fingers (Yep, a blunt knife is the biggest offender of kitchen cuts. Think how a tomato slips away when you try to cut through the skin with a blunt knife – it can only end in tears and blood!)
A really good chef’s knife should be seen as an investment worth making. That said, I’ve included recommendations catering to differing budgets as well as personal preferences in terms of knife styles, and what your primary use of the knife will be. I’ve written a separate post on choosing a great knife – see My Favourite Kitchen Knives.
#2 Lodge cast iron skillet
What I use: 26cm/10.5″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (A$55)
(Update 25 Nov: this was item #3, but I moved it up because it is definitely the 2nd most valued item in my kitchen. Read on for why!)
My favourite skillet by far. Like a Dutch Oven, a good skillet retains lots of heat, distributes it evenly and is suitable for both stove and oven and it is the best for aggressive searing of steaks and chops. Nothing gets a good crust on steak like cast iron!
I also love the Lodge’s shape: Straighter sides means less liquid sloshing out and a more flat surface area for searing.
I use it for steak and baking things (like above pictured cornbread), pasta bakes like Baked Mac and Cheese and for making Thai Red Curry. It is very useful for going from the stove to the oven for things like this Leftover Turkey Pot Pie and even roasts like Prime Rib (sear then oven).
The cast iron comes with a non-stick seasoning, and unlike non-stick frypans and enamel coated cast-iron (both below), this is indestructible and at $A55 it is EXCELLENT value for money.
You don’t see it as much as you used to in my recipe videos because you can’t see dark sauces as well, hence why in recent years I’ve reverted to a silver pan. But for real life and work cooking, it’s amongst my most used vessels.
It also looks much better in photos than my non-stick skillets!
Size – Mine is a 26cm / 10.25″ which is perfect for making a chicken curry for 4, or a Mac and Cheese that feeds 5 – 6. But it’s really only suited to searing things for 2 to 3 people (like steak). I’d go up to 30cm/12″ if you’re feeding a family of 4 to 5.
Downside – It’s heavy, and the handle gets hot (because it’s also very short … all skillets seem to have disproportionately short handles. Why?)
#3 A good cast iron Dutch Oven
Other recommended brands: Le Cresuet (available virtually world-wide), Staub (popular in the US).
As anybody who has ever used a Dutch Oven knows, they are heavy and you get a free bicep workout every time you use it. Aside from that, the true beauty of the Dutch Oven is how it retains heat so well and evenly. It’s also equally at home on both stove and oven (often moving between the two in fact), comes in all sorts of pretty colours these days, and it will last a lifetime if you care for it properly.
Why are they so superior to cheap and thin-style steel or aluminium pots for most purposes? Here’s the problem with the latter types:
For slow cooked stews, the base will burn and meat in the middle of the sauce won’t cook evenly because heat doesn’t distribute evenly inside the pot;
Minced / ground meat just stews (gets all watery) instead of sizzling and browning for things like Spaghetti Bolognese because the metal doesn’t retain enough heat to keep up the temperature; and
Vegetables will just burn instead of going golden when sautéing because there’s too little moderating metal between them and the stove, and you’ll have uneven heat patches across the base of the pot.
What I have: Two 24cm Chasseur cast iron pots, one in in Duck Egg Blue and one in White. They are perfect for feeding 4 – 6.
Not Le Creuset? In my opinion, while Chasseur is the cheaper brand when compared to Le Creuset, it’s every bit as good. I know there are small differences in build but they are both made in the same place in France, they weigh virtually (exactly?) the same, and I honestly think you pay a 30 – 50% premium mostly for the brand name with Le Creuset.
Notable mention: Staub, another French made cast iron cookware. A popular US brand, “all” my food blogger friends use it! It’s virtually the same build as Chasseur, just a slightly boxier look which I really like.
Yes enamelled cast iron can chip if bashed against sharp edges, but without enamel, cast iron is black. This makes it hard to see burnt bits on the base and the true colour of sauces.
Cheaper Dutch Ovens than the three mentioned brands exist but are not as heavy duty. So they will not retain nor distribute heat as evenly. That said, they are still far better than light aluminium pots!
#4 Non Stick Fry Pans
Excellent for general purpose day to day use and using less oil. But NEVER use non stick for aggressive searing of steaks and chops – you’ll burn away the non stick coating!
NEVER use non stick pans for high-heat aggressive searing of steaks, it destroys the non stick coating! Use something like the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (above) or silver skillet (next).
For things that are notorious for sticking (I’m looking at YOU, fish and eggs!) and generally cooking with less oil, Scanpan is in my opinion by far the best general non-stick cookware in Australia. Not only for its durability – it should last near a lifetime if you look after it correctly, ie. NO dishwasher & NO aggressive searing steaks – but also for superior heat distribution performance.
Danish-made, it’s not cheap but it’s much heavier duty and far superior in quality to cheaper but thinner-based alternatives. Most Scanpans also have a metal handle so it can go from stove to oven – a must in my book!
What I have:
Scanpan 26cm Pro IQ Non Stick Fry Pan (RRP A$215, online for $139 here) – For pan frying chops, fish and fritters. The low sides makes it easier to turn and flip things, while the steepness of the sides means there is more flat cooking surface area; and
30cm large sauté fry pan – so big and deep it can basically act like a pot to make things like bolognese sauce (instead of heaving out my Dutch Oven). It’s good for tossing stir fries, noodles and pasta in it too, and anything saucy like Beef Stroganoff or curries.
The one I currently have is no longer available, however, the Scanpan Pro IQ 32cm saute pan is the one I’m about to order for my studio kitchen from here for $233 (RRP A$395). I’ve seen the next size down in kitchen stores, not available in 30cm so I’m going for 32 cm.
#5 Large silver skillet (without non-stick)
What I use: 30cm/12″ Scanpan Accent Fry Pan, without non-stick coating. No longer available though, but a similar item is this Impact 32cm/13″ Scanpan Chef Pan (I would have gotten this for my studio but it’s a touch too large for the the burner of the portable gas stove I use for recipe videos).
You often see this silver Scanpan in my videos which I use specifically so you can see the colour of sauces in recipes (which you can’t see in black non-stick fry pans). This is what it looks like (Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce):
While an excellent product for heat retention and distribution, it has neither a non-stick coating nor can it be seasoned like my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. So you do need to either be a more experienced cook to know how to use it without things getting stuck on it, or use a little more oil whilst cooking with it.
I got it specifically for shoot purposes, but grew to love it for the same reason most professional kitchens rarely use non stick pans: because you get great fond, being the brown stuff that sticks to the base of the skillet that then dissolves into sauces to add flavour. It’s a bit techy, so let’s just say the cast iron skillet is a better and easier alternative to this skillet that’s not non stick…. unless you are a capable cook.
So I’m just adding it to the list for honest completeness. 🙂
Why I love it: For the large flat base, deep enough to make saucy things but not so deep that it’s awkward to flip things, and the brilliant fond you get when you sear things. Recommended for experienced cooks only, you really need to be able to moderate and understand heat well to cook on this without using more oil. RRP A$115 (another benefit – cheaper than non stick!)
#6 Saucepans and pots
I also have stainless steel Scanpan saucepans and pots. As with the skillets, they are heavier duty than flimsy, cheap ones so heat retention and distribution is better. They are so good you can even make stews in them, which I did for many years before I got a Dutch Oven (which gives you better results, but until I knew otherwise, I was happy with my Scanpan stews!).
I’ve had (and still have) some flimsy cheap pots which have burned more caramels ands sauces than I care to think about (for the same reason as lightweight cheap pots – read above in Dutch Oven section).
But the biggest gripe I have is that they either have cheap metal handles that get hot on the stove within minutes, or plastic handles that are prone to melting.
Hence, I feel it’s worth investing in better gear.
I have the following Scanpan pots which I purchased 15 years ago that seem indestructible – I have scrubbed them to death with soft scourers (not the really harsh wire ones) and they come up so clean they look brand new. In fact, I have had readers ask me how my saucepans look so shiny, and they’re gobsmacked when I tell them they are 15 years old!
Note: I got them in a bargain set which no longer seems to exist, but I’ve linked a similar set below):
Scanpan 16cm Impact Saucepan – For making smaller batch sauces;
Scanpan 22cm Impact Smallish Pot – Another frequently used pot. It’s taller than it is wider. Perfect for cooking up to 250g/8oz of pasta, making soup for 4 – 5 people, and risotto;
The set I recently purchased for my studio kitchen is this 6 Piece Impact set which contains the 16cm, 18cm and 24cm pots/saucepans listed above. RRP $415, online for $269 here which is around what I paid for it at a local discount kitchen store. (Update 24 Nov: Just saw this 5 piece Satin Scanpan set for $188 which is such a bargain I would have gotten that in a flash if I had seen it! It has the 16cm & 20cm saucepan, 24cm pot, 26cm frypan and steamer. AGH! This is unbelievable value, I wish I had seen this!)
The set doesn’t have the 22cm smallish pot which I use a LOT but I think I’m going to survive……😂 The set also does not contain the stockpot which I bought separately.
#7 Thermapen thermometer
Until 6 months ago I was perfectly happy with my $5 meat thermometer that I purchased from Ebay many years ago. My standing rib roast was always perfectly pink so it was accurate, as far as I could tell.
But then someone upgraded me to a Thermapen thermometer. I’m not going to lie: It’s awesome. It’s well-designed, folds up neatly, and declares itself the worlds’ best for speed and accuracy – and I believe it based on my usage.
This is more than a meat thermometer however. It can measure temperatures ranging from -49.9 to 299.9°C (- 58.0 to 572.0°F), and yes it switches between Celsius and Fahrenheit. So you can use it to measure melted sugar, oil temperatures for frying, water for poaching – everything you could possibly need a kitchen probe thermometer for.
So if you’re big into roasts or expensive steaks, frying, baking or all of these, I highly recommend it. This is the one and only probe thermometer you’ll ever need.
But even if you can’t make that investment – it’s the 21st century, and even cheap tech isn’t so bad. Invest in a $5 meat thermometer. That’s a lot cheaper than a wasted, overcooked standing rib roast!
#8 Nutribullet: My favourite appliance
Why do I like it so much? Well, it’s more powerful than food processors, has a smaller footprint, is way easier to clean than blenders and is far cheaper too.
What I have: NutriBullet Pro 1000 (RRP ~A$159). The important thing to know here with all blenders etc is the power rating. This machine has 1000 watts of power, which is what you’re looking for. Personally I don’t need all the extra jugs etc. I don’t use any of them, just the standard one, but you might.
#9 The BEST Food processor (and cheap!)
I hated food processors for many years before a friend introduced me to the Breville Kitchen Wizz 8. And it changed my life. The unique thing about this machine is that it has 4 blades instead of the usual 2, which means it is so much more effective at blitzing things.
A food processor that works as promised! Yay!!
With an RRP of A$229, it’s in the lower-mid price range. I promise you could easily spend double, triple or more on a seemingly fancier, better machine but nothing comes close to this processor in performance.
Tip: A more expensive version is also an available option. However it mostly just includes more attachments that do all kinds of stuff you’ll maybe never need and so sit around in your cupboard taking up space. It’s about really how fancy you want to get with your blitzing and if you use those functions (I have never needed anything more than what I have).
#10 Small tools and gadgets I value highly
Smaller in size and cost they may be to the above list, but equally valuable. Here are some of my favourite tools and appliances that made me pause when I saw the price but I have never looked back since I got them for their sheer utility.
A good garlic press
A good garlic press will do as it promises: Crush garlic out with as little effort as possible, clove with skin on and all. Cheap ones will require the force of both hands at best, and you often lose half the garlic.
Good presses will last many years. My first one lasted 15 years before it finally died and only because I started (stupidly) putting it in the dishwasher. So the powder coating came off and metal was bleeding into the pressed garlic … lesson learnt.
The sharpest and the best, most convenient shape for use, I use this for citrus zesting, grating parmesan over pasta, grating ginger and garlic straight into soups (see this in action here), to make chocolate dust, and grate nutmeg into béchamel sauce.
I particularly love that you can grate garlic and ginger without peeling. The skin just kind of gets pushed out of the way as you grate, and ends up on top.
I’m very passionate and protective about my microplane – nothing else I’ve tried comes close to this one!
At a mere US$15 it might seem like no big deal to those of you in the States. But the RRP is A$57 here in Australia, which is why it’s on my “find it in the sales!” list.
This is a well-regarded German brand that produces all types of scales – including those I stand on each morning and gasp at with dismay. I want to believe it’s inflated by 5 kg or so…. but sadly these scales do not lie. They can’t be inaccurate, they’re German-made 😔
The kitchen scales go up to 5kg / 10lb which is more than sufficient, and down to a single 1 gram. If you need to weigh something even heavier (like a giant turkey) put it in a container and use human scales.
After years of battling loose mandolin parts flying around my kitchen cupboards from those giant sets with a gazillion parts, 99% of which I have no idea what they do nor will I ever use, being introduced to this everything-I-need mandolin was a game changer. By my mother, of all people!
(Mind you, the Japanese are big fans of finely slicing things, so she would know!)
Meet – the Kyocera Mandolin. It’s a Japanese brand and there’s two things that make this unique:
Adjustable slicer with NO extra bits! Just rotate the simple dial at the back to change the thickness – and I’ve never needed anything more than the 4 provided (from paper thin 0.5mm to 3.0 mm / 1/50 – 3/25″); and
Super sharp ceramic blade.
Also comes with a handguard for when you get to the end of whatever you’re slicing.
I just love it. Lightweight, easy to use and store, does what it promises, no fumbling around for attachments!
You will find mixed reviews about it online but from scanning those (out of interest, curious to see who could not love this!) it seems to trend from those who try using it for tomatoes (umm – no!) to those who have skinned themselves (hand guard, people!).
I have the red for work, and black for personal. Skip the green – too hard to see vegetables like fennel on it!
#11 Glass food containers (Glasslock)
Based on the sheer number containers I’m using at any one time, this really should have made #2, just after the knife!
I am VERY fond of my Glasslock containers, firstly for their strength. They’re virtually impossible to break, I am yet to even chip one. Secondly they’re made of shatterproof glass, so there are no shards even if they do crack (ie it breaks into “safe” pieces that are not pointy).
They’re also 100% airtight (seriously, put your iPhone in it and drop it in the pool if you don’t believe me!). Any food you store in them will last twice as long – it’s like vacuum sealing.
And the oven safe ones (conveniently indicated with a red lid) can go from freezer to fridge to oven to table in the same container. Handy!
They don’t absorb flavours or smell, they don’t stain or degrade, so they’re as sparkly clean and new as they looked 5 years ago. Plastic just doesn’t compare. It stains, gets smelly and always goes cloudy / degrades.
For full disclosure, I was first introduced to them when Glasslock asked me to do a segment on TVSN for them (yes, I did a TV shopping show!!😂). So I did get some free sets initially, but since then I’ve continued to add to my collection and gifted them too!
#12 Items I have opinions about – pending
There are a number of items that I have (strong!) opinions about but didn’t want to put in this post shouting “THIS WOK (or whatever) IS AWESOME!!!” but then not be able to tell you where to get it, or what to look for to find a similar one. Primarily because I got these items so long ago (or in one case, stole it from my mother) and I’m looking for a duplicate for my studio kitchen but still haven’t found one I’m happy with.
Such items include:
wok – this is the item I permanently borrowed from my mother, it is from an Asian store. I can’t pick this sort of thing online, I have to see it myself. Hence no recommendation yet!
stick blender – I got a brand name one for the studio kitchen and am so unhappy with it I am inclined to return it. It is not fit for purpose! The one I have that I love is a very old Breville – solid and works like a dream. I can’t recommend a current model one until I try it for myself;
cutting boards – as above, I ordered online thinking they looked like the ones I have been using all my life. Turns out they were cheap shoddy imitations. Wow, I am even fussy about my cutting boards, it turns out!!😂; and
Breville fast-slow cooker – the Australian Instant Pot with slow cooker, pressure cooker and saute functions. The one I have is so old, I need to look into the current model to see if it’s still as reliable and no major/silly design changes.
I will come back and update it when I get my these for my studio kitchen (and am happy with the item!).
#13 KitchenAide Stand Mixer – love to have, not necessity
Money happens to also be the other reason it’s famous: It’s signficantly expensive – at least, in Australia, with an RRP of A$899 for the classic I have (but see below for sales!). I hear in the US it can be found for as little as $199 in the sales….
Having said that, this is not some plastic junk built to last 3 years and burn out. It is sturdy and reliable, and will last for decades if you look after it. In fact, my friends’ mother is hitting 40 years with hers …!
I have put it at the bottom of my list because I do consider it “love to have” rather than a necessity. You CAN work around not having one – handheld beaters, hand kneading etc.
But we can all agree one does look so good on the counter! Mine was a birthday present that the entire family pitched in for over a decade ago. I recently bought one for my studio kitchen too…. because I got so tired of lugging my personal one up and down the stairs!
So if you want one but don’t have one, and the cost is a stretch, be extra-nice to your friends and family and maybe, just maybe, they’ll buy you one too one day … 😉
What I have: KitchenAide Artisan Stand Mixer KSM150 in Empire Red (personal) and white (for work). This is the “classic” that many people have. RRP A$899, currently selling for $699 on the Kitchenaide website and currently as low as $584 on Catch.com.au (I feel ill, I paid full price…..😩)
Comes with whisk, flat beater, dough hook (for breads!) and pouring shield (eg so icing sugar doesn’t fly everywhere when you make fluffy frostings!).
Questions! Forgotten items!
And there you have it. Finally, the very first RecipeTin Eats kitchenware guide, the most important and frequently used items in my kitchen. The items that were at the top of my list when I finished building my work kitchen.
I must confess, I found writing this post a little daunting. I thought it would be a cinch to write – but I had so much to say, and it’s hard to choose what to leave out! And I bet I’ve missed something super obvious. If I have, please let me know so I can fix it quick smart!
I hope you find it helpful. If you have questions, please drop them below and I can update the post if need be! – Nagi x
Life of Dozer
When I pulled out all my pots and pans to measure, really, the only thing Dozer cared about was the container I sacrificed to store his treats…