Basic Kitchen Tools


When was the last time you opened your kitchen drawer and found exactly what you were looking for without digging? I’ve had moments when dumping out my drawer was an everyday occurrence. The abyss of tools for the modern functioning kitchen seems to be endless, unorganized, and completely tiresome. I have even found myself not knowing what some tools were for! Why is this so? There seems to be a repeating pattern as to why that is, and I can offer some experience as a consistent home cook.

I think partially what is to blame for this cluttered way of living is truly due to ignorance. I mean to say, some tools just haven’t been explained in some households or used in practice to show what the tool is for. Some lucky individuals grow up making a pie with grandma, but others haven’t the slightest clue what a pastry wheel is for. Large scale stores like Crate and Barrel, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Amazon have a plethora of tools for the kitchen, but most of these are an impulse buy for those who are striking out on their own for the first time, splitting a space with a roommate, or “Just Married” into a new home.  Many of these tools seem to overlap for its intended use. This can be due to inexperience and lack of knowledge of your space and what is essential in your day to day cooking. 

-Another reason I find could have much to do with specialized tools or what I call “Uni-taskers”. That one tool that does only one thing is usually pushed to the back of the drawer, cabinet, or stuffed into the holiday box for next Christmas. Now, there are plenty of uniform uni-taskers that have several uses, but it takes some creativity to discover what those uses are. I am here to open that door to see what truly is useful to you in your own unique kitchen layout. Not one kitchen I believe is ever the same.

I have here a list of every single kitchen tool I could think of. It may be missing a few, but feel free to leave a comment for a tool to add. I will be updating as I go.

This list is mostly focused on general day-to-day use. This does not include ice cream-makers, turkey-fryers, or anything in that camp. I am focusing on tools of older connections, and maybe a few recent adaptations to older tools.  These tools will be divided into categories for a better understanding of their multiple uses and origins.


(*) Suggests an alternative tool for the same use.

(~) Explains the function of a tool. This can also suggest a different variety of tools.

(E) I consider it essential in my kitchen.


  • Mixing Bowl (E*Smaller serving bowls)(~Hold large food items, or for big mixing messes like baking.)
  • Measuring cups (E~Can come in the form of a glass or pyrex measuring cup or individual measuring cups that nest together. These are for measuring larger amounts in cooking/baking.)
  • Measuring spoons (E~Spoons on a ring used for smaller measurements in cooking/baking.)
  • Skillet (*Griddle)(E-Cast Iron, Porcelain, Teflon, Copper, etc.)(~Used to cook items directly overheat with low surrounding walls. Great for solid foods.)
  • Saucepan (Of various sizes)(*Dutch oven)(E-Cast Iron Skillet, Porcelain, Teflon, Copper, etc.)(~Used to cook items directly overheat with high surrounding walls. Great for liquids and solid foods.)
  • Strainer (*Colander/*Sieve) (E~Used for draining pasta and washing and draining veggies/fruits, etc. A sieve is good for washing small grains and sifting powdered sugar, flour, etc.)
  • Vegetable steamer (*Small colander/*Sieve)(E~Add-on to a saucepan. A steamer basket is placed over boiling water, chopped veggies can rest in the basket and cook in minutes.)
  • Container(*Ball/Mason jar) (E~Any glass, plastic, etc. box to keep food fresh in the fridge or the pantry.)
  • Chip clips or twist-tie (*Container)(~This tool keeps food fresh, longer in a bag.)
  • Knife block/strip (E~Magnetic strip, wood stand. etc. This keeps dangerous, sharp knives safely secured, but still out to use anytime.)
  • Water pitcher (E~Filters and/or holds water to pour.)
  • Potholder/Glove(*Thick hand towel)(~This is a barrier you hold while you pick up something hot. Useful for items being taken out of an oven.)
  • Baking pan (E~A flat sheet with medium walls to bake items in. Great for wetter things using oil or a liquid with solid foods.)
  • Baking sheet (E~A flat sheet with no walls to bake solid or doughy items on, like cookies.)
  • Rolling pin (*Thick round dowel) (E~Used to smooth down and flatten dough. Great for cookies or pie crust.)
  • Prep knives (Wide variety) (E~Used to cut all manner of items and prepare for cooking.)(See “A Guide to Knives” for details.)
  • Peeler (E~Sharp tool used to remove a layer of skin of a vegetable or fruit.)
  • Wide mouth glass (*Small container, or beverage glass.)(E~Used to cut circles out of dough.)
  • Herb scissors (*Any scissors or a sharp knife) (~Used to cut stems of herbs and other plants for food.)
  • Pepper, Salt grinders/Salt cellar (E~Used to store salt and pepper, the grinder is used to grind large pepper berries and salt crystals finer. A cellar is usually a heavy stone container that keeps salt dry and fresh.)
  • Fork (E~Most basic of cooking and eating utensils. Used to pick up items by stabbing with the tines of the fork. The tines can range from 2-6 per fork. Makes a great whisk.)
  • Butter knife (~Rounded knife with a serrated edge. Used to carve softer items to spread, cook, or eat with.)
  • Spoon (Wide variety) (E~Used to scoop solid food, liquids, and eat with.)
  • Plate (Wide variety)(E~Flat surface to eat a portion of food.)
  • Bowl (Wide variety)(E~Rounded surface to eat a portion of wet food.)
  • Stirring spoons (Generally large, of various sizes) (E~ Can be made of metal, wood, or plastic. Has many uses, from stirring in saucepans to mixing.)
  • Spatula (E~For flipping or turning over food to cook on another side.)
  • Slotted Spoon (*Stirring spoon)(~Separates solid foods from the sauce.)
  • Whisk (*Fork) (~Used to beat eggs and runny liquids. Not recommended for heavier dough and mixes.)
  • Ladle (E*Large spoon) (~For scooping larger amounts of soups, and sauces without pouring a hot liquid into another bowl.)
  • Tongs (E~Used for picking up objects from a hot surface.)
  • Chopsticks (~Alternative to silverware, Great for picking up food while cooking.)
  • Scraper spatula (E~Rubber edge on a spoon. Used to gather food like batter from a bowl.)
  • Cutting board (E~Wood, plastic. A cut-proof surface to process food.)
  • A lemon knob or juicer tray (*Squeeze rind with your hands)(~ Mashes juice from the rind and catches juice in a tray.)
  • 3 Sided cheese grater(Includes: zester/grinder)(E~Grater: Reverse “C” shape holes. Used to cut small curls of cheese, Zest: Small row of thin rectangles. Used to cut tiny flecks of citrus rind. Grinder: Star shape holes poking outward. Used for hard tubers like ginger to grind into pulp.)
  • Vegetable brush (E~For scrubbing dirt from veggies growing below ground like potatoes.)
  • Ice tray (E~Used with a freezer to freeze water into ice cubes.)
  • Knife sharpener (E~Used to sharpen sharp edges like knives, scissors, etc.)
  • Bench scraper (E~Large rectangle with a curl on the end. Useful for cutting pastries and scraping food into the trash or sink.)
  • Bottle opener (E~Used for bottle tops that can’t be taken off by hand.)
  • Can opener (E~ Hand-crank tool for removing a top of a can.)
  • Thermometer (Wide variety)(E~For Meat, candy, and other items needing internal temp taken to prevent under-cooking and burning.)
  • Timer (Digital or Sand)(E~Helps keep time with all kinds of recipes.)
  • Utensil holder (E*Any container that can hold utensils or a drawer)
  • Food funnel/ Mason jar funnel (E~Prevents food waste by moving food into a container without blockage or mess.)
  • Sink strainer/Stopper (E~Great alternative to a garbage disposal. -Catches food particles from blocking pipes in the sink. )
  • Pot scrubber (E~For cleaning dishes accurately.)
  • Steak knife (~Sharp serrated edge for cutting meat, used for eating too.)
  • Misc. small jars (E~Storage for cooking herbs and spices.)
  • Dish dry rack/Dry mat (*Towel)( E~Angled rack that holds/dries dishes.)

Now that we have made it through the basics of kitchen tools, you can collect and sort out your most reliable tools from the ones you don’t use as much. If you aren’t sure how to find out which tools are being used; one idea is to keep all tools with a handle facing one direction. When the tool is used, after it is cleaned put it back in the drawer facing the opposite direction. You can gage your experiment in a month or a week if you prefer, just to understand what actually gets used most. Some tools, I understand, maybe too big or strangely shaped to not be applicable, but a surefire sign that a tool isn’t being used is dust. If it’s dusty, time to put it in an area you will see it and use it, or move it on from your kitchen. Some tools I understand are seasonal and should have it’s own storage space away from the general kitchen tools.

If you are just starting out on your own or you are short on a tool or two, an inexpensive method is going to a second-hand store and finding the tool you are searching for. ( -Be sure not to pick up too many things along the way unless you intend to use them!) Another great opportunity is to take the tools you don’t need and invite your friends to a tool-swap party. You won’t believe the things they don’t need and vice versa. This also applies to containers and countless other themes of stuff. To share and donate is much better than buying a brand new tool if you can manage it.

Enjoy your soon-to-be clean kitchen!


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