After building three kitchen spaces (and pantries) from scratch, we have a firm handle on what we need when we cook. These are the most important tools we have in my kitchen today.
for juicing all sorts of citrus quickly and cleanly
this is on my must have list! it can strain large beans or tiny quinoa, or even the pulp from juice, and it can sift flour or other powders
a multi-use one is great!
knife (chef's and serrated)
the number one tool I'd recommend, if you can only buy one thing
big cutting board
this goes along with the knives. make it as big as you can, and heavy too. wood is my favorite, silicone are also good for flexibility.
lots of wooden spoons
I can never get enough of these, and they work well.
for getting into tight spots, sticky spots, and places a wooden spoon shouldn't really go.
a food fork (or a whisk, if you care)
if you don't do a lot of baking, a fork will work fine for most all savory whisking needs.
fine mesh bag(s)
for separating liquids from solids, especially good for juices, homemade nondairy milk, and rinsing quinoa.
blender or food processor
if you can only get one, I'd suggest a blender because I think it's slightly better for blending liquids.
great if you don't have a food processor. make bean burgers, chickpea salads, salsa, and much more with this beauty.
kitchen (tea) towels
works instead of pot holders, can clean up spills, and can be used to rinse food if you have nothing else.
if you're spooning out a lot of stuff, nothing really beats this, and it's cheap.
I really like the non-meltable plastic kind with a metal handle, because it doesn't do damage to pans but still can get underneath pretty much anything. Go with wood before you go metal, especially if you own non-stick pans.
MEASURING SPOONS & CUPS
we have one set of measuring spoons, a 1-cup wet measure and a 4-cup wet measure, it works for any kind of recipe.
POTS & PANS WITH LIDS
doesn't really matter what size - get a variety of sizes if you can. Make sure they have a heavy bottom and a well-fitted lid, glass preferred so you can see what's going on.
exception: you should at least have one giant soup pot - like the ladle, nothing beats this for feeding a crowd or making yourself meals for a month.
PYREX GLASS BOWL(S)
for mixing together pretty much anything, and making a double boiler.
good for drinking out of, shaking together salad dressings, storing leftovers (or prepped ingredients), and most have measurements on the side so they work as measuring cups in a pinch.
not a huge necessity, but if you bake a lot this is amazing! they cost only $10-$20 and are quite small so they don't take up a lot of room.
CAN OPENER / WINE/BOTTLE OPENER
you can sometimes find tools with all of these uses, and they're pretty practical, so go for it!
ICE CUBE TRAYS
for making ice (duh), but you can use them for so much more - herbs, smoothies, sweet ice cubes for drinks - let your imagination run wild.
Did we miss anything? What do you find essential for your kitchen?