Tools of the trade

This page is intended to give a relatively comprehensive list of the tools you’ll need to start, and maybe be a little more advanced. I’ll give my recommendations for starting out with cooking, and attempt to explain why you need these items.

Beginning Tools: (These are basic items that you really do need, if it is a nice to have, I’ll note that)

Chef’s knife

This item really is what makes or breaks you for cooking. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good knife. Key is, “a” good knife. The variety of knives is nice to have, but you really need one, and that’s the Chef’s knife.

I use:      

This is a Wusthof Classic Ikon 8″ chef’s knife. I spent some money and purchased this knife because I wanted something with heft, and something that will last me. I wouldn’t expect someone who is starting out to get this knife, but I wanted to share for reference. My suggestion would be to look on Amazon and find an 8″ knife, if possible. If a knife that size intimidates you, look for a 6″. The reason to get a knife that large is to cut more in a single stroke. Imagine it as the difference between cutting 3 and 4 carrots at once. A Chef’s knife is your most important tool for preparation.

Added advice: look into purchasing a honing steel. This item will help maintain your knife, and keep it sharp. This item is almost certainly a standard item in any knife block set, but you can buy it individually.

Cutting Board

You should use an actual device to cut on, rather than your counters. I prefer wood cutting boards because if I chip away at the board, I’d rather eat wood (and a glue) than plastic. Maybe that’s just me.

Pot and Pan

I would suggest getting an 8″-9″ pan, preferably non-coated, and with a metal handle. For a pot, the larger sauce pan will get you further than a smaller, and I would suggest it as an absolute basic. The reason for the metal pan is for oven finishing, which I can cover at another time.

Wooden Spoon

Wooden spoons are my standard mixing device for cooking. I prefer them over plastic because they hold up better with time, in my opinion. I also don’t care to eat plastic. I suggest getting a fatter headed one, rather than thinner. Note, if you are using a coated pan (e.g. Teflon) you should absolutely be using either wood or plastic utensils, because if you don’t you risk scraping off the coating. Another reason metal wins out…

Liquid Measuring Cup

Do know that there is a difference between measuring utensils. This is a liquid measuring cup, and the reason you use this for liquids is because it is see-through, and has the liquid markings on it. I’m not including solid measuring cups because I don’t measure physically very often.

Food Thermometer

This item is a helpful tool for cooking to the correct temperature. Being able to detect that chicken is cooked to the correct temp without cutting into it is rather helpful, and more accurate than eyeballing it. You will find that when you cook meat, measuring the temperature will result in better food, as you are less likely to overcook it. There are a lot of thermometers out there, and while I would love an instant read thermometer, a basic one does just fine.

Kosher Salt (and pepper)

I will go on a tangent later on why you need to use salt, but you need to use it. I suggest kosher salt over “sea salt” and you really should never ever use table salt in cooking. Kosher salt is typically what you will see with cooking because it is “pinchable.” The grains of salt are such that it is easily grabbed with the fingers in a pinch, you won’t have much of an aftertaste. I didn’t put a picture of pepper, but you should use it as well. I prefer to grind it but it isn’t 100% necessary.


While this isn’t a vital piece, I would highly suggest one. Not only do you get pockets to put things in (always nice), but it keeps your clothes from getting splattered. It also doubles as a quick piece of cloth for picking up hot items in a pinch.