In the world of home decor and goods, sometimes it seems like kitchens are the the most likely to fly under the radar. Kitchen essentials are more often than not the items you pick up out of necessity or desperation, and even then you grab the pan or blender that's on sale or least expensive, right? Well, it's time to retrain your brain and start seeing your kitchen as one of if not the most important room in your home — and invest accordingly.
Yes, a cheap pots and pans set and mismatched cutlery and dishes worked just fine in college and even in your 20s. But, at some point, it's time to wise up and put a little money toward solid kitchen goods. In the end, you'll actually be saving money as you won't be replacing the inexpensive, cheaply made items you grabbed on the fly.
Now, that's not to say you need to max out your credit card on all-new appliances. Just invest in the pieces that will truly be put to work and make your life easier in the long run. To help you decipher what these items are, The Zoe Report consulted with a panel of experts — home goods and decor gurus, professional chefs, nutritionists, etc. — who gave their two cents on what makes for a grown-up kitchen. Ahead, see the well-curated checklist to get started on ASAP.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
"When read like a book, it will teach you every cooking style, preparation and rule of thumb in the kitchen. I find this to be the Bible for any cook." — Chef V, chef at cooking class provider Cozymeal
Cast Iron Pans
"Le Creuset Cast Iron Pan, my all time favorite, I have three. They are naturally non-stick and can move from stovetop to oven. This multi-use pan can make veggies, animal proteins and skillet breads. — Maya Feller, MS, RD, registered dietician, and CDN of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition.
“Slow cooking makes any cook a chef and supports busy households. Today, pressure cookers offers the same experience. I personally love a traditional slow cooker because the smell of dinner cooking feels like a holiday.” — Chef V
"Good knives are the backbone of every kitchen in my opinion. Used for slicing fruits, veggies and everything in-between." — Maya Feller
“One kitchen essential that every grown-up should invest in is an immersion blender, or hand-blender. This small, lightweight kitchen tool makes heavy duty cooking tasks easier with the convenience of portable stick blender. Unlike traditional blenders, the immersion blender is much easier to use, store, and clean, and is efficient for accomplishing the majority of blending tasks that may come up with cooking. Unlike a regular blender, an immersion blender can be put directly into whatever you are cooking or making, so less dishes and transferring of food is involved.
Having an immersion blender makes it easier to make things like soups, smoothies, dressings, dips and sauces, any type of puree, whip cream and more.” — Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, at Crystal Karges Nutrition
“A few years ago I discovered microplane graters and they are one of my must-have items now. Whether your zesting a citrus fruit for a favorite cocktail, making coleslaw, or grating cheese over your favorite dinner dish, microplane graters mean no scraped knuckles. They are so worth the money to make that annoying little job much easier than a regular grater. I wish I’d know about them years ago!” — Food blogger Sarah Barnes of TamingTwins.com
"Every home cook should invest in a good food processor. It is great for making pesto, hummus, cauliflower mash, burger meat, brownie or cake batter and nut butters." — Neda Varbanova of Healthy with Nedi, who has a Masters in Food Studies and is a Certified Culinary Nutritionist, holistic health coach, and recipe creator.
"My Vitamix is one of only two appliances that I literally use on a daily basis that make healthy eating an absolute breeze. With the Vitamix, you can make everything from smoothies, juices, sauces, vinaigrettes and soups, to nut butters, flour and healthy ice cream. I consider it to be a go-to kitchen staple for anyone who does not yet own one. There are even options to suit different budgets now, from refurbished items, to basic to professional grade models, that can run from under $300 to about $1000". — Serena Poon, leading chef, nutritionist and reiki master.
"Having a solid wood cutting board like the John Boos wood board, really gives your kitchen a chef-like feel and it’s handy to have on the counter at all times, so you can prep fruit and veggies quickly. Add in a few plastic ones for your meat and fish. They’re more flexible, so you can carry them over the sink for easy clean up and reduce the risk of cross-contamination. — Claudia Sidoti, HelloFresh's Principal Chef
“When I am designing a kitchen for any client these days there is one go-to appliance I alway recommend — a Steam Oven. This is a fabulous appliance that has great versatility. Steam ovens have been used in restaurants for years but only in the recent past have entered the home kitchen. These ovens take the place of microwaves and preserve the taste, quality, and nutritional value of food.” — David Schneider, Interior Designer who specializes in kitchen and bath