Originally written for my weekly Thursday post on scissorsanddrumsticks.com.
I am not a great cook. Crystal on the other hand, is. But both of us live in the same small space. Equally small is our corner kitchenette. Akin to what you may find in an RV or on a boat, the kitchen boasts 3 open shelves, a small countertop, an RV sink, a 3-burner stove/oven, and an undercounter kitchen cart which rolls out for extra work space. Because of such we repeatedly reach for the same utensils, pots, pans, and ingredients in our kitchen. You may as well. We are, after all, creatures of habit and subject only to our available space.

So I found myself taking real inventory recently when my cousin and I were talking about cooking and kitchen tools and our time working together at a gourmet kitchen supply store. She asked me what I now felt were essential items to have in the kitchen. So here are 10 things we can’t seem to live without in our kitchen space.

Please keep in mind that making “essentials” lists is a risky endeavor. Obviously, the items we put emphasis on are not going to be what everyone else seems to need. So in order to make this list I asked myself, “If we had to start over as young, newlyweds and had nothing more than a plate for each of us, what would we stock our kitchen with?”

The minimalist kitchen is:

10″ cast iron skillet

The Lodge Signature series (sold at most Bass Pro shops) its more expensive cousin, the Le Creuset enamel-coated version (sold at Williams-Sonoma) both get the job done extremely well. The artistic side of me prefers the enamel coated version because I don’t have to season it and can throw it in the dishwasher, but both are excellent and the more utilitarian Lodge boasts an unbeatable price tag. They work on the stove top, in the oven, and on the grill.

12 qt. stock pot with lid

Since we live near the Atlantic Ocean we find great delight in steaming our own fresh shrimp or crabs. And when it comes to stock pots, not only do they work best, but they are high quality and quite cheap, all things considered. I suggest purchasing from a restaurant supply store and grabbing an aluminum one. It shouldn’t run more than $40 or so. In it you can make soups, pasta, and sauces, as well as using it for frying and soaking. It also works in the oven and on the grill.

9 qt. cast iron Dutch oven

I love cornish hen and entire chickens. So what else to use but a Dutch oven? I prefer the inexpensive Calphalon Everyday 6-qt. You can roast and braise in this amazing product. It can go on the grill or directly over an open flame. They are expensive, but will last a lifetime.

2 silicone oven mitts

I use an Orka brand, but there are many others out there. Because they’re silicone, they are undeterred by boiling water or kitchen situations that might otherwise cause burns (the way fabric oven mitts do).

A good knife set

And this is where I become a snob. I have used a beautiful Global stainless steel set. I have tried a cheaper Cutco set. But for my money you can give me the Henckel Professional “S” series. You want to find a set that is durable and can go in the dishwasher. The blade should be forged and run through the shank of the knife. An ergonomic handle is nice as well. A good knife set comes both with a warranty and the opportunity to take them to a free, professional knife sharpener once a year.

Cutting board

Each year we are told one product is better than the other. Then the next year it flip-flops. I have used both an acrylic model and a solid wood model. I prefer to use the Epicurean Recycled cutting board which is made with 100% recycled paper. This is certainly your preference but it is NOT to be underestimated in the minimalist kitchen.


Odd requirement, huh? Consider trying to get something out of boiling water. Pretty hard to do. What about pulling out those crabs from the aforementioned stock pot? A good, long-handled, stainless steel set of tongs is essential! You can use them in the kitchen or on the grill.

Food chopper

Because we grow our own herbs we have found that a good, medium-sized food chopper is essential for preparing useable spices from dried herbs. Don’t skimp on this item. Make sure the blades are stainless-steel and can easily go into the dishwasher. I recommend the Cuisinart Elite Collection (4-cup).

Infrared thermometer

This appeals to my inner geek. You simply point it at your food and read the temperature. Nothing to clean, and really cool.

Baking pans

All you’ll need to get started are anodized aluminum sheet cake, loaf, and jelly roll pans. Prices, sizes, and even shapes vary. But it is hard to make muffins and cookies without a good sheet!

So there you have it. Those are the things we have found are essential to our kitchen needs. In fact, I firmly believe anyone can make fantastic meals with only these items. Do we have more in our kitchen? Absolutely. We feel pretty strongly about a french press, a toaster oven, a bamboo mixing bowl, and even a great measuring cup. This is just a basics list though.

Did I forget something? Do any of these items fall onto your list? Do you think any are unnecessary? Speak up! And as always, if you like this article, please share it on Facebook or Tweet it out!