The Beginner Cook

Helpful basic kitchen supplies for the cook who's just starting out on their own.

Magnetic knife strips are not only space-saving but they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too).

Proper seasoning is one of the most important parts of cooking, and if you're still using plain table salt from (heaven forbid!) a saltshaker, you're shooting yourself in the food. Using kosher salt from a salt cellar lets you feel exactly how much salt is getting into your food, whether it's a tiny pinch or a big ol' wallop.

There are so many classics cookbooks out there but for a beginner James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Color step-by-step photos walk you through basics like roasting a chicken, prepping vegetables, making sauces to next level techniques like butchering a fish.

Old cast iron has a perfectly smooth nonstick surface that's surprisingly easy to maintain. You can sear, bake, roast, braise, stew, and deep-fry in it, and there's nothing more thoughtful than a gift that you have to expend a bit of effort to find (check out eBay, yard sales, and flea markets). These modern Lodge pans will do in a pinch if vintage isn't in the cards.

While the usefulness of a vegetable peeler should be obvious to anyone who's ever cooked, the necessity of a Y-peeler may not be quite as clear. But trust us: They are categorically better than those swivel peelers a lot of people use. And they're cheap!

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This perforated one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous mounds of beans, vegetables, and pieces of meat from their cooking liquid or sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

Woks are the best tool for stir-frying if you want to get that distinctly smoky wok hei flavor, but they're also versatile vessels that you can use for braising, deep-frying, or even indoor smoking.

A high-speed hand blender is great for whipping up silky soups and purées, making emulsions like mayonnaise and Hollandaise, or smoothing out sauces, all right in the pot. No need to dirty up an extra blender jar!

The Magimix impressed us with each slicing, chopping, grating, and pureeing test we tossed at it, especially with pizza dough, which it combined so well no additional kneading was required.

Larousse is the serious food encyclopedia for the serious cook. Its focus is mostly on French preparations, though more recent editions have attempted to remedy that with some more international entries. Arranged alphabetically, Larousse offers up historical context, recipes and cooking instruction, and definitions galore.

This Zyliss salad spinner was far and away the top performer in our tests, due to its space-efficient design, solid construction, and minimal-effort drying mechanism.

How do you make perfect caramels, ice cream, gravies, and reductions? A nifty pot called a saucier. The durable stainless steel is cladded with aluminum for even heating, essential for temperamental ingredients like caramel and egg custards. A curved bottom makes whisking a snap (no more lumpy gravy!), and the wide top encourages evaporation for fast sauce reductions. You can buy cheaper versions than this All-Clad saucier, but this is one piece of equipment in which quality really makes a difference.

Not all food storage containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.

A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using it. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.

A pressure cooker is a cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. A countertop electric model gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. Breville's Fast Slow Pro Cooker gives you complete control over your pressure cooking but also works as a slow cooker and a rice cooker.

To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.

Our top pick among stainless steel honing steels for your knives.

When we tested bread knives earlier this year, we were absolutely blown away by the cutting quality of Tojiro's bread knife. It surpassed every other serrated knife, cutting beautifully clean slices of even the most tender bread, and making quick, neat work of ripe tomatoes. It's a must-have for any kitchen.

We tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat, and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.

A good pair of kitchen shears is one of those things that are hard to appreciate until you have them. Sure, there are all the obvious uses, like opening food packages with a snip and cutting up poultry, but that's just the start. Yes, that's right, they're also a nutcracker and a bottle opener. Did you see the flathead screwdriver built into them? Handy, right? Plus, the two blades come fully apart, so you can wash them really wash the icky chicken juice hiding in the recesses.

A combo cooker is the key to getting a gorgeous shattering crust on homemade bread. It acts as its own little steam chamber, like what you'd find in a professional bread oven, and it costs way less than a kitchen renovation.

A fine-mesh strainer is indispensable for a whole range of kitchen tasks, from making sure your chicken stock is free of sediment to producing silky-smooth custards.

Paring knives don't need to cost a lot to do their job—questions of balance and build quality matter less in a knife that fits almost entirely in the palm of your hand. Of all the ones we tested, this inexpensive blade from Wüsthof came out on top, with a razor-sharp edge and comfortable grip. This is our new go-to paring knife, and we already have several of them at work and home.

A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. This one comes with an easy-to-clean, removable stainless steel weighing surface; great accuracy and precision; and a backlit pull-out display to make measuring easy, even for large or unwieldy items.

The slope-sided skillet, like this one from All-Clad, is a chef's best friend and one of the most versatile pans in the kitchen, whether you're sautéing vegetables, searing meat, or cooking one of our dozens of one-pan meals. The best have solid stainless steel construction, with an aluminum core for even heat distribution.

This is a great introductory stone for sharpening Japanese knives. The combination of grits gives you everything you need: The coarser side quickly restores an edge, while the fine side smooths and polishes.

If you ever plan to tackle homemade pie crust or rolled sugar cookies, you'll need a rolling pin. Tapered French rolling pins are more maneuverable and more durable than other styles, and they're easier to clean as well.

When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.

The four-piece Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons are accurate and easy to work with. The handles have little stands on them that help keep the bowls nearly level for accurate filling when the spoon is on the countertop, and the wide, shallow design makes it easy to clean out sticky ingredients, like honey, with a small spatula.

The steep, 13-degree angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp a large range of food shapes and sizes, from a whole chicken to thin spaghetti to tail-on shrimp. The build features a responsive and durable spring, large rubber grips, and pinch-free, stay-cool handles.

A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt, is his column by the same name on this very website, blown up to 900-plus pages (and seven-plus pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.

Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous dollops of yogurt, a heap of cooked grain, or a serving of sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.

A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. The OXO slicer has four thickness settings and a fold-down stand allows this slicer to either be set on a cutting board (with the legs down) or perched over a bowl (with the legs up).

A good wooden spoon is a must for any kitchen. This one, from Le Creuset, is top notch. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.

These were the most accurate set of glass measuring cups we tested and include 1-, 2-, and 4-cup measures. Only the smallest cup was off by more than a milliliter at full volume, which is very accurate for kitchen use. The cups have durable, easy-to-read markings; a classic shape that nests well; and spouts that are easy to pour from.

The Fletchers' Mill Federal grinds consistently and quickly, excels at fine grinding, and comes in 11 finishes to match a wide range of kitchen decors.

The five-piece Norpro Grip Ez Stainless Steel Measuring Cups took the top spot in our tests for accuracy, and it wasn't even close. Not only that, the bowls are securely joined to the comfortable nonslip handles, and manufactured to tight tolerances, which helps with level sweeping. The unique oval cup shape comes to a narrow end, acting like a shovel to dig into compacted ingredients, like brown sugar.

The Breville Smart Oven performs consistently and is very intuitive to use. It scored high marks in each round of testing, producing one of the better pieces of toast, baking frozen pizza to yield melted cheese on top and crispy crust below, cooking a frozen chicken pot pie, and baking perfect cookies. The styling is handsome, and the bright LCD screen is easy to navigate with just a few dials and buttons.

Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies thought holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there are also an endless number of little tricks, like why your salad greens should be bone dry before dressing them, that will up your kitchen IQ.

High-quality Swedish steel and Japanese design, along with great features like a perfectly balanced handle and blade and an ergonomic bolster, makes the Misono UX10 Santoku one of our favorite knives.

The Victorinox Chef's Slotted Fish Turner is an all-around great spatula for a little over $20. The curve of the flipper and the angle of its front edge are just right for slipping under a delicate piece of fish or scraping the bottom of a pan. It's lightweight, flexible, and easy to control, but still strong enough to lift a half-pound burger. The wood handle is comfortable, though it's also the only downside—it means this spatula is not dishwasher-safe.

A stand mixer is obviously great for mixing batters and doughs, but we also love the range of KitchenAid attachments available for purchase—once you have the base, there's suddenly a whole world of homemade sausages, ice creams, pastas, and fresh juices at your fingertips.

Peterson has long been the master of writing comprehensive works on major subjects. In Sauces, he breaks down sauce-making in all its intricacies, starting with stocks and leading you through the classics of French and Italian cuisines and beyond.

Microplanes do fine grating work way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg or cinnamon, taking the zest off a lemon, or turning a clove of garlic into a fine purée, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.

How much praise can we throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is one of those things couples put on their wedding registries and desperately hope someone buys for them. This is a pot you hand down to your kids. This is a piece of cookware that you will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then you won't want to put it away because you just like looking at it. This is a workhorse of the kitchen. Yes, it costs a lot. But things that are built to last a lifetime despite daily use usually do.

When we're cooking with garlic, we're pulling out the press nine times out of 10, because, even with the slightly fussy cleaning, it's still faster and easier than chopping fresh garlic on a board.

A good carbon steel pan has many of the qualities that make cast iron great—it's durable, it forms a completely nonstick surface if cared for properly, and it's inexpensive. But it's lighter and easier to maneuver, making it great for sautéing and searing everyday foods.

The Cuisinart is an easy-to-use, powerful blender that aced many of our tests. This model's dashboard is intuitive, and it features a built-in timer that counts down for you or can be programed to stop after a certain amount of seconds.

While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.

This cast iron workhorse spans two burners, making it perfect for high-volume indoor grilling projects (did anyone order skewered shrimp?) on one side, and griddled classics like pancakes and smashed burgers on the other.

In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop comes in an impressive package. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button, so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.

A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.

There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome.

The Instant Pot Duo60 is a fantastic value and performed almost as well as the top pick among countertop pressure cookers we tested. It's easy to use, the company has a reputation for great customer service, and there's an avid and helpful community of users online to boot.

This straight-sided sauté pan from All-Clad has a wide, flat base for searing off big batches of meat, and high sides so you can braise, stew, or simmer several meals' worth of food directly in it. It's the ideal vessel for stove-to-oven dishes like this Braised Chicken With White Beans, or a one-pot pasta dish like our Macaroni and Beef. Versatile and robust, it makes comfort food all the more comforting.

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