The Best Utensil Set Is No Utensil Set

Actually, it’s the one you make yourself. Here’s why we recommend building a utensil set à la carte.

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a variety of kitchen tools and utensils on a blue surface

Serious Eats / Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Manufacturers love making sets. They package up a bunch of stuff and sell it to you for a discounted rate. However, you’re still likely paying way more than you would for just one or two items from the brand. And think about it: if you own a cookware or knife block set, how often do you pull out every single item in said set? Likely, one or two (maybe three) things make it into your most-used rotation while the rest languish in a drawer, cabinet, or in the block. 

Actual utility versus price is one of the reasons we generally don’t recommend sets. Instead, it’s a much better use of your money to select things that’ll best suit your needs. Plus, there’s the matter of performance. As our reviews show, not every brand makes the best everything.

SZUAH Kitchen Utensil Holder

So, if you’re looking to invest in a kitchen utensil set, your best bet is to first buy a utensil crock you like (there are a ton out there with a variety of finishes to match your kitchen/style and with different features, like dividers). We’re partial to a plain one that looks good in most kitchens. Already have a crock? Now it’s time to hand pick what utensils you’ll use the most. There are some things (like a pair of tongs and a fish spatula) we recommend every home cook has, but other items depend on the kind of cook you are. Bake a lot? Get two spatulas. Make a ton of smash burgers? An offset turner is a must-have. A fan of making over-easy in a nonstick skillet for breakfast? Then you’ll probably need a non-stick-safe turner. 

Here’s what you should put in your utensil crock (divided by must-haves and nice-to-haves), with links to our full reviews so you can see how we tested and to read more about why we chose our winners.

Must-Have Kitchen Utensils

A Pair of Tongs: OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs

oxo-good-grips-tongs

Finding a great pair of kitchen tongs is way, way harder than you might think. Seriously, we tested 33 pairs to land on four models we recommend. The scallop edges on the OXO securely grasp a range of foods, and they can be opened (but not closed) with one hand by turning them upside down and pushing the handle lock back into the tongs. If you cook with a lot of nonstick (which we don’t really recommend) or scratch-prone enameled cast iron, OXO’s silicone-tipped model is a good bet.

Tongs turning a steak that's cooking in a cast iron skillet

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

A Nimble Fish Spatula: Lamson Slotted Spatula

Lamson Flexible Slotted Spatula (Fish Turner) for Lefties

Our favorite fish spatula is currently out of stock, but this one from Lamson is our top left-handed pick (they make right-handed models, too). The blade-like edge easily fits under food—deftly flipping delicate fish fillets and fragile pancakes. Its long, stainless steel head makes it well-suited for heavy foods too, like picking up quarter-pound burger patties.

a fish spatula pressing down on a piece of salmon cooking in a carbon steel skillet

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

A Versatile Silicone Spatula: OXO Good Grips Silicone Everyday Spatula

Oxo spatula

For scraping batters out of bowls, scrambling eggs in a skillet, and getting the last bit of smoothie out of a blender, you need a silicone spatula. Our overall top pick is from OXO. We like its slim head and beveled edge, which make for super-clean scrapes. You’ll probably find getting more than one spatula is better than having to just keep a sole model constantly clean. And, in that case, we also like spatulas from Tovolo and GIR.

a group of silicone spatulas on a marble surface

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A Handy Rasp-Style Grater: Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester/Grater

Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester Grater

A rasp-style grater is helpful for zesting citrus, grating hard cheeses like Parmesan, grating fresh nutmeg, and manufacturing garlic and ginger. Our top pick is from Microplane and has a comfortable handle that’s available in an array of colors and prints. For storing, please, please put the case on it. You’ll save your Microplane’s blade, keep it from nicking other utensils, and prevent any accidental finger scrapes.

Two bowls of Parmesan cheese grated by two different rasp-style graters

Serious Eats / Irvin Lin

A Scoop-it-Up Ladle: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Ladle

Cuisinart stainless steel ladle

A ladle won’t be your most-used utensil, but when you need one (for soups, stews, sauces) there’s not really anything like it. We like this one from Cuisinart, which has an extremely curved handle that allows you to swoop into a variety of vessels with ease. For a non-metal ladle, this one from Le Creuset fits the bill.

cuisinart ladle being held in a pot to show the curve of the handle

Serious Eats / Grace Kelly

A Do-it-All Wooden Spoon: Le Creuset Revolution Scraping Spoon

Le Creuset Revolution Scraping Spoon

A good wooden spoon is great for scraping, stirring, and tasting. This one’s been our favorite since Kenji reviewed and recommended it years ago. And, hey, if simply cooking with a wooden spoon doesn’t convince you of its utility, maybe this list of 11 1/2 things you can do with one will.

A utensil crock full of wooden and nylon spoons and spatulas

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

A Better Balloon Whisk: GIR Premium Stainless Steel Whisk

GIR Ultimate Stainless Steel Whisk

This all-purpose balloon whisk was our favorite after testing and we found it to be particularly good at aeration thanks to its wires that varied in height. Its diamond-patterned, silicone handle was comfortable to hold, too. What do you use a balloon whisk for? Here’s a primer on the various styles of whisks out there and what they’re good at.

Whipped cream being mixed in a bowl

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A Straining Spider: Hiware Stainless Steel Spider Strainer

Hiware Solid Stainless Steel Spider Strainer Skimmer Ladle, Kitchen Utensils Wire Strainer Pasta Strainer Spoon

While we don’t have an official review on these, for blanching foods, deep-frying, and wok cooking, a spider is helpful to have on hand. All-stainless steel models are easy to clean and can be thrown into the dishwasher (unlike ones with wooden handles), but whatever handle material you prefer will work.

A metal spider resting next to deep fried chicken wings

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Sharp Kitchen Shears: Shun Multi-Purpose Shears

Shun Multi-Purpose Kitchen Shears

While shears are sometimes included in knife blocks sets and can be stored on a magnetic knife strip, we still think it’s worth mentioning that you definitely need a good pair of kitchen shears. They’re as useful for cutting out a chicken’s backbone as they are for snipping chives.

kitchen shears snipping chives

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Nice-to-Have Kitchen Utensils

A Slotted Spoon: Cuisinart Stainless Steel Slotted Spoon

Cuisinart Stainless Steel Slotted Spoon

This is another item we haven’t formally tested (yet), but that’s still worth your consideration. For draining fresh mozzarella curds, fishing a soft-boiled egg out of a pot, or making poached eggs, a slotted spoon makes easy work of any precision “lift and drain” tasks.

a slotted spoon removing homemade cheese from a saucepan

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

A Smashing Offset Turner: MÄNNKITCHEN Professional Grade Stainless Steel Spatula

Mannkitchen Professional Grade Stainless Steel Spatula

For making smash burgers, flipping giant portions of hashbrowns, or serving lasagna, an offset turner is helpful. We like the one from MÄNNKITCHEN best: it’s super-angled, precise, and just the perfect size (not too big, nor too small).

our lineup of offset turners on a marble countertop

Serious Eats / Eric King

A Nonstick Turner for, Well, Nonstick: OXO Good Grips Silicone Flexible Turner

OXO Small Spatula

While nonstick isn’t our preferred cooking material for 99.9% of things, there are some applications (eggs, crepes) where its super-smooth, stick-free surface is an asset. For these times (and if you’re a electric griddle fan), use a nonstick-safe turner to keep your nonstick pan in tip-top shape for as long as possible. We like this one from OXO that has a razor-thin head and have a few other top picks here.

Flipping pancakes on an electric griddle.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Nimble Kitchen Tweezers: Küchenprofi 12-Inch Tweezers

Küchenprofi 12-Inch Tweezers

Ah, kitchen tweezers: useful for removing bits of eggshell, serving pasta, flipping a steak, and more. If you’re going to have just one size, the 12-inch ones are a good investment, though a smaller pair is worth considering, too.

tweezer picking a piece of eggshell out of a bowl with eggs in it

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

A Whisk Just for Doughs: Zulay Kitchen Danish Dough Whisk

zulay-whisk

If you bake bread, a Danish dough whisk may be a worthwhile addition to your utensil crock. As we explained here, “Because a dough whisk is made from rigid wire only a few millimeters in diameter, its limited surface area means that thick doughs cannot gain much purchase on it, so they pass right through the loops.” It works with everything from high-hydration doughs to thicker, super-stiff ones.

A Danish dough whisk incorporating flour and wet ingredients.

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

FAQs

What’s the best kitchen utensil set? 

We recommend assembling the set yourself—you’ll get the most for your money and can select the best, highest-performing products in each category. 

Which brand is best for kitchen utensils? 

There is no one brand that makes the best of every single kitchen utensil out there. As you can see from our recommendations above, we have utensil suggestions that span a variety of brands—including OXO, GIR, Le Creuset, Cuisinart, and more.