I have a confession. I'm addicted to buying kitchen gadget! I'm the guy that watches infomercials at 2AM in the morning and thinks "Wow, I could really use that Slapchop." And if you read my Mint story, you know I have a bad habit of buying things I don't need.
As a result, I've wasted spent a ton of money on kitchen appliances I've used once or twice and never again. Over the years I've cut back on my kitchen gadgets and tools a lot. And while I still get the urge to buy everything in Amazon's kitchen category every now and then, I think it's safe to say I have everything I "need" as a dude living alone.
If you're about to move out on your own and want to keep your kitchen gadgets to a minimum, I'll try to help you out. This is the list of what I consider to be the essential kitchen tools for young adults who don't want to break the bank.
I'll warn you in advance that I'm no chef. I enjoy cooking but I make VERY basic meals. I'm talking chicken and veggies, spaghetti, turkey burgers, salads and the occasional pizza. Nothing too crazy.
If you're a more "serious" chef, you may need some more advanced tools and supplies. But if you like to keep it simple like me, this list should be perfect.
Don't Skimp on Quality
Before I get into the list, I have to give a PSA. I'm naturally a pretty cheap person. I don't buy clothes based on brand names. I don't need the newest phone or 4K TVs.
However, when it comes to kitchen appliances, I'll warn you that for certain products you get what you pay for. Now some stuff is overpriced in my opinion, but my main point is that you shouldn't be afraid to spend a little money upfront for something that's going to last you a long time.
Basically don't look for the cheapest versions of the items below to save a few bucks. When I shop for kitchen gadgets, I typically look for something that's a good balance of quality and reasonably priced.
So let's get to it.
1. A Pot & Pan Set
First and foremost, you need a saute pan and some pots. I've spent more money that I should've on different pots and pan sets over the years. But I've finally come across a good brand that's high quality and not super expensive. I use T-Fal.
This is the very first T-Fal set I got (it didn't have the griddle though).
I got it as a gift, which was awesome. But after moving out of the apartment with my brother, I let him take it. After that, I just got a cheap little pot set, and a single T-Fal saute pan. I believe this is the one.
The reason I like T-Fal is they have the cool heat indicator in the pans. It shows you when the pan is heated up enough to cook on, which is great for people like myself that can't cook.
I'd recommend getting that first T-Fal set I mentioned because it comes with all the pots and pans you'll ever need.
2. George Foreman Grill
Next to my pan, my second most used kitchen appliance is my George Foreman Grill. When you're busy and don't want to deal with "cooking", the GF is the best thing ever. I just slap on some turkey burgers, let the grill do its thing and I'm done.
There are a ton of GF grills out there, and some alternatives. I recommend going with one with removable plates. I used to have one without them and sometimes they can be a pain to clean. With my newer one, I just pop off the plates and wash them off really quickly.
But to save some money, here's a lower priced option that also has the removable grill. It just doesn't have the adjustable temperature and it's a little smaller. But it's more than good enough.
3. Knife Set
Prior to moving out to my own apartment, I had access to a Food Network knife set his friend got him. It was awesome but I'm pretty sure it was over $100. So once I moved, I ended up getting a cheap knife set from Ross. It gets the job done, but I definitely miss the Food Network set!
Since I have no idea what brand my set is, I searched Amazon to see if I could find something with good reviews and it moderately priced. I like this set.
Assuming you're not buying the lowest quality of meat available, you don't need a super expensive knife set.
4. Baking Pans
If you plan on using your oven, get a baking pan. Don't be one of those people that bakes their food directly on the oven racks.
I bought a small three piece set of baking sheets from Walmart. But Amazon actually sells a complete set that comes with some extras and it costs about the same as what I paid. Go with Amazon's.
5. Oven Mitts
This seems to be a huge problem for guys, not sure if ladies run into the same problem. But we always tend to forget about the small things, like pot holders.
There's nothing worse than sliding something into your 400 degree oven, seeing it's done, then realizing you don't have an oven mitt to take it out the oven. So you resort to trying to use your shirt or just burning your hands to get it out the oven as quickly as possible.
Skip that nonsense and get yourself some mitts. This is one area I don't recommend skimping on. For a long time I bought my oven mitts from the Dollar Store. When I used them I could still feel the heat of the pan through the mitt.
Eventually I got smart and realized I should probably spend a couple extra dollars and get something that worked correctly. I picked up a pair from Burlington Coat Factory, but you can find decent ones at Walmart, Target or other stores that sell kitchenware.
The main thing to look for is thick mitts with silicon grips like these.
6. Slow Cooker
This is another handy cooking tool for people who don't have a lot of time or aren't great at cooking. You basically just throw everything into the pot and let it sit cook for 4-8 hours.
The best thing is slow cookers are really inexpensive. If you're just cooking for yourself, this one should be good enough.
If you're cooking for a family or roommates, you'll probably need something bigger like a 6-8 quart one.
Forks, knives, spoons, spatulas, etc. I bought my fork, spoon and butter knife set from Ikea. But Walmart has a ton of low priced sets too. Here's a set for $10. Plus it comes with a caddy to hold them in.
If you get that T-Fal set I mentioned earlier, you'll have your big spoons and spatulas already so you don't need to buy them separately.
8. Dishes (Cups, Plates & Bowls)
Honestly I only have dinnerware in case someone else wants to use them. Call me lazy but I prefer to just use paper plates so I don't have to do dishes.
But the reality is it's better to get real dishes. It's cheaper long term and you're not using a bunch of plastic plates and cups.
Some people are picky about dishes, so it'll be hard for me to recommend something. This is the plates/bowls set I got from Walmart.
But they also have some lower priced options like this.
As for your cups/glasses, Walmart has some cheap options for those too. I recommend saving some money by getting a complete dinnerware set that comes with plates, bowls and cups like this.
Last, there are some small miscellaneous things you'll need:
- Cutting board
- Food storage containers. I recommend these meal-prep containers!
And that's it. If you get these things, you should be good to go. Here's a quick rundown of everything:
- Pot & pan set - My Recommendation ($58)
- George Foreman Grill - My Recommendation ($30)
- Knife set - My Recommendation ($23)
- Baking pans - My Recommendation ($11)
- Oven Mitts - My Recommendation ($13)
- Slow Cooker - My Recommendation ($14)
- Utensils - My Recommendation ($10)
- Cups, Plates and Bowls - My Recommendation ($26)
- Cutting board
- Food storage - My Recommendation ($12)
You can get all of this stuff for around $200 or less, which is great for fully equipping your kitchen.
If you only had $200 to spend on everything you needed for your kitchen, how would you spend it?