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Essential Utensils

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 3 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Kitchen Utensils Knives Saucepans Spoons

There are certain utensils that no kitchen should be without. Here is a rundown of the top items and why you need them.

A Set of Pans

Every kitchen needs a set of pans, and it pays to make sure you have good ones. A quality set of non-stick pans is the best choice and will save you a lot of heart ache both when you're cooking and when it comes to cleaning them afterwards. A basic set of saucepans might consist of a small pan (1.7-2 litres), a couple of medium-size pans (3-4 litres) and a large one (5 litres), and a very small pan (1 litre). Handles should be both comfortable to hold and long enough to protect your hands form the heat. Pans that hold more than three litres should have two handles.

A Set of Knives

Knife sets should include all the basic tools and will normally include a stand or container in which to store the knives. Most knife sets will contain a chef knife, which has a triangular blade that ranges from 6 to 12 inches long. The paring knife will have a blade that is approximately 3 inches long and it about 3/4 of an inch wide. A serrated knife is used for slicing breads and vegetables that tend to bruise easily.

Utility knives have an approximately 6 inch blade and are used for a number of purposes. Boning knives are for slicing meat off bones and the blades are normally quite narrow. A slicing knife has a long, thin blade and is used to slice meat such as ham, roast, and turkey. Butcher knives are usually heavier than the other knives in the set and have blades up to eight inches. A cleaver is used for heavy chopping and cutting through bone and will have a slightly curved or straight edge. Steak knives are used for cutting steaks in a table setting, but can also serve as utility or paring knives.


There are spoons for cooking and spoons for mixing, some of which are interchangeable. Wooden spoons are essential for stirring especially for your non-stick pans- so they don't scratch the lining. It's good to have a range of sizes, long handled and short to suit different size pans and bowls. Plastic spoons are also very useful, particularly a slotted spoon for helping drain excess liquid.


Spatulas are another essential item. There are many different sizes and shapes, each of which serves a purpose. The wooden spatulas have the largest variety of shapes, mostly useful for sautéing. Slotted, curved spatulas are good for cooking with chopped vegetables and for moving things around in a frying pan. The narrower, straighter spatulas are good for flipping eggs, fish and burgers. Plastic spatulas do have more flexibility so are easier to use for flipping and are more suited to non-stick surfaces. A stainless spatula however is vital if you need a fine edge for lifting cakes or pizza. Rubber spatulas are also very useful for scraping the sides of mixing bowls and spreading frosting.


If you're a keen griller then you will definitely need a good pair of tongs. They are a must for the barbecue and for turning pan-fried meat and fish. Stainless steel tongs with a good length and strong handle are the best. They can also come in handy for tossing salad and lofting roasts. Look for the kind that are spring activated and have a lock to keep them closed when they're not used.


Even if you have an electric mixer there will always be a time when you will want to use a hand whisk - beating an egg, stopping your sauce from getting lumpy. Balloon whisks are the most popular although you can get flat whisks that can reach to the edge of a saucepan.

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