6 Items Missing in Most Kitchens

Improve your cooking experience with these six kitchen tools that make cooking a whole lot simpler and more efficient.

  • By Jess Dang
  • February 22, 2016

While running a small catering company and later as an in-home cooking instructor, I’ve cooked in a gamut of home kitchens.

Large ones with multiple dishwashers that could probably could fit my entire home!

Small but perfectly organized ones.

Hoarder-style ones. Minimalist ones. You name it, I’ve seen it.

However, regardless of how well-equipped a kitchen was, many were often missing the same essential tools that can make life in the kitchen so much more enjoyable.

The 6 Things Every Productive Kitchen Needs But Often Missing:

1. Prep Bowls

I was always so shocked at how few prep bowls most kitchens had. Some had zero – not a one!

Prep bowls help keep your cooking area tidy but more importantly, it keeps your cooking process organized. When you have all your ingredients prepped and contained in their respective containers (defined as ‘mise en place’ in the culinary world), you ensure that everything is ready to go before you start cooking (so you avoid that inevitable moment of, “Wait, I was supposed to have the onion chopped already?!?” after your pan is hot and the garlic is already burning.).

There is no need to purchase real prep bowls – plastic takeout containers make perfectly good ones. The key is to having a variety of sizes – mini ones for a few cloves of chopped garlic to larger ones for marinating meats.

If you do want to go ahead and purchase some, here are the three types I own:

  • Collapsible ones – For kitchens with limited space, these are great. They’re also incredibly light, so I would always bring these with me to cooking lessons. Plus, they come with lids so you can prep ahead, cover, and store easily.
  • Stacking glass ones – Glass doesn’t absorb odor, cleans easily and can also be used in the microwave, so it is very versatile. This set stacks for more compact storage. Plus, it contains a variety of sizes.
  • A small set – These are a great size for mixing up vinaigrettes, sauces, spices, or even whisking two eggs for your morning breakfast.

2. A Large Cutting Board

I often would arrive to a kitchen and find just one or two teeny tiny cutting boards, which is why I always brought several of my own.

Small cutting boards are not particularly helpful if you really want to get down in the kitchen and churn out some real meals. You gotta give your knife freedom and room to move, so don’t restrict yourself with a small cutting board.

I like to have both bamboo and plastic. If you have young kids and are concerned about bacteria, plastic is a great option because you can just pop it into the dishwasher after prepping raw meats.

I find most cutting boards to be slippery against kitchen counters, which can be very unsafe. To prevent skidding, just fold a kitchen towel and place it underneath and the additional friction will keep your cutting board in place when you’re working on it.

3. A Pre-Seasoned Skillet

If I could only keep one pan in my kitchen, a sturdy pre-seasoned skillet would be it.

This pan can fry your eggs, saute your veggies and proteins, hold a frittata or a pie, create a beautiful piece of seared meat. It can be used on the stovetop, oven, grill or even over your campfire. Seriously, it’s a true kitchen workhorse and can last a lifetime.

Plus if you need an extra paperweight or a makeshift kettlebell, you can use it for that too!

I like to go with pre-seasoned to save some time. However, if you want to season your own pan, The Kitchn has a great video showing you how.

As for sizes, I have both a smaller 10.25″ one and a larger 12” one. If you’re usually cooking for one or two, the smaller one is great. Otherwise, get a larger one.

4. Food Processor

I actually did find that a lot of people owned food processors, especially if they were married (hey, if people are gonna buy you stuff, why not register for a food processor?). However, sadly, most food processors sit unused because people don’t know how to use them. If this sounds like you, unpack that food processor and unleash its power!

Some would say a food processor is a specialty nice-to-have item, but I disagree. A food processor serves two main purposes to me:

First, they make tasty sauces that make everything you cook tastier. Bland chicken? No worries! Just spoon some fresh pesto or a chimichurri sauce over it, and it’s all of a sudden more than restaurant worthy.

Second, they can make prep so much easier. Most food processors come with several other attachments to grate up a block of cheese (perfect for lasagnas and enchiladas!) or twenty carrots in no time. It also comes with a slicer, which can turn a head of cabbage into a coleslaw mix in two minutes.

Want to see how the magic happens? See our videos below:


How to Grate Carrots

Learn how to use a food processor to quickly grate carrots.


How to Slice Cabbage in a Food Processor

A food processor is an amazing kitchen tool. It helps you quickly prep things - see how easy it is to slice cabbage with this machine.

If you want to get even more out of your food processor, Pinch of Yum has a list of many more ways you can use your food processor.

As for size, I find that a larger one has been much more useful to me (because if you’re gonna make a batch of pesto, why not double and freeze the other half?). This 14 Cup Cuisinart Food Processor was not cheap but gets so much use and truly makes my meals tastier and my prep faster.

5. a sharp knife

I’ve seen plenty of kitchens with brand-named knives, but most were sadly not sharp. And well, a brand-name but dull knife isn’t really helpful to anyone (and can actually be more dangerous). All these knives started out sharp, but most owners just didn’t know how to keep them sharp. Think of it as buying a Mercedes and then never taking it in for an oil change or any maintenance. It’s just not gonna run as nice.

If you can only afford one knife, just buy a chef’s knife. I recommend this over sets (which I also see lots of – another consequence of wedding registries) because they often contain knives that just won’t get a lot of use. Just invest in the best chef’s knife you can afford and then take good care of it.

While you can buy a sharpener, my advice is to find a professional knife sharpener near you. Take it in every few months (just like you would take your car in for an oil change) and your knife really will become your best companion in the kitchen.

If you can afford another knife, I actually recommend getting one more chef’s knife so two people can prep at the same because cooking is more fun (and faster) with a partner. Other useful knives to have are a serrated one for slicing through tomatoes and bread and also a paring knife for smaller items.

As for brands, I am a huge fan of Global knives. It’s a Japanese brand and they’ve changed my life in the kitchen. However, the best knife for you is the one you feel most comfortable holding, so try to find a store that will actually let you hold them.

And while we’re on the topic of other items that need to be sharp, make sure you’ve got a sharp peeler and can opener because I’ve seen plenty of rusty, dull ones that are no buenos!

6. books that teach you how to cook

Most homes have plenty of cookbooks. What they usually lack are books that teach you how to cook. If you went through just two or three of these, you could actually slowly ditch your entire recipe cookbook collection.

Once you understand cooking concepts, you’re no longer beholden to recipes anymore. This is what Nourish our 6 week online cooking school – focuses on because freedom from recipes means you can just look into your fridge or pantry and just whip something up!

There are lots of amazing books out there that also have the same goal. Here are three that I recommend:

  1. Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, a Cook’s Manifesto
  2. How to Cook Without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart
  3. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

All of these items will vastly improve your cooking experience; however, none are helpful unless you’ve already decided that you do want to cook so that’s really the first step!

Is your kitchen missing any of these items? What other items would you put on the list?

For more essential kitchen tools, visit our guide here.

Note: We are not paid to endorse any of the above products. However, all Amazon links are affiliate links, which means Amazon gives us a small percentage of the revenues if you decide to buy the item through them. This helps us continue our mission of delivering lots of free and smart cooking info free to you every week. Thanks for supporting us!


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