14 Elevated Kitchen Basics That’ll Have You Cooking More Than Ever

Upgrade your meals with superior cooking tools

November 16, 2022 10:22 am
An over, water pitcher and shears on a purple and pink abstract background
Getty Images / InsideHook

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Unpacking boxes in my new kitchen took me on an inadvertent journey down memory lane: cutting mats from college, a hodgepodge of mismatched silverware and scratched pots from my first apartment. I realized my kitchen basics needed to be replaced if I was ever going to make good on my promise to cook more and order in less.

In the process of upgrading, I’ve come to appreciate what a motivational force good cookware can be. In the same way new workout clothes or running shoes will get you to the gym with alacrity, my new kitchen gear is miraculously encouraging me to forgo delivery. 

Beyond function, another consideration that’s been top of mind during my kitchen basics refresh is appearance. My small space has open shelving, which is yet another reason to invest in non-ugly kitchen essentials: everything from my kettle to my saucepans is on display. If your kitchen could also use a bit of sprucing up, read on for some of the products that have made mine a joy to cook in.

A soulmate-level collaboration: Great Jones’ iconic Broccoli and Mustard colors crossed with Fellow’s beloved gooseneck kettle. While the look of the standard Stagg EKG kettle is famously sleek, the colors offered (white, black, copper) are a bit understated for my taste. Enter Great Jones with this rich green hue that’s eye-catching without being in-your-face. It’s perfect for style-conscious home cooks. This was a godsend after getting into pour over coffee recently (I was using my Le Creuset kettle to the horror of pour over aficionados). It plugs in (no stove necessary) and you can set the temperature to the exact degree

I was already obsessed with LARQ’s self-cleaning water bottle. That made it an easy choice to replace my Brita with this striking pitcher that also self-cleans (every six hours). A dual filtering system includes a replaceable filter (swap it out every three months) and the PureVis wand, which you charge with a USB cable. These two pieces attack different contaminants in your water, but what I love most is the one-hand refill design. Unlike most water pitchers that require you to lift a panel to fill, this lid has a pressure-sensitive opening that depresses when you run the faucet over it. The weight of the water stream opens the panel and you can fill it without having dirty fingers anywhere near the lid. I went with white (rather than navy). I prefer to see everything and a darker color can convince you it’s clean when it might not be. 

If there was one kitchen basic that is often overlooked, it’s the dish rack. It’s best to be a minimalist when it comes to dish racks because they always get funky. This simple model is so easy to wash and doesn’t have nooks, crannies, or corners for mildew to fester in. It’s composed of only three pieces (including the utensil holder), which you can hand wash (no need to maneuver unwieldy parts into the dishwasher). My last dish rack had “walls” which made it difficult to dry large pots and baking sheets, but this one is slightly oversized in addition to being gloriously wall-free. 

This beautiful piece of machinery may not fall under the traditional definition of “basic”, but it’s proven itself to be a “how did I live without this” appliance. I care deeply about the right amount of toastiness (I walk an extra few blocks to go to the bagel place that toasts with intention) and I was skeptical about how steam could toast, but I’ve been fully converted. I eat a lot of milk bread and this toaster achieves the precise balance of crisp on the outside/moist and fluffy on the inside that had previously eluded me. I’ve also been loving the oven feature, which I use to make just one (or two or three) cookies from my mom’s homemade dough.

Even though there’s nothing I hate more than touching raw chicken, I’m willing to do it to make pad krapow — but I no longer need to. These shears have inspired me to treat my kitchen like a Korean BBQ table where servers deftly cut meat into bite-size pieces. The blades are micro-serrated, made of German stainless steel, and extremely effective. I also love that the scissors separate into two halves so you can thoroughly wash all traces of poultry. This tool made me understand the important difference between “scissors you keep in the kitchen” and bonafide Kitchen Shears. 

Speaking of Tupperware — it feels like sacrilege to call these gorgeous containers that have transformed the inside of my fridge by such a pedestrian name. Hefty borosilicate glass and LFBG-certified silicone store your prepped food (overnight oats!) and leftovers in style. This 5-piece set includes one bowl, two snack bags, and two wide-mouthed containers. I’ve stored pungent foods like curries and Tom Yum soup without any lingering odor (and no leaks whatsoever). Unlike my old stained and unappealing Tupperware, these vessels are so pretty that I happily nuke leftovers and serve them in the W&P container without feeling the need to dirty an additional dish.  

You might think one ladle is as good as any other, but I’d have to correct you. The last ladle I had melted and warped each time it touched the inside of the pot. This silicone beauty is my trusty chili-serving companion, capable of withstanding temperatures up to 464°F. Measurement markings on the inside of the ladle (in cups and mL) indicate volume, which is immensely helpful if you’re ladling even portions into separate Tupperware containers.

I make a lot of fourthmeal pasta, oatmeal, and neoguri (the only instant ramen worth eating)-–and this mini pot is my secret to making reasonable portions. The 1.75-quart capacity is perfect for heating water quickly and abstaining from family-of-six quantities. If you’re unacquainted with Caraway, their pots and pans have a ceramic non-stick coating that’s great for not only flipping pancakes but also easy clean-up. The entire pan and saucepan (plus lid) can go in the oven if you’re making a casserole or pot roast for one. The packaging alone makes the minis gift-worthy — they arrive cushioned in a custom box with dust bags, a cork trivet and a cleaning eraser (sponge) to remove stains.

This chic flatware set will elevate your dinnerware and make even the cheapest dishes look high-end. While this set is offered in more traditional silver, you could also go with the sleek matte black option. The minimalist design is complemented by a healthy weight and a sturdy construction.

I knew in my heart of hearts that a beautiful cooling rack must exist. Not just a functional sleek one, but something worthy of taking up precious cabinet space. The answer to my cooling rack prayers materialized in this gorgeous Diwali Fry Set. It includes a beautiful wire rack designed by artist and illustrator Manjit Thapp. It has a skimmer spoon designed by Trishala Bhansali, and two clay diyas. Given that samosas are one of my favorite foods, I have no excuse not to make them at home now that I’m so readily equipped.

These five baking dishes replaced my mismatched assortment of cookie sheets. I was also thrilled to find that the entire set stacks together compactly and fits underneath my oven. The ceramic-coated stoneware is solid, chip-resistant, and nonstick with a depth that works for both baking loaves or crisping foods that you’d usually cook on a rimmed baking sheet (think: prosciutto or asparagus). I was briefly disappointed when I realized the pan was too large for my oven. Upon learning it can be used as a griddle, I’ve been using it to make lemon ricotta pancakes on my stove every weekend.

A kitchen equipped with all of the wonderful things on this list deserves something better than grocery store olive oil. This duo includes two oils: one for roasting/sauteing, the other for baked goods/fresh greens. Where I noticed taste improvement most is in my go-to, lazy salad dressing (olive oil + balsamic), which was wildly transformed. Don’t forget the spout, which will help control pouring so you don’t waste a drop of this precious commodity.

I lost my chef-favorite Zyliss garlic press and took a risk by replacing it with this cheaper (but more stylish) choice. I wish I had lost the other sooner. This press is as functional as it is chic, and it’s so affordable. The weight of it feels very solid — unlike some plastic options that make you do all the work. Since I’m having an anti-OXO moment, I also picked up the matching black matte Y peeler. It has the same modern finish and heft.


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