All the Kitchen Essentials You Need — for $200
Kitting out a kitchen from scratch can be a daunting task. When a single chef's knife or Dutch oven alone can set you back a few hundred bucks, it's tricky to source an entire kitchen in one fell swoop on a budget. So, we did the legwork for you.
Included on this comprehensive checklist are all the essentials you'll need to build a fully-equipped kitchen arsenal. We left out the dishes and silverware, cleaning tools, food storage, and appliances. But after some serious scouring for bargains, we've found all the tools a home chef needs to cook — from pots and pans to prep tools, utensils, and gadgets — for a grand total just under $200. Here's how to shop smart and save big on all your kitchen essentials so you can get cooking!
What to Consider When Buying Kitchen Tools on a Budget
You want tools that are built to last (many of these come with warranties), with the thoughtful features that make them extra user-friendly. Think a silicone base on a mixing bowl to prevent slips and a digital display on a meat thermometer for greater precision. Our picks take into account where it makes sense to save, dish out a little more dough, or buy in sets.
If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you may be able to save even more money by browsing thrift stores, garage sales, discount stores like HomeGoods, and even dollar stores before you hit the major retailers. Who knows? You could end up with a high-end chef's knife that just needs sharpening or a gently-used vintage Dutch oven for fractions of their retail price tags.
Be judicious, though. You may score a digital meat thermometer for just a buck at a dollar store, but don't bother with a flimsy spatula that won't feel good in your hand and may need to be replaced in a few months — which will just cost you more money and time in the long run.
Another place to find savings is store credit cards. Target, Amazon, and Williams Sonoma all offer cards that will earn you cash back and/or rewards you can use towards future purchases. Some also give additional intro discounts when you sign up for a card, which can add up to big savings when you've got a long shopping list.
The Complete List of Kitchen Essentials
You may think you have to drop a lot of money on an extensive set of kitchen knives to be fully equipped. And since they're something you'll use every day, knives are certainly worth investing in when you can. But as most culinary pros will tell you, you really only need three versatile knives to prep nearly everything: a chef's knife, paring knife, and serrated knife.
This trio from Henckels — one of the most respected names in kitchen cutlery — boasts high-quality stainless steel, single-piece design, ergonomic handles, and full-tang construction for long-lasting precision, balance, and strength. And at a mere $25 for the set, they're a total steal.
Buy it: HENCKELS Solution Starter Set, $20; bedbathandbeyond.com
Knives Total: $20
Frying Pan with Lid
When it comes to multi-tasking, it's hard to beat the humble (yet indispensable) frying pan. The nonstick surface means foods release easily, so you won't lose half of your chicken breasts or meatballs to the bottom of the pan. Sloped sides make it effortless to slide eggs, sausages, pancakes, and more onto plates. While lots of options come without lids, a lid allows will come in handy for steaming veggies or getting your grilled cheese nice and melty.
Buy it: Farberware Non-Stick 12" Cover Deep Skillet, $21; target.com
This super-versatile Dutch oven in beautiful ombre colors may remind you of a covetable classic from a certain premium French brand. But instead of setting you back nearly $400, its price tag is a mere $52. Sure, you'll use it for soups, stews, and stocks. But that's just the beginning. You'll also call on this cast iron beauty for stovetop risottos, steamed mussels, Sunday ragús, oven-roasted whole chickens, and even rounds of fresh-baked bread. It retains heat evenly and is oven-safe up to 500 degrees.
Buy it: Crock Pot 5-Quart Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $52, amazon.com
Having a rimmed, nonstick baking sheet for baking cookies, roasting veggies, or broiling cheesy melt sandwiches is non-negotiable. This heavy-duty half sheet pan is made of aluminized steel for strength and stability, which means no bending or buckling. The sturdy rolled edges keep oil from your veggies or juices from your chicken breasts from spilling over the sides and burning your hands. The nonstick surface ensures that food releases easily.
Buy it: USA Pan Half Sheet Pan, $10, target.com
This essential 9×13-inch baking pan will ensure that sweets like cakes, brownies, and bars as well as savory bakes (including casseroles and gratins) turn out perfectly every time.
Buy it: Made By Design 9" x 13" Non-Stick Cake Pan, $5; target.com
Pots & Pans Total: $88
This bargain $8 pack of two cutting boards gives you options for slicing and dicing a variety of foods. You may want to use the large 12" x 9" bamboo board (which should be hand washed) for chopping fruit, veggies, and herbs, plus slicing bread and cheese. Then you can reserve the 9 1/4" x 7" plastic board for cutting meat and seafood, as it can go in the dishwasher for easy sanitizing.
Buy it: Made By Design 2-Piece Bamboo and Poly Cutting Board Set, $8; target.com
Mixing bowls seem so straightforward, you may think there's nothing in particular to look for when buying one. But this budget-friendly version has three features that help it edge out the competition. The stainless steel construction means you can chill it prior to beating egg whites, while a non-slip silicone base prevents the bowl from sliding around the countertop while you're beating cookie batter. And when you use it to throw together a green salad or coleslaw, just pop the top to store it or transport it to the potluck or picnic.
Buy it: Made By Design Stainless Steel Non-Slip Covered Mixing Bowl, $7; target.com
A sturdy metal colander is a must for straining a pot of boiling-hot pasta, but it's also useful for rinsing berries and greens. The footed design, handles, all-over holes, and dishwasher-safe features of this design mean easy handling, draining, and cleanup.
Buy it: Made By Design Stainless Steel Colander, $10; target.com
Sure, you can dry your greens for free by rolling them up in towels. But nothing removes water from delicate lettuces and herbs as quickly or efficiently as a salad spinner, making it essential for veggie lovers.
Buy it: Cuisinart Green and White Salad Spinner, $20; bedbathandbeyond.com
Prep Tools Total: $45
You can save big by buying a set of cooking utensils versus individual pieces. This budget-friendly box is one-stop-shopping for stocking your kitchen toolbox— saving you both money and time shopping.
Included in the set are 24 tools: a whisk, spatula, grater, peeler, can opener, tongs, measuring cups and spoons, solid and slotted spoons, and solid and slotted turners. Plus, you'll get bonus gadgets that don't always come with toolsets, like a potato masher, ice cream scooper, and beer opener.
All are made of nylon and stainless steel that's been polished with a special oil to prevent it from rusting. And they're lightweight, nonstick, dishwasher safe, heat resistant up to 350 degrees, and protected under a warranty. Best of all, at $19 for 24 tools, you're paying an unbeatable 80 cents each.
Buy it: Kaluns 24-Piece Kitchen Utensil Set, $20; amazon.com
To round out your kitchen tools, you'll just need a couple more gadgets. Take the guesswork out of cooking meat with an instant-read digital thermometer. They cost a few dollars more than the standard dial version that you read like a clock, but it's worth it for the added precision, reliability, and ease of reading.
Buy it: ThermoPro TP-02S Digital Instant-Read Meat Thermometer, $10; amazon.com
Liquid Measuring Cup
A liquid measuring cup gives cooks precisely the right amount of wet ingredients for baking and other cooking tasks. Buying a glass version means you can pop it in the microwave to warm milk for a recipe without worrying about warping or melting plastic. This one from the wallet-friendly Made By Design line at Target is just $4.
Buy it: Made By Design 2-Cup Glass Measuring Cup, $4; target.com
One more product you may want to spend a few extra bucks on is a nice set of oven mitts. The usual square cotton pot holders are fine for some tasks, but since they leave your wrists and arms exposed and aren't made to shield you from high temps, they leave some room for error. Play it safe with a pair of heavy-duty silicone oven mitts, which protect more skin, have textured non-skid palms for a secure grip, and are heat resistant up to 500 degrees.
Buy it: Town & Country Living Pair of Silicone Oven Mitts, $12; amazon.com
Utensils Gadgets Total: $46
Grand Total = $199