Food & Drink

Equip a great first kitchen for under $170


There’s no doubt that you need measuring cups, dishes and a toaster, but the kitchen in your first apartment should be filled with not just basic cookware, but good cookware. Items that will outlast the toaster and the dishes.

That said, you don’t need to spend a fortune. But, be ready to fork over between $150 and $170 for pots, pans and utensils that expert chefs say you shouldn’t do without if you’re going to actually be cooking (as opposed to bringing home takeout and Mom’s leftovers).

Now, if you look carefully, you are sure to find dishes, flatware and small appliances at Goodwill and other thrift stores.

But, be prepared to buy some new items as well. If you follow this list, this kitchen equipment will follow you wherever you go.

Thanks to for the inspiration for this list. It is a good online resource for getting organized as you make that transition from home or college to your first place.

KNIVES. Ask any chef and he will tell you a good, sharp knife is the most important tool an aspiring culinarian will need. A good knife can range in price anywhere from around $20 to hundreds of dollars, so the choices are many. For a good-quality, sharp knife that is easy to maintain but won’t break the bank, buy a “stamped” knife, one where the blade is machine-stamped and has either a wood or plastic handle.

Buy it: Check out an 8- to 10-inch stamped chef’s knife from Victorinox, the company that makes Swiss Army Knives. Some chefs at the Culinary Institute of America swear by these knives, and they are a great deal at $34. (Victorinox style No. 47521/10-inch chef’s knife, black Fibrox handle at Amazon.)

Note: A second, essential knife is the paring knife. Made by the same company, it can be purchased for under $5 at

SAUTE PAN. A good, solidly made saute or frying pan is another kitchen essential. Choose something that feels heavy for its size and has a stainless-steel cooking surface. Avoid solid aluminum pans as the metal can react to acidic foods and does not do as good a job conducting heat evenly. Also, buy a pan that is all metal (no plastic or rubber handles). An all-metal pan can be used on the stove top, as well as in the oven. A heavy-bottomed steel pan (10-inch is a good start) will help you avoid scorching food because it does not heat up too quickly.

Buy it: This pan, by Cuisinart, costs around $39.95. (Cuisinart style No. 422-24/Contour stainless 10-inch open skillet at

POTS AND PANS. Another good addition to your collection of pots and pans is a good stock pot. A stock pot can be used to make stocks and soups, as well as to boil large amounts of salted water for pasta or vegetables.

Buy it: This 8-quart stock pot from Target is priced reasonably at $29.99. (Room Essentials/ 8-quart Stockpot-Red at as well as in stores.)

Note: A smaller sauce pan with a lid and handle is also a very useful purchase.

STRAINER. Whether making a sauce or straining pasta, you’ll need a strainer or colander. In order to get the widest range of uses out of this tool, choose a mesh strainer with relatively fine holes in order to cover as many needs as possible.

Buy it: This one only costs $3.69 from Central Restaurant Supply.

SHEET TRAY/COOKIE SHEET. Buying a solid sheet tray will allow you to begin baking cookies and other delicious desserts at home. Also, if you purchase a wire rack that can sit on top of the baking sheet, this piece of equipment quickly doubles as a basic roasting pan.

Tip: Line your tray with parchment paper when baking to make for an easy clean-up afterwards.

Make sure that the baking tray you buy will fit in your oven (commercial sheet trays are much wider than those for home use. A “half-sheet tray” will fit in most home ovens).

Buy it: This sheet tray, made by Amco, is a solid, food-service grade piece of equipment at $14. (Amco Focus Products Group/15-by-10-inch/ Chicago Metallic Non-Stick Jelly Roll sold at Walmart.)

Note: A wire roasting/cooling rack made by Wilton can be purchased for $6.99 to $9.99 at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

CUTTING BOARD. Many chefs prefer a wooden cutting board to the plastic variety. Whichever kind you choose, make sure to avoid glass, stone and very hard, composite cutting boards, as they will quickly dull and damage your new, shiny knives.

Buy it: This cutting board by Farberware for $9.99 is reversible with a groove on one side to catch any excess liquid. (11-by-14 Poly Cutting Board with Handle/Target.)

WOODEN SPOONS. A wooden spoon, either concave or flat, is an important tool for making sure that your food comes out of the pan unburned. Use your wooden spoon to stir around the edges and corners of the pot, the danger zones that are often left untouched by your traditional square spatula. Also, stirring the bottom of a metal cooking vessel with a metal spoon or spatula could potentially create off-flavors and colors in your finished product, and if using nonstick cookware, a wooden spoon will not damage the valuable non-stick coating.

Buy it: Check out this set of three wooden utensils by Calphalon for $11.99. (Calphalon Turner Wood 3-Piece Utensil Set/Bed, Bath & Beyond.)

TONGS. In the professional kitchen, there may be one tool that spends more time in the hands of the cooks than their knives. Flipping a steak, searing a roast, blanching vegetables, even lifting a hot saute pan or to finish plating, tongs do it all. A good pair of tongs will definitely come in handy in the home kitchen while prepping, cooking and serving. Locking tongs take up less room when stored, too. Choose a 10- to 12-inch size. Anything longer becomes difficult to use.

Buy it: These sturdy tongs have a stainless-steel body and nylon heads that are heat-resistant up to 400 degrees. They are made by OXO and sell for $12.99. (OXO Good Grips/12-Inch Tongs With Nylon Heads/Bed, Bath & Beyond.)

Final note: Depending on how much money you plan to spend on your kitchen, some of the items mentioned here could easily be upgraded. If you love hunting for a bargain, check out a professional restaurant supply store in your area. These stores sell kitchen equipment to professionals for prices far below those of the boutique kitchen stores at your local mall and are often of superior quality to the equipment at your local Walmart. The best deals at the restaurant supply stores can be found in the used kitchen equipment. You’ll find pots, pans, spoons, ladles, knives, and more.