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  • The 10 MUST-HAVE Kitchen Essentials For Your New Apartment

    August 03, 2022 7 min read

    The 10 MUST-HAVE  Kitchen Essentials For Your New Apartment

    I’ve had to stock a new kitchen a couple of times in my life. There’s more than one reason to find yourself in an empty apartment with a 6-pack of ramen and not much else. If you’re either starting out or starting over, I’m here to help you get settled into your new kitchen!

    This is a very general list, but I can’t stress how important it is to sit down and look at how and what you cook before you start. Otherwise, you’re blundering in the IKEA Market maze, looking at hundreds of charmingly-named utensils and asking yourself if you’re the kind of person that vitally needs a cheap Swedish muffin pan. That’s how you have a terrible time, my friend.

    Get started by grabbing a notepad and jot down a couple of the last meals you’ve made. I tend to lean heavily on pastas when life is busy, so a strainer and a big pot are essential for me, whereas I rarely do any baking, so I probably don’t need a bread pan to start out with. Maybe you’re a fresh-sourdough-every-morning kind of person, but whatever it is, think about the things you like to use (or would use) every day. Then, take a look at your overall budget and decide where you want to splurge and where to save. For most folks, the big three are a knife, a cutting board, and my main cooking vessel. From there, it’s up to you!

    With a few caveats, here’s everything you need to get started in your new home!

    Something to cut with: Chef knife, honing rod, blade guard

    This is the most basic form of cooking: turning big food into smaller food. If you are indeed a person who eats food, you’re probably doing it frequently enough that you might as well have an easy time doing it. One good chef’s knife can be your best friend for nearly every job in the kitchen. When I started my kit, I peeled butternut squash with my 240mm chef knife in a pinch. Your primary knife can function as your scissors, your peeler, your package opener, your slicer, your dicer, your mincer, and lots more (some restrictions apply).

    For all the love your knife gives you, you gotta give a little love back, and that requires two items: something to keep it sharp and something to keep it safe. A honing rod is a must-have maintenance tool. It keeps your edge straight and prevents damage to the blade, which lets your knife stay sharp closer to a year or three instead of the month or two it would without one. The only other thing your knife asks of you is a safe spot to stay - whether a knife magnet or a plastic sleeve is up to you, just make sure your blade is secure, dry, and safe! Check out this blog for more info on how to store your knife.

    Eventually you'll want something smaller to compliment your chef's knife, and a paring knife makes a great companion to a larger blade. Whether you snag one now or wait a few months, you'll want to get one eventually.

    Something to cut on: Cutting board + wax

    Remember how we were talking about treating things right? The one knife you’re relying on for basically everything isn’t going to be much good if you’re dulling it immediately on a cutting board (or countertop) that’s too hard. It also follows that your cutting board isn’t going to do you much good if you let it split from drying out, so some board wax is a must-have tool if you’re going the wooden cutting board route.

    Something to cook in: A skillet

    This will be a skillet or fait-tout, ideally cast iron or carbon steel. If you go with cast iron, you’ve got a buy-it-for-life pan that can do everything from a campfire to oven to stovetop: just beware of acidic things that can mess with precious seasoning. Carbon steel is a lighter alternative that can be easier to season and is better for lots of stir-frys and pan-flips, whereas cast iron excels as long, slow sears and braising. You’ll want to avoid non-stick pans for “everything” jobs because any metal utensils or high heat scenarios can cause the coating to peel, which is bad news for you. 

    Can opener

    I once made the fatal mistake of starting my new life by making a pot of chili using many cans of beans. Only once the meat was brown did I realize I had no way of getting the cans open, and then I introduced myself to my new neighbours by way of pleading for a can opener. This is an avoidable situation. However tempting it may be: DON’T USE YOUR KNIFE. The spine, if you absolutely have to, but this is how sad things happen to your new knife, and I’ve fixed hundreds of broken tips from this exact situation. Try this or this instead. 

    Mixing bowls

    This can be for prep, baking, or even serving in a pinch! Whether this is one bowl or a set is up to you. Do your thang. I like this one because it’s also a strainer, which appears later on the list too. 

    Measuring utensils or scale

    I’m calling it now: the jangly keychain of teaspoons is going the way of the dinosaur. If you want a one-and-done, a kitchen scale is the way to go. Set that mixing bowl on the scale, zero it out, and you’ve got precise gram measurements for everything, which is better for baking, cooking, coffee, and the number of dishes you’ve gotta do after dinner. 

    Cooking Utensils

    A spatula, a spoon, a spoonula, whatever moves your food around and in and out of your pans. Get It Right is one of my favourite brands for being almost indestructible. They’re heat-resistant up to 550F, which means you can make caramel (or accidentally bake it into a cake) without ruining your tools. Also, so many fun colours! That’s great for you and awful for me trying to figure out the difference between “studio” and “white” every time an order comes in. 


    You need a strainer to make your life easier for your pasta, rice, vegetables, seafood, and even meats. If you didn’t grab the mixing bowl/strainer combo earlier in the list, this one, in particular, is excellent for a one-bowl solution to rinse, strain, toss, marinate, and everything else. 


    There are two ways to go here: a regular Microplane or a box Microplane. The deciding factor is space and budget, but the Microplane box grater can always get more done. Honourable mention to my other favourite here, the Tsuboe grater: one of my kitchen staples is the unrivalled Indian foundation of ginger, garlic, and onion. This guy makes short work of all things aromatic with more of a crushing motion than a planing effect. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re into ginger, wasabi, and sinful amounts of garlic, you’ll thank me later. 

    I’m going to pause here for a second, and I won’t lie: I’d love to be a one-stop shop because, realistically, this process is a bit of a pain. That said, here at Knifewear, we’re pretty true to our name, and until we open Panwear, you may need to look elsewhere. I can point you in the right direction, though!

    Once you’ve got your chef knife and accoutrements, my next favourite stop is a restaurant supply store. Most of the time, you don’t need to be in the industry to shop there, and you can usually find some great deals since it’s all gear designed to do the job and not much else. If you’re feeling especially bougie, feel free to hit up a Williams-Sonoma, but chances are you’re getting something just as good as in the restaurant supply, but in a much prettier package. 

    Pasta pot/saucepan 

    SO. You’re looking for a medium-sized pot that can handle pasta, soups, stews, or whatever you like to cook. Chances are you’ll need something that can hold a bit more liquid for that kind of job, so when the skillet isn’t cutting it, it’s time to bust out your bigger cookware. 10qt is suitable for me, but size accordingly with household size and style, like always!

    Sheet pan/baking dish

    For every weeknight dinner, beautifully roasted veggie, homemade cookie. Get one big enough to fill up your oven so you’re never crowding the pan and accidentally steaming what should be roasting, and you’ve got yourself the easiest dinner you can get. If you’re into all things casserole (looking at you, my fellow midwesterners), a 9x13 baking dish may be the way to go.

    Stuff that’s nice to have but probably not essential

    Once you’ve covered the basics, I’ve got a couple of things I like to supplement from there. As far as small things go, a peeler, a whisk, and a great pair of tongs take some of the pressure off some of your other utensils. 

    After you’ve got your first couple of knives, you may want to branch out depending on what you're cooking: some people do a ton of butchery and might benefit from a cleaver. If you’re a family that eats a lot of bread products, a bread knife usually comes in handy, so you’re not risking your Japanese steel on a crusty loaf. A reliable, inexpensive paring knife is a must-have for small jobs and quick snacks.

    Widening the scope a bit, an instant-read thermometer is great for checking on your meats and that occasional batch of homemade caramel. 

    One of the more expensive things that are worth considering in a new kitchen is a kickass blender. Anything you can double as a food processor is especially great. Soups, smoothies, nut butters & milks, sauces, mayonnaise, and anything that needs to be smooth and creamy or hidden in texture calls for a great blender. 

    After all that, a good apron can be the finishing touch, so no one gets splattered along the way.

    ALRIGHT. That was a lot. Here’s a TLDR:

    1. Think about how you cook. 
    2. Look at your budget and decide where you want to splurge and where you want to save: I like investing in my knife, cutting board, and main pan first. 
    3. Once you get your kit, evaluate. What’s working great? What do you wish you hadn’t cheaped out on? And build from there!

    Best of luck, and if any of this feels a little overwhelming to you, we’re always here to help in-store or online. That chat box on this site goes to a real person!

    Start with a knife!