13 Kitchen Tools You Should Own by the Time You're 30
Whether you just turned 30 (happy birthday, you!), you're about to, or you're already well past the big three-oh, this story is for you. Adulthood is happening. In full swing! That's not to say that 25-year-olds are not adults, so no offense if you're younger and happen to be reading this! It's just that adulting is now hitting the next level. And we like to think of this list as a "next-level" guide to making your kitchen feel more grown-up.
These items aren't necessarily essential for setting up a first kitchen; they're the things you need if you want to be a life-long cook. Take a look at the list and then let us know how many you have.
1. An Oven-to-Table Baking Dish
While you probably already have a basic aluminum baking dish (and we'll always tell you to keep that on hand!), it's also worth adding a beautiful stoneware or porcelain one to your collection. This way, you have one that you can bring right from the oven to the table. You know, when you're hosting a dinner party.
We've got a great post on the best casserole dishes you can buy (See: I've Cooked with Nearly Every Casserole Dish. Here Are My Favorites.), but if you're looking for the CliffsNotes version, our suggestion is below.
Our pick: 4-Quart Heritage Rectangular Dish, $75 at Le Creuset
2. A Well-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
It's one thing to have a cast iron skillet; it's another to have a well-seasoned one. Whether you've been holding onto your grandma's since college or you just got a new one during the holidays, now is the time to become a pro at seasoning it.
Our pick: Lodge 10-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $25
3. One Really Good Spatula
You know you're an adult when you have a favorite spatula. And boy do we ever! The GIR Spatula is one of those products we can't stop raving about. Unlike most spatulas on the market, this one is all one piece, which means there's no grooves for gunk and bacteria to hide. It's bendy (but not too bendy) and easy to clean. And it comes in a bunch of fun colors — because grown-ups can still like bright, colorful toys.
Our pick: GIR Spatula, $13
4. A Salt Cellar
Good, flaky salt is just one of those things that you'll reach for again and again, so why not have a special vessel for it? You can then keep that vessel right by the stove so you can grab it while you're cooking or finishing a dish. We love this one because it has a divider, which lets you stash your two favorite salts in one place.
Our pick: Concrete Salt Cellar, $15 at Crate & Barrel
5. Real, Non-Warped Baking Sheets
You've probably already been baking cookies for friends for decades. But, be honest, have you been doing it on discolored and warped baking sheets? It's time for an upgrade. These are our all-time favorites because they're sturdy and will look like you just got them — even 10 years from now.
Our pick: Vollrath Wear-Ever Half-Size Sheet Pans, $32 for two
6. Round Cake Pans
A 9- or 10-inch round cake pan makes our list of the most essential baking gear for setting up a kitchen. More specifically, though, you really need two, as most layer cake recipes will tell you divide the batter into two pans. Even if you're not making cakes all the time, these pans will come in handy when you're making biscuits, sweet rolls, or even meatballs.
Our pick: Traditionaltouch 9-Inch Round Cake Pan, $26 for two at Williams Sonoma
7. A Dutch Oven
When it comes to cookware, you really don't need much. One of the things you do need that a lot of people try to get by without? An enameled cast iron Dutch oven. A lot of people skip them because the price can be prohibitively expensive, but there are all sorts of companies these days (like Milo, Great Jones, and even Amazon!) that are making them for way less.
3 Dutch Ovens We Love
- AmazonBasics 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $45
- Lodge 6-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $60
- Staub 5.5-Quart Cast-Iron Round Cocotte, $325 at Williams Sonoma
8. A Baking Stone or Steel
If you've never made pizza at home before, this is your year. A baking stone or a pizza steel (click here to learn the difference between the two) is absolutely essential. And of course, you can use them for more than just making pizza.
Our pick: Rectangular Pizza Stone, $38
9. A Spice Grinder
Start with whole spices that you grind yourself instead of pre-ground jarred ones and your food is always going to be more flavorful and richer. You could get a mortar and pestle (which also happens to look cool on your countertop) or you could go with a much-easier-to-use electric option. This one from Krups is inexpensive and efficient, and a favorite among Kitchn staffers.
Our pick: Krups Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder, $14
10. A Wok
Ask our Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, to name the single most underrated kitchen item and she'll tell you it's the wok. It's so much more than just a stir-fry pan — you can also pan-fry, braise, deep-fry, steam, boil, poach, and smoke with it. We like a carbon steel wok because it heats quickly and evenly, and becomes more and more nonstick as you use it. And we like this one in particular. (Read more about carbon steel woks here.)
Our pick: Professional Carbon Steel Wok, $37 at Sur la Table
11. A Tea Kettle
Sure, you can boil water for tea in a saucepan, but you'll find it so much faster and easier to pour if you do it in a proper tea kettle. This one from Le Creuset is a classic for many reasons beyond its iconic shape. It's made of sturdy carbon steel and coasted with a porcelain enamel finish so it heats up quickly and looks good while doing it.
Our pick: Classic Whistling Kettle, $100 at Le Creuset
12. A Matching Set of Food Storage Containers
Matching food containers not only look more organized in your cabinet or fridge, but also they actually are more organized. Because they stack neatly. This set from OXO is one of our favorites. It's clear, easy to clean, and totally leakproof.
Our pick: OXO Good Grips Smart Seal Leakproof Glass Food Storage Container Set, $30 for eight pieces
By now, you know all about how important it is for your budget to pack your own lunch for the workday. If you're not doing it, perhaps it's because you don't have a reliable vessel to get said lunch to work? We sear by these bags from PackIt because you can stash them in your freezer and they'll keep your lunch cool until it's time to eat, which means you don't even have to battle your other coworkers for space in the shared fridge.
Our pick: PackIt Freezable Hampton Lunch Bag, $20
How many do you already have?