My Must-Have Kitchen Essentials | Ambitious Kitchen

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I’ve been a recipe developer for over 10 years now (excuse me, where has the time gone?!) and over the years I’ve been building my kitchen with all of the essential, high-quality kitchen essentials that make cooking and baking that much easier. I realized while developing my cookbook that I wanted to create a resource for those looking to get a little ambitious in their kitchen, stock their drawers with tools, and make sure they have all the kitchen essentials they need on hand.

Shopping for kitchen tools can be daunting — I get it! There are SO many brands, styles, and materials to choose from, plus a wide variety of price points for each item. Because I’ve been cooking and baking for a living for years now, I’ve tested out tons of different brands and have settled on ones that have lasted me for many years and countless recipes. Yes, some of these tools will even last a lifetime, so I know they’re such a great investment.

Not only do these kitchen tools provide the perfect refresh for your own kitchen, but they also make amazing wedding registry items or holiday gifts for anyone who loves to cook or bake! The goal of stocking your kitchen with good quality items is to make cooking and baking easy and enjoyable, and these essentials will do just that.

What you’ll find

  • Small appliances: the best high-quality blender, my fav food processor, and more for making your cooking and baking adventures a breeze.
  • Pots & pans: a must for cooking, of course! I included things like my go-to dutch oven, plus all essential baking pans.
  • Baking utensils: your measuring spoons and cups might need a little refresh. Head to this section for all baking necessities.
  • Cooking utensils: graters, peelers, meat thermometers, and everything in between.

What’s not on the list

I didn’t include tableware items like glasses, silverware, dishes & linens but you can find even more items on our Shop Page!

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Small appliances

  • High-powered blender: I’ve had this Vitamix blender for over 4 years now and it’s one of my kitchen staples. I highly recommend investing in a quality blender so that your smoothies, soups, batters, etc. turn out perfectly smooth! No pesky ice chunks here.
  • Small blender: on the other hand, I usually reach for my small, handheld blender for easy-blending recipes like sauces and dressings that don’t have a huge amount of ingredients. It’s so easy to clean, too.
  • Stand mixer: the one and only! I swear by my KitchenAid stand mixer for everything from cookie dough to fluffy, whipped frostings.
  • Hand mixer: a must for whipped cream and very simple frostings. High-quality hand mixers have better speed control so your ingredients don’t go flying.
  • Food processor: this is key for getting the perfect “dough” for no bake bars and energy bites, plus sauces that require tougher ingredients like cashews! A blender won’t give your ingredients the right consistency because it’s meant for softer ingredients.

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Pots & pans

  1. 3.5 quart oven-safe braiser: I LOVE a good pan with a lid that will last FOREVER. This is a must for one pan meals that you cook on the stovetop and then pop in the oven.
  2. Large, deep 10″ oven-safe skillet: Great for one pan meals and oven safe up to 500 degrees F. Also amazing for apple crisps, cookie skillets and more!
  3. Nonstick pans: I’ve tried tons of different nonstick pans over the years and I swear by this one from Made In. It’s made with nontoxic ingredients, is oven safe up to 500 degrees F, and is SO easy to clean. Use the code ‘AMBITIOUS’ for 10% off your first order of $100 or more!
  4. Dutch oven: a must for soups, stews, and even my homemade bread recipe! I recommend at least a 5-quart dutch oven.
  5. Muffin pan: given that my nickname is the Muffin Queen, you know a muffin pan is essential in my kitchen.
  6. Cake pans: I’m always getting questions about what cake pans I use for my gorgeous, tall cakes! I like to use these 6-inch round cake pans, but 8-inch pans are great to have as well.
  7. Small, medium, and large pots with lids: remember to get small, medium, and large pots to fit any soups, stews, pasta, and sauces you’re making. I love this stainless steel set from Made In! Use the code ‘AMBITIOUS’ for 10% off your order of $100 or more.
  8. 8×4 inch loaf pan: feel free to get an 8×4 or 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan to bake up your favorite bread recipes.
  9. 9-inch square baking pan: gotta have a square baking pan for brownies, bars, and single-layer cakes.
  10. 9×13 inch baking pan: the only pan you’ll need for lasagna, pasta bakes, and casseroles. Grab a new one before Thanksgiving!
  11. Springform pan: I love using a springform pan for cakes and my famous cinnamon rolls because you can easily serve them by removing the sides without any mess.
  12. Various sized baking sheets: every kitchen needs a variety of baking sheets. Make big or small batches of cookies, sheet pan meals, and more.
  13. Wire cooling racks: the perfect wire racks for cooling cookies and even baking up the crispiest chicken nuggets. Add one to your sheet pan to get that amazing crisp factor.
  14. Pie pan: another Thanksgiving (and celebrating) must-have — a go-to pie pan!
  15. Pizza stone: this pizza steel is the BEST and makes for delicious crust that can’t be beaten. Highly recommend! I keep mine in my oven at all times for easy storage (because it is heavy!)
  16. Pizza peel: I started making pizzas at home thanks to inspiration from my brother-in-law and this is the pizza peel he loves (and now I do too!)

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Baking utensils

  1. Mixing bowls: I started using these sustainable mixing bowls from Material Kitchen last year and became OBSESSED. They’re lightweight and dishwasher-safe.
  2. Measuring spoons: gotta have tablespoons and teaspoons for all sweet and savory recipes. No eyeballing in baking!
  3. Dry measuring cups: yes, there’s a difference between dry and wet measuring cups! So be sure to get a good set of both. These are great for flour, oats, sugar, mix-ins, etc.
  4. Liquid measuring cups: use the liquid measuring cups for (you guessed it) any liquids you’re adding to recipes! Milk, water, oil, broth, etc.
  5. Wooden spoons: I always recommend mixing batters and even soups and stews with a wooden spoon because it’s heat resistant and doesn’t scratch pots and pans. This set of 5 has a variety of shapes and sizes to help your cooking.
  6. Pastry brush: feel free to use a bristled or silicone brush for egg washes, glazes, and more.
  7. Rolling pin: yes, you can use a wine bottle to roll out your favorite pie or cookie dough, but this high-quality rolling pin will make your life even easier.
  8. Cookie scoops: I like to have small, medium and large cookie scoops so that I can scoop the right amount of dough or a mixture before baking. Great for cookies and meatballs!
  9. Cake stand: show off your beautiful baked treats with a chic cake stand! This one comes with a lid, so it doubles as easy storage.

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Cooking utensils

  1. Good quality knife set: along with the nonstick skillet and pots, I’m newly in love with the Made In knife set. It includes a chef knife, paring knife, bread knife, and even an incredible nakiri knife all made with durable materials. Use the code ‘AMBITIOUS’ for 10% off your order of $100 or more.
  2. Pizza cutter: we can’t have a pizza knife without a good pizza cutter, right? Right. This simple KitchenAid cutter is perfectly sharp and easy to use.
  3. Tongs: keep it simple with my fav Oxo tongs for rotating meatballs and veggies in a pan and pulling up delicious scoops of pasta.
  4. Spatulas: this tool might be the most confusing because there are so many types! Let’s break it down. I use a thin metal spatula for flipping things like burgers, a smaller spatula for removing cookies from a baking sheet, a regular spatula for easy mixing, an offset spatula for frosting cakes, and a flexible thin spatula for flipping pancakes and omelettes.
  5. Potato masher: this one is self-explanatory. Perfect mashed potatoes? Solved. Also great for mashing bananas!
  6. Meat mallet: you’ll reach for this tool more than you think to help make thicker cuts of meat (like chicken breast) thinner for easy cooking.
  7. Meat chopper: this turner makes it way easier to break up ground meat so that you can evenly brown or cook it through.
  8. Can opener: I can’t tell you how many can openers I’ve broken over the years, and they’re truly essential for cooking. Get a high-quality one and it will last for so long!
  9. Garlic press: keep your hands cleaner with a simple-to-use garlic press. You can put the whole clove in it with the skin on and get perfect garlic every time.
  10. Whisks: I like to have a set of metal whisks (linked first) and silicone whisks depending on what type of pan or pot I’m whisking in. Silicone whisks won’t scratch, so use them in your nonstick pots and pans.
  11. Peeler: easily remove the skin from potatoes, fruit, ginger, and more with a sharp peeler.
  12. Microplane grater: a must for zesting citrus and grating garlic!
  13. Citrus juicer: I like to use this wooden reamer to get all of that juice out of fruits.
  14. Meat thermometer: perfectly. cooked. meat. every time. Need I say more? I love this Yummly smart thermometer because it connects to an app on your phone to tell you exactly when your meat is done!
  15. Box grater: sooo much easier to use than a hand grater and your shredded cheese or zucchini won’t get all over your counter or floor.
  16. Mesh strainer: this is a MUST for rinsing rice before you cook it, plus draining small pasta shapes like orzo. I use the small one to drain chickpeas and black beans, too!
  17. Colander: drain larger pasta shapes and rinse off produce with an easy-to-clean colander.
  18. Slotted spoon: scoop thicker ingredients from a soup or stew, and even pasta from water right into your freshly made sauce.
  19. Cutting boards: I love the Material Kitchen BPA-free reBoards for chopping because they’re dishwasher safe and especially good for cutting meats! This Sonder LA board doubles as a beautiful cheese board and is great for slicing produce and cheeses (use the code ‘ambitiouskitchen15’ for 15% off first-time orders on Sonder LA!)
  20. Reusable zip-top silicone bags: I’ve been using Stasher Bags for years to store leftovers and freshly chopped ingredients. They’re dishwasher-safe and a great way to reduce single use plastics.

Looking for more?

Head to our shop page for even more kitchen essentials, pantry staples and more!

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