Your First Kitchen: The Ultimate Checklist

After a long hunt, you’ve finally done what might’ve once felt impossible: You’ve found an apartment you love, you’ve signed a lease, and you’ve put down a deposit. Congrats on landing your new place to live!

Now that you’re living in your own place, it’s time to give your cooking game some serious upgrade, too. It’s time to move on from instant microwave noodles and takeout and truly break in that new kitchen. But where do you even begin stocking your first kitchen? How many plates do you need? How much silverware? What kinds of cookware?

Our ultimate checklist for your first kitchen is organized by category, and it lists your top needs in bold so that you know to get them first. You might be tempted to buy everything new when you first begin reading this checklist, but don’t forget about the power of buying used kitchenware at thrift stores or even on the internet (where you can even find things for free). Don’t forget to let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything!

Pots and pans

  • Saucepot. Buy a small pot with enough volume to prepare enough sauce for one meal. Make sure the pot is actually small and designated for sauce — heating your sauce in too large a pot might cause too much to boil off.
  • Pasta pot. Pasta pots often come in 5-quart, 6-quart, or 8-quart varieties. If you use too small of a pot, your water might overflow as the pasta cooks. You may want to opt for a larger pot if you tend to make more than one box at a time.
  • Stockpot. A stock pot is ideal for preparing soups, stews, and broths. These pots are usually large enough that, if you’re preparing soup, using an immersion blender to mix it all doesn’t create splatter all over your stovetop.
  • Frying pan. Any medium or large pan is great for preparing a quick stovetop meal such as eggs or grilled cheese.
  • Wok. A wok is both wide and deep enough to work perfectly for stir-frying. An ordinary frying pan is decent for stir-frying, but a wok prevents food and sauces from spilling over.


  • Forks, knives, and spoons. Investing in some good flatware will go a long way and last you for years. These utensils are sold in sets, so you can go online or head to your local home store to pick up the set that appeals to your decorative tastes. Oftentimes, these sets come with some additional serving pieces, which may come in handy when your parents come for dinner.
  • Silverware organizer. Keep your silverware organized and easy to find. Without a silverware organizer, you’ll struggle to find the right fork, knife, or spoon and keep track of how close you are to running out of clean silverware.


  • Small plates. Use these for breakfast, smaller meals such as eggs and toast, or as separate salad or appetizer plates when hosting guests.
  • Large plates. Lunch and dinner will fit better on these. They also tend to look more appealing for serving friends.
  • Bowls. Whether a breakfast cereal, a delicious parfait, or some hearty stew, bowls go a long way in your kitchen.
  • Dish towels. Dry off dishes and countertops without wasting paper towels.
  • Dish rack. Let your dishes dry on a rack over the course of a few hours. You can also add a draining board or a dish drying mat for additional protection of your countertops.


  • Can opener. You can’t open cans without a can opener. Beans, tomato sauce, vegetables, and other affordable staples are inaccessible without one.
  • Prep knives. Easily chop through vegetables, meats, and other ingredients before cooking.
  • Spatulas, tongs, and mixing spoons. Flatware just doesn’t cut it when it comes to preparing food. Look for heat-resistant, food-safe silicone to stir, turn, and mix foods.
  • Ladles. Use ladles to serve soup and large amounts of sauce. It’s much more efficient than using a soup spoon for serving.
  • Whisks. A whisk lets you achieve an even mix for scrambled eggs or baking mixes. Spatulas and the like aren’t as good at breaking up small pieces in liquid mixes.
  • Measuring cups and spoons. Keep your proportions even and your flavors balanced in any recipe you make.
  • Cutting boards. These are flat, sturdy surfaces for chopping ingredients. Using a plate will make cutting much more challenging and possibly lead to injury. It’s also a good idea to have separate cutting boards for meat and for everything else; this helps prevent cross-contamination.
  • Colander. With a colander, you can drain your pasta easily and quickly. Avoid the potential mess and time loss involved with carefully tipping a pot of boiling water and cooked pasta over your sink.


  • Blender. For a quick smoothie or to perfect blend a soup, a blender can be a lifesaver. You can use its lowest setting for food processor functions as well.
  • Toaster or toaster oven. Warm your bread in mere minutes. A toaster oven also comes with baking capabilities for smaller meals.
  • Microwave. There’s no faster, easier way to warm up leftovers. Microwaves are especially good for flash-thawing frozen foods.
  • Kettle. For tea, coffee, and oatmeal, you’ll need to boil water quickly and easily. A versatile kettle does the trick.
  • Rice cooker. A rice cooker makes rice easily and quickly without scalding or overcooking. Some rice cookers come with additional steaming and slow cooking functions.


  • Oven mitts. Don’t burn your hands on hot baking trays. Oven mitts are available as cloth gloves, cloth pads, or silicone pinch mitts.
  • Sheet pans. Bake cooking, roast vegetables, cook chicken breasts, and much more, with a single pan.
  • Oven-safe dish. Pick up one rectangular and one square oven-safe dish for cakes, pasta bakes, and other delicious recipes.
  • Silicone mat. A flat, thin, flexible silicone mat creates a non-stick surface on your baking trays. It takes up less space and cleans more easily than a baking tray does. Just roll it up and tuck it out of sight when it’s not in use.

Food storage

  • Food storage containers. Rigid plastic containers of all sizes are vital for storing leftovers. Glass storage containers offer an environmentally-friendly alternative.
  • Freezer bags. Some raw ingredients survive better in airtight plastic bags. You can also store plastic utensils and other random household goods in these.
  • Reusable bowl covers. Silicone stretch lids offer a tighter seal than plastic wraps while being just as easy to apply. Fruits, vegetables, and leftovers will all last longer in the fridge when properly sealed.

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Author My First Apartment

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Comments (1)

  1. Avatar Afton Jackson

    Thank you for explaining every tool in the cookware checklist in such detail. Every time I see people discuss these tools, I rarely ever find out what they’re used for even if they say they’re very essential in the kitchen. Now that I know what kind of things they can allow me to do, I’ll prioritize them when I find a kitchenware store I can shop at so I can prepare the kitchen of the new house I just bought.