There are several basic utensils you will need to properly prepare food, stir it and move it around. You don't need to spend a lot of money on these items. Although, a good set of knives will make food preparation easier and safer. (More on that later.)

• Can Opener

Years ago, it was a big deal to have an electric can opener. However, I've had more cans slip out of electric openers and spill than I ever did with a simple hand crank can opener. The only time you really need to seriously consider an electric can opener is if you have weak or arthritic hands.

• Cutting Board

You need a surface, other than your counter, where you can slice, chop and dice foods for cooking. Cutting boards come in two varieties, plastic and wood. Wood is better for the blades of your knives. Wood has also been proven in studies to be more bacteria resistant than plastic cutting boards.

When you cut meats and vegetables, they take up more space, so you want to buy a cutting board that will provide you with enough surface area to work comfortably.

• Knives

The most important tool in the kitchen. If you have a little extra money to spend, buy good knives. A better quality knife will keep its sharpness longer. Your first knife should be a chef's knife, which has a large flat blade. Do not get a knife with a serrated or sawtooth edge to use as your primary knife. These are fine for cutting breads, cakes and cooked meats, but they are harder to work with when preparing meats and vegetables.

Chef's Knife

Notice on the chef's knife how the blade is large enough to raise the handle away from the cutting surface. With the handle elevated, you will spend less time banging your knuckles on your cutting board. 

A good chef's knife has a blade large enough so that you can use it to scoop cut food off of the cutting board and transfer it to a bowl, pan or pot. 

Paring Knife

The only other knife you really have to have is a small paring knife. Notice that the handle of the knife is as long or longer than the blade. Use a paring knife to cut small items and for trimming. 

Keep your knives sharp. You can use a sharpening stone or a steel sharpening rod. Sharp knives cut freely and easily through food, while a dull knife can slip against the food surface. You are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife. 

• Spatula

Spatulas are either metal or plastic. If you have non-stick cookware, you will have to buy a plastic spatula to avoid damaging the non-stick surface. Whether the spatula has slots or not doesn't make a big difference. You get a bit more drainage with a slotted spatula.


• Spoons and Ladles

Having a wooden spoon is essential, as far as I am concerned. And I'll tell you why. Wooden spoons are excellent for stirring pots of food. They don't bend or give like a plastic spoon. And they don't retain any heat like a metal spoon. If you leave a wooden spoon in a pot, it won't be flaming hot when you go to retrieve it. Plus, a wooden spoon will never melt like some plastic spoons. They're dirt cheap and you can usually get a set with three or four different sizes.

Wooden Spoon

A regular cooking spoon in necessary for scooping foods out of pots. They can be either metal or plastic. However, if you have non-stick cookware, you'll want to buy plastic. The handle can be metal, but the spoon part will need to be plastic.

Cooking Spoon

A slotted spoon allows you to scoop food from a pan or pot and leave the juices behind. You will need this when you want to remove meats or vegetables from a soup stock or when you want to leave the juices behind to make gravy. Again, if you have non-stick cookware, you will have to buy a plastic spoon.

Slotted Spoon

Ladles are used to scoop soups, stews or any other liquid from pots. Same as before, metal or plastic only matters if you have non-stick cookware. Beware of ladles that are made entirely of plastic, they tend to bend if you are scooping a large piece of meat from a pot. Make sure the handle is firm and has little give to it.

Soup Ladle

• Lemon Reamer

This last item is not a necessity, but it sure makes it a lot easier to get the juice out of lemons, limes and oranges. A wood reamer will cost a lot less than a metal one. Avoid plastic. For the reamer to be effective, you want the blades on it to have a little bit of an edge. Plastic reamers tend to have softer edges and don't do as good of a job when juicing.

Lemon Reamer

Consider this list as basic essential utensils for cooking. There are a number of other items, like a 

Pots & Pans