Whether you’re a college student that just moved into your first apartment, a busy parent with a family to feed, or just a foodie that likes to cook, you’ve probably realized by now that, while you don’t always need fancy, expensive appliances and gadgets, it does take more than a couple of pots, pans and mixing bowls to put together a meal. Regardless of your skill level, budget, or kitchen size, here are the Top 10 essential kitchen tools that every home cook needs:

Chef’s knife
 

This is the standard all-purpose kitchen knife used to slice meat, chop veggies, mince garlic, chiffonade herbs, and everything in between. An 8-inch stainless steel blade works well for most cooks. You can get a good quality knife for around $20-30, but try to avoid anything much cheaper—your blade will dull more quickly and the knife could fall apart.
Pictured: Victorinox 405 Fibrox 8-Inch Chef’s Knife 

Wire mesh strainer
 

This type of strainer (as opposed to a plastic or metal colander) is great because you can use it for draining pasta, rinsing produce, straining sauces and syrups, and even sifting flour. Choose one with a sturdy handle and mesh that doesn’t lose its shape too easily when pressed.
Pictured: OXO Stainless Steel Strainer, Double Rod                                                               

Box grater
 

A good box grater should have four different types of grating surfaces with varying sizes for making things like shredded cheese and breadcrumbs, as well as a micro-grater surface for zesting citrus. A non-slip grip handle isn’t necessary, but it is certainly helpful.
Pictured: OXO Good Grips Box Grater

Locking tongs
 

Tongs are your best friend when it comes to turning heavier foods like chicken breast or pork chops. A lock makes it much easier to store, especially if you don’t have a lot of drawer space in your kitchen.
Pictured: Progressive International 9 Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs 

Whisk
 

From beating eggs to mixing batters, nothing is better than a classic whisk. Most have crossed wires at the tip, but if you can find one without, it makes cleaning a breeze. Bigger isn’t necessarily better though—it’s a little easier to control a narrower whisk.
Pictured: Zyliss Quick Blend Whisk 

Kitchen shears
 

You’re probably thinking, ‘What do I need a special pair of kitchen scissors for? Can’t I use a knife or regular scissors?’ Trust me, some tasks are just easier to accomplish with shears. Why dirty a cutting board to chop herbs or bacon when you can snip them directly into the pan? They’re also great for trimming fat off cuts of meat. Blades that separate are your best bet for a thorough cleaning to avoid bacteria growth.
Pictured: Wusthof 558-1 Come-Apart Kitchen Shears 

Instant read thermometer
 

Never second-guess on meat cookery again with an instant read digital thermometer. They’re relatively cheap, easy to read, and will tell you precisely when your food reaches the right temperature. It’s useful to have for heating oil and candy-making, too.
Pictured: CDN DTQ450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer 

Measuring cups & spoons
 

Yes, it can be tedious to measure things out, and sometimes it doesn’t matter—an extra pinch of salt or pepper won’t usually throw things off too much. But in baking, you should never, EVER try to eyeball anything. Don’t wait until you get cupcakes that turn out like rubber cement to invest in a set of measuring tools.
Pictured: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Measuring Cup and Spoon Set

Y-shaped peeler
 

A swivel peeler is better than a knife for getting the skins off fruits and vegetables. A Y-shaped peeler beats both because it gives you better control. Peelers are also apparently good for making chocolate shavings if you want to get fancy with your desserts.
Pictured: OXO Good Grips Pro Y-Peeler 

Silicone spatula
 

Heat-resistant silicone spatulas are great for stirring, mixing and spreading. They won’t hold on to bacteria and odors like wooden spoons, and you can put them in the dishwasher for easy clean-up.
Pictured: Wilton 570-1121 Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set 

What’s on your list of essential kitchen tools? Is there anything we missed?

 

All images via Amazon.com