If there’s one place in the house that we’d vote to streamline first, it’s the kitchen. No shame in being utilitarian here instead of filling your cabinets with five-piece decanter sets. In fact, the ideal no-frills kitchen almost exclusively requires items under $30 (with the exception of two splurges). We distilled the perfect toolkit that’ll get you through daily meal prep, supply you with money-saving homemade training fuel, and make the occasional fancy dinner party effortless.
A Versatile Knife Set
- A 3-inch paring knife: “For smaller, hand-held work like trimming.”
- A chef knife: “Either traditional or [Japanese] Santoku shape is fine.”
- A serrated bread knife.
- A stiff boning or fillet knife, “if you're interested in doing any butchery.”
Our pick: 5-piece Stainless Steel Kitchen Knife Set by Bluesim ($40). Bonus carving knife included!
Set of Three Cutting Boards
Proper sanitation during prep is always important, and it’s a must if you work with uncooked meat. “Cross contamination can happen when cutting potentially hazardous foods, so keeping food types separate by using separate cutting boards is a good idea,” says Tishman. You should have one board reserved for meat, and one that you never use to chop strong-flavored ingredients. “Cutting strawberries on a board after cutting onions or garlic is a terrible idea.”
Our pick: 3-piece cutting board set by Premium Kitchen ($12)
The closest you'll get to a one-size-fits-all stovetop item: a multipurpose saucier pan. Molly Pam, a New York City-based freelance chef, recommends investing in a nice one that holds at least three quarts. “You can sauté in it, you can boil water for pasta or cook grains in it. It is the most versatile pan I own, and you almost don't need to own any others,” says Pam. Hers is made of stainless steel, which “heats evenly and quickly, cleans easily, and is heavy enough that it won’t warp over time.”
Our pick: 3-quart, dishwasher safe saucier pan by All Clad ($182)
Cost-effective alternative: 3-quart sauté pan by Calphalon ($50)
Metal Baking Pan
Don’t overthink it: A 13-by-9-inch dark metal pan is impossible to break and easy to clean. And if you're not a serious baker, it eliminates the need for any other oven tool. During the week, compartmentalize it with foil to bake your vegetables and protein side-by-side. Line it with sturdy foil wrappers to bake power muffins for your weekend ride. And on special occasions, it takes care of your fancy roast and your cake.
Don't skimp here. A good blender is going to take care of your smoothies, homemade sport chews or energy balls, blended soups, hummus, pesto, etc. Cheaper options won't be powerful enough to double as food processor, plus they're much more likely to break within the year. “Nothing works like a Vitamix,” Tishman says. “They are the best for a reason!”
Our pick: Vitamix 5300 Blender ($359)
Corkscrew and Bottle Opener
There’s no substitute for this one. Whether you’re drinking a microbrew or a nice bottle of vino with dinner, you need something to open the bottle (do not use your teeth).
Our pick: DefenderX corkscrew/bottle opener ($11)