Kitchen Essentials 101

April 05, 2017


We all have that friend who has a kitchen gadget for every imaginable task, from slicing avocados to shelling eggs, and even toasting tacos. As fun as an overstocked kitchen might be, all that single-purpose gear is unnecessary, especially when you’re short on space.

In our book Host, we breakdown a list of the essential kitchen tools that we use on a regular basis. Even as we’ve upgraded to larger apartments and kitchens over the years, we still prefer to keep our arsenal of cooking tools small, with an emphasis on fewer, better products. You can always have more, but these are our absolute must-haves. These, and our 3D–pancake–printing robot, of course.

Small Skillet
6 – 8 inches in diameter
We use our small stainless steel skillet for cooking single-serving items and small amounts of ingredients for multipart dishes or for reheating portions of leftovers. Cooking in a regular pan (versus nonstick) helps to develop a better crust and caramelization.

Large Skillet
10 – 12 inches in diameter
Same story, larger pan. Our large stainless steel skillet has the same crust-caramelization bonuses but is great for larger batches of ingredients. The larger surface area also allows you to avoid crowding the pan when searing meat and seafood.

Large Nonstick Skillet
10 – 12 inches in diameter
We use a large nonstick skillet for eggs, seafood and other ingredients prone to sticking. You won’t develop the same flavorful bits (called the fond) on the bottom of your pan as you do with stainless steel, but a nonstick pan lets you cook trickier ingredients with ease

Small Saucepan
2-quart capacity
We use a small saucepan for preparing smaller amounts of sauces and syrups; boiling or poaching eggs; and melting butter over low heat (for melting, we prefer using the stovetop to the microwave whenever possible).

Large Stock Pot
6-quart capacity or greater
A large stock pot takes up a lot of real estate but has a wide variety of uses. We use ours for preparing large quantities of sauces and syrups and for blanching vegetables and boiling pasta. It also doubles as an extra-large mixing bowl when mixing cocktails ahead of time.

Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
6-quart capacity or greater
We’re a little obsessed with our enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven. The pot’s cast-iron core holds enough steady heat to sear meat before a slow cook or braise (a huge win for flavor and texture). And it holds heat evenly when you move everything to the oven, allowing for consistent cooking and temperature all around.


Someday when we have big kitchens, we’ll have dedicated serving platters and bowls for every single dish we could possibly make. For now, though, rather than construct elaborate leaning towers of platters on top of our refrigerators, we prefer to limit our collection to a handful of good-quality serving pieces that can be used for more than one purpose (e.g., a cutting board that also works as a serving tray).

Boards, Small
12 inches long
Small wooden boards can be used for food prep as well as for serving appetizers such as meat and cheese, olives and toasts. Use a board that has two functional sides, so you can use one side for prep, quickly wash and dry it, and flip it over for serving.

Boards, Large
18 inches long
Large wooden boards can be used to serve large-format main dishes like big cuts of meat, whole roasted chickens and grilled fish. We suggest a wooden board that’s flat on one side, for food prep, and sloped on the other, for carving and serving (also known as a “trencher”). The sloped side has a well that makes for much easier cleanup; better yet, it allows you to save those meat juices for sauces or for pouring over finished dishes.

Small (6 inches wide), medium (10 inches), large (14 inches)
Bowls can be used both for basic food prep and for serving dishes like pastas, salads and vegetable sides. Durable ceramic or stoneware bowls create a solid base for tossing salads and pastas while also looking great on the table.

18 inches long
A long platter can be used for dishes like grilled fish, vegetable sides and certain layered salads. It also can come in handy for organizing ingredients during food prep. We suggest finding a heavyweight ceramic or stoneware platter.