Kitchen Essentials

Kitchen Essentials: 5 Pieces of Basic Equipment Busy Mums Need

Kitchen Essentials | Border Park Kitchen

There’s a huge push nowadays to eat wholesome foods. Choose good ing­redients. Buy in season. Support local farmers.

But, let’s back up a little and ask an important question – what basic kitchen equipment do busy Mums need to help transform these ingredients into nourishing meals?

How Re-homing a Kitchen Gadget Brought Me Relief

Are your kitchen drawers packed to overflowing?

Do your cupboards contain items that promised to save you precious time, but didn’t really deliver?

You’re not alone. Our storage space used to be maxed out, too.

Many years ago, I received a Tupperware melon baller as a host gift. I had grand ideas of making a delicious fruit salad with perfectly rounded balls of honeydew and watermelon. Watching the delight on our children’s faces.

But life became busy. And my fancy fruit salad became fruit cut into pieces, swiftly followed by a whole piece of fruit. And then occasionally tinned two fruits.

And so, the melon baller sat, neglected, in our drawer for many years. Taking up space and causing a little pang of guilt whenever I spied it beneath the tangle of other utensils. I still hadn’t used it as I’d intended.    

In a rare moment of clarity, a thought recently struck me.

When life gets busy, we use less. And seem to need less.

Have you noticed that?

Out of necessity we unconsciously pare down. We opt for less. We take on fewer commitments. We default to simpler foods. We set aside fancy kitchen equipment that’s too difficult to clean. We give away items that are faddish or fiddly.

And that melon baller? It’s been re-homed to the sandpit. And I rejoice, with relief, that fruit tastes just as good in its whole form.

Paring Back to Basic Kitchen Equipment

In our busy 21st century lives, many of us crave simplicity.

We tend to rely on essentials. Items that get the job done quickly and safely. Things that make our lives easier and free us to pursue other activities.

But have you ever wondered exactly which items are actually kitchen essentials?

Will that newly released appliance live up to its time-saving claim? Is it possible to nourish our families using just the simplest, most basic kitchen equipment?

So, I set out to find some answers *.  

And because my guess is we could all do with more time and ideas to help with overflowing kitchen cabinets, I’m sharing what I believe are the basic pieces of kitchen equipment. Owing to the fact that I use them daily, I’ve affectionately dubbed these kitchen necessities as ‘workhorse champions’ because I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, cook without them.

* Just so I’m clear, I haven’t just grabbed a bunch of purported kitchen essentials and dumped them into a blog post. This list has actually been a few years in the making. Each piece of basic kitchen equipment needed to continually demonstrate its value before being included on the kitchen essentials list 😉   

5 Essential Utensils That Every Busy Home Cook Needs in their Kitchen

5 Essential Utensils

Each piece of basic kitchen equipment and the brand I’ve recommended are solely my opinion. This isn’t an affiliate post, and I’m not chef trained. I simply enjoy preparing nutritious foods for our family (and I love using quality cooking essentials!)

And besides, you know what they say – when Mumma is happy, then everyone’s happy!

You may be surprised what appears on this Top 5 list of kitchen essentials. Perhaps you’d replace an item or two, or recommend an alternative brand.

These 5 kitchen necessities have earned a spot in our kitchen.  Each item saves us time, energy and money when preparing food. By using them, I’m able to stick with ‘low-tox’ principles. And more importantly, they increase my enjoyment in the kitchen 😊  

For fun, I ranked these essential utensils in order of importance for our family. And so, if money is tight, you might buy just the first item. Then, as you’re able, you can gradually work through this list.  

You’ll notice some are of these kitchen essentials are big ticket items. These can be found in specialty shops or online. Others in the bonus list are inexpensive, and *gasp* disposable!

All 5 kitchen necessities in the main list are one-off purchases. They’re an investment for you, and your family. Ensuring you save time when preparing nutritious meals.

Regardless whether you take these thoughts on board or not, I hope this list encourages you to reflect on the basic kitchen equipment in your kitchen. Which ones rank highly on your cooking essentials list? What could you set aside as you streamline your busy life?

Most of all, it’s my desire that through re-discovering just a handful of essential utensils, you are inspired to continue serving home-cooked meals to your family.  

So, are you ready to see what made the kitchen essentials list? And what my personal favourites are for each category?

Let’s take a look.

** Please note that these are not affiliate links, these are just examples of what we use. You’re welcome to find what suits you! **

Kitchen Essential #1: Chef’s Knife (or Cook’s Knife)

Most of us have more knives than we need. But like many things, you can only use one at a time. Having just one fantastic knife can save you time, stress and money. Here’s how …  

Why it Made the List:

A chef’s knife has a blade that’s sturdy enough to cut almost any ingredient with ease (unlike a utility or paring knife). What sets this essential utensil apart from a santoku knife is its blade that has a slight curve to it. This means it can be ‘rocked’ back and forth, achieving a really fine mince like the pros.

I use a chef’s knife in the preparation of virtually every dish in our kitchen every single day. There’s no need for me to search for the best knife to use. No more looking for a knife that’s sharp and up to the task. It’s THE knife I reach for every single time.

But, I’m not the only one who holds this opinion.  

Chefs worldwide assert that a chef’s knife is the single most important tool in any kitchen. It’s the workhorse that everyone should own.

A chef knife is the soul of the kitchen. It’s the tool you most use without even thinking, but can’t live without” Kitchen Knife Guru – Nate Ouderkirk.  

And because as home cooks we are often short on time, we’d be wise to follow the ‘pros’ and opt for one quality knife as part of our essential utensils.

My Personal Favourite:

Call me a ‘knife snob’, but I love our Japanese-style 20cm Shun Classic Chef’s knife

Yes, it was on the pricey end of the scale. I considered several factors – our family size, the frequency we would use it, and the anticipated lifespan of a well-kept knife, and all-in-all, considered it a wise investment.

And after 4+ years, I’ve not yet regretted this decision, as it’s used multiple times each day.

Peri’s Tip: It’s better to invest in one really good knife that you use all the time rather than compromising and purchasing 2 knives that you don’t love or use so much.

What I Love about the 20cm Shun Chef’s Knife:

Food is a big deal in our house. At any point during the day, someone will be preparing, cooking or eating something!

With the large quantities of ingredients we need to prepare each day, the action of cutting, slicing, dicing and mincing began to feel like a chore. Without realising it, my shoulders and neck were often tense from this repeated cutting action.

However, changing just one kitchen essential – switching from a reasonable quality utility knife to a good quality chef’s knife (and improving my knife skills) – has helped bring joy back into my kitchen prep sessions.

The Shun 20cm Chef’s Knife has all the features we expect from a good quality knife:

  • lightweight and easy to use
  • manoeuvrable and precise
  • well balanced, making slicing and dicing effortless
  • a comfortable handle
  • a dazzlingly sharp blade
  • superior edge-holding capabilities.

If you’re partial to Japanese knives, or feel you could be persuaded, here’s a helpful roundup of their 7 best knives. 

It is a buy once, keep forever item.


Because the Shun’s blade is extremely thin and can be easily damaged, I am careful about what I cut with it. (And yep, I learned this the hard way when a small portion of the blade snapped!).

For this reason, I actually have another 3 chef’s knives:

Both of these knives are used as frequently as the Shun. The blades are sturdy and stay sharp, they have a comfortable, well-balanced handle and are great all-rounder knives.

I use our Henckels knife for cutting very hard items like pumpkins, spaghetti squash, quince or watermelons. It’s a German design, with a thicker blade and is overall a heftier knife than the Shun, and perhaps just a little more robust than the Wusthof’s.

A Note about Children Using Knives:

I’m hoping to do myself out of a job one day soon.

Teaching our children to prepare and cook has been an important aspect of our household routine for many years.

Given the number of kitchen tasks that require a knife, this was the first area we addressed. From about 4 years of age, our children have been allowed to use ‘sharp’ knives. We explained knife safety, how to correctly hold a knife and how to care for them.  

And so, depending on their age, our children each reach for the knife they feel comfortable with that best suits the job.

  • For younger children, from 3 years, the Kiddikutter knives are ideal for getting them helping in the kitchen.


How to Introduce Knife Skills and Safety to Children:

The easiest, most time-efficient way to introduce your children to knives is by modelling safe cutting and handling for them. Don’t underestimate what they’ll pick up just through observation.

If you’d like a head-start in the right direction, or aren’t confident yourself, we recommend these knife safety and technique videos.

Kitchen Essential #2: Wooden Chopping Board

If you’ve got a great knife, it makes sense to look after it by cutting on a surface that prevents unnecessary damage to the blade. This is just one of the reasons why a wooden chopping board is important.

Why it Made the List:

A chopping board, also known as a butcher’s block, is a versatile flat surface on which most kitchen prep happens – from slicing to dicing, mincing to carving.

While it may not be considered a glamorous or noteworthy item, a chopping board is one of the unsung heroes of any kitchen.

This is generous praise for a ‘slab of wood’, you may be thinking.

What you may not know is that the most important function of a chopping board is to protect the knife’s edge. Otherwise, we could all save washing up and just cut directly on the bench or table!    

Without a chopping board, a knife can’t successfully be used as it was intended.

And so, the humble chopping board plays an all-important role of supporting other kitchen essentials… all the while taking the brunt of food preparation, thereby securing it’s position as a true essential utensil.  

My Personal Favourite:

Since I bought a high-quality kitchen knife, I wanted to care for it well so it would faithfully serve us for many years to come.  

After many months of searching, I discovered the ultimate chopping boards.

Choppa Block make small numbers of Aussie hardwood and exotic chopping boards that are the best our nation has to offer.

Each end-grain, hardwood chopping boards is truly beautiful. They’re statement pieces, while being functional, too.

And possibly the best aspect is that they are handmade in South Australia! (There’s nothing like knowing you are supporting Aussie small businesses).

In our kitchen, I use 3 main wooden chopping boards from Choppa Block: our main two boards are flat, un-grooved chopping boards used for everything except meat, and the second board is a ‘carver’ for preparing raw meat or carving a roast.

Each board is generously sized – 650 x 320mm, 600 x 500mm, and 450 x 320mm, which gives ample space to hold all the vegies or meat needed for each meal.   

I chose 2 different types of hardwood – Brush Box and a combination of Tassie Oak and Victorian Ash, just to see how the different woods held up, and to admire the different colours in the woods 😊

I also have a large bamboo chopping board from IKEA  with a lip to hold it steady on the work surface. Being bamboo, it doesn’t require as much care as the end-grain boards, and means I have a surface for serving hot meals on.

It is a buy once, keep forever item. As recommended by Mr Product 

Kitchen Essential #3: Wrought or Cast-Iron Frypan

You’ve got a stash of meat in your freezer, and box of freshly picked vegies from your farmer’s market. Discover why how the right frypan (also known as a skillet) is a cooking essential and how it can increase flavour, promote health and save you time …

Why it Made the List:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

There’s at least 7 ways that I can think of.

# 1: Versatile. Few pieces of kitchen equipment are as versatile or nifty as a wrought iron or cast-iron frypan*.

Provided it’s well seasoned, this one kitchen essential performs a variety of tasks with ease – cooking pancakes, browning meat, sautéing vegies, cooking eggs, frying steaks and chops, cooking a stir-fry, making and warming tortillas, cooking pizzas, making stovetop granola, caramelising fruits and even cooking a roast.

No matter whether you’re cooking breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s pretty much no limit to what you can cook in a cast iron frypan.

“You can cook drastically better than you would ever be able to without [a cast iron pan]”. Mr Product 

#2: Heat retention. Although cast iron takes time to properly heat through, the density of the metal and the thickness of the base means that foods cook evenly. Even larger foods such as a whole chicken or a beef roast can be cooked successfully as the heat deeply penetrates more than just the surface of the food. This makes cooking in cast iron almost foolproof.

#3: Stove-to-table. It’s table ready. Being able to transfer the pan from the stovetop or the oven to the table, and serving it piping hot from the pan makes for less washing up.

#4: Works on all heat sources. Cast-iron pans can be used to cook on multiple heat sources – a stove, oven, grill, or an open fire. Whether you’ve got gas, electric or an induction cooktop, the solid base of a wrought or cast-iron pan ensures it will perform well. There’s no need to transfer foods into another dish to ‘finish’ it off. And unlike most other types of pans, wrought and cast-iron pans won’t warp when left dry on a burner or open fire to heat up. Instead, the base remains flat and true.

#5: Safe cooking surface. A safe and non-toxic non-stick surface can be achieved with time, heat and food-grade oil (or beeswax seasoning bar). This cooking surface is very forgiving, doesn’t require you to be precious about the way you treat it and isn’t ruined by scratches or metal utensils. In fact, the natural non-stick coating only gets better with use.

#6: Durable. It’s sustainably produced and incredibly durable. You basically can’t break them or ruin them.

#7: Taste. And I’ve saved my favourite reason for last. Foods cooked on wrought and cast-iron taste incredible, with a flavour that is unsurpassed. You know the taste – the delicious umami taste that’s savoury, rich and downright yummy. 

The return on investment (ROI) for a cast iron pan is unsurpassed. This kitchen essential deserves to be on the top of your Christmas list 😉   

* for the sake of brevity and to provide an affordable option, I refer to both types of pans interchangeably.

My Personal Favourite:

  • If you’d asked for my preferred frypan brand 5 years ago, I would have been quick to reply ‘Lodge’ cast iron.

But fast forward to 2020, there’s a new pan that lives permanently on our stove. And that’s a 26cm SOLIDteknics AUS-ION™ Satin finish frypan.  

You may wonder at my change in loyalty from a renowned US brand to a newish Aussie owned and built brand, but there’s no doubt in my mind.

Because after all, my main concern that Lodge pans are very heavy to lift, has been rectified by SOLIDteknics. But while the thickness of the iron is significantly reduced, its performance isn’t compromised at all.  

The 26cm SOLIDteknics Satin finish frypan is ideal for those venturing into the world of natural cookware. It is lightly pre-seasoned, and when it comes to further seasoning, the textured satin surface helps your seasoning stick to the pan.

Peri’s Tip: Although it does require regular seasoning, schedule it at the same time as you sharpen your knives and oil your chopping board. This will keep them all in excellent condition.

These are just some of the reasons I believe SOLIDteknics make the best frypans in the world:

  • Made from 3mm thick wrought iron (formed low carbon mild steel)
  • Lightweight at 1.6kg (approximately half of a 10” cast iron frypan at 2.3kg)
  • Natural, non-toxic low stick surface
  • Use on any heat source – stovetop (electric, gas, induction), oven, grill, open fire
  • The base heats evenly and retains heat wonderfully
  • Australian designed and made
  • Beautiful 1-piece design with a heat-resistant handle
  • Indestructible, and can be passed down to many generations.

It is a buy once, keep forever item.

But, I’m not the only one who is singing the praises of SOLIDteknics. Here’s a taste of what others are saying:


Closing Thoughts on SOLIDteknics

Here’s what I’ve learned over the 3 years of owning and using SOLIDteknics pans – don’t expect a consistently perfect-looking pan. Expect a natural, patchy, low-stick seasoned pan. Just like the chefs!

Put another way …. don’t worry about what your iron pan looks like if it works.

And so, with proper care (including minimal cooking of acidic foods), one day I’ll pass this kitchen essential down as a family heirloom to (one of!) our children.

Kitchen Essential #4: Heavy-based Stainless-steel Stockpot

A stockpot, also known as a soup pot, is a versatile piece of basic kitchen equipment that pays for itself many times over. Learn how to increase the nutrition of your meals and save time and money ….

Why it Made the List:

I’ve never been sorry I made a double batch of a favourite recipe. Ever.

While it takes just a fraction more time to prepare, the feeling of having another meal ready ahead of time is liberating.

But how often have you multiplied a recipe only to discover that you really should have opted for a bigger pot. And on reflection, realised that you don’t have an adequate option.

This is just one of the reasons I can’t live without our stockpot.

But I love our stockpot for much more than its generous size.

Because they are traditionally about as tall as they are wide, their wide base offers superior heat distribution across the bottom of the pot and its heat-conductive sidewalls. It has an excellent reaction to changes in temperature.  

The wide surface area makes for easy stirring and braising, while the high sides are the ideal design for the slow liquid evaporation required to create a flavourful homemade broth.

A stockpot lends itself to many cooking methods – simmering, steaming, boiling, poaching, sous vide, sautéing, frying, braising, roasting, and searing.

Thanks to its broad functionality, I use our stockpot for many reasons, only one of which is making stock. Due to its size and solid construction, most foods can be successfully cooked in a stockpot – bone broth, soup, stews, pot roasts, Bolognese sauces, relishes, pasta, rice, potatoes, corn cobs, popcorn, porridge, stewed fruit, dry beans and lentils from scratch, and lobsters. And should you wish, a stockpot can also be used a ‘water bath’ (also called canning in the US), to brew up a batch of beer or to make playdough.

Actually, there aren’t many foods that don’t appear on this list.

Clearly, a stockpot is one of the most versatile kitchen necessities. And every kitchen needs one.

This is why I disagree with Cooks Illustrated when they assert that “a stockpot is like an umbrella: You don’t use it often, but’s invaluable when you need it”.  Perhaps because I can’t bear to have an item that takes up so much valuable cupboard space sitting idle most of the time.

My Personal Favourite:

If I could have just one saucepan, I’d opt for a stockpot. It’s an indispensable piece of kitchen equipment , and it has been has been a wise investment. Especially given the size of our family!

I have a 10L Nutrimax stockpot that I use almost daily. (It seems this brand is now discontinued). As an alternative, here’s a good-quality, well-priced 10L stockpot from IKEA

Yes, that’s a hefty size, but I wouldn’t recommend going any smaller than this for a stockpot. You’ll never be disappointed that you’ve got a larger pot than you think you’ll need.

Here’s what I use our 10L stockpot for:

  • Cooking soups and stews
  • Simmering our bone broth
  • Making batches of tomato sauces and relishes
  • Cooking dry beans and lentils from scratch
  • Stewing fruit
  • Cooking for a crowd or for intentional leftovers

Still not convinced?

Not only does a larger size give you flexibility with multiplying a recipe, it makes it easier to stir the contents without slopping it over the edge.

That’s counted as a double win in my book!

For making larger quantities of bone broth, and ginormous pots of soup (like our Split Pea and Corned Beef Soup), I also have a 15L stainless steel IKEA pot (Oumbarlig version). A stainless-steel pan with a tri-ply base, and a stainless-steel lid. It’s oven proof and dishwasher safe for our cooking endeavours.

What I Love about the Nutrimax and IKEA-branded Stockpots:

There are many benefits to having a tri-ply or multi-ply disk bottom. They are a reliable choice because they:

  • work well for making thicker stews, soups, porridge and long-simmered broths
  • allow heat to be transferred rapidly and evenly throughout the base and sidewalls
  • hold the heat well and distribute it through the ingredients
  • avoid hot spots on the base
  • won’t scorch

I prefer a wide base (rather than a tall, narrow design) as it gives a food good contact with the heat, providing even heating and browning.

While it might cost a bit to purchase, the longevity and sheer pleasure of using a well-made stockpot adds immediate value to the cost.

Besides, if you look after it, and you can pass it on to your kids!

Like another perspective? Check out The Reluctant Gourmet’s article Soup Pots – Choose the Right One, or Foodal’s post on How to Choose the Best Stockpot

It is a buy once, keep forever item.

Kitchen Essential #5: Apron

It’s unlikely you expected an apron to feature in my top 5 kitchen essentials list.

You may even raise an eyebrow at it’s inclusion in this list, especially when you learn that I considered making an apron as #1 on the list! 

Read on to discover why it’s one of the kitchen necessities I use every day …

Why it Made the List:

On days at home, I’m rarely seen without my apron! It’s part of my ‘uniform’. 

As I enter the kitchen first thing in the morning, I don my apron – even before I pick up a Chef’s knife!

In fact, it’s so much a part of me that our kids often need to remind me to take it off before I go to town 😊

Perhaps you’re chucking at me, and questioning whether an apron is necessary? Especially when you remember that I’m just in my everyday ‘house’ clothes?

If, like me, you’re in the kitchen for more than 2 minutes, you’re bound to splash something on your clothes! And food splatters care not whether you’re in your finest cashmere cardi (that’s a crisp white), or your dowdiest track pants that show signs of many previous adventures.

If I’ve learned anything about cooking, it’s this …. the biggest messes always occur when we’re in a rush and involve the most brightly coloured foods!

And it’s at this moment I wish I’d taken the 15 seconds to pop on my apron. Just a quarter of a minute would have saved 15 minutes of scrubbing.

Admittedly, many splatters are easy to wash from an apron or from clothes.

But, there are a few foods and substances that are particularly difficult to remove – brightly coloured foods such as berries and beetroot, blood, chocolate, coffee, curry, oil splatters, pumpkin, red wine and tomato-based sauces just to name a few.

If you’re happy to forgo cooking with these foods, then it’s unlikely you’ll need an apron.

But for the rest of us, an apron will be a clothes-saver.

A decent apron will:

  • Protect skin and clothes from hot oil splatters and hot water splashes
  • Protect your body from excessive heat from stovetops, ovens or BBQs
  • Protect clothes from all manner of splatters that are difficult to remove
  • Save your clothes from being ‘floured’ when you bake
  • Improve hygiene, especially if you’ve been outside in the garden or with pets
  • Be a barrier between raw meat and clothes
  • Cover any loose clothing to minimise the risk of them catching fire
  • Enable you to have essential utensils on hand when you need them (courtesy of the pockets)
  • House all the random objects you find laying around until they can be put away
  • Serve as a dignified alternative to a bib for elderly women when they’re eating.  

But there’s more to this humble kitchen item.

I’ve discovered an apron has other virtues in addition to protecting my clothes from occasional spills.

When I automatically retrieve my apron from the hook, this action tells my mind “The day is starting, and I plan on being productive”. It helps give me purpose.

Similarly, wearing an apron can also be reassuring and familiar. It’s comforting – for me, and my family. I love this quote …. 

“When I’m wearing it, my family knows food is coming soon to rescue them from hunger”. Tiffany Beveridge, The Kitchn.

My Personal Favourite:

When it comes to aprons, I have high expectations:

  1. A full ‘bib’ apron that covers from my torso to my knees, so most of my clothing is covered.
  2. Is made from heavy duty denim, so it hides stains and washes and wears well.
  3. A loop to hang a hand towel from, so I can dry my hands ‘on the run’.
  4. A few large pockets, to house my phone, oven mitts, freshly picked herbs or small out-of-place objects I find lurking in the kitchen.
  5. Has an adjustable neck strap, so it can be loosened to fit me comfortably.

So, when I found all these features in one apron, I was overjoyed. It ‘fit the bill’ so perfectly that I made some small modifications, and then had my own version made 😉 

If you’ve never worn an apron before, it may take reminding to put it on, and some time getting used to. But once you make a habit of it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Now to help convince your hubby that he needs to wear an apron when cooking on the BBQ!

Peri’s Tip: You’ll be amazed at the convenience of having a hand towel at your side. Once you’ve rinsed your hands, you’re able to move onto your next task without delay, saving valuable time.

BONUS Kitchen Essential #6: Disposable Gloves

You may be surprised at the inclusion of disposable gloves in this list. Especially as you’re unlikely to see them featured on any other kitchen necessities lists.  

So why did they appear in my bonus list?

Why they Made the List:

I’m about to let you in on a secret that only my family and close friends know. It’s not that I try to hide it – it’s more that I wonder why I’ve been created with this hang-up.

Are you curious to know what it is?

I have an aversion to touching anything greasy, sticky or heavily fragranced.

Phew, I’m glad that’s out in the open!  

And so, in many situations, disposable gloves are an answer to my prayers. Here’s when they come in handy:

  • cutting and handling raw meat
  • rolling meatballs
  • mixing seasonings through meat
  • shredding cooked meat
  • rolling biscuits or bliss balls
  • peeling beetroot
  • fuelling our car


By using disposable gloves, my hands stay clean while preparing food. And answering the phone is as easy as slipping off a glove!

I keep a stash of disposable gloves in the kitchen, in our car, in my handbag, in the picnic basket.  This way, I know I’m always covered (well, my hands are!).

I’m learning to listen to my own pet peeves, and to find ways to minimize their effects. And so, wearing disposable gloves at strategic times is just another way I can make my time in the kitchen more enjoyable.

Money saving Tip: Often I only need to use one disposable glove for the job, as my other hand is holding a knife or kitchen shears.

Helpful Hint: Consider having 2 sizes – especially if you have littlies who help in the kitchen.

BONUS Kitchen Essential #7: Disposable Paper Towel

Here’s another disposable item making my bonus list of kitchen necessities.  

Read on to discover why I keep a roll under our sink. You might find it becomes a useful addition in your kitchen too …

Why it Made the List:

Convenience is something most of us are seeking as we live our fast-paced lives. Squeezing in more of the ‘fun’ and minimising the mundane.

So, how does paper towel relate to the modern-day dilemma of our crazy busy lives?

Simple. It’s a convenient product. Saving me time and head space.

Few options absorb moisture as quickly and effectively as paper towel. Some jobs (almost) beg to be done with it. Especially for cleaning up things you don’t want lingering on your kitchen cloth. Or for keeping herbs and lettuce leaves fresh in the fridge.

But despite my affinity with this versatile kitchen essential, I do use it sparingly.

I don’t use it for regular cleaning or mopping up spills – this is done with cotton dish cloths or reusable towelling. Basically, if the job can be done by an alternative, then 95% of the time I’ll take that option. Here are some of the alternatives we reach for regularly: cotton rags (cut from old sheets for cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom), cotton dish clothes (cut from old towels for wiping benches and kitchen spills), ‘old school’ square nappies (mopping up larger spills), tea towels, hand towels, cheesecloth squares (for straining), or newspaper (for cleaning the BBQ, windows and the fire door).

In our house, disposable paper towels are primarily used for jobs that either involve blood or fat.

Here are some examples of how we use paper towels:

  • absorbing extra meat juices (drying out steaks and mince) before cooking
  • absorbing extra fat while cooking batches of meat
  • wiping out greasy pans (after scraping out with a spatula)
  • applying a light coating of oil to wrought and cast-iron pans
  • seasoning our chopping boards


It makes the clean-up of otherwise yukky jobs, a cinch.

My Personal Favourite:

While they’re not the thickest on the market, I find the disposable paper towels from Who Gives a Crap, do an admirable job. They’re sustainably made from bamboo and sugar cane fibre.

If you’re concerned about using the Earth’s precious resources to make paper towel, check out this sustainable option reusable unpaper towels, or these Bambooee reusable bamboo towels

I’m not keen on the washable, reusable bamboo towels that are sold as they wear quickly. I’d much rather use our cotton dish clothes (cut from old towels and hemmed).

Resourceful Tip: After you’ve used a paper towel, place it in the compost. It will aerate the pile and support the growth of beneficial microorganisms. 

7 Considerations Before Making a Kitchen Essentials Purchase

Not sure it’s worth ‘investing’ in these cooking essentials?


It’s clear that you’re not easily swayed by marketing hype. This sort of buyer caution will keep you from making rash purchases and filling your drawers with gimmicky items.

Because each of us have different sized families and value home prepared foods to differing degrees, it’s not a case of ‘what’s good for you, will be good for me’. The kitchen essentials I’ve listed are valuable for our family at our current size and lifestyle. It’s to be expected that your needs will vary from ours.

If this guide has piqued your interest about what basic kitchen equipment you should own, then I feel like I’ve achieved my goal.

And if you’re considering adding one of the suggested cooking essentials items to your collection, I’m thrilled.

But before you do, ask yourself these seven questions. They’ll help you decide whether a purchase is necessary.

These are the same questions I challenge myself with whenever I’m considering a new kitchen essentials purchase:

  1. How many hours on average do I currently spend cooking each week? (The actual time I spend in the kitchen at this time in my life, not what time I wish I had to devote. Be as accurate as possible).
  2. What am I hoping to achieve with this item? (easier clean up, speedier chopping, no longer buying pre-prepared salads, ability to cook in bulk etc. Be as specific as possible).
  3. In response to #2, is this a need that will continue for the foreseeable future, or is it more of a once-off?
  4. How frequently am I likely to use this item? (multiple times a day, once a day, several times a week etc)
  5. What is the life-expectancy of this item if it’s well cared for? (Err on the conservative side).
  6. In response to #5 and #6, research the cost of the desired item. Then calculate how much it will cost you per year (cost divided by life-expectancy in years = cost per year). For example: a chef’s knife costs $200 and is expected to last 10 years (a very conservative estimate). This knife costs me $20 a year to own. Taking it a step further, if I use it just once a day, that’s 5.5 cents per use.
  7. Do I have an alternative that will do the job adequately? (Think as broadly as possible, including borrowing an item).

Please know that these questions aren’t to pass judgement. They’re not encouraging comparisons to your sister’s or friend’s kitchen habits. There’s no guilt and expectation for you to cook more than you do now.

Rather, when I give honest answers to these seven questions, I gain clarity and buy myself some decision-making time.

To be honest, often I find it easy to justify buying ‘essential’ items because of the long hours I spend in the kitchen. But regularly adding new equipment – no matter how good it is, or how clever it’s claims – isn’t necessarily the answer to streamlining my kitchen prep time. Instead of justifying my ‘want’, it’s more helpful for me to identify my goal for the intended item.

And that’s exactly why I’ve compiled this list.

To help you (and me) identify the basic kitchen equipment that’s earned a spot in the valuable real estate that are our kitchen cupboards. The kitchen necessities that have demonstrated their value by saving me time and money, and increasing my enjoyment of meal prep.

Now it’s time to assess what’s on your list of essential utensils and kitchen items. How does it compare to ours? Remember to use these 7 decision-making questions before making any purchases.

Top Tip: There’s a really handy one-page printable of these questions in my Free Resource Library. Grab it now!

If you’re still on the fence about whether it’s worth investing in basic kitchen equipment, here is a tremendously helpful article outlining 12 Rules for buying better products. It includes thought-provoking questions such as “Is this durable enough for its job?” and looking for products that solve one core job really well.


So, there you have it.

5 kitchen essentials that every busy home cook needs.

Have I missed something? What item/s can’t you cook without? Which of these kitchen necessities have you put on your ‘wish list’?

I’d love to hear 😊

And if you’ve enjoyed this snapshot, why not check back again soon for Part 2 of my ‘Kitchen Essentials’ blog series.

I aim to make this series a comprehensive guide to the basic kitchen equipment and ingredients that will help you become a Mealtime Master.

A Note for the Minimalist Cook

It helps knowing what to look for, and even more importantly, what to avoid.

If you’re moving towards a minimalist kitchen and want just the bare essential utensils, check out this article on the New York Times called ‘A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks’ 


Ready to Get Cooking?

With all this talk about my favourite basic kitchen equipment, you’re probably feeling hungry! Browse my Recipe section, where you’ll discover simple, family-friendly meals. You’ll notice that I use at least one of these essential utensils for every single recipe 😊

If this article has whet your appetite, return home  to see what else is on offer at Border Park Kitchen.

If you have any questions about cooking essentials, or the best way to season your cast-iron frypan, please get in touch. I’d love to help you feel confident by using the right basic kitchen equipment for the task.  

Peri x  

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