Whether you’re moving into your first grown-up home or are looking to update your kitchen’s capabilities, there are certain items that I would recommend every twenty-something have on hand.   These are just a few of my favorite, can’t-live-without-‘em tools.

1) A wire mesh strainer. These come in handy for more than just straining your spaghetti.  Not sure if your tomato bisque is pureed smoothly enough? Grab your strainer.  Need to sift some flour?  Grab your strainer.  Lose a piece of cork in your Pinot Gris?  You know what to do.

2) A set of sharp knives. Have you ever tried to slice through a beautiful, juicy heirloom tomato with a dull knife?  What once was a promising future salsa can quickly become a pile of mush without a sharp knife. It’s best to have a full set of knives so you have the correct knife for the job: a short blade for coring tomatoes, a wider blade for dicing vegetables, or a serrated for a baguette, or a utility knife for channeling your inner Dexter Morgan (just kidding, please don’t).  If you are unsure of which types of knives you need to have on hand, read up on the varying purposes of different knives.

3) Bamboo cooking utensils. Not only do these things look cool, but they are re very light and durable, easier to clean and more stain-resistant than your mom’s old wooden spoon. A plus: bamboo is also more environmentally friendly than wood because bamboo grows much faster than wood, making it quicker to replace.  It helps that it makes me feel like Ina Garten when I’m stirring a stew.

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4) A corkscrew and bottle-opener combo.  Do I even need to elaborate on this one?

5) A peppermill.  These may seem frivolous, but in my opinion, it’s worth it to splurge on this item because of the extra flavor that cracked pepper adds to any dish.  I tend to use less pepper because it’s so much more flavorful than the pre-ground stuff.  Once you’ve had freshly ground black pepper, you will never go back.

6) Olive oil sprayer.  Okay, maybe this is another frivolous item, but I find that it has actually saved me money because I use a lot less oil in my cooking.  It’s perfect for greasing a pan, lightly oiling bread before toasting, and for lightly dressing a salad with oil and vinegar.

7) A thermometer.  Maybe you’re the type to take a gamble, but for the more risk-averse, it’s wise to have a thermometer on hand to check the internal temperature of your meat.  Not only is raw meat disgusting, it can be very dangerous to eat.  Make sure the inside is as good to eat as the outside suggests before you plate up your meal.

8) A whisk.  Whisks wear many hats: they can blend, or emulsify (think oil & vinegar), or add air to mixtures (like whipped cream).  A whisk is a tool that I don’t use very often, but when I do, no other tool can do the job quite as well.

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9) Kitchen shears.   I use mine to snip fresh herbs, cut parchment paper, and to open packages, just to name a few.  I actually just use a pair of standard Fiskars, but you can also purchase a more sturdy and sharper pair of shears that are designed just for the kitchen.

These are just a few of my most-reached-for tools in the kitchen; I would be completely lost without them.  What are your kitchen must-haves?

Photo credit: Rachael Tulipano