The following items allow a cook to create most types of food with maximum efficiency. For some items on this list, it is best to have a few good-quality pieces that serve a variety of purposes. Low-quality cooking tools can be less versatile and need to be replaced more often.
A set of at least three high-quality knives is essential. A large chopping knife, large serrated carving knife and smaller paring knife serve most everyday purposes.
For cooking, get a large non-stick frying pan and a good set of heavy saucepans. One each of small, medium and large sizes is typically sufficient. Also, have several sturdy sheet pans for baking.
Essential tools include a can opener, vegetable peeler, grater and measuring cups and spoons. Also, get a set of nesting mixing bowls, a large colander or strainer and a large liquid measuring cup.
Finally, there are several essential kitchen items for which quality is less important. These items are easy to purchase at discount or home goods stores. A kitchen should have a large casserole pan, tongs, wooden spoons, a whisk, a potato masher, a slotted spoon, a spatula, a rolling pin and one or more chopping boards in various sizes.