The ultimate guide to kitchen essentials
No kitchen craftsman can work without proper tools or equipment, and that includes those that follow low carb or keto.
Whether you’re looking to set up a new kitchen or you’re ready to dig deep into your culinary pursuits, we’ve got a simple guide to help you determine all of the tools you might need.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ve broken down kitchen essentials into five categories: cookware, bakeware, utensils, food prep, and appliances.
Within each section, you’ll find a list of cooking tools, all listed according to necessity — basics first so that you can customize your kitchen based on your needs and budget.
How well is your kitchen stocked? Read our guide and find out.
Keep in mind that different materials may be ideal for different ranges, such as gas, electric coil, solid surface, or induction. Rely on the manufacturer’s instructions for your appliance to determine what works best.
Skillets are handy for frying things: burgers, sautéing meats and veggies, or warming leftovers such as our Keto pork and green pepper stir fry. While they come in a variety of sizes, a standard 9-inch (23 cm) skillet is ideal for most uses.
Saucepan: Use a saucepan to simmer soups, steam or boil vegetables, or to make boiled eggs, which can be used to make yummy deviled eggs. A 2-quart (2 liters) saucepan is a good standard size although it might be a bit large for smaller quantities.
Additional sized saucepans: Just as with skillets, a variety of sizes of saucepans are useful when making sauces, steaming or stewing vegetables, or simmering a pot of soup.
Cast iron: Many people enjoy cooking with cast iron pans. Like a Dutch oven (see below) they can be used on a cooktop or in the oven. Cast iron can be a bit difficult to care for since the pans must be seasoned, cannot be washed with soap, and must be stored without moisture.
Dutch oven: A Dutch oven can also be used on a cooktop or in the oven, which makes them ideal for casseroles like keto Tex-Mex casserole when you need to brown or cook some of the ingredients prior to baking.
Stockpot: A stockpot is large and deep, making it perfect to use for making homemade bone broth or particularly large batches of soup. Use it to simmer our keto No-noodle chicken soup and your entire house will smell amazing.
Crepe pan: A crepe pan is a small, lightweight skillet that isn’t entirely necessary, but it is super fun to make crepes as a family activity. And, if you have a crepe pan, you can make our delicious crepe recipe!
Wok: A wok is definitely in the category of nice to have, but more advanced. You can make near perfect stir-fries with a wok. Its shape allows you to cook on high heat and by using the highly sloped sides control which foods are cooked most and which are cooked less.
A wok also allows you to add sauce by pouring it in slowly on the sides of the pan so that the temperature in the pan stays stable.
As you might have guessed, bakeware are those oven-proof dishes and pans that can be used for roasting, baking, or broiling. They range from flat cookie sheets to deep roasting pans with or without a rack.
Bakeware can be made of a lot of different materials such as glass, ceramic, metal, or cast iron. Remember that cast iron, glass, and ceramic may take longer to heat, but will also stay hot longer after your dish is removed from the oven.
This is important because the food may continue to cook and you may want to keep the dish warm for serving purposes.
Glass is not as good at conducting heat like metal, but it does cook evenly. Unlike glass, metal tends to cool quickly when removed from an oven. Most baked goods such as cakes, brownies, and pies cook best in metal.
Also, keep in mind that dark pans cook more quickly than than lighter colored pans since the dark pans absorb more heat.
Casserole dish 8-inch or 9-inch: While you will likely amass a variety of casserole dishes in different shapes and sizes, if you are just beginning to stock your kitchen, begin with a basic 8-inch to 9-inch square dish (20-23 cm) to make recipes that call for 4 to 6 servings.
Remember to check the recipe to see if a specific size dish is used as using something smaller or larger will also affect baking time.
Roasting pan with a rack: An inexpensive roasting pan with a rack lifts meat out of the pan juices to make it crisp and toasty all over. See, for example, our low-carb Sunday lamb roast, roast turkey, or roast chicken.
Cake pans: Cake pans should be metal. The standard size is 8- or 9-inch (20-23 cm) round.
Muffin tin: Muffin tins are typically metal and can have either 6 or 12 wells and are ideal for not only baking muffins, but also for making mini cheesecakes, cupcakes, and egg muffins for a speedy breakfast.
Springform pan: For full-size cheesecakes, you will want a springform pan with a spring release that allows you to serve a perfectly gorgeous cheesecake every time.
- Push pan
- Tart pan
- Brownie pan
- Muffin top pan
- Bundt pan, tube pan, etc.
Utensils are used to handle, move, mix, or otherwise manipulate foods or ingredients. Folks who enjoy cooking will have their favorites, and you may have to play around with different types and sizes of utensils to find what feels best to you.
Consider selecting utensils that have a solid, one-piece design such as silicone spatulas. These are easier to clean and less likely to harbor bacteria than utensils made from two or more pieces.
If there is nothing else in your kitchen, you need to begin with a set of eating utensils, serving spoons, rubber spatula(s), and at least one flipper or turner.
- Rubber spatula (scraper)
- Serving spoons
- Flipper or turner (metal spatula)
- Eating utensils
Intermediate list of utensils
If you ever use a pair of tongs, you’ll wonder how on earth you ever cooked without them. Tongs make browning meats or turning foods easy because they mimic our pincer grasp.
When choosing utensils, you’ll also want a small whisk, which is perfect for beating eggs to make one of our delicious breakfast casseroles.
- Kitchen shears
Use kitchen shears to do everything from opening food packages to cutting meats. Most also have a built-in bottle opener. They are also handy for finely cutting herbs.
Advanced list of utensils
A cheese slicer might be a necessity for a keto or low-carb eater who loves cheese, but we added it to our advanced column since you can accomplish similar results with a regular knife.
Cheese slicers allow you to serve yourself without touching the whole block of cheese, making them a great utensil to have on hand when hosting.
- Cheese slicer
- Slotted spoon
As for a slotted spoon, these allow for serving when you want to avoid any pan juices. Simple to use and effective in avoiding a mess!
The staples needed for food preparation are probably the most numerous. These are items that you use to prepare ingredients and make recipes. Depending on your food preferences, some of these items may be more important than others.
Basic food prep tools
The list of basic items may seem long, but most are relatively inexpensive.
You want to begin with methods for measuring by volume and by weight, which is why we included dry measures, liquid measures, and a food scale. A food scale will be most accurate, and we encourage you to use one.
A set of mixing bowls generally includes a range of sizes and can be plastic, metal, or glass. Glass or metal is generally most desirable because those are easiest to clean.
You will also want a handy set of knives and a cutting board to use them on. Start with a paring knife, chef’s knife, and serrated knife. Cutting boards can be plastic, glass, or wooden. Glass is least likely to harbor bacteria.
If using plastic or wood, it’s good to designate one board for raw meats and another for vegetables.
- Measuring spoons
- Dry measuring cups
- Liquid measuring cups
- Food scale
- Mixing bowls
- Cutting boards
- Cheese grater
- Can opener
- Parchment paper
Intermediate food prep tools
If you tend to cook frequently, a meat thermometer is an ideal way to ensure that meats are properly and thoughtfully cooked, especially when roasting large pieces of meat such as our Cuban roast pork or smoked turkey.
- Meat thermometer
Tools like a vegetable peeler or spiralizer can make prepping veggies a breeze, and you can quickly enjoy zoodles with a low-carb or keto sauce. Use a colander to rinse fruits and vegetables without letting them get waterlogged.
- Vegetable peeler
Similarly, wooden skewers help to lift foods off of a grill or baking sheet to cook more evenly and more efficiently as in our grilled pork skewers.
Parchment paper is ideal for lining baking sheets to make clean-up easier, and parchment paper muffin liners let you enjoy every morsel of muffin or cupcake because it won’t stick to the tin or the paper liner.
- Cooling rack
- Wooden skewers
Advanced food prep tools
- Pizza cutter
- Garlic press
A pastry brush is ideal for brushing your low-carb dough with butter or egg whites. You can also use it to coat roasted or grilled meats with a sauce like our recipe for low-carb barbecue ribs.
- Pastry brush
- Pastry roller
Our great grandmothers managed to cook without a lot of these appliances, so we kept the basics category minimal. These are truly the items that make our lives easier and more efficient in the kitchen.
A hand mixer is ideal for whipping up fresh cream, blending batters like keto bread, or smoothing creamy sauces. They’re compact, which means they don’t take up a lot of space, and they’re relatively inexpensive.
- Hand mixer
If you do a lot of chopping or blending, say for cauli mash, or something like our low-carb granola, then a food processor or blender comes in handy.
An immersion blender is especially useful for pureeing soups like our creamy low-carb broccoli and leek soup or making mayonnaise. Last, a stand mixer is ideal for blending larger yield items such as a cheesecake.
- Food processor
- Immersion blender
- Stand mixer
Most importantly, many of them allow us to enjoy passive cooking without actively standing by the stove. Anyone who’s ever used a slow cooker can appreciate tossing in all of the ingredients and coming back to a fully cooked meal in 8 hours or less.
- Slow cooker
- Air fryer
- Instant pot or other multifunction cookers
- Toaster oven
- Sous vide
- Waffle iron
This exclusive keto meal plan was developed in collaboration with Libby Jenkinson, founder of Ditch the Carbs. Libby, a former pharmacist, has dedicated her life to educating the world about low-carb living.
Her real-food keto recipes are family-friendly, include easy-to-find ingredients, and are ready to eat in minutes. This keto meal plan will keep you below 15 grams of carbs on average each day.
Enjoy quick and hearty breakfast recipes such as: Keto breakfast wrap, 1-minute keto mug muffins, and Keto egg casserole with zucchini and ham.
Lunches and dinners include: Weeknight keto chili bake, Avocado bacon chicken bun-less burger, Meatloaf muffins, Quick keto curry bowl, and Steak with low-carb mushroom sauce.
Start losing weight today with this keto meal plan by Ditch the Carbs and Diet Doctor!