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It doesn’t matter if dinner is a ten-minute meal or an elaborate affair--there are certain must-have tools you need to get the job done. Here are the essentials every kitchen should have, whether you’re a newbie cook or a seasoned pro.

knife ikea
IKEA

BEGINNER: A Good Set of Knives

Under the blade is where most cooking starts. Invest in the prep work of cutting, chopping, slicing and dicing to make cooking endeavors easier in the long run. Then, once you have a good set, be sure to sharpen the knives every two to three weeks.

sautepan ikea
IKEA

BEGINNER: An Everyday Sauté Pan

Trust, you will be relying on this guy for everything from basic veggie sautéing to cooking creamy risottos. No need to get too fancy. A no-nonsense sauté pan--ideally 12 inches--should do the trick.

bakingdish ikea
IKEA

BEGINNER: An Oven Baking Dish

These are especially practical since they’re meant to go straight from the oven to the table. Just throw all your ingredients in one dish (what up fancy mac and cheese?), bake and eat.

spatulas2

BEGINNER: Silicone Spatulas

They’re flexible like rubber spatulas but heat resistant like metal, and they’ll come in handy in so many unexpected ways. (Think mixing desserts, stir frying and scrambling eggs.)

slowcooker8

INTERMEDIATE: A Slow Cooker

You’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen. Now it’s time to show off. Open mealtime up to a whole new world of chowders, paellas, wings and ribs. You name it, you can slow cook it. Then make something totally fancy (like pork carnitas tacos) to impress dinner guests.

strainer2020
Twenty20

INTERMEDIATE: Fine Mesh Strainers

When you’ve reached the point where homemade soups and gazpachos don’t automatically sound confusing, this little guy will become your very best friend. Use it to strain broth, ricotta cheese or quinoa, or even just to rinse your veggies or pasta or sprinkle powdered sugar onto a cake.

wok

INTERMEDIATE: A Wok

This funky-looking pan is excellent for deep frying and stir frying--and it reduces the risk of getting caught in the crossfire if and when the oil pops (ouch). The curved shape allows it to retain heat better and create different temperature zones, which is great for meat and veggie combos. Smoking, braising and steaming are also on a wok’s résumé.

blender

INTERMEDIATE: An Immersion Blender

It’s compact, it’s versatile and it’s fast. An immersion blender is useful for making fresh salsa, from-scratch pancake mix, whipped cream and more… all in about 30 seconds.

Untitled 1
IKEA

EXPERT: An Induction Cooktop

When it comes to slicing, dicing, sautéing and simmering, you know that efficiency is a chef’s best friend. Save serious time (and solidify your expert level) with an induction cooktop. They’re at the forefront of cooking technology because they heat much faster than gas or electric stoves, and they’re already popular in Europe for good reason (think lower energy bills, less time and more safety). With an induction cooktop, you have more control over your heat level, so your meals are cooked precisely and consistently in a way traditional cooktops just can’t deliver.

IKEA ($999)

scale2
Twenty20

EXPERT: A Digital Scale

Bad news: You’re probably measuring your ingredients wrong. An expert chef knows that volumetric measurements should be reserved for liquids, and weight measurements should be used for large quantities of anything else. In other words, instead of measuring flour by the cup, you should be using a digital scale to measure it out to 4.25 ounces. To make it easy on yourself, be sure to get a digital scale that comes with a conversion function.

dehydrator

EXPERT: A Dehydrator

A must for the health nut who also loves chips and candy. Dehydrators extract all the moisture from raw foods, and they’re great for preserving produce for later use--and for making healthy treats like kale chips, fruit leathers and raw breads and cookies.

torch

EXPERT: A Torch

Crème brûlée all day. Because it’s not just a dessert, it’s a lifestyle.

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