Kitchenware Guide: Essential Appliances & Cookware

Essential kitchen appliances and equipment
Last Updated: September 16, 2018

When it comes to cooking, the right kitchenware will open up all kinds of possibilities. A few well-chosen small appliances and kitchen items can dramatically expand your vegan food preparation options. Read on for our review of the most useful kitchenware items.

Small Appliances

Blenders

A blender is one of the cheapest and most versatile kitchen devices. They’re worth getting just for making fruit smoothies. Black+Decker makes a good cheap unit with a glass jar.

Food Processors

Food processors can do so much we’ve created a page all about them. They’re the quickest way to shred, chop, or grate any sort of food. You’ve got a staggering number of choices on which model to choose, but its hard to go wrong with this inexpensive model by Hamilton beach.

Instant Pot

If you like to cook but don’t have a lot of time, an Instant Pot could become the most valuable kitchen appliance you’ll ever own. They enable you to cook almost anything in the least amount of time. Instant Pots are basically a pressure cooker combined with a digital controller that enables all sorts of additional uses. So not only can you cook beans in no time, they’re also wonderful for cooking rice, steaming vegetables, making soup, reheating foods, and even making vegan yogurt! Buy a three-quart model for small families and a six-quart or eight-quart model for large ones.

Slot Toasters

Many sandwiches (really all of them) are better when you toast the bread. And to do that, you want a slot toaster. Cheap models and expensive models will both do a great job, so only go upscale if you really want something that looks fancy. Buy a four slot toaster if you often make sandwiches for two people or more. Here’s Amazon’s assortment of toasters.

Blendtec Blenders (Very pricey but highly recommended.)

A Blendtec may look like a regular blender, but its motor is several times more powerful. So not only will it blend more completely, it can do all sorts of things a regular blender can’t. For instance, it can liquefy vegetables and herbs into a delicious soup, while gently warming it thanks to all its power. It can also process thick sauces and nut cheeses that would choke up a regular blender. It can even make a fantastic apple sauce. If you’re wondering whether a Blendtec is powerful enough to blend a given food, the answer is always yes. Sure, they cost more than all your other kitchen appliances put together, but for many Blendtec owners their only regret is not buying one years sooner.

Blendtec models range from expensive to super expensive. Their least expensive models are quite capable, so buy one of those unless you have money to burn. Try to get one that has a Wildside jar, as those are best.

Toaster Ovens

Toaster ovens are lousy for making toast (use a slot toaster instead, since they toast both sides of the bread). But they nevertheless deserve a place in any kitchen. They’re perfect for baking small meals for one, especially frozen foods. And their small size means they’ll heat up much more quickly than a regular oven while using only a fraction of the energy. Check out Amazon’s assortment of toaster oven models.

Rice Cookers

In Asia, just about anyone with money will have a rice cooker. The current generation of upscale fuzzy-logic rice cookers does a perfect job cooking rice. This is a major convenience when cooking, since it gives you one less thing to keep track of when cooking a meal. Avoid super cheap rice cookers that are merely repurposed vegetable steamers, since they deliver poor results and won’t add much in the way of convenience. Here’s the best inexpensive full-featured rice cooker.

Microwaves

A microwave oven is often the best way to reheat food, and they can be indispensable for frozen dinners. Make sure the one you buy has a built-in carousel, since they’re needed for even heating. Here’s Amazon’s selection of microwaves. And you might as well pick up a splatter guard while you’re at it.

Mixers

Serious chefs couldn’t live without a mixer. The classic stand mixer is made by Kitchen Aid. For lesser mixing needs you may get by with a blender, food processor, or a cheap immersion blender (mixing stick). Immersion blenders are one of the handiest appliances you can own, since they can be whipped out at any moment to do basic mixing and cleanup is minimal.

Bread Machines

You can have freshly-baked bread anytime you want, without having to kneed dough, heat up an oven, or clean up a big mess. If your household is just one or two people, choose a model that makes one pound loaves. Bread Machines on Amazon.

Electric Grills

An indoor electric grill is one of the most delicious ways you can ever could vegetables. But if you buy one you’ll want a big model since veggies are so low in calories you need to cook a lot. Make sure the model you buy has removable plates for easy cleaning. These foldable grills are also great for use as a panini press. We highly recommend the Cuisinart GR-4N.

Juicers

Unless you have the insane money needed for a hydraulic juicer, a low-speed masticating juicer is the way to go. They make a much higher grade of juice than cheaper centrifugal models. When making juice, for your health’s sake stick with vegetable juice and try to include greens. Fruit juice will spike your blood sugar levels, since it’s full of sugar and has had its fiber removed.

Knives & Cutlery

You only need three knives: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife (which, despite its name, is also the only good way to slice tomatoes). While this guide is dedicated to getting you excellent stuff at low cost, kitchen knives are the one category where you just can’t cut corners.

We highly recommend either buying this Victorinox 4-piece knife set with Fibrox handles, or ordering each of the following knives:

Cookware

Saucepans

You’ll use these for heating up sauces, making a small amount of rice, and for heating up cans of soup or beans. A stainless steel saucepan with a glass lid is a terrific choice. This stainless steel one quart Cuisinart with a glass lid is one you’ll use all the time. Also pick up this Cook N Home two quart model if you want a greater range of options. Both of these pans will work on induction stove tops.

Skillets

It makes sense to stay away from Teflon for a number of reasons, but you’ll still appreciate nonstick properties in a skillet. So a skillet with a ceramic surface is a great compromise. It may not be as slick as Teflon but it’s far more durable and poses less danger of off-gassing if overheated.

Since you’ll be using your skillet all the time, it’s worth spending a little more to get a good one. The 12-inch Stone Earth Frying Pan by Ozeri  is the perfect choice. It’s compatible with induction stove-tops.

Woks

Stir-frying is one of the most healthful and delicious ways to prepare vegetables. So if you’re going to make a lot of stir-fries you should own a wok, since it delivers better results than  a frying pan. There’s no need to go non-stick since the oil in your stir-fry will be sufficient to keep things from sticking. You’ll love this 14-inch Cuisinart wok with a glass lid. It’s both durable, beautiful, and easy to keep sparkling clean. And, like the other pans we’ve featured, it also works on induction stove-tops.

Bakeware & Casserole Dishes

You’ll want at least one oblong glass dish for making lasagna. Stoneware casserole dishes with lids will also be useful, especially if they inspire you to make baked macaroni more often.

Baking Sheets

Needed for cookies, pastries, roasted vegetables and a hundred other uses. A heavy duty aluminum model is a good choice, since it’s strong, even-heating, and lightweight. To keep your baking sheets clean, and to keep your food from contacting aluminum, consider also picking up a nonstick silicone baking mat.

Other Kitchen Essentials

Cutting Boards

All you need is a good sized polypropylene cutting board. Thirteen Chefs makes an especially high quality cutting board that’s still cheap. If you want to go with wood, bamboo is an excellent environmentally sustainable choice. But also buy a polypropylene cutting board for onions and garlic, since wood of any sort absorbs odors.

Mixing Bowls

Whether you’re cooking or baking, mixing bowls are indispensable kitchen items. Plastic will do the job perfectly. Stainless steel bowls cost more but look nicer. Pyrex bowls are heavy, can shatter, and make no sense at all.

Coffee, Tea, & Espresso

A fancy espresso machine and a high-end coffee grinder can set you back over $1000. But you can make excellent coffee on the cheap. We recommend an inexpensive burr grinder (or a fancier model if your budget permits). If this keeps you from buying coffeehouse coffee every day, you’ll recoup your investment within weeks. Under no circumstances should you buy a cheap blade grinder though, since the uneven grind makes terrible coffee.

Food Storage Containers

These come is glass or plastic. Useful both for leftovers, for making salads in advance, and for bringing food to work or school. They’re also worth using to keep foods like pretzels, potato chips, and nuts fresh after you’ve opened the bag.

Assorted Gear & Utensils

Finally, every kitchen needs:

Need more information? Head on over to our vegan grocery and cookbook guides.