I’ve made breakfast in some under-equipped kitchens before—including a couple of vacation rentals, at least one frat house, and my first adult-ish apartment in Boston. It’s doable, but it’s not easy, and I’ve finally realized that having the right tools to make breakfast makes the whole process significantly more pleasant for everyone involved. But what I’ve also learned is that you don’t need that much gear to cook breakfast with all the fixings, especially if you’re being smart about how you’re filling your kitchen drawers and cabinets. Though they say that a chef is only as good as their tools, you don’t need a ton of stuff to make a killer breakfast.
You only need 15 tools in your kitchen to make pretty much any breakfast recipe that’ll comes your way, from eggs Benedict to oatmeal and toast. If anything, you should only be buying gear that has multiple uses, because even though that breakfast sandwich maker with a timer is cool, filling your kitchen with single-purpose tools will leave you with clutter.
So whether you’re moving into a new space or trying to declutter your lived-in kitchen, here are the 15 tools every home chef should have in the kitchen if they want to crush breakfast every morning.
If you’re going to have only one pan on hand for breakfast, make sure it’s a cast-iron skillet, because by my very unscientific estimates, you can make about 95 percent of all breakfast dishes in a cast-iron skillet. OK, it might not be that many, but a solid cast-iron skillet is a workhorse in the kitchen. They’re great for omelettes or hash browns, even pancakes or Dutch babies—and it doesn’t even have to be that expensive.
For boiled or poached eggs, even oatmeal, a saucepan with a lid is a must. You only need a saucepan that’s two or three quarts to get the job done.
Sure, you could get a regular, old toaster, but a toaster oven is significantly more versatile. You can not only brown bread and bagels, you can use it to melt cheese for breakfast sandwiches or quickly heat up leftover pastries.
Whether you’re a coffee snob or a tea lover, an electric kettle is a great purchase because it heats up water quickly and shuts off once you hit the target temperature, which isn’t always boiling hot. Of course, for coffee lovers, you’ll also need the coffee brewing device of your choice to go with your hot water, which brings me to...
I’m partial to the French press, which requires using already heated water over the grounds, but really, any coffeemaker will do. You can get a standard drip coffeemaker or a pod coffeemaker, which will also make non-caffeinated beverages, or you could get all fancy with an Aeropress or even a Chemex. No matter how it works, having a coffee device on hand is a must for breakfast aficionados.
A good blender can make your life in the kitchen significantly easier. You can not only use it to make bomb breakfast smoothies, you can even blend up a Julia Child-approved hollandaise sauce or pancake batter from scratch if you need to save time.
A chef’s knife is the most general-purpose kind of knife out there. It’s usually about eight inches long, and can pretty effectively dice, mince, slice, chop, whatever, especially when it’s sharp. If you’re only going to have one knife in your kitchen, a good chef’s knife is it.
I would recommend that you get two knives, though. Serrated knives are the ones with ridges, and they’re great for sawing through bread and tomatoes—anything that’s kind of soft.
The only tool you really need to make killer hash browns (besides a sizzling hot skillet) is a box grater. It’s also great for cheese (duh) or zesting lemons and limes.
You’ll need a solid spatula for flipping fried eggs or pancakes, and a high heat-resistant silicone spatula is going to be your best bet if you’re cooking on a cast-iron skillet. (As a general rule, metal utensils are a no-go for cast-iron because it’ll scrape it.)
Wooden spoons are magical. Use them to scramble your eggs, mix up your oatmeal, even stir the coffee grounds in your French press. (Seriously, don’t use a metal spoon in a French press because it might crack it.) They’re also not terrible expensive, so having a couple extra in your utensils drawer won’t break the bank.
Have you ever tried to flip bacon with a spatula or a fork? It’s messy business, so get yourself a set of tongs so that you can avoid all of the grease spatters. Again, use tongs with silicone or plastic grabbers rather than metal.
You might not think you need a whisk, but then you’ll get a whisk and wonder how you did without it. Using a whisk will ensure your sauces and batters are as smooth as possible, and it’s a must-have if you’re making whipped cream.
This seems like a no-brainer, but having plenty of mixing bowls on hand will make the process of cooking breakfast so much easier. Use a bunch of smaller bowls to hold already prepped ingredients so that when you’re cooking, you just have to dump each ingredient from the smaller bowl into the skillet.
Measuring cups and spoons are some of those seemingly obvious gadgets that, for some reason, can be hard to remember to pick up when you’re putting together a kitchen. Get a set of measuring cups and spoons, and a glass liquid measuring cup, and all your needs will be met.