Good quality knives top the list for many cooks. According to Michael Ruhlman, author of "The Elements of Cooking: Translating the Craft for Every Kitchen," all you really need are a good quality paring knife and a large knife. Investing in a set of knives may be useful, but if your budget is limited, start with the paring knife and large knife.
A stockpot is large kettle used for making sauces, stews and soups. The size you need depends on the size of your family. Typically, a 4- to 6-quart stockpot is adequate for a family of four. Choose the size that meets your individual needs.
Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron pans distribute heat evenly and are prized for their versatility. When cared for properly, cast iron is nonstick and can be used for frying, browning or simmering. Virtually indestructible, cast iron pans last a lifetime.
Although saucepans come in a variety of sizes, you need a minimum of two: one large saucepan, or Dutch oven, and one small pan. If your budget allows, purchase other sizes to complement your set, but having two pans allows you to cook nearly anything you can imagine.
Cutting boards come in a variety of sizes and range from solid wood to lightweight plastic cutting boards. A cutting board is indispensable for preparing both meats and vegetables. If you have room, a large cutting board offers plenty of space for working, but if you are limited on space, a small board is a good choice.
Nonstick baking pans allow you to bake with ease. Consider a bread pan, cookie sheet, pizza pan and either a 6-by-9 inch or 9-by-13 inch rectangular pan.
A set of two or three mixing bowls provides you with bowls for preparing recipes. Choose one small and one large bowl for all your cooking needs.
Cooking utensils make cooking or baking easier. Purchase a large wire whisk, wooden spoons, a spatula and a pizza cutter to complete you kitchen essentials. Look for products that are high quality to extend their life.