If I ever build my own house, the only room I would care about is the kitchen. It's going to be huge, with windows that swing out when I open them and granite counter tops plus an island. It's going to have all the newest and shiniest equipment. Trust me, it's going to be great. But for now, I am stuck with a dorm kitchen (meaning old appliances like an oven that takes ages to preheat).

As an amateur chef, I get a lot of my inspiration from Food Network. Those guys have it all, the biggest kitchens, the freshest produce, and the best recipes. But as a poor college student, I don't have $200 to spend on a single knife or a four burner stove, French top, and double ovens. One day I might, but until then here are products chefs swear by that we can actually afford.

A Panini Press: Alton Brown

Pork + Kim Chau Sauce + Gewurtz Cheese + Press = Sandwich Heaven - 2

roland on Flickr

You can use this baby for a lot more then just sandwiches. Try hot dogs for the perfect grill lines or chicken if you don't have access to a real grill. One of Alton Brown's favorite ways to use his panini press is to make game hen

An Immersion Blender: Kyle Bailey

Immersion blender

mallydally on Flickr

While there are a lot of great immersion blenders on the market, this one comes with two mixing bowls, one of which has a lid to prevent messes. Running a top-rated restaurant in DC means Kyle Bailey gets a lot of use out of his blender making sauces and purees. While Bailey doesn't have many of his own recipes floating around the internet, this blog post shares a lot of great tips and recipes. 

A Citrus Press: José Andrés

Le Creuset citrus juicer

Didriks on Flickr

We all know how difficult it can be to get the juice out of a lemon or lime (tbh just buying the pre-juiced stuff is my favorite way to go), but if you need/want the fresh stuff, a juicer is a handy appliance to keep around. This one is small and easy to clean. Up your drink game and impress your friends by making one of these with fresh squeezed juice. 

Microplane Zester: Michael Symon and Sunny Anderson

Zested Lemon

Didriks on Flickr

Before you juice all those citruses you bought for your new juicer, zest (or shave off the colored part of the peel) them for more flavor or artistic flair. A microplane zester is a must for chefs because it's easier to clean than a normal grater and it has multiple uses. This one has bigger holes, making it great for cheese and citrus. 

A Stand Mixer: Francios Payard


michael_swan on Flickr

This is one of the few kitchen appliances you shouldn't skimp on. A solid brand like the KitchenAid mixer will last you forever, plus you can buy add-ons like a dough hook or spiralizer to make it a more diverse investment. 

Knives: Drew Robinson

Friedr Dick Chef Knife

Didriks on Flickr

While Robinson recommends carbon knives because they stay sharper longer, they also come with a bigger price tag (and aren't really that much more effective). This set comes with 15 pieces, including six steak knives, kitchen scissors, and a wooden block to store your knives properly. You need a knife for honestly almost any recipe you will ever make, but did you know that each type of knife has a different purpose? Make sure you are using them right with this site all about knives. 

Pans: Every Chef Ever

Copper Pots & Pans

StudioRedChile on Flickr

This is the basis of almost every dish you will ever make. Do yourself a favor and invest in a solid set of regular pans (if you want to know how to pick the perfect set: read this) and a cast iron skillet (learn how to season it here). Like the knives, this a real no-brainer. Country Living lists 22 easy recipes for a cast iron, and bonus you can sauté and bake in the same pan so there's less clean up after.

#SpoonTip: Use America's Test Kitchen to find helpful equipment reviews, ingredient taste tests, and much more. You need an account but it is free.