Last year I moved into my very first apartment. My excitement to decorate my room was leveled by my fear of stepping into the kitchen. With little cooking experience, I searched for the tools and accessories that would make this new endeavor fun and motivating. In reality, I found myself in constant need of tools I didn't have. In this quick list, I have laid out the 9 essentials that make cooking in a first kitchen easier.

1. Can Opener

There really is no alternative option for the can opener (trust me, a knife won't work). For only twelve dollars, this tool saves you the frustration that can come from a single sealed soup can. 

2. A Drying Rack

We noticed the need for a drying rack when our clean dishes left a constant puddle on our counter. This is even more essential for those of you living without dishwashers. Drying racks free up counter space, giving you more room for your cooking trials to begin!

3. A Dish Wand

We tried it all. Cleaning dishes became frustrating and gross, resulting in a discolored sponge and coil of steel wool that always sat at the bottom of our sink. Whenever I scrubbed, it felt like I was making the dishes dirtier than they originally were. It wasn't until our blessed dish wand came that I finally felt good about hand washing dishes. You can simply inject dish soap into the end, place it in a stand, and ditch the slimy sponge.

4. Set of Sharp Knives

I didn't think a sharper knife would be essential until slicing with a butter knife became tedious, and at times impossible. A simple set of sharp knives can range from $20-$100+. The quality depends on how much you are willing to pay. A set of quality knives has made cutting meat, cheese, and vegetables easier and much faster. A helpful article I found from Allan Mai explores what to look for in the perfect knife.

wine, coffee, beer
Allan Mai

5. A Food Service

Some may say it's a cop-out, but for your first kitchen, it can be hard to find the motivation to cook out of your comfort level. Companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh will provide fun recipes with conveniently pre-measured ingredients for simple cooking. The services allow you to choose a recipe that can be cooked with the tools you have on hand and will send every ingredient straight to your door. All you have to do is focus on cooking!

6. Essential Spices

Food is boring without seasoning. It became apparent to me that there is a whole world outside of salt and pepper. Adding a bit of spice or sweetness can bring life to your dish. A few spices I found myself reaching for included: Chilli Pepper, Cinnamon, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Oregano, and Cumin. 

herb, condiment, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, relish, curry, chili
Hannah Linn


We learned this the hard way. Non-stick pans make simple meals easy to make, and even easier to clean up after. While these pans do not last more than a few years as their coating deteriorates, they still have the advantage over a cheap stainless steel pan that will leave you scrubbing for hours. 

8. Silicone Stretch Lids

A recent discovery I found was a lid that stretches to fit a variety of sized dishes. These lids reduce our need for saran wrap/tin foil by creating an eco-friendly way to cover up our leftovers. They also allow for easy meal prepping, as they can keep a variety of ingredients fresh throughout the week.

9. Electric Kettle

There is rarely a morning I wake up to see the kettle has not already been used by someone in my house. An electric kettle can bring you boiled water in less than a minute. Aside from your morning cup of tea, you can use a kettle to boil eggs, cook rice, or to heat (not boil) milk for a hot chocolate. Quick snacks like oatmeal and ramen can be made instantly, giving you more time to plan out your next recipe. 

This list may not be comprehensive, but it sure lessens the frustration of an unequipped kitchen. I'm sure as technology advances, we'll soon have smarter devices to help make cooking an easier task. While new gadgets will continue to catch the eyes of college kids, you can't forget about the simple essentials. These nine things are a great start for college kitchens, where cooking with limited time and money is already a challenge.