The LA Times‘ food writers list what kitchen items really are necessary, and which you can safely skip.
- Pestle and mortar.
- A quality cork screw.
- Instant-read thermometer.
- Quality dried pasta.
- Heavy-duty roasting pan.
- Dutch oven.
- Whole vanilla beans (not extract).
- Larousse Gastronomique.
- Mini food processors.
- Most non-stick pans.
- An expansive selection of knives.
- Crème brûlée torches.
- Expensive red wine vinegar (keep and use dinner party dregs).
- Fondue sets.
- A toaster.
Update: Lifehacker points to a number of additional ‘kitchen essential’ lists, adding the following to the above list of must-haves:
- Required knives: chef’s knife, paring knife, inexpensive serrated bread knife.
- Quality coffee.
- Silicon oven mitts (no risk of burns when reaching into hot liquids).
- A plastic or wooden chopping board (the difference is purely aesthetic, although plastic can be put in a dishwasher).
- Coffee/spice grinder.
- The semi-obvious items: a U-shaped vegetable peeler, colander, can opener, slotted spoon, heat-resistance rubber spatula, wooden spoon and a whisk.
And these unnecessaries:
- Bread machine (a little practice and you can bake your own perfectly well without a machine).
- Stand mixer (whisk or cheap hand mixer will suffice).
Food processors and immersive blenders are classed as nice-to-haves.