It's easy to pick up a large kitchen starter set when moving into your first apartment. Starting from scratch means you need everything from pots and pans to flatware and spatulas. But as time goes on, these affordable kitchen essentials often start to break or chip—and suddenly, it's time for an upgrade. So how do you know what to buy to ensure that your new kitchen essentials will last beyond your formative years?
The key is knowing what to look for. The materials and the brands that have stood the test of time are a testament to the durability of certain items. And while these cult kitchen brands can vary wildly in price, a few of them are surprisingly affordable. Ready to give your cookware a much-needed upgrade? These are some of our favorite kitchen essentials under $50 to get you started.
Every avid cook needs a great cast-iron skilled. While some brands will put you back hundreds of dollars, Lodge has a surprisingly great affordable option.
Grab them while they last. These nestled baking dishes are on sale for $49 on Food52. When it comes to lightweight quality long-lasting enamelware, it doesn't get better than Staub.
Misen embraces the philosophy that you really should only need three great knives in your knife block. If you believe in this too, grab the brand's paring knife for just $30. The full set is also available for $130.
These mini frying pans from legendary Italian brand Ballarini are ideal for going straight from stovetop to table. Try them for serving individual baked eggs or soufflés, or use them simply to serve appetizers and nibbles.
Ask any chef what accessories are indispensable in their kitchens, and a Microplane zester will undoubtedly come up. Featuring razor-sharp blazes, this zester can be used to finish off any dish with a little citrus zest, parmesan cheese, even fresh nutmeg.
Everyone needs a slow cooker in their lives—and it doesn't have to cost a ton. This one is only $35 on Amazon and will save you tons of cooking time. Just throw in ingredients in the morning, and enjoy eight hours later.
A good set of wooden spoons is indispensable for any kitchen task, from mixing a pitcher of lemonade to sautéing your favorite vegetable. Besides, they look so pretty when displayed on your countertop. Start with a tall spoon, and work your way through the collection.
Everyone needs a good mortar and pestle in their life to crush those spices that will bring your dishes to life. A marble one is perfection, so grab this one now and keep it forever.
We all need a quality bread knife in our kitchen—an nothing works better than an offset serrated knife, which easily slices through any bread, no matter how thick.
The proof is in the name: This is the world's greatest potato masher. With its spring-loaded action, it will produce the lightest and fluffiest mashed potatoes, no lumps included!
Don't just use any old spatula to handle your delicate creations. From peeling off lacy fried eggs to flipping paper-thin crêpes, these silicone spatulas are up for the job.
Everyone needs a great stock pot in their kitchen arsenal. Make a delicious chicken stock out of a leftover carcass, boil lobsters in the summer, or make hearty soups in the winter—this enamel-coated steel pot does it all.
Do as the French, and get yourself a great set of everyday dinner knives. These get passed on from generation to generation in France, so you can do the same with your collection.
Do you love making pies? Emile Henry has the ultimate best pie dishes out there. Just pick the size and color that suits you. You'll keep it forever.
Next up: an illustrated kitchen knife guide.