So you’re moving into your first flat and have no idea what you need for your kitchen? You don’t want to overspend or buy things you don’t need, but you also don’t want to be stuck without the essentials. This post will guide you through the basic kitchen essentials for a first apartment, and help you figure out what you need and what you don’t need for your new place.
We’ll cover everything from pots and pans to silverware and appliances, so you can be sure you have everything to start cooking in your first kitchen.
Kitchen Essentials for a First Apartment
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms at home. It’s where you’ll prepare your meals and it might even have enough space to hang out with friends and family. Even if you’re not a great cook, you will still need to equip your kitchen with some basic essentials. Let’s have a look at the four main categories of stuff you’ll want to focus on.
Whether you wind up cooking a lot or bringing home takeaway on a regular basis, one thing’s for sure: you’re going to need all the usual utensils to eat your food. Cue dinnerware, cutlery, glasses and cups or mugs.
For a starter kitchen in your first flat, a four-person set is ideal. This should get you through a couple of days without having to turn on the dishwasher every day. You’ll also be able to dine with a few friends or family when they come over to eat.
Assemble your own starter set with four dinner plates, four bowls, four small plates, a four-person set of cutlery with knives, forks, spoons and teaspoons. Add four glasses and two to four mugs or cups, and you’ll be good to go.
Decor is totally subjective of course, but from my experience of living alone and managing my own kitchen for decades, I’d advise in hindsight to go with white or cream-coloured dinnerware. Ideally from a series you can continue adding to over the years.
I wasted a lot of money in the past on a motley assortment of dishes before I discovered the Teema line from Iittala. I should have gotten it sooner. It’s understated, modern, does not chip, and will never go out of style. Also, it’s always in stock, so you can add new pieces as you need them!
Let’s be honest. In your first apartment you’re likely not going to be drinking beer from glasses or need brandy glasses. Stick with a classic, but modern drinking glass that will work with water, wine, juice, or your favourite beverage. A medium size will do you fine as part of your starter kit. Later on down the road, you can add other types of more specific glassware as the need arises. Champagne flutes, tumblers, shot glasses and the like.
Personally, I think it’s fine to go with more inexpensive glasses in your first apartment. For your cutlery, however, it’s worth investing in a good stainless steel set you really like. As you get older and expand your kitchen setup, you can just keep adding to your line of cutlery.
I got my flatware starter set from WMF when I was 18 years old and still have it today. Over the years I added cake forks, soup spoons, steak knives, and salad utensils from the same line to my set.
I’ve changed my dinnerware a few times over the years, but my flatware always looks great with everything because it’s a classic design. This was a great value for the money.
You’ll want to have some basic equipment for cooking and baking on hand. Your kitchen essentials in a first apartment should include two pots and pans each, plus a baking sheet. If baking muffins or bread is something you love to do in your free time, you’ll also want to get the respective baking forms for those.
- small about 1-1.5l for heating milk, boiling eggs or making sauces
- large min. 3l for cooking pasta, stews, big soup portions, boiling potatoes etc.
- small for e.g. sauteing onions, frying eggs etc.
- optional: a wok if you cook a lot of Asian food
Generally speaking and contrary to popular opinion, you should stay away from non-stick pots and pans.
I can hear you say “whoa, whaaaat?! But they’re easier to clean!” Hear me out.
The main concern with non-stick cookware is the polytetrafluoroethylene coating, commonly known by the brand name Teflon, and the subsequent presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) which are used to give the cookware its non-stick properties.
If you are concerned about the risks of non-stick coating on your cookware, there are several ways to avoid exposure to these dangerous chemicals.
First, use cookware made from materials that don’t have a non-stick coating, such as stainless steel, cast iron, enamel (think Le Creuset), ceramic-coated, glass, or lined copper.
Second, if you already have non-stick pots and pans, be sure to check if they have any scratches. If they do, you need to get rid of them (please recycle responsibly). Why? Scratches in the coating make it start to flake into your food, which means you’re eating PFCs. Likely not a good idea.
Other Utensils You Will Need for Cooking
- measuring cups
- measuring glass (I highly recommend getting one from Pyrex. I’ve had mine for over 25 years and it still looks good!)
- measuring spoons
- two mixing bowls, one large and one small
- two wooden spoons
- bottle opener
- two cutting boards: one for meat and one for everything else
- wire whisk
- manual juicer
- 1-2 storage containers
- chopping and paring knives
- bread knife
- oven mitt
- optional: if you have no dishwasher in your new place, get a dish rack
Other items that might be considered kitchen essentials depending on your cooking and baking needs include a mixer and a blender, which I’m adding below under gadgets.
There are a few key kitchen essentials that you should also consider for your cleaning basics when outfitting a first apartment. In order to keep your kitchen clean, you will need the following items from the get-go.
- dish-washing liquid soap
- 2 tea towels
- scrub brush
- waste bin
- dishwasher tabs, if you have a dishwasher
- paper towels
Dish soap is obviously imperative for washing the dishes, wiping up spills, and cleaning the countertops and hob.
You’ll want some good, absorbent tea towels for drying dishes and surfaces. A sponge is great for cleaning surfaces and getting into small corners. A scrub brush is better for scrubbing pots and pans. Lastly, choose a kitchen waste bin, ideally with different compartments to separate your recycling. This will help keep your kitchen tidy.
Essential Small Appliances & Gadgets
This post assumes you already have the standard appliances in place like a stove top, refrigerator, and a kitchen sink. Beyond that, there are a handful of good gadgets you might like to look at purchasing.
If you’re kitting out your kitchen essentials for a first apartment, put some thought into which appliances and kitchen gadgets you’ll need on a daily (or at least regular) basis.
Things in this category might include a toaster oven, coffee maker, rice cooker, electric water kettle if you’re a tea drinker, or a mixer. Here are some basics you might want to add to your shopping list:
- toaster or toaster oven
- mixer or blender
- coffee machine or French press
- tin opener
- dishwasher, if your flat did not come with one
- nice-to-haves: rice cooker, crockpot
There are some wonderful small appliances out there that can make your life in the kitchen a little easier, but I wouldn’t worry about special gadgets for now. You can add things later on down the road like air fryers or panini sandwich makers and automatic juicers.
For your first flat, focus on the essentials. Like, you’re totally going to be wanting tea or coffee first thing in the mornings when you get up. Make that a priority before you start shopping for a waffle maker.
The Minimalist Kitchen
What You Don’t Need in Your Kitchen
I think most people, including me back in the day, go a little overboard when they’re setting up their first apartment kitchen. Or lose track of what the priorities are.
Before you stock up on tonnes of kitchen accessories, tools and gadgets, stop and consider if you really need each item. You likely won’t use it if it’s not multi-purpose, and it will just take up space. Space that you probably do not have in a tiny kitchen.
Don’t buy a set of fancy dinner plates. The chances are slim that you’ll be holding gala dinner events in your first apartment. Don’t buy a set of salad bowls either. Heck, you probably aren’t going to be making many salads right after moving in anyway. And if you do, you can use your big mixing bowl to toss, and your regular all-purpose bowls for eating until you get a better idea of what you want to add to your kitchen inventory.
So skip the bulky knife block. Skip the Vitamix, donut maker and KitchenAid, for now at least. Buy basic items that you know you’ll use all the time. Set your priorities and then shop accordingly. You’ll save money that you can put to good use in other rooms of your new place.
Summing Up Your Kitchen Essentials for a First Apartment
A minimalist kitchen is a great way to save space and money in your first flat. It’s also a super way to learn to cook with only the essentials.
If you’re moving into your first apartment and want to outfit your kitchen with just the essentials, you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money. The key items outlined here will allow you to cook basic meals and entertain friends.
In summary, make sure you have a small refrigerator, stove top, microwave, and a toaster oven if you have no regular oven. You’ll also need the pots, pans, utensils, flatware, plates, and glasses listed here.
A coffee maker, tin can opener, and garbage bin are additional must-haves. You can find all of these items affordably at your local department or home goods store. Or simply by following the links in this post to my Amazon favourites. With these essentials, you’ll be all set to create simple, delicious meals in your first apartment. (And if you need some cooking inspo, check out my post with 15 easy recipes for singles!)