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Some kitchen tools and gadgets are splurges—an ice cream maker is probably rarely used by most—and others are essentials that you’ll likely use daily.

If you’re just starting out in the kitchen and don’t own much more than a pot and a spoon, here are some essential items that are worth the money and will get you ready for cooking.

Chef’s Knife
A full set of knives is great, but the one you’ll use most often is a chef’s knife—a big blade that can do many cutting tasks. A good knife will make cooking easier, faster and a lot more fun than working with a poor one. Be sure to have it sharpened professionally at least once a year. Don’t let it sit with food on it, and wash and dry it after each use.

Large Non-Stick Skillet
A 12-inch non-stick skillet will be used almost daily for cooking, from eggs in the morning to a stir-fry for dinner.

To make it last, don’t use metal utensils, let it soak for hours or put it in the dishwasher (even if it says it’s dishwasher safe). Gently wash and dry it after using it, and don’t scrub it with an abrasive cleaner or sponge.

Big Sauce Pot
Like a big skillet, a 3- or 4-quart sauce pot will be used again and again in your kitchen. Get a big one to make large batches of soup or grains.

The cleaning process is the same for many kitchen items you want to keep in good shape for a long time: Don’t use metal utensils, don’t put it in the dishwasher, wash thoroughly with a gentle sponge and lightly coat it with oil after cleaning.

Blender
A good high-speed blender can do all the work of a regular blender, food processor, juicer and immersion blender. You can use it to blend ingredients for soups, marinades, drinks and all kinds of things that you’ll come up with as you gain experience as a cook.

Parchment Paper
Lining your baking sheets and pans with parchment paper is an inexpensive way to preserve the life of these items. It will also make your life easier by not requiring you, or whoever does the dishes in your house, from having to scrub baked-on food off of pans.

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