1. A good frying pan
I would recommend a good non-stick pan or a cast iron pan. These are very versatile and can be used to get a good sear on a lot of foods. A 12″ pan will get you the most use, but a smaller one (6-8″) is great for just eggs. For non-stick, it doesn’t need to be expensive but make sure not to get a really old one to ensure it doesn’t have chemical issues.
2. A chef’s knife and knife sharpener
A standard chef’s knife is the most versatile and best value. Nowadays you can also get very affordable knife sets if you are looking for additional sizes and types! Look out for sales or check out places like TJ Maxx for big discounts on the bigger name brands. No matter how many knives you have, make sure to get a knife sharpener and try to sharpen it every time you use it. Knives work so much better and are actually safer when sharp because they slip when dull. The sharpeners that have grooves to drag the knives through are easier to use versus the traditional steels (long sticks).
3. A meat thermometer
A meat thermometer is an overlooked secret to ensuring your meat is done to your liking and/or proper safe temperature. You can check for doneness without cutting into the meat or trying to check juice colors or other more difficult factors.
4. Caffeinated beverage maker of your choice
If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, learn to make your basics or even your fancy favorites at home! This is so much cheaper and faster than buying this everyday, and you can customize whatever you want! My favorite feature is that I can program mine to run at a certain time so I can set it up the night before and wake up to fresh coffee. This should be something you get everyday use from, whether this is a coffee maker, espresso pod machine, french press, tea kettle, tea organizer, or more.
5. Towels. Plenty of them.
I’m glad to say everyone I know now generally has a few towels in their kitchen for drying hands, dishes, etc. Additional towels are helpful for cleaning (I use a completely different microfiber style), rotating them out for laundry, or quickly wiping up spills. Don’t live like a college student with a single dish towel in your entire home.