10 essential home cooking tools to ace date night

Whether you're an aspiring home cook or a seasoned dinner party host, here's everything you need to take your meals to the next level.

Three images of kitchens with blue and green color schemes, one showing cutting boards with bread
(Image credit: Future / Dunelm / Little Greene)

I love going out for dinner. The bustle of busy servers, the music, the shimmering glassware, eavesdropping on the next table – it all enhances the experience to make it more than simply having some food. 

But you also have to get to and from the restaurant, pay over the odds for wine, and round the evening off by deciding how much to tip. So, why not cut the hassle and opt for a date night at home instead? 

Here’s a handy guide to all the essential home cooking tools and kitchen appliances you could possibly need (and more) to create restaurant-quality dishes from the comfort of your own kitchen.

Essential home cooking tools

Want to impress your dinner guests with outstanding food? Quality dishes start with the tools you use. Below, I share the 10 essential home cooking tools I like to stock my kitchen with to ace every dinner party. 

A Stand Mixer

Green kitchen appliance trend

(Image credit: KitchenAid)

The stand mixer is the best friend of both the multi-tasker and the lazy cook. I’ve managed to pull off some pretty decent bread by just dumping all the dough ingredients in the bowl, attaching a dough hook – like this stainless steel hook from Amazon – and leaving it running. I’ve also whipped up some show-stopping buttercream while washing up every bowl I own, piping ‘Happy Birthday’ in melted chocolate, and berating myself for agreeing to make a cake for a toddler.

When choosing the best stand mixer for your kitchen, KitchenAid is always my first choice. They’re not cheap, but they’re built to last a lifetime, and the almost endless list of optional attachments means there’s always something to put on your Amazon wishlist. 

An Air Fryer

It wouldn’t be a 2024 kitchen appliance article without mentioning air fryers. I bought mine because I was getting really into making fried shrimp, and it was causing the kitchen to smell of fried food. That's certainly not what you want if you're trying to impress on date night. Thankfully, an air fryer can solve this problem. 

They work more like a small convection oven than a deep fryer, blowing hot air around the food to cook it. It’s a much smaller space to heat than a traditional oven, so everything cooks much quicker. I opted for a model from Cosori for around $100, as it’s affordable and has been capable of doing everything I’ve needed it to do. However, the Instant Vortex Plus came out on top in Homes & Gardens' recent round of product testing. 

A Temperature Probe

When I started using a temperature probe, the main thing that surprised me was how much I was overcooking meats without realizing it. The required internal temperature for a piece of fish to be cooked is 145F, so overshooting this by 10% isn’t a massive jump, but it will make an enormous difference to the flakiness and texture of your dish. 

Investing in a temperature probe like this ThermoPro Waterproof Meat Thermometer from Walmart will make a huge difference to your everyday cooking, and they’re not particularly expensive. I picked mine up for around $30, but you can go big and spend upwards of $100 if you intend on wowing your dinner party guests.

A Blender


(Image credit: Cuisinart)

Blenders are one of those kitchen appliances where you get what you pay for. You know the feeling when you’re enjoying a freshly made smoothie, and suddenly you’ve got an unexpected, unblended lump of banana in there? It's the worst. Spending a bit more money means you’ll get that extra power, which is worth it if you regularly make batches of soup or sauces. 

Homes & Gardens tested a variety of the best blenders on the market, and the Vitamix A3500 came out on top. This is a great all-rounder, though I also recommend you get a nifty bullet blender, such as NutriBullet Pro 900 from Amazon, for making individual smoothies and fresh breadcrumbs. 

Knife Sharpener

A dull knife is one of the most dangerous things you can cook with. Chopping with a blunt knife requires more pressure, making it more likely to slip and cause injury. A sharp knife will have a better grip as it cuts through, so keeping your knives in good condition will make them easier and safer.  

The Original Tumbler Rolling Knife Sharpener™ from Amazon is highly reviewed and easy to use. 

Pizza Stone & Peel

I’m biased here because the science of making pizza fascinates me. However, if you're not much of a home cook, whipping up a homemade pizza is an easy and affordable way to impress your date or dinner guests. 

A commercial pizza oven will run much hotter than a home oven, so the pizza stone is a great way to compensate for the temperature difference. They easily absorb and retain heat, then distribute it more evenly to help you get that perfect base every time.  


Nordic Ware Ceramic Pizza Stone with Steel Holder
$11.97 from Walmart
For under $15, this pizza stone will seriously improve your homemade flatbreads, pizzas, and cookies. 

Electric Scales

A kitchen with dark blue cabinets next to a built-in range cooker and a marble effect island with a view into a living space with a glass roof

(Image credit: Future / Darren Chung)

I’ve never been a fan of having measuring cups around the kitchen – if I store them in a jar on the counter, it adds to the clutter, but if I put them in a drawer, it’s almost certain one of them will get stuck, rendering the drawer impossible to open. 

That's why my next pick is a set of electric scales. Electric scales are more accurate than measuring cups, and accuracy is key if you’re baking. They also come in pretty much any color you can think of to ensure they fit your kitchen color scheme. Entry-level scales are priced around $10, but you can spend more for extra precision and functionality. 

Mixing bowls

As you grow more experienced in the kitchen, you’ll quickly realize the importance of mise-en-place (preparing your ingredients, for you and me). There’s nothing more stressful than realizing you’ve not chopped something you need for a final flourish, forcing you to choose between leaving your dish in the oven and overcooking or transferring it to the plate and getting cold. I always have a set of mixing bowls in the kitchen to have everything prepped and ready to go before I start cooking. 


Hestan Provisions 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set
$129.95 at Saks Fifth Avenue
This set of 3 mixing bowls features a heavy-gauge stainless steel design with flared rims for ease of pouring. They are highly durable and their non-reactive bodies are built for longevity. 

Cutting boards


(Image credit: Garden trading)

In an ideal kitchen setup, you’ll have different boards for your meat, fish, and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria (not ideal for a date night). The usual way of doing this is through colored boards. Wooden chopping boards are a bit weightier, which I prefer for my vegetable prep as I like their sturdiness. Plus, they look great. Just ensure you care for your wooden cutting boards properly and sanitize them between uses. 

A Quality Frying Pan

This may sound obvious, but investing in quality frying pans is hugely important. A good pan will distribute heat evenly, and you’ll benefit from cooking with the confidence that half your dish isn’t going to end up stuck to the bottom of your pan. HexClad pans are the favored tool of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. They are great quality, easy to maintain, and have a lifetime guarantee. Try the HexClad 12-inch Hybrid Frying Pan from Walmart.

If you stock up on these essential home cooking tools, I'm confident you'll wow your guests. All you’re missing now is a couple of recipes, and you’ll be ready to go. 

I've only had to buy most of the things on this list once, so your kitchen will be set for years of entertaining. Although, you may also need some dish soap... 

Thomas Litten
Freelance Writer

Thomas Litten is a freelance food and drink writer whose articles and product reviews have been featured in a variety of national publications. His introduction to food and drink came through the hospitality sector, running bars for Michelin-starred restaurants. This experience, plus a love of good food, wine, and spirits, led to a career selling premium drinks to high-end restaurants and later providing consultancy services to food and drink start-ups across the UK. Now, based in southwest England, he mainly divides his time between working for a leading bakery business, visiting coffee shops, and collecting and writing about kitchen gadgets.