Silverware: Forks, knives, tea spoons and serving spoons
Chef's knife: This is a big knife you'll use for most of your slicing and dicing (from raw meats to veggies or cheese—with a washing in between, of course!). They generally come in 8-inch or 10-inch sizes and can range from a few bucks to about a hundred. But unless you're auditioning for Top Chef, you'll do fine with something from the low end of the price range.
Paring knife: This is a small (2½- to 4-inch) knife used for peeling or cutting small items, like slicing strawberries or cutting the seeds out of a jalapeno so the chili's not too hot for your kids.
Serrated knives: These are the ones that have "teeth" in 'em. You'll want a set of steak knives and a bigger bread knife for when you bake (OK, buy) unsliced loaves of bread.
Slotted spoons: You'll use these for scooping cooked veggies out of boiling water or for picking out a piece of pasta to check if it's done. Your partner will use it to steal all the noodles out of a pot of chicken soup!
Vegetable peeler: A vegetable peeler quickly takes the skin off of apples ('cause your kids won't eat it) as well as potatoes ('cause you invited 12 guests to Thanksgiving dinner) and a pile of other fruits and veggies. Look for a sturdy one that has a comfy handle and a sharp blade.
Wooden spoons: Buy a bunch of long-handled ones in a variety of sizes for stirring everything from soups to cookie dough. Plus, wood won't scratch nonstick cookware, so it's always a safe bet.
Whisk: For making gravy or mixing batters that shouldn't have any lumps. You probably only need one, so look for a sturdy one and, if you have nonstick cookware, you'll want a spoon that won't scratch it.
Hand blender: This is your whisk's tough big brother. It'll save your arm when you're making cake batters or mashed potatoes. It's also essential when Cool Whip won't do and you have to break down and actually whip some heavy cream.
Tongs: Get a pair to use for turning meat instead of poking it with a fork (which will let the juice escape and make it dry), for tossing salads or for serving pasta. Think of them as a heatproof extension of your fingers.
Spatulas: Get a metal one for turning pancakes and fried eggs and a rubber one to scrape the last bit of cookie dough out of the bowl (for the cookie sheet, sweetie, not for your mouth!).
Measuring spoons: Go for a set on a ring that includes at least ¼, ½ and 1 teaspoon, and ½ and 1 tablespoon. (You don't need a pinch measure—it's literally just a pinch.)
Measuring cups: You'll need one measuring cup for liquids (at least a 2-cup capacity) and a set of at least four (1 cup, ½ cup, ⅓ cup and ¼ cup) for dry ingredients. Don't be tempted to mix and match your liquid and your dry or you'll risk botching the brownies because your measurements will be off.
Pots and pans: Consider buying a set of nonstick cookware that includes a variety of sizes. Or buy by the piece: a small and a medium pot (with a lid for each) and a medium and a large pan should do the trick.
Stockpot: Not just for stock. (Who makes stock, anyway?). This extra-large pot is essential for boiling enough pasta to feed your noodle-crazy kids for a week ... OK, two days.
Roasting pan: Get a big enough pan to fit the size of turkey you generally cook at Thanksgiving.
Apron: You will save yourself many "red stain headaches" and laundry faux pas if you wear an apron. If you think you'll be reluctant to wear it, make it enticing by customizing it with digital pics of your kids or a "Hottie Chef" logo.
Oven mitts: These can serve double duty to protect your hands and your countertops from hot pots and pans. Look for the glove variety and check the thickness of the padding.
Rubber Gloves: Whether you're cutting onions or scouring the counters with disinfectant, be sure to keep a few pairs these handy. Your hands and nails will thank you.
Microwave: If microwaving is your thing, you'll save yourself loads of time. Just be prepared for a power outage, as you're likely to forget that there's another way to heat up a can of SpaghettiOs. (Hint: It's called a stove.)
Blender: Believe it or not, it makes more than margaritas! Use it to mix baby purees, blend soup and smoothies, make dips, and crush ice.
Can opener: Handheld or electric—whatever floats your boat (or opens your can).
Toaster: But you've got one of these, right?