We all know that there are items that are needed in EVERY kitchen no matter where it is located. Good sharp knives, kitchen towels, mixing bowls…but that is not what we are talking about in this post. We are discussing must have items for the southern kitchen, the southern kitchen essentials.
Why yes, there is a difference between a southern kitchen and one in California or Minnesota. We cook differently down here.
Even though southern cooking varies from region to region, even though it is diverse and multicultural, what we all have in common as southern cooks is that the food we love draws on the mix of cultures that have made us who we are. Those influences have created a delicious melange of creative cooking.
It’s a glorious hodge podge that may be homestyle, soul food, cajun, low country, or even tex-mex. You see, the south was mostly made up of poor people who had to use creativity to make food taste good. And most of it does!
Yes, there are some terrible southern dishes…
But for the most part…
…Southern food is tasty food.
Besides the taste, southern food is evocative of family and place. Bring up a southern specialty and a southerner will tell you not only how it tastes but how it makes them feel.
You will hear stories that revolve around the dish. You will hear how their grandmother made fried chicken and what her kitchen looked like or how their grandfather would mash his cornbread into buttermilk and eat it with a spoon, or…you get the picture. Southerner DO love to spin a tale and many of our stories revolve around food.
Food is more than nourishment down here it is family and love and tradition.
This is why there are some items that are essential for a southern kitchen that you might or might not find in kitchens elsewhere in the US or in the world.
Here are some of the southern kitchen essentials.
Southern Kitchen Essentials – Must Have Items for Every Southern Kitchen
A Cast Iron Skillet
This is basically a requirement! Maybe you have a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet that was passed down from a great grandmother.
If you don’t you can begin your own family tradition by purchasing a cast iron skillet from Lodge. Start with a Lodge 12″ skillet and grow your collection from there.
If cared for properly your cast iron skillet will last a lifetime.
Iron Skillet Handles
If you have cooked with an cast iron skillet then you know that the handles get hotter than blazes. You will want some covers to keep on the handles so that you don’t accidentally burn yourself.
Iron Skillet Scrubber
Yes, this is more paraphernalia for the iron skillet…but here’s the deal. If you are going to cook on cast iron, and you should be, you are going to have to learn to take care of cast iron.
You need something that will scrub the food off of your cast iron without taking off the seasoning. A chain mail scrubber is made just for this purpose.
Deviled Egg Platter
If there is a gathering with southern people and food then you can rest assured that deviled eggs will be on the menu.
Deviled eggs need a platter dedicated just to serving them. They really do. Those things are slippery on a regular plate. This pretty robin’s egg blue platter also comes in white, grey, and red
You can probably survive without a tomato knife, but why should you? There’s not much better than a southern tomato and a tomato knife is made to slice them perfectly.
A good tomato knife is serrated, super sharp, and typically has double point on the end. This makes them just the right instrument for making your tomato sandwich. (Which is of course created with white bread and Duke’s mayonnaise.)
I’ll admit, a tomato server is a bit of an old fashioned item. But they are such pretty utensils, flat and wide, with lacy open slots.
They are also the best utensil ever for serving sliced tomatoes or even a caprese salad from a buffet. Those delicate open patterns allow the juice from your tomato to drain before you put it on your plate.
We think even the modern southern kitchen needs a tomato server. These are fun to find at vintage markets, flea markets, and you can find a bunch of pretty ones on Etsy.
Bacon Grease Container
Of course you can collect bacon grease in an old Folger’s can. I mean, that’s what my mom and grandmother. But who buys those cans of Folgers coffee anymore? It’s really nice to have a dedicated grease container with a strainer on top.
Modern southerners are rediscovering the joy of cooking with grease particularly due to Keto diets. Older southerners never forgot it!
Cast Iron Cornbread Bakeware
This cast iron cornbread bakeware is a southern classic!
These are called corn stick pans and they create a beautiful presentation for making delicious, nostalgic, southern, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside corn sticks.
Microplane Zester or Grater
Honestly, I think that every kitchen needs a Microplane zester! This is an essential kitchen item. There are all different brands of zesters and graters but Microplane is the best. They are also made in the south!
This zester is the one pictured, it is perfect for zesting of course, but we also use ours for adding parmesan cheese to dishes. There is also a wider grater.
Biscuit cutters are supposed to be sharp, y’all. You see, if you cut out the biscuit dough with a jelly glass or something dull if will crimp the edges of the dough and keep the biscuit from rising up light and flaky.
If you cut out the dough with something sharp the result is biscuits that rise up like angel wings. Every southern kitchen needs a good set of biscuit cutters!
A roux whisk is a must have item for every southern kitchen. You know that you are going to be making roux or gravy and you are going to need a roux whisk!
It is a flat whisk perfect for pressing out lumps and whisking up shallow liquids. It will get up everything off the bottom of the pot and keep your roux or gravy from burning.
Now that you’ve mixed up your gravy with your roux whisk you need a container for serving it!
One southern kitchen essential is ball jars of all shapes and sizes. Of course these are what you need for canning, but they are also perfect for various kinds of storage.
They can hold leftovers. You can mix up a layered salad to take to work for lunch. You can keep your pickled onion in a ball jar in the fridge. They are multi-purpose and nostalgic and just plain cute.
Junior League Cookbooks
There was a day when a Junior League Cookbook provided the backbone of every southern mama’s family dinner repertoire. There are still so many classic junior league cookbooks that are great to peruse for recipe ideas.
Charleston Receipts is one of the oldest and most famous, but River Road Recipes from Baton Rouge, Southern Accent from Arkansas, or the Houston Junior League Cookbook are some other fun ones to check out.
Southern cooking has come a long way since the heyday of the southern junior league cookbooks. To learn even more about the history of southern cooking you can go back to its roots with any cookbook by Edna Lewis or get a more modern, but still classic take on farm to table southern with Sean Brock’s Heritage.
We have a list here of what we think are some of the quintessential and essential southern cookbooks.
If you have spent any time in the south you will have learned that southerners love Jesus, but they like to drink a little.
It’s true. Southerners have created some of the most delicious cocktails in the US.
Plus…bourbon. Need I say more? In other words, one of the southern kitchen essentials is a good cocktail set.
Hope that you have enjoyed this list of southern kitchen essentials. Have fun cooking your favorite southern recipes!
Thanks for stopping by!