STR Kitchen Essentials: Top 25

There’s nothing worse than paying full price to rent a high-end vacation rental home on Airbnb, and then discovering upon arrival that the kitchen is equipped like a Holiday Inn Express. Most short term rental guests expect to do a decent amount of cooking during their vacation, and they don’t want to bring an extra suitcase full of sharp knives, decent salt, and Tupperware.

(In case you’re interested, The Kitchn revealed that travelers bring along all sorts of crazy kitchen tools precisely because so many vacation rental kitchens are poorly provisioned).

So check out our ultimate list of vacation rental kitchen essentials and whip your rental kitchen into first class shape. Then take some great photos and make sure your guests know in advance they can expect the best instead of preparing for the worst.

25 Kitchen Essentials for Short Term Rentals

Good Sharp Knives

Nothing dulls a talented cook’s enthusiasm for working in a new kitchen like a knife that won’t cut scrambled eggs. Yes, good knives are expensive. And yes, they have to be replaced every few years. But your guests are paying you good money every night. Shelling out for decent knives on a regular basis is simply a cost of doing business in the vacation rental industry. You pay property taxes every year too, right?

Decent (Local) Coffee & Coffee Maker

Artisan coffee roasters are now so ubiquitous in the US, that hardly a zip code remains without a local coffee brand. When you supply your guests with a starter dose of your favorite local coffee you connect them with something unique about your specific destination. And that’s often the very first step in creating a long-term customer that returns year after year. While some guests prefer the ease of a standard electric coffee maker, others like to take their time with a more manual pour-over process. Consider offering both options to keep everyone from twenty-year-old hipsters to eighty-year-old hip-replacers happy.

Powerful Blender (or Vitamix)

So many blenders just totally suck. I don’t know how the industry got away with making a product that worked so poorly for so long. Fortunately those days are mostly behind us and you can now get a blender with more torque than a Ford Fiesta. Smoothies, milk shakes, and margaritas have never been the same.

Tea Kettle

It’s not just for tea anymore! Remember that twenty-something hipster that will only drink coffee from a pour-over? Well, they’re gonna need some hot water to make it happen. And a nice tea kettle with a soothing whistle will keep your tea drinking guests happy too. So splurge for something that will photograph well and park it on your shiny stainless steel range.

Olive & Coconut Oils

Cooking oils are a huge pain to buy when you’re only staying somewhere for a week. They’re typically sold in larger bottles and aren’t exactly cheap. Having a decent olive oil on hand and perhaps some coconut or avocado oil as well, is absolute table stakes for stocking your vacation rental kitchen. High end rentals charging more than $300/night should probably also consider stocking a nicer extra virgin olive oil for drizzling over pasta and homemade salad dressings.

Selection of Quality Teas

If you don’t drink tea yourself, figuring out what to stock in this category can be a bit tricky. A safe bet would be to include a regular black tea like English Breakfast or Earl Grey along with a small selection of non-caffeinated herbal teas. Twinings and Bigelow are big national brands with solid quality and both offer variety packs that make it easy to restock as needed. Higher end rentals may want to also stock a loose leaf tea and a tea strainer, just to make sure no one feels snubbed by all the attention coffee drinkers are getting these days.

Kosher & Sea Salts

Nothing tastes quite right without salt. Seasoned cooks know this all too well, and they also know that all salts are not created equal. If you’re only stocking plain old iodized salt, you’re probably disappointing more than a few guests. Kosher salt is a must-have and a sea salt or two are also recommended if your vacation rental is located in a more foodie-oriented destination.

Non-Stick Skillets

While some skilled chefs absolutely hate cooking with non-stick pans, the average guest absolutely expects non-stick cookware. Whether or not they know how to use it properly is another question, but it does make cooking some very common dishes like scrambled eggs and bacon a lot easier. Pair your non-stick cookware with some wooden spoons stored on the counter top near the stove, and you’ll get a lot more life out of them!

Cooking Thermometer

Thermometers aren’t just for cooking Thanksgiving turkeys. A lot of amateur (and professional) chefs use them to dial in all kinds of meat and poultry preparations. If you like your steak on the red side of medium rare, you’re probably aiming for just shy of 130 degrees. How will you ever know if there’s no meat thermometer?

Ice Cream Scoop

Always remember that vacations are first and foremost about enjoying yourself alongside friends and family. Yes, your guests can absolutely use a spoon to serve up ice cream, but isn’t it a lot more fun to use an old school ice cream scoop? Given that it lasts forever and doesn’t cost much to begin with, it may actually have the highest guest satisfaction ROI on this entire list!

Cheese & Microplane Graters

Tacos, quesadillas, and nachos have practically become a food group unto themselves. And they’re tricky to execute without a proper cheese grater. So stock a decent one in your short term rental kitchen and maybe throw in a microplane grater for parmesan cheese and citrus zesting while you’re at it. The absence of a cheese grater is a tell-tale sign that no one has actually cooked in a kitchen for any serious length of time. Don’t tell that tale.

Ziploc Bags & Food Storage Containers

Leftovers happen. And so do picnics. Guests on vacation often want to prep lunches at home in the morning before heading out on an adventure. Make it easy for them by stocking a selection of various size Ziploc bags and BPA-free food storage containers. Yes, guests will mistakenly leave the containers in their bags or cars and you’ll lose a few over time. But they’re cheap and easy to replace. You’ll save your guests plenty of time and hassle by having these kitchen essentials at the ready from day one of their vacation.

Selection of Common Spices

No one wants to go out and buy six different spices on the first day of their vacation just so they can cook a proper meal in your beautiful kitchen. The conundrum of course is knowing which of the hundreds of global spices yet discovered to stock in your vacation rental kitchen. That’s why we wrote an entire article to help you get it exactly right.

(One) Cast Iron Skillet

A lot of more experienced cooks really try to avoid non-stick pans for everything but eggs. While we don’t recommend stocking your entire kitchen with cast iron cookware, it’s a good idea to have at least one well-seasoned cast iron skillet available. Generally speaking, the guests that choose to use it will also know how to clean it properly. Make sure your cleaners know not to scrub it sparkling clean. The little sticky bits are what make cast iron so wonderful.


If there’s one kitchen utensil that can help amateur cooks avoid burning themselves it’s the somewhat unappreciated tongs. A good pair of tongs is an incredibly versatile kitchen tool. You can use it to pick up everything from slippery pasta to a sizzling chicken breast and you can do it all one-handed. Tongs aren’t very expensive and they basically last forever, so make sure you have a pair and that your guests can find them easily when the need arises.

(Japanese) Rice Cooker

Most rice cookers can do the job reasonably well, but the ones made in Japan take rice to a whole new level. Something like 75% of people in Japan eat rice at least twice a day. They know how to cook it! While some guests won’t think twice about not finding a rice cooker in your short term rental, stocking a good one will win you some serious brownie points with the guests that do care. Sometimes it’s the extra unexpected details that stand out and inspire someone to leave a glowing review.

Wood & Plastic Cutting Boards

The best way to keep guests from chopping up your countertops is to stock a nice selection of cutting boards. Make sure they’re easy to find and that you offer a few different sizes. You’ll want at least one large wood cutting board (because it looks good) and one large plastic one (to keep raw chicken juices at bay). Finally, look to replace the cutting boards in your vacation rental at least every few years.

(Reliable) Waffle Maker

Waffles are an indulgent treat, which is why they’re a perfect breakfast food for vacation. Hardly anyone expects to find a waffle maker in their vacation rental kitchen so this one comes across as a real surprise. The trick is to get a nicer more reliable waffle maker so you’re not having to replace it too often. The cheaper ones are flimsy and tend to break at the hinge too easily. Score some extra credit with your guests by also stocking real maple syrup.

Oven Mitts & Trivets

Hotel guests aren’t likely to sit down to a big home-cooked meal, but vacation rental guests do it all the time. Make sure your guests don’t have to turn the kitchen inside out to figure out how to safely serve their culinary creations from searing hot pans. Replace your burnt oven mitts from the 1980s and make sure they’re easy to find on short notice. While you’re at it, pick up a few trivets to remind your guests not to place hot pans and dishes directly on your countertops and dining table.

The Right Spatula(s)

If you have non-stick pans, metal spatulas are like kryptonite. Banish them to another kitchen (or the outdoor grill) and replace them with modern plastic versions that won’t scratch your expensive skillets. These shapely cousins of the original spatula design are actually better suited for most stove-top cooking tasks anyways.

Measuring Cups & Measuring Spoons

Believe it or not, a lot of vacation rental kitchens don’t have even the very basic tools required for a guest to follow a recipe. Or mix a proper drink. Or do any one of the many other kitchen tasks that require a certain level of precision. If space is tight, get a set of nested measuring cups and some common measuring spoons. These will only set you back a few bucks, yet will save guests tons of time and aggravation.

Citrus Squeezers

While we’re on the topic of mixing a proper drink, it’s worth noting that nothing says vacation quite like a well-balanced rum concoction. And where there’s rum, there’s often citrus, so make sure your guests have ready access to a competent juicing device. We’ve found that the hand press option is generally preferred as it requires less manual effort.

Cookie Sheet & Cooling Rack

The best thing about a cookie sheet is that it takes up virtually no space. As long as you have a tall narrow cabinet somewhere, and most kitchens do, it easily slides out of sight. I’ve never met anyone who disliked both cookies and nachos, and making a fresh batch of either absolutely requires a solid non-stick baking sheet. Throw in a cookie cooling rack too, and your guests are well on their way to true “vacation-level” snacking.

Big Honking Roasting Pan

Guests often rent houses for major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which are both common occasions for roasting a turkey or cooking a big ham in the oven. If you would prefer that they get their Martha Stewart on without leaving a layer of stagnant juices at the bottom of your oven, make sure there’s a roasting pan available. Get a good one and you’ll only have to buy it once!

Wooden Spoons

This is an often overlooked detail that makes a big difference in a working kitchen. Non-stick pans and metal spoons or spatulas just don’t get along. If you want to get as many years as possible out of your fancy skillets, be sure to stock some decent wooden spoons within easy sight of your stovetop.

Obviously, these are just 25 of the more commonly overlooked kitchen essentials for a vacation rental property. You’re also going to need plates, bowls, wine glasses, silverware and a long list of other basics.

But knock out everything on the list above and you’re sure to get some oohs and aahs from even the most discerning cooks. And that’s often the difference between a so-so review and a 5-star bang-up write up!