This post has been in my head almost since I started this blog. Just like many of us DIYers have our favorite, trusted, and go-to tools (like my beloved ‘lil stubby brush), many people who like to cook also have these must-have tools. I am by no means a chef or a gourmet cook, but I have cooked enough to form strong opinions on a number of items that have immensely helped me learn and be more successful in the kitchen.
1. Small Stainless Steel Saucepan
Most of my cookware is nonstick, however, I do have three pieces of stainless because sometimes you just need a stainless pot. And sometimes, you need just a teeny tiny little one. Out of all of my saucepans, my 1.5qt stainless gets the most use. There are so many recipes that you just need a little bit of something cooked in: browned butter, sauces from a roux, caramel, base for meringue…just about any recipe that calls for constant whisking or stirring I do in my little stainless pan. This is in conjunction with #8 on this list. I always use that kind of whisk in this little pot for these sort of recipes because I don’t want to worry about scratching my nonsticks with it, or want to clean a big pot for a little bit of stuff.
2. Herb Shears
I love fresh herbs, but HATE chopping them up. Green all over my cutting board, pieces stuck everywhere, never can scoop all of it up, ugh. I hate it, so when I discovered these my jaw hit the floor. Yes yes yes yes and yes! Now I just cut my herbs right over the dish and there’s no cleanup except rinsing the shears off. Plus they look badass.
3. Calphalon Covered Pan (and Set)
I initially just had the covered cake pan on here but since I have this whole set and love all of it, and use all of it constantly, so I may as well share it all. In addition to the set, though, I have since gone back and bought an additional covered cake pan and two more of the large baking sheets. I almost always double my dishes so with these, I can easily just plop the lid on and we can take one of the dishes to work or to a friend’s place. Honestly, I think almost every single piece in this set should have a lid. Banana bread in a loaf pan to go please!
4. Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
Ok, this one took me a while to come around to price-wise, but seriously, once I splurged on stainless, I’ll never go back to plastic. It is just so much nicer to use these sturdier, heavier, more substantial pieces than the plastic ones. Our plastic pieces always lost their ink so I had to just guess which was which sometimes, they weren’t heavy so they always would topple over and spill the contents, they wouldn’t fit inside jars, and they were just plain ugly. My favorite is that these spoons (the link, not in the pic) are narrow so they fit right into spice jars.
5. Good Zester
Also something that took me a while to actually spend money on. I had this cheapy dollar-store “zester” for a while that was totally wrong. The holes were so small that it would take me like four lemons to get a teaspoon of zest, and even then it was mushy. I couldn’t understand why so many recipes called for doing this craziness, then I saw a cooking show use a true zester like this. I trashed my cheapy one and got a Microplane immediately. Such.a.difference. Now I have zest like I’m supposed to have. Works awesome for parmesean and chocolate too!
6. Kitchenaid Stand Mixer
This dude doesn’t really need an explanation and is, and will always be, my #1 kitchen gadget recommendation. I love that I can toss everything in and then clean up a little bit while it’s doing its thing. I have my grandmother’s from the 60s but the design is still pretty much the same, just with a few snazzier options. If you can spring for the Professional line, DO IT, the performance is amazing (that’s what my cooking-genius aunt has). I will also highly suggest getting an extra stainless and/or glass bowl so that you can whip cream and eggs and such after preparing a batter without having to transfer and clean one bowl. There is a slight size difference with the bowls from my old one and the current versions so beware of that if you purchase or inherit an older one and want additional bowls (I can’t find another one to fit mine).
7. Citrus Juicer
This makes my list because I live in south Texas and I love cooking with citrus. I did finally stop manually squeezing and converted to a citrus reamer a few years ago, but I still had to do it over a strainer to catch seeds. This guy though is one step above that in that it strains out the seeds for you, then you just pop the top off and pour the juice out. The base collects right at 1/2 cup of juice.
8. Blunt-ended Whisk
This guy is best friends with #1 on the list. It is your gravy, browned butter, and roux pro. It gets in the edges of the pot, thoroughly scrapes the bottom, and stands up on it’s own in the pot if you need a second. This was one of the first items my aunt Tracey bestowed upon me when she taught me to cook. We call it the “boingy” because it’s bouncy.
9. Prep Bowls
I am a steadfast believer in the “mise en place” practice and it has saved me so.much.time beforehand. I have eight of these guys and need about eight more honestly. Measure out your stuff ahead of time in these, then you’re free to just dump it in when you’re cooking, no clumsy and rushed measuring in the heat of things.
10. Convection Oven
I was always a big toaster oven fan, but then I saw these and it has saved me so much time, headache, and probably a few bucks on our energy bill. No more heating up the big oven for some veggie roasting, baking just a few cookies, keeping things warm, or reheating our pizza. It heats up super, super fast and has some awesome settings.
11. Dutch Oven and Covered Casserole
Food just tastes better in these things. I don’t know what LeCreuset does to them but it’s magic. I had the dutch oven on here first, but I love my covered casserole just as much so I couldn’t choose between them. You can make absolutely anything in the dutch oven, and the lid on the covered casserole is where it’s at. No more foil-covering (I hate wasting foil) and I can store it in the fridge when we’re done instead of messing with plastic containers. Not to mention the colors they come in now are awesome (oh matte cotton, I will have you someday).
12. High-Quality Knife Set
These and the Kitchenaid are pillars of your kitchen if you want to cook. I always rolled my eyes at needed good knives, we never had any growing up, but then I took our wedding registry and my budding cooking obsession as an opportunity to go for it and they are absolutely invaluable now. The first slice with these things and I was like “HOW did I never go for this?!?” Get a set with the steak knives and kitchen shears too. The kitchen shears get as much, if not more, use than the knives do around here.
There are a ton more goodies out there which I’m sure many would argue should be on here, and that some on here shouldn’t be, but I absolutely adore each and every one of these items and use them on a weekly basis, so I’m sharing them with you :) I will definitely share with you any future gems I come across too!