I’ve written before about my favorite tools for making edibles, but I haven’t written about my favorite kitchen tools in general. I try not to buy too many gadgets for the kitchen. I have adopted a utilitarian way of thinking with bringing anything new into the house (except for purely pretty things because my walls are bare). The items have to be useful and unique. There can’t be too much overlap with something else I already use or own. Otherwise, I’d buy out my local kitchen shop every time I walk through the doors (I love you, Sparrowhawk Cookware, I do). But there are just some things I cannot live without (well, I could, but I wouldn’t be happy about it, work smarter, not harder, girl).
Last fall, I took an online baking class through Studio with Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi and one of the best things I took away from it was using quarter sheet pans. They are the perfect size to freeze a dozen cookies, to bake a cake (really), and for smaller meals for one or two people. They are indispensable in my kitchen, and not only that; they are inexpensive too. My only gripe is that these are not really dishwasher friendly (the finish loses its shine and turns dull without special dishwasher liquid for metals), but they’re easy to clean most of the time and look good as new with a bit of soap and scrubbing.
Meat and Candy and Deep Fry Thermometers
I can forgive you if you don’t have a candy thermometer or deep fry thermometer, but if you don’t have a meat thermometer and want to say you like to cook? Get out of the kitchen right now. Meat thermometers are essential for a kitchen that actively cooks meat. So I guess I should retract that “get out of the kitchen” comment because a meat thermometer is useless if you don’t eat or cook meat. But can I still interest you in a candy or deep fry thermometer? And you know, for what it’s worth, you might want to make sure your reheated vegan mac and cheese is hot enough to kill any fridge bacteria, just saying.
I don’t like those canned oil sprays like Pam and the like. The taste of propellent is overpowering to me, and I can usually get the job done with oil and my hands. But I do understand why plenty of chefs find them useful. They work great and make it easy to add a small amount of oil to make your pans non-stick. When I was a kid, my mom had this cool refillable pump-style one from Pampered Chef that I adored. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a similar one that I like in the same way. But I did find this spray bottle that, if nothing else, helps control the amount of oil that comes out so you can coat things in a nice thin layer. It’s not quite as light as a store-bought Pam, but it does the trick.
“Lo, I already have a blender/food processor/whatever; why would I need this?” But, look, I was like you and once thought the same thing. So then I made some salad dressing in it. And mayonnaise. And you know what? I’m not afraid to admit that I was wrong. I mean, beating things by hand is for girlfriends.
All the scales for everything! Much like thermometers, I recommend having more than one type of kitchen scale. First is the classic large kitchen scale, which I’m sure most people are familiar with– the ones that will weigh up to several pounds. Since I started weighing ingredients, baking has been much more fun. No more measuring cups for me! However, I’d also recommend getting a small gem scale to weigh things you’d typically measure with measuring spoons. It is much more accurate, especially for baked goods that tend to need more exact measurements. Plus, fewer dishes.
A Kitchenaid standing mixer is a big splurge. But it’s also the best thing you’ll bring into your kitchen. It has countless uses and endless attachments that work across the generations. They are reparable (at least the pro series models), and if you take care of them, you could pass them down to a child– cherished for many more years. Of course, it works great for mixing up delicious batters and doughs and creams, but I love it for the attachments. Meat grinder? You got it. Cheese grater? Oh yeah, baby. Pasta roller? Whoo boy, you can bet your booty on it. I’m practical about the tools I have in my kitchen, so to bring in something as significant as the KitchenAid standing mixer, I need to have multiple purposes, and it needs to be great at doing all of them. If you can, buy one refurbished (overstock.com frequently has a rotating selection of them). I got the Pro series for the same price as the smaller artisan series (about $300 vs. $500).
What are your favorite kitchen tools?
I would love to know what tools you find essential in your kitchen. Tweet and let me know what you would add to this list. What kind of cooking or baking tools would you like me to write about next? I can get even more niche and talk about my favorite cupcake tools, appliances, and gadgets.