I wouldn’t consider myself a gadget person. I have a few special wooden spoons that stir everything from stew to pudding. I use one knife to cut most everything. Having more things isn’t going to make you a better cook, but having the right stuff just might make it easier for you.
One piece of advice I have is if you are thinking of investing in a larger piece of equipment like a food processor or blender make sure you research it and read the user reviews. Don’t spend $400 on a blender that you might use twice a year. Do invest in one if you use it daily, you will end up replacing the cheaper one multiple times when you could have just had the nicer one to begin with.
OK, here are some of my favorite things. I use them all of the time.
1. Cast Iron Enamel pot or Dutch Oven – I have an 8 quart Le Creuset. They are pricey around $200. I have had mine for 7 years and it is a work horse. I braise in it, make soups, sauces and bbq. They now sell knock off versions that are just as nice at Marshalls and Target. I would recommend buying one of these first and see how it does. Mario Batali has his own brand for half the price and it got excellent reviews.
2. 7-inch Santoku Chef’s Knife. I love the size and feel of this knife. I use it everyday. I am not a big fan of whole knife sets. You may need a serrated blade to cut bread and a pairing knife but you can buy these piece meal and not waste the money one the others you will never use. Invest in a nice Chef’s knife and have it professionally sharpened every year. A dull knife can be very dangerous. Your chances of cutting yourself are much greater with a dull knife.
3. Immersion Blender (or Stick Blender). What a wonderful invention. You just plug it in and you can blend and puree right in the pot without having to transfer it to a blender making a huge mess. I love making salad dressings with mine. Most come with various attachments like a whisk and a container to mix in. at around $35 for a decent one it is a great gift.
4. Stainless Steel Pots and Pans. Do not get seduced by the fancy kitchen stores with their display of $1000 pan sets. I got a great deal on a set at Costco. They even have copper bases for excellent heat conductivity. Also check out restaurant supply stores. They sell amazing sauté pans and pots for around $25. They will last forever. After all restaurants use them way more than you will. They are built to last.
5. One large non-stick skillet I don’t like nonstick surfaces for most cooking. It won’t sear meat correctly. I do however like to have one large skillet on hand for making pancakes and eggs. Target has some wonderful deals.
6. Vitamix Blender I could write a love letter about this machine. It is NOT cheap. At around $450 you have to really want/need one to invest. I will tell you though it does not disappoint. What this machine can do is nothing short of amazing. Green smoothies full of veggies with no chunks. It can actually COOK soup with friction. I love it so much I am writing an entire blog just on recipes for it. It would be worth fighting in a custody battle for.
7. Solid wood or Bamboo cutting board. Get a nice large one with a rim insert so that juicy cuts of meat or veggies don’t run all over your counters. I prefer bamboo since it is easier to keep clean. You will need to sanitize your wood boards with bleach occasionally since bacteria can live in the tiny cuts made by your knife.
8. Set of Glass mixing bowls. They aren’t fancy or expensive but they are great for cooking and in a pinch serving. If you have plastic ones I feel like grease and tomatoes can stain them.
9. Food Processor. Who wants to chop that onion anyway? These make quick work of cutting and slicing. Make sure you get one with blade disc attachments for slicing and shredding. You can buy chunks of cheese in bulk and shred it yourself and freeze the rest. The slicing disc also makes evenly sized carrots and potatoes for casseroles and soups. My mom has had her Robot Coup for more that 30 years. She had to buy a replacement bowl once. Now that is a good machine.
10. A large slow cooker. I would not be able to survive without this. Just dump the ingredients in and turn it on when you leave the house in the morning. When you come home later BAM, dinner is ready. They come in all sizes and price points. I had a less expensive version that I ran into the ground before I invested in the All-Clad version. I use it at least twice a week if not more.
What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets that you couldn’t live without?