I thought I would take a brief break from all my usual recipe writing to tell you a little bit about some of the things in my kitchen that I love almost as much as the food – 15 of them to be exact! As someone who is just plain happy when I have an apron on and my hands in a mixing bowl, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. As a result, I am always trying out kitchen gadgets, both the newfangled ones and the ones my grandma used to have, and over the years I have come up with a group of tried and true kitchen essentials that make my hours in the kitchen more fun and efficient. As some who has struggled with the wrong kind of grater in the midst of trying to get some nice shredded Parmesan cheese, I know what a difference having the right tools in your hands can make…and yes, I have the perfect grater to tell you about. So from one enthusiastic home cook to another, here are the top essential kitchen tools my kitchen and I can’t live without!
Before I get into my list, a couple of things to tell you. I’ve put a link to each item at the end of the description (because there is nothing more jump up and down frustrating then being told about the perfect grater – but not about where to get it). And just for the record, I don’t know ANY of these manufacturers personally. Nope, this is my own opinion, based on lots of kitchen testing in my own kitchen. So…here goes!
Food Scale: I use my food scale daily for everything from figuring out the right amount of pasta to cook (3-4 ounces per person) to measuring out the perfect amount of flour for a bread recipe. Many recipes will give you ingredients in weight in addition to other measurements, and I have found that particularly in baking, using the right weight of flour or sugar or whatever you are cooking works best every time. My food scale is digital, reliably accurate and slim enough to fit in a shallow drawer for storage. My scale: Oxo Good Grips Food Scale with Pull-out Display
Nonstick Baking Mat: These silicone baking sheet liners have saved many a sticky cookie for me! They are the size of a standard cookie sheet, and keep your cookie dough and anything else you are baking from sticking to the cookie sheet without any butter or cooking spray needed. They are also great for kneading dough, rolling out piecrust or anything else you can think of where you don’t want things to stick. My mat: Silpat Half Sheet
Vitamix: This high-end blender is definitely the splurge item in my kitchen! It replaced a low-end blender and my world has been rocked by the power and versatility of this machine. The motor is so hefty that unlike ordinary blenders, you can put the ingredients for soup in the Vitamix, press the Soup button and it literally blends those ingredients into hot soup, just from the friction. From juicing to nut butters to frozen drinks, this blender is ten steps above any other I’ve tried. Worth the splurge! My blender: Vitamix Professional Service 750
Microplane grater: I promised that I would share my perfect grater and this is it. Unlike the box graters we all grew up with, this one is shaped like a long stick, which is much easier to hold as you use it. Its very sharp tiny blades quickly grate cheese, lemons and ginger into perfect shreds. You will never go back to that green can of Parmesan cheese again! My grater: Microplane Rasp Grater
Recipe Rock: This nifty little recipe holder works like magic for keeping one page recipes conveniently propped up right on your kitchen counter where you need them. The recipe is secured against the back of the rock with a magnet. I have three of them, and on those busy cooking days (hello, Christmas Eve!) they keep my recipes organized and handy as I run around the kitchen. My Recipe Rock: Architec Recipe Rock
Food thermometer: A good food thermometer can make all the difference when it comes to cooking meats to the perfect degree of doneness, checking to see if bread is fully baked, and testing to see if the cooking oil is hot enough to cook your favorite fried chicken. Good instant read thermometers are pretty inexpensive these days, so I always have a couple on hand in my gadgets drawer. Perfect medium rare steak is 125 degrees – no more guesswork needed. My thermometer: Taylor Digital Instant Read Thermometer
Immersion blender: Much as I love my Vitamix, there are lots of times when an immersion blender is a simpler and easier way to blend. Hot soups can be blended to creaminess right in the pot, lumpy gravy can be smoothed out, and you can whip up amazing homemade mayo right in the bowl. The blade end of this stick blender also goes right in the dishwasher for easy clean-up. My blender: Cuisinart Smart Stick Immersion Blender
Tongs: Cooking tongs of all sizes are tools that I use every single day. From turning steaks on the grill to tossing salad to easily flipping over sauteed chicken in a frying pan, I reach for tongs even more than wooden spoons or kitchen forks. They come in all shapes and sizes and I have everything from the super long ones for the grill to the little ones for tossing pasta and salads. My tongs: Oxo Good Grips Locking Tongs
Pyrex bowls: My collection of Pyrex bowls ranges from the super large bowl for mixing big salads to the teeny ones that hold just the right amount of spices for whatever recipe I am making at the moment. They are perfect as mixing bowls, bowls to hold all the separate ingredients you are lining up for a recipe, and in a pinch they are nice enough to use as serving bowls. My bowls: Pyrex mixing and prep bowls
Rimmed baking pans: These cookie sheet-sized pans have a little rim all around the edge so that anything that might possibly drip while you are baking it doesn’t spill over onto the bottom of your oven. I line mine with either a Silpat or non-stick foil which makes for easy clean-up. From cookies to roasted chicken, the rimmed baking pan is the item most frequently in my oven. My pans: Chicago Metallic Jelly Roll Pan
Kitchen shears: From cutting through boned chicken to snipping herbs, a heavy duty pair of kitchen shears works so much more efficiently and safely than a knife for many kitchen tasks. I have a bright red pair so that nobody confuses it with regular scissors. Many knife block sets come with kitchen shears these days, but you can also buy them separately. My shears: Wusthof Come-Apart Kitchen Shears
Bar mops: I discovered these small handy kitchen towels years ago, and ever since then I always have at least six of them in my kitchen at all times. They are small terrycloth squares that are just the right size for mopping up spills, drying your hands, and even serving as a mat for a hot pan when you can’t find the regular hot mats anywhere. Use them until they are worn out, and then they make great dusters! My bar mops: Williams Sonoma bar mops
Mason jars: These simple, homey jars are the most used item in my kitchen – that’s a picture of them above, all lined up on my kitchen hutch. The largest size jars make perfect containers for crackers and cookies, keeping them fresh with their air-tight lids, and they look so much prettier than the cardboard boxes. I use the medium size jars for everything from storing ingredients like nuts, baking powder and chocolate chips to using as a “vase” for fresh herbs. The smallest ones are perfect for mixing just the right amount of homemade salad dressing, storing spices and other small items. My jars: Ball pint size jars
Food storage containers: I have a generous supply of Snapware containers that I use for leftovers, lunch containers and prepped ingredients. They are sturdy enough to hold up through many repeated uses and runs through the dishwasher, and come in various sizes with mix and match tops. My containers: Snapware!
Ingredient storage containers: After spilling one too many of paper container of flour inside my pantry, I finally switched to permanent containers for sugar, flour, brown sugar and a few other items that I always have on hand for baking. I like the Progressive brand with their attached lids and nice wide openings that make it easy to scoop the ingredients out – I keep a separate scoop in each container. My containers: Progressive containers
Fish Spatula: You didn’t think I was actually going to be able to stop at 15 items, did you?? Here’s one for good measure: the fish spatula. Which is for SO much more than fish – don’t let the name fool you. Eggs, cookies, pancakes – anything that is even the slightest bit tricky to get a spatula under can be gotten under with this sturdy, thin, long, fabulous spatula. Even fish. My spatula: Oxo Fish Turner
So that’s my list! Did I leave out your favorite? Do you have a favorite kitchen item that I need to know about? Tell me in the comments!