These are a Few
of My Favorite Things*
I am frequently asked about equipment/ingredient preferences in the kitchen. Not necessarily because I own all the greatest kitchen wares, but because my friends know that I’m obsessive enough to have researched the options until my eyes crossed; they are just trying to save their eyesight, and I’m always happy to discuss gadgets and things. It’s a win-win.
But wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to be able to send them a link instead?
So here are my preferences. My disclaimer is that you don’t have to like them too, and you can’t come harass me if you purchase something and don’t like it; it’s ok for you to be wrong. Also, I’ll be adding items to the list as time and preference see fit. Be sure to email me if you have specific questions.
* This page has been sorely neglected. Hoping for a more comprehensive list in coming weeks. It will realistically remain that way, because I’m just not very organized.
I have a KitchenAid Classic 4 1/2 Quart. It works for me now, but I don’t really recommend it (mine currently has packing tape keeping the joint pin from slipping out). It’s a good starter, though, if you’re looking for a mixer to use for basic bread-making, mixing, whipping, etc. In my dream kitchen, I have something more heavy-duty and un-bandaged, like the most recent winner in Cook’s Illustrated tests.
I did lots of research for this one (Cook’s Illustrated is worth its online subscription price for the equipment reviews alone) and landed on the Cuisinart 14-Cup model. I truly don’t know what I did before I had this (for a few years before, I was using my grandmother’s circa-1977 Cuisinart, which worked ok, only it sounded like our house was about to launch into orbit). Once you get one, you might feel the same way.
Ice Cream Maker
I love my tabletop Cuisinart — worth every penny of the $50 it costs (even less on sale). The only drawback is that the canister really does need 24 hours in the freezer before use to work properly. But it’s super-easy to use, and makes the perfect amount (about a liter, which is just enough to be able to finish before it gets icy). We haven’t bought ice cream in over a year.
While not a must-have, we have loved our convection toaster oven. We got one similar to this Cuisinart model for fairly cheap, but it has already stopped working on some level; you could probably spend a little more and get something that will last longer. The reason to spend the extra cash to get a convection model is that it serves a purpose as a second small oven, for those times when you have a 9×9″ dish to roast and don’t want to use your big oven. As an added bonus, it reheats pizza and makes toast.
This is one of my splurge items, which my husband worked hard with team of people to get for me as a gift. I love mine. But I also make lots and lots of bread. As in, all of our daily slicing bread. I’m also a firm believer that the freshest-milled flour makes the best bread, and this mill should provide that for my lifetime. It is big, though, so keep that in mind when considering (mine stays in a cabinet when not in use).
Energy-efficient, but a bit unpredictable (a two-hour window for when it’s done? that can be tricky). Great for stews, soups, and pot roasts, not to mention a slow-cooked stock. Mine first one was decidedly uncool, but I recently acquired a touch-screen stainless model, cooler than cool, specifically for stock-making.
I cannot sing praises enough for my Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart round dutch oven. Yes, it’s heavy, and yes, it’s pricey (I got mine at an outlet at a significant discount — but it still came with a lifetime warranty). I use it almost daily — for everything from sterilizing jars for yogurt to soups to roasted meats. The inside gets browned with age, but that doesn’t effect its performance. If you can’t go for the price, a good option is the Tramontina dutch oven — which received high ratings from a Cook’s Illustrated test and costs about 75% less (though it’s made in China, and lots of folks are understandably wary of that).
Cast Iron Skillets
I have two cast-iron skillets: a Lodge pre-seasoned 12″, and an 8″ that was handed down from my grandmother. I purchased the Lodge a couple years ago, in hopes of completely phasing out our one nonstick skillet (Teflon creeps me out, especially since we had to send TWO Calphalon nonstick skillets back to the manufacturer after the nonstick coating flaked off to the point it was unusable). And the great thing is, once your cast iron skillet is well-seasoned, it functions just as well as a nonstick, minus the toxins. I highly recommend the pre-seasoned; it’s a steal at $20; the only drawback is its weight, which is quite cumbersome when trying to lift and/or tilt. If you find a great old cast-iron pan at a yard sale or in your grandmother’s attic, there is a great article here about how to strip it of its gunk, and another one here for how to season any cast-iron.
I bought one of these at Walmart a few years ago, for $7 (though it’s twice that price at Amazon). It’s great for roasting chickens — the perfect size, and not too heavy. This was yet another purchase made on the recommendation of Cook’s Illustrated.
Handheld (stick) Blender
Can’t go on enough about this. Mine first was a pretty low-end one, and it served its purpose for six years before I found one of these beauties at a yard sale (I won’t tell you how much I paid, lest you start to hate). I use it to purée soups in-the-pot, to make quick milkshakes, to quickly purée cooked food for the 9-month old. It chops nuts, does mini-prep work, and whisks (though I never use this option for some reason). It will change your life. Sort of.
You can get something like this at TJMaxx or Marshall’s for about $7, and they are great to have in your utensil drawer. Quickly juices lemons and limes while keeping hold of seeds (I have one for lemons — it’s yellow — and it fits limes, as well as cut-up oranges).