While I may not be as influential as Oprah, I too have favorite things, especially when it comes to the tools and equipment I rely on in the kitchen! Despite the amount of time I spend cooking, however, I’m admittedly a little stingy when it comes to buying gadgets and gizmos. In other words, it takes a lot of certainty for me to spend money on extra stuff. Which is why the items I’ve shared here are useful tools I really love and consider worth the investment.
Disclaimer: Please note that many of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and recommend them because I believe they are good at what they do, make kitchen work more efficient and enjoyable, and are a worthwhile investment. Please let me know if you have any questions before you decide to buy!
People often ask me what kind of knives I recommend. Start with at least a chef’s knife to handle most kitchen jobs. Then, add job-specific knives as you go. Beyond that starter tip, however, knives are very personal. A lot of good quality brands offer well crafted, long-lasting knives. The question is more about which details suit you. For example, I prefer a thinner handle, light-weight knife with a 7″ or 8″ blade. Comfort is a huge factor when choosing a knife. Holding some in your hand is a great way to determine the shape of the handle you prefer, the weight of the knife overall, and most importantly, the size of the blade you feel most comfortable with. Of course, budget is also important to a lot of people. I have four chef’s knives and the Zwilling shown below is my favorite, although mine does not have the hollow-edge blade. Mine was a gift more than ten years ago, so the newest 7″ version has the hollow-edge.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels Professional “S” 7″ Knife
Speaking of hollow-edges, my second favorite knife was also a gift and it does have the air pockets. This knife is much more budget-friendly, but what I like most is how easy it is for me to sharpen myself, which means I can often and easily maintain a sharp edge, which in turn means this knife functions very well. Sharp blades make the best knives! The Zwilling knife I mentioned above is also easy to sharpen, and it is lighter, which is why it’s my favorite, but I appreciate the economies of this knife. And, I’ve had it for nearly ten years now, which means it too is standing the test of time.
Calphalon 7″ Santoku Knife
FAVORITE SMALL APPLIANCES
I absolutely love my Vitamix Blender, and believe it or not, it has nothing to do with smoothies. I am not a smoothie person. Not even once have I used my Vitamix to make one. There are so many other things you can do, but it wasn’t until I went back to work in a professional kitchen that I truly began to appreciate the value of this high-powered blender. In the restaurant, we use the “crap” out of our Vitamixes (pardon my French!). From salad dressings to velvety smooth purees to soups and sauces, the Vitamix does the job better than any other blender I’ve experienced. I finally bought one for my personal chef and catering business, but also use it for my own cooking purposes, and I’m downright giddy every time I have reason to use it. You don’t need the fanciest one on the market either. I bought the almost most-basic, but I find the adjustable speed feature extremely valuable.
If you are interested in saving a few dollars, consider buying a Refurbished Vitamix. I did and I haven’t had any issues.
So, apparently my version of the Braun Handheld Blender is no longer being made. That’s how long I have had it. The product I’m linking to is basically the current model of the immersion blender I got years ago. I really only use this tool for soups since it’s far easier to blend soups right in the pot. Not sure how much soup you will actually make? Well, that’s the catch. Once you have an immersion blender, making soups becomes so easy you’ll do it more often.
I originally invested in my food processor about ten years ago after using it at a client’s house to grate blocks of Gruyere cheese for quiche, and pounds of carrots for carrot cake. It worked so instantaneously! I knew I had to have one, so I went out with my earnings and bought one immediately. I’ve had it ever since. Yes, my model only has two buttons, but that is all you need. Mine is an 11-cup, but if I were buying one new I might opt for a 14-cup. Links to both are included below for you to decide which you prefer.
Cuisinart Pro-Custom 11-Cup Food Processor
Cuisinart Stainless Steel 14-Cup Food Processor
Never in a million years would I have expected to own a waffle maker. I love breakfast, but I’m more of a savory-egg-dish kind of morning person. Two years ago I invested in a waffle maker because I was catering a brunch buffet and you can’t make waffles without one. Ever since, I’ve had lots of opportunities to use my Breville Waffle Maker and it turns out deliciously golden waffles every time. It’s also very easy to clean and the handle and locking feature make it easy to transport. Even if you aren’t catering parties, why not take it to the lake house or Grandma’s? Added bonus, the recipe provided in the instruction manual is easy and a real crowd pleaser. I use it every time!
Breville “the Smart Waffle” Waffle Maker
FAVORITE POTS AND PANS
LE CREUSET DUTCH OVEN:
It’s silly to love a pot, I realize, but I really do love using my Le Creuset enameled cast-iron French (Dutch) oven. Why is it so much more lovable than my other pots? Well, I know this pot will get very hot and cook evenly, and that is important in good cookery. Also, on those occasions when I have to go from stove to oven, it’s invaluable. My pot is a 5-quart oval. While it’s been a great size for me to make soups and sear smaller meats, it has felt on the small side at times. I am also not a fan of the oval shape, it just seems like the ends/corners become wasted space. Which is why I’ve included a link for a round 7 1/4-quart option instead. Admittedly, it can be frustrating to invest in one of these high-end pots to find that it’s too small to do the job. If you do a lot of really large batch cooking, or braising bigger cuts of meat with the bone in it, go for a 9 or 10-quart size instead.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron French (Dutch) Oven 7.25 Quart Round
LODGE CAST-IRON SKILLET:
I’m a big fan of cooking in cast iron. While I love it for serious searing, it’s much more versatile than you might expect. I even baked pull-apart bread rolls in it the other day. Lodge brand is quite popular. My skillet is a 12-inch, which has proven to be the perfect size. I can sear whole steaks or sautée vegetables, without feeling cramped, or wondering why I bought such a big skillet.