Long before Kon Mari became a household word, I practiced the art of building a kitchen that sparked joy. Major (and minor) purchases of kitchen equipment are carefully researched to make sure that each item will be of maximum fit for purpose, is of the right quality to achieve the intended life span, and will be a pleasure to both look at and use. Though I now have the luxury of excess storage and counter space, my aversion to clutter means any new item needs to earn its space in my heart and cabinets.
Mistakes have certainly been made. In general, those happened when I put form over function, or price over quality. They also happened when I listened too quickly to someone else’s advice, forgetting that my use of first importance — it had to feel good in my hands and work in my kitchen. While I have now narrowed down my sources to those that tend to work — my most trusted source is my subscription to Cook’s Illustrated equipment reviews — I now aim to try before I buy when possible, or at least hold the item in my hands in an actual store. Amazon is a siren, but thankfully I love visiting kitchen stores more than shoe shopping (albeit a close call).
Most of the time, I get it right. And while I’m generally happy with my kitchen equipment arsenal, some items really stand out as the stars — the appliances, gadgets, and tools I call on over and over and wonder how I ever lived without. Of course, aim to try them out before you buy, or confirm my recommendation with your own trusted source. In the meantime, enjoy reading about a few of my favorite [kitchen] things.
This is definitely the winner of the “how did I ever live without this” category. I’ve been an espresso-based drink girl for a long time, and yet it took me until 2013 to acquire one of these to grace my new partner office. I now own two Nespresso machines – the citi model at work has gorgeous retro styling and extra features that allow me to create the perfect cup of coffee each time, but it is a little pricier than my home model, the pixie. The latter serves up perfect shots of espresso for use in cooking or Sunday morning cappuccino.
“iceland adventure” by jakub at foodiesfeed
Jelly roll pans and cooling racks
These pans have been in my kitchen for nearly 20 years thanks to Cook’s Illustrated. After a few months attempting to use hand-me-down or bargain cookie sheets that didn’t lie flat and cooked unevenly, I seemed destined for a life of throw-aways used a few times and then replaced. Or worse, I would have to start stockpiling sheets to have extras on hand to “double” them, like my mother did, to prevent burning on the bottom. A quick read of the Cook’s Illustrated equipment reviews showed me the light. I could buy restaurant-grade equipment for home use! Enter the Wear Ever sheet pans by Vollrath, with the recommended cooling inserts which, thanks to their perfect fit in the pans, do double duty as built-in drip pans or traditional cooling racks. My mom now has a set of her own.
These are probably the most-used “gadget” in my house and spark joy every time. They mix salad dressing perfectly with a shake, seal tightly and pop in the fridge for easy storage and “fresh-made” dressing for days, and look beautiful doing it. My friend Matt taught me this, and I can’t even remember how I made salad dressing before.
photo by jillien minera via unsplash
We’re not smoothie people, and while I love a good frozen margarita, I’m pretty happy limiting my enjoyment of them to when someone else can make it for me. So the blender doesn’t get used every day, but when it does, mostly for blender muffins and soups, I’m glad I splurged for the Breville. This baby pulverizes in seconds, and manages to get every bit of whatever you are mixing smooth every time. After multiple “value” models broke within a year, this one became a lifetime keeper.
Mini prep food processor
In contrast to the blender, I haven’t yet splurged on a high-end food processor. The 6-cup standard model Cuisinart acquired as a wedding gift makes a holiday appearances only; , I’ve never felt it was worth the bother when I could quickly chop anything with my favorite knives. The little sister, the mini-prep processor, is a recent addition to the arsenal and is becoming a fast favorite. Small and easily accessed plus super easy to clean equals multiple repeat appearances. It’s perfect for quick batches of homemade hummus and pesto, and makes quick work of creating finely diced shallots for all those dressings in the Mason jars.
I’ll admit, I thought these were marketing b$%&!t. But one day, I was complaining to my friend Amy about the rapidly declining life span of produce, and she recommended the PrepWorks Progressive collapsible lettuce keeper. I’ve been paying it forward ever since, telling everyone who cares to listen this gimmicky plastic storage container really does double the life of your lettuce. I went on to buy some of its cousins, the OXO GreenSaver produce keepers, that leverage charcoal technology to combat the natural gasses that accelerate decay. They really work. And since they’re almost always fully stocked in the fridge, I don’t mind that they are a little bulky.
photo by jakub at foodiesfeed
Looking for more? Check out my complete kitchen inventory for advice on what you need to be ready for anything in the kitchen. And of course, all the lessons I learned along the way. Need some kitchen inspiration? Follow my Kitchens board on Pinterest.
What’s your go-to favorite in your kitchen? I’d love to hear about it!