10 Favorite Kitchen Tools Over $15
Last week I listed my favorite, inexpensive cooking tools that would make perfect stocking stuffers. However, if you're looking for something more substantial for the cook in your life, I decided to put together my favorite bigger ticket items. None of these gadgets are particularly innovative, but they all do the heavy lifting in the kitchen. If they're missing from your favorite cook's life, consider springing for any one of these tools. (btw - I don't get any compensation for these recommendations.)
Any cook has cookie sheets. They are workhorses, but I always battled with warping during high-temperature roasting (especially with Brussels Sprouts!). No longer! The commercial grade sheets from Lincoln Bakeware hold up beautifully even after enduring many rounds of 500 degrees. At $17.95, they are a bargain too! Find them here.
I know I’m a food geek (this is my choice of poolside reading), but I promise you this magazine is fascinating in ways I can’t describe. This is where I learned to add a dash of sugar when roasting vegetables to keep them from turning bitter. Here I learned that a bit of vodka in pie dough yields flakier crust. I could go on and on. Billy tells me I audibly say, “Huh!” every couple of minutes when I get the new issue. Annual subscriptions start at $25.00 (link here!).
In order to maintain California citizenship while living in Georgia, I must maintain fervent support of the California wine industry. However, I can't handle much more than an occasional glass at dinner (Billy doesn't dig the grape!). As a result, I need an easy, fool-proof way of preserving a bottle. This little vacuum sealer does the trick. My set is pretty old, but there are nice options available here. (And in case you're wondering, having decent wine IS an important kitchen tool!)
Cast Iron Griddle/Grill
If you ever find yourself making pancakes for a crowd, you will thank your lucky stars if you own a griddle. If you're ever grilling outside and the weather turns nasty, you'll be thrilled you own a grill pan. Someone gave us this double-burner reversible griddle/grill pan for our wedding and it comes in handy all of the time. Plus, at $36 it's a steal. Find one here or at many cook stores.
I thought a garlic press was, by definition, a frustrating tool. I always felt as though I spent as much time cleaning as using it. Then I read a review in Cook’s Illustrated for the Kuhn Rikon and how all of the pieces separate for cleaning. My sister-in-law picked this up for me one Christmas, and it made all of the difference in the world! (I should have had more faith in engineers.) Also, since the price point on this guy is steep, probably the only way I would have added this to my kitchen was through gifting! Available all over the place at pretty much the same $40 price point.
Instant-Read Meat Thermometer
When you cook meat you shouldn’t rely on a timer, but on temperature. You can pick up assorted varieties at any number of stores, but when my mother-in-law gave me this version a couple of Christmases ago, I fell in love. The long handle keeps me from burning my arm off at the grill or in the oven PLUS, there’s an LED readout on the top that shows numbers big enough for me to read without glasses!! (fancy…) A more current, but similar model is here for $40.
Cast Iron Dutch Oven
I own lots of pans, but I had no idea how much I would use and enjoy a cast iron Dutch Oven until I owned one. Although this pan weighs a ton, it's fantastic because of how well it conducts heat. I use it on the stovetop and then transfer it to the oven. The brand name versions of this pan can set you back $300, but I read a product review in Cooks Illustrated (there's that magazine again!!) that gave high marks to Tramontina at WalMart ($59.97!!) and was sold. I've had this pan for 5 years now and love it more every year. The only problem is they aren't always in stock, so when you see one, snag it!
There is simply no substitute for a great cutting knife. My personal favorite are Wusthof because of how the handle feels in my hand. However, any of the solid steel blades will do the trick. You can pick up knives at any cooking shop or Bed, Bath, & Beyond. However, my favorite knives came from my Uncle Jim who would pick them up at swap meets for $5-10.00 and then have them professionally sharpened for me. Best. Deal. Ever. If you're just starting out, I'd begin with the Santoku knife.
My friend Patty introduced me to the convenient, eco-friendly world of a home carbonation system. I don't like drinking water (don't judge me!), but if I've got sparkling stuff around, I'm 100% more likely to drink it. I used a gift card from my in-laws for my Sodapenguin version, but there are lots of less expensive options.
If you're a serious baker and you value efficiency (at all), you should have a stand mixer. The freedom NOT to have to stand over a bowl and whip up egg whites is amazing. The Kitchen Aide mixer is an investment in your kitchen, so make sure you'll really use it. I've had mine almost 15 years and it's still one of my favorite tools. These are easy to find at most electronic stores. I've also seen them at Costco and it's worth looking for sale prices!
I hope some of these items make their way into your home and serve you as well as they've served me.