In any craft, having good-quality tools can make the job more efficient, more convenient, and simply more enjoyable. This article is a discussion of the tools and items that I’ve chosen for my kitchen that have stood the test of time over years of use and incremental refinement. I want to share what I’ve learned over time about the tools that help me do my best work, and my hope is that others may benefit when outfitting their own kitchens.
Evolution is lifelong and such a list is never really truly finished, but unless otherwise mentioned every item on this list has lasted and proved itself over multiple years of use. I’ve included notes about what items didn’t make the cut or got replaced by a better version inline where relevant and in a short section at the bottom, which is valuable information in addition to the things that have stuck around. This list doesn’t cover literally 100% of the tools and equipment I have, but the large subset that’s worth talking about.
The tools and equipment on this list are generally quite versatile. While you obviously might want more specific tools for a very specific cuisine, cooking style, or dish that won’t be listed here, I used this gear to cook the fine-dining recipes on this site and cook a wide variety of cuisines in home cooking on a daily basis with it, and have found that it’s provided a very strong foundation.
Most of the time I cook meals for just my wife and I, although I’ve also used this equipment for meals for groups ranging from 4 to 12+ people. This list should reasonably cover a families’ cooking needs, but if you’re routinely cooking for very large groups you obviously might find yourself wanting to scale things up a bit.
These are the attributes that I value most when evaluating items.
Ease of cleaning is by far the single most important criteria for any tool in my kitchen, bar none. A wise person once said that “cooking is a job of cleaning occasionally interrupted by food preparation”. I am near-obsessed with cleanliness, in keeping my workspace and tools very clean and in good working condition. This is one way that I express pride in my craft, and I find that having a clean and uncluttered environment allows me to have a calm and uncluttered mental state, even while knee-deep in cooking. This doesn’t mean I never spill a drop or make a mess while cooking - not at all - but that I place a lot of value in how effectively and efficiently I can clean things up afterwards.
Cooking generates a lot of dishes. Many of these items get used every single day in my kitchen, and so whether or not something is dishwasher-safe is probably the single most important attribute for me. The dishwasher transforms the drudgery of washing up into a few minutes of loading and a button press, yields exceptional results every time, and saves water while at it. I have a section for some of my most valued cleaning tools towards the bottom of this article, which should be helpful whether or not you have a dishwasher, and the attributes that make something dishwasher-safe make it easier to hand-wash as well.
Other attributes I value are durability - I want to invest in high-quality items that will last for years and not have to constantly replace or repair broken/damaged tools - and standardization; I want stackable containers with interchangeable lids, a huge pile of identical towels, and so on. This makes organizing and storage a breeze.
Articles in this space commonly espouse versatility, that is avoiding tools that only serve a single purpose (“unitaskers” as Alton Brown calls them). This is good advice, and I don’t own anything silly like an egg slicer, but it’s not something I obsess over. My rice cooker is only used for cooking rice, but it does it so well and saves so much time and effort for something we eat commonly that it’s a no-brainer for me. So don’t obsess over this, just reflect honestly on your cooking habits and needs when evaluating potential unitaskers.
Taken together these criteria result in taking heavy inspiration from restaurant kitchens, and a whole lot of stainless steel. Something that is explicitly not on my list of values is aesthetics. I don’t care what my tools look like; instead I believe that artistry and beauty should be expressed through the food and the dishes and tableware that it’s served on. I actually quite like the professional look of much of this equipment; it feels very “cheffy”, but there’s no accounting for taste.
I’m proud to present unbiased recommendations. I bought every item here with my own money; I don’t have any sponsorships and the product links on this page are NOT affiliate links - they’re provided for your convenience and I don’t earn any kickbacks if you use them.
The truth is if you bought every single item on this page all at once, it would add up to quite a hefty sum. I acquired these items piece by piece over the course of many years, and cooking is a very important part of my life that I believe is worth the investment. This page is just intended to share information about what’s worked for me - you can absolutely do high-quality cooking without these items, and hopefully this gives you some inspiration and things to consider for the future.
Without further ado, the gear! I am more of a cook and a writer than a photographer, but all of these photos are the items as they actually exist in my kitchen so you can see their condition after years of use.
Surprisingly, I don’t want to say much about knives here. A knife is one of the most personal and subjective items there is. The common advice to avoid knife sets and instead invest in one or two high-quality knives is true, but beyond that, knives come in a wide variety of styles that suit different preferences and use cases. I use many styles of knives in my cooking, from Japanese gyutos to western-style chef knives to a Chinese cleaver (my most-used knife), and no single style is perfect for everyone. Just for completeness’ sake, I put some discussion about my knives at the bottom.
I store my knives in a protective drawer insert with cork dividers, although if I had the space for it I would love a magnetic knife strip mounted to the wall. Knife blocks run the risk of dulling knives over time and harboring bacteria (in addition to usually being full of more mid-quality knives than you need!).
Starting with maybe the most controversial item on this list - my primary cutting board is a 12” x 18” plastic (polyethylene) cutting board. Most cooking sites recommend wooden cutting boards, usually end-grain. These are big and beautiful (and expensive!), but I find them heavy and clunky and a big pain to clean. I use a good-quality plastic board, the type found in restaurant kitchens - it’s inexpensive, light and maneuverable, and most importantly it can be tossed in the dishwasher at the end of the night which is a near-unbeatable convenience. Make no mistake, these boards feel quite nice and have nothing in common with those terrible thin flexible plastic boards. I specifically chose a board without any handles, holes, or juice grooves - for my use these aren’t necessary and take up otherwise valuable real estate.
Overall I think the mistake I see most often is people with cutting boards that are far too small. It’s important to have a board that gives you space to work and move things around, and it’s very convenient when you have the room to hold a couple things on the board while cutting something else. I find the 12” x 18” size to be a perfect middle ground for everyday use in terms of having enough room to work but also fitting in the dishwasher and not being unwieldy. The boards come in a variety of colors; in a restaurant kitchen these might have meaning (red = raw meat, and so on), but at home just choose a color that suits your fancy.
Plastic is slightly harder on knives than wood - they’ll dull slightly faster, but it’s nowhere near as bad as harder materials like bamboo (or marble/glass, god forbid) and I don’t feel the need to sharpen my knives more than every month or two. It works extremely well for me, but might not be for everyone. I bought my cutting board from a restaurant supply store and can’t link it easily, but I also own a comparable model from Amazon.
I keep a piece of this cabinet liner underneath the board cut about 1/4” smaller than each edge for stability - it entirely prevents the board from moving around the counter during use. It’s commonly recommended to use a towel or a damp paper towel under the board for this purpose, but I find the liner has a smaller profile than a towel, is less wasteful than paper towels, and cutting it smaller than the board means it doesn’t get dirty even if things fall off the board. I also use it for its stated purpose as a shelf and cabinet liner to keep things in place around the kitchen.
I use these glass oil dispensers from OXO as my primary oil bottle by the stove (filled with neutral grapeseed oil, good for high-temp cooking). I used to use plastic squeeze bottles for this, but found they dripped and became sticky and hard to clean over time, even in the dishwasher. I replaced the squeeze bottles with the OXO dispensers (I still use squeeze bottles, just not for oils, see below). They pour at two speeds, either a thin drizzle or a steady pour depending on how much you tilt it, they don’t drip, and all parts can be cleaned effectively in the dishwasher. I have three: the grapeseed oil for cooking, finishing olive oil, and finishing sesame oil.
A salt cellar with Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt that you dispense by hand is my favorite way to season food, period. The larger grain size of kosher salt makes it ideal for picking up with your fingers and makes it “less salty” than an equivalent volume of table salt. Dispensing by hand is the most convenient way to add the precise amount of salt you want in the way that you want - from seasoning a soup to coating a steak - and it doesn’t take long at all to get a feel for how much salt different pinch sizes are adding. I use this acacia wood cellar from Crate & Barrel; I like that it has a lid for preventing grease and dust compared to an open salt pig, and I like that the magnetic lid can be operated with one hand in case you’re holding meat or something. And unlike most things on this list, it’s quite attractive!
Black pepper should always be freshly ground for maximal flavor and aroma. Toss out any pre-ground cardboard dust! I like this grinder from OXO, which lets you easily configure the grind size. I use a finer grind size for cooking and the coarsest grind size as a finishing garnish for things like pasta.
These aren’t the best-kept secret of restaurant kitchens they once were, but these are one of the best and most versatile workhorses of a kitchen. I bought several dozen each in 8, 16, and 32 oz sizes many years ago and use them for a huge array of tasks, from holding mise en place to storing produce and leftovers in the fridge, stock and sauces in the freezer, and dry good storage in the pantry. The lids are standardized and interchangeable between all of the sizes, and both the containers and lids are dishwasher / microwave / freezer safe. The same set has lasted me all these years; I lose probably one or two a year to cracking.
These can stain if you store things like tomato sauce in them. For that reason, I’ve switched to storing leftovers and other stain-prone items in the glass containers farther down.
These pair very well with the tape and sharpie from the next section for labeling. One tip is to put the tape on the side of the container, vs the top of the lid, since I found peeling tape off the top could cause damage to the thin plastic on the top of the lids.
Another classic straight out of restaurant kitchens is labeling containers with a piece of painter’s tape and a fine-point sharpie. Labeling is a great idea if you’re prone to forgetting what’s in that container that’s been left at the back of the fridge, and in particular writing down the date is incredibly helpful. Unlike ultra-high-end restaurants, I don’t cut my tape with a knife to have perfect edges, and instead just use a tape dispenser. I like green tape since the sharpie stands out against the lighter background (compared to the common blue tape), and I’ll freely admit I bought green tape because the French Laundry uses green tape.
I use squeeze bottles in 12oz and 4oz sizes for storing vinegars, dressings, and seasonings like soy sauce. They’re perfect for controlling the exact amount you want to dispense, and can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
I use 12oz squeeze bottles from a restaurant supply store for storing larger quantities and can’t easily link them, but they can be easily found on Amazon or kitchen stores. Make sure to read reviews and watch out for leaky tops!
I use 4oz squeeze bottles for storing smaller quantities of various vinegars. I haven’t had any issues with leaking, and having a selection of good vinegars on hand is really excellent for quickly finishing a dish or dressing a vegetable and leveling things up. The vinegars are worth a post of their own one day; I primarily use premium vinegars from The Japanese Pantry and Mala Market for finishing dishes.
My one irk with the squeeze bottles is that they can be prone to staining or retaining odors, even after the dishwasher, in case you store strongly-scented things like hot sauce in them. I haven’t yet found a way to perfectly clean and deodorize stained bottles, so I tend to be consistent in the things I store in them - “once a hot sauce bottle, always a hot sauce bottle”. They’re also inexpensive to replace if brought past the point of no return.
Years ago I fully standardized on wide-mouth for all my mason jar sizes: half-pint, pint, quart, and half-gallon. This allows me to use a single set of interchangeable lids across all of them, and I find it easier to get things in and out of the wider jars (I do have a number of 4oz / quarter pint jars, which unfortunately are only available in a smaller lid size). Most importantly, I bought a set of plastic lids which are dishwasher-safe and save me from having to scrub lids and rings (which can’t be dishwashed) by hand, which is a chore that I detest. I mainly use mason jars for storing various pickles and condiments in the fridge - things that will be stored longer than I’d use a deli container for, and/or things that might stain plastic. The plastic lids are obviously unsuitable for canning and long-term preservation, which I don’t do. Some reviewers have complained of leaks; I’ve had no issue after several years of use but would still use the conventional lid+ring if you need to e.g. transport a jar with liquid and don’t want to risk it.
Although billed as toaster oven trays, I rarely use these in the oven (see hotel pans, below) and instead mainly use them as sort of a “surgeon’s tray” for holding utensils while cooking. The singular spoon rest found next to many stoves isn’t enough space; these have enough room to comfortably hold all the utensils that might get used throughout prep and cooking. They have many other uses; I keep one in my fridge as a drip tray for holding packaged meat, dry-brining meat with a small wire rack, blotting things on paper towels, and other various prep tasks. It’s one of those items where once you have it, you just find different uses for it and can’t imagine not having it.
Every kitchen should have mixing bowls in a few different sizes. Stainless steel is the ideal material for bowls as it’s light, easy to clean / dishwasher-safe, and doesn’t stain. I use all of these bowls, from prepping salads in the large one to small batches of condiments/sauces in the small ones. The truth is that my bowls have come from a mishmash of sources over the years, and I don’t have a specific recommendation, although they’re widely available at kitchen stores, restaurant supply stores, and online, so it’d be hard to go wrong.
Hotel pans are staples of restaurant kitchens and buffet lines that can also be of use in the home kitchen. They are most commonly made of stainless steel and have standardized dimensions across manufacturers - the largest is called a “full pan” and measures about 12” x 20”. A 1/2 size pan is about 12” x 10”, and is so named because you can fit two of them side-by-side in a full pan. Similarly, there are 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, and 1/9 pans that all nest accordingly. Each variety typically comes in three depths: 2 1/2”, 4”, and 6”. They’re commonly referred to by their size as in “half pan”, “sixth pan”, “ninth pan”, and so on. They also come in perforated varieties; you can see the different varieties and how they all nest together here. I use hotel pans from Winco in a number of different sizes and depths for various purposes. Lids are sold separately; I own a few but very rarely use them.
I use these as my primary roasting pans. This is also the largest size I own; a full hotel pan is much larger than the average home kitchen needs. Since they’re stainless steel, I love that they can be scrubbed clean after a tough roasting job and are dishwasher-safe, unlike aluminum baking trays. It’s also quite inexpensive, compared to a big fancy traditional roasting pan. It’s also a perfect fit in the countertop oven, discussed further down. Aluminum baking trays with stains that are near-impossible to clean are permanently a thing of my past.
My most common use for these is as a countertop compost bin during prep. I also use them for marinating chopped meat (such as chicken or pork, commonly in Chinese recipes) or occasionally for storing larger quantities of prepped ingredients that won’t easily fit in a deli container.
I don’t use these for cooking, rather I use it to hold soap and cleaning supplies by the sink. I have two so I can swap them out frequently and toss the other one in the dishwasher. You can see it photographed in the Cleaning section, below.
I use this size less commonly, but it’s a good size for braising meats with the corresponding lid. I’ve also used it to store ice in the freezer as our ice maker is non-functional.
Hotel pans are very versatile; like the trays above, you end up finding uses for them if you have them. Note though that they’re not really ideal for food storage / leftovers. You can’t see their contents, they are not microwave-safe, and the lids are loose-fitting and not watertight. Instead, I use the glass containers below for leftovers. Finally, the edges can be sharp and there’s usually a few drips left in them after a trip through the dishwasher. This isn’t a big deal, you just shake it out and air-dry it for a few minutes, but it’s a minor irk.
I use the IKEA 365+ glass food storage containers for storing leftovers. They’re microwave/oven-safe glass containers with plastic lids that have a silicone gasket to prevent leaks, and they don’t stain. I have them in 3 sizes: 20oz, 34oz, and 61oz (the 20oz and 34oz are the daily drivers; the 61oz is for less common storage needs). They’re quite reasonably priced and one of the main things I like about them is that they’re sold individually, meaning you can mix and match sizes and quantities, instead of having to commit to a set which is how such containers are commonly sold. All parts are dishwasher-safe; I recommend separating the silicone gasket from the lid when washing in the dishwasher and reassembling after drying, so that water doesn’t get trapped underneath the gasket.
These replaced plastic tupperware (Rubbermaid Flex & Seal) I had previously, which were fine but prone to staining and discoloration over time.
I have a whole article on this site on how and why to measure ingredients by weight. For my day-to-day home cooking, I don’t measure anything at all and just cook by feel, but I still use scales when precision measuring is required, like when making bread, fermented sauces, pickle brine, etc. This scale from OXO has a resolution of 1 gram with a max capacity of 11 lbs (4990 grams), has a display with large numbers that optionally pulls out if you are weighing a large bowl or tray, and the top plate can be removed for cleaning. It might take a second to convert recipes that use volumetric measurements to use weight instead, but you’ll find your results to be more consistent and worth the effort!
Maybe the second controversial thing on this list, but I no longer have any wooden utensils in my kitchen. Wooden tools are very attractive, and a wooden spatula was my daily driver for many years in the past. However I made the switch to silicone/nylon tools, and particularly the heavy-duty silicone spatula below and never looked back - it is more versatile, substantially easier to clean (and is dishwasher-safe), and more resistant to staining. I do still have a set of wooden salad serving spoons, but these are more in the “tableware/beauty” category than the “everyday tool/functional” category.
Straight out of restaurant kitchens, this is my primary driver for most tasks on the stove. The edge is flexible enough to scrape out mixing bowls without leaving a trace (these are quite popular for baking and scraping frosting etc) but also stiff enough that it can push things around in a pan and get under things without collapsing. The silicone allows it to withstand the high temperatures of cooking, and it’s dishwasher-safe. I like the slightly longer handle (the handle is 9.5”, for a total of 14” end-to-end), but these also come in shorter sizes.
This has also replaced my metal wok spatula for wok cooking, as I found I was scratching my wok with the metal edge.
I use a lot of citrus juice in my cooking, so having this around is a lot more pleasant than squeezing things by hand and trying to catch the seeds. I used to have one of these that had a metal core with a colored plastic exterior coating. The coating eventually started to flake after repeated trips through the dishwasher, so I replaced it with this all stainless steel model that I’m extremely satisfied with and has no problems in the dishwasher.
I’m not sponsored by OXO, but this article makes me think I should send them a note. Their tools are quite nice and all of these are dishwasher-safe. From left to right:
Regular tableware - primarily spoons - are the unsung cooking heroes that more people need to use. If I need to quickly stir something in a pot, or move something around in a pan, or drizzle some sauce, I’ll often just grab an ordinary spoon out of the drawer for the job. This is especially helpful if I’m cooking many different things at once, and don’t want to share a single spatula or ladle between all of them, and I don’t have to worry about scratching my metal pots and pans, below. They’re quick, convenient, and you probably already have a stack of them waiting to go. Use more spoons!
Other small tools of note that are worth brief mention. I put all of these except the peeler in the dishwasher. From left to right:
I believe stainless steel is the superior material for pots, hands down. There is no real reason to have nonstick pots, which are unnecessarily fragile and limit the utensils you can cook with and the cleaning methods available to you.
My pots are from the All-Clad D3 line, which has a “tri-ply” construction of an aluminum core sandwiched by stainless steel, making them heat quickly and evenly while also being quite durable - you can use metal utensils with them. They can be scrubbed and cleaned to like-new condition with Barkeeper’s Friend (see Cleaning, below), and put through the dishwasher. There’s no denying All-Clad is notably pricy, but it’s an investment that can last for many years or decades if cared for properly, and you get what you pay for in terms of performance. All-Clad also occasionally runs factory seconds sales, where pieces with minor cosmetic defects are sold at a significant discount. Other brands should still perform well and can of course be cleaned in the same way.
I have pots in three sizes: 3 qt, 2 qt, and 1 1/2 qt, one of each, and use them about equally often. The 3qt is most commonly used for pasta and soups, while the smaller sizes are used for things like blanching, sauces, or steaming vegetables with the help of a small folding steamer basket similar to this one. The 2 qt and 1/1/2 qt have the same size lid, which is nice.
I adore my All-Clad and have enjoyed them for years, but I should mention some people don’t find the handle shape very comfortable (I personally don’t mind it), and in particular I would choose a matte finish over a mirror finish next time. The mirror finish is beautiful, but makes me hesitant to scrub it too hard for fear of scratches. I haven’t found a convincing need to change them out, but if I were re-buying I would consider pots from Made In, which makes excellent cookware with matte finishes - I have their rondeau, below.
I also have a relatively more inexpensive 6 1/2 qt Duxtop stainless steel pot that I use less often for things like stocks and larger batches of sauce. I originally bought it for a camping trip and while I figured I’d eventually upgrade to something nicer, so far it’s performed well enough that I haven’t felt compelled to make a change.
Pans are a slightly trickier subject. While I’m convinced that stainless steel pots are best across the board, pans are slightly more subjective and the perfect pan might depend a bit more on personal preference.
Quality stainless steel pans are classic, cook well, and are light, but might be prone to sticking and require a bit more cleanup. This isn’t a big deal, or even a plus if you leverage the fond in your cooking, and they can be cleaned to like-new condition / put through the dishwasher if desired, it just takes a bit more time to do so.
Cast-iron and carbon steel are both great, and more nonstick (although they will never beat Teflon), but are heavier and require additional care and maintenance in the form of seasoning. They also can’t go in the dishwasher, but the “no soap” thing is a myth - go ahead and clean them with soap! Stale grease and seasoning (a thin layer of polymerized fats) are NOT the same thing and these pans should be washed and dried well after use.
Nonstick skillets are good for delicate work such as eggs and fish. Everyone should have one for when the occasion arises, but I don’t recommend it as your primary pan; ultimately the other materials will serve you better over the long run.
My pans are a mix of all of these materials and I use them all frequently.
I don’t have personal experience with other pan materials such as ceramic-coated pans. Overall I’d be concerned with their durability and longevity, and I don’t like that you can’t use metal utensils with them and that they’re largely not dishwasher-safe.
My most-used pan is probably my 12” carbon steel wok from Made In. I stir-fry frequently, and also just use it as a general-purpose pan; the high sides are very convenient for keeping everything in. Like cast iron, carbon steel pans need to be “seasoned” with a very thin layer of oil that’s rubbed onto the metal after cleaning and drying, which over time builds into a layer that protects the metal and imparts some nonstick properties. I love that the interior of this wok is polished smooth - my prior wok, a cheap no-name buy, had very small rings in the metal pattern, which caused paper towels to shred while seasoning with oil and leave little bits behind in the pan which was very annoying.
A rondeau is a wide shallow pan that’s great for a variety of tasks. I use a stainless steel 6qt rondeau from Made In primarily for larger sautes including finishing pasta - I’ll cook the noodles separately while cooking the filling/sauce in the rondeau, and then add the noodles to the rondeau to combine and finish. It comes with a lid, not pictured, that I almost never use. This has replaced a 3qt Misen saute pan I used for the same purpose; I loved the Misen and would recommend it equally but replaced it because I constantly found myself wishing for a bit more capacity and particularly that the walls were a little bit taller. The Made In fits the bill for this; it feels large when cooking a dish for just 2 people, but always surprisingly ends up being about the right size. The diameter is about 12 1/2” and the height is just under 3 1/2” (not counting the lid). The only drawback of the Made In is that it only has the two short helper handles compared to the long handle of the Misen, which means it’s difficult to pick it up and pour/scoop to serve, and instead I keep it flat and scoop out of it with the large OXO spoon from above for serving.
I use two cast iron pans - a Field Company #8 10 1/4” pan, and a vintage Griswold No. 6 11” pan I bought secondhand (not pictured). The Field replaced a generic 10 1/4” Lodge skillet many years ago. The short handle of the Field lets it fit perfectly in a countertop oven (see below), and its durability means it’s a great thing to take camping. The one drawback is that while I thought the interior was polished smooth like vintage cast iron (this was a major reason I made the upgrade from the Lodge), it actually has a very fine concentric ring pattern, similar to my prior wok from above and that causes the same problems when seasoning with paper towels to some degree. I greatly prefer smooth-polished cast-iron and wish the Field was constructed differently, but despite this I continue to use it and like it enough to keep around. It’s a little bit expensive, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend the much cheaper Lodge to anyone interested in cast iron.
I have one stainless steel skillet, an All-Clad D3 10”. It’s wonderful, although probably the one I use least often just because the wok/rondeau/cast iron tend to take center stage.
My nonstick skillet is a 10” from OXO. I like it and it has held up very well over multiple years (with very tender care!) although I tend to think of nonstick pans as ultimately disposable items as opposed to lifetime investments like pans of other materials can be.
Just as I believe the right tools can make cooking more enjoyable and more efficient, the same is very much true for the tools we use to clean up. In addition to the dishwasher I speak of so lovingly, these are my go-to tools for cleaning.
I very strongly believe a brush is the best possible dishwashing implement, head and shoulders above sponges. I use brushes with nylon bristles that have the perfect abrasion level that scrubs out food very effectively but doesn’t cause scratches (including knives and the mirrored finish on the pots). The brush stays cleaner and in better condition than sponges over time - there’s nothing worse than a crusty gross sponge. I do use sponges, exclusively for glassware, otherwise I use the brush for everything else that can’t go in the dishwasher or won’t fit, mainly pots/pans and knives. The brush itself can be cleaned in the dishwasher; I recommend seeking out dishwasher-safe brushes as opposed to those made with wood or similar materials that make cleaning more difficult.
I use this round brush from Amazon. The design has changed slightly since I last purchased, but it’s quite similar.
I like to wear gloves while washing dishes to keep my hands from getting wet and greasy. I like these durable latex gloves from Amazon.
I air-dry virtually everything, as it’s an effective and sanitary method - towels are common offenders for holding bacteria in a kitchen, especially if not changed frequently. Knives and glassware are the only things I dry with the flour sack towels from below (I use the stove for drying cast iron/carbon steel pans after use). I like the large 16” x 28” size of this mat, which means a large amount of dishes can be arranged on it. I have two for when a particularly big meal or project leads to overflow, and wash them in the laundry.
I keep large stacks of identical towels in three varieties used for different purposes. This lets me change them out frequently so that they stay clean and dry and don’t build up stains, mildew, etc.
I use generic hand towels (left) from Bed Bath & Beyond, which I can’t easily find a link to - the only thing that matters is it’s absorbent and not too thin. We use the same kind of hand towels throughout the whole house, meaning laundry and sorting is easy.
White flour sack towels (middle) from Utopia Kitchen are for drying glassware, and occasionally as cooking helpers for things like grabbing pans out of the oven. They’re not perfectly lint-free in the way that microfiber might be for glass cleaning, but I’m very satisfied with their performance and I like that they can be washed in hot water with bleach (oxygen bleach) for optimal cleaning.
White cotton bar mops (right) also from Utopia Kitchen are used for cleaning. I keep one folded up on our counter next to the sink and use it to wipe up drips and such; they’re more absorbent than the flour sack towels. Each day after cooking, we spray down and wipe our countertops and stove, wipe down with the bar mop, toss it in the laundry, and replace it with another one. Like the flour sack towels, these can be laundered in hot water with bleach (oxygen bleach) for optimal cleaning.
I used to use microfiber towels for this purpose as many people sing the praises of microfiber for cleaning. I found they were fairly poor at absorbing water and that the bar mops are more effective. I also don’t like that microfiber towels have to be laundered very gently and was unsatisfied with the results. I kept our microfiber towels, but now use them just for delicate tasks such as polishing mirrors and stainless steel appliances.
This scraper is excellent for scraping off bits of stuck food from pots and pans. It’s made of a stiff nylon material that’s sturdy enough to scrape off caked-on food, but won’t scratch. Got really tough caked-on bits on a pan? Try boiling water in it for a few minutes to soften it up.
For cleaning stainless steel back to like-new condition, these Scotch-Brite stainless steel scrubbers plus Barkeeper’s Friend are a simply unbeatable combination. It is truly magical how pans with burnt-on oil splatters and a huge mess can be cleaned to look as if they just came off the factory line. The scrubber is massively more effective than steel wool, which is too fine, and I recommend the powdered form of Barkeeper’s Friend versus the soft cleanser paste for maximum performance. Sprinkle some in a pan with a small amount of water and scrub away to your heart’s content. I don’t use these every single day, rather just on an as-needed basis.
I only use this combo for stainless steel, which can hold up to this level of cleaning; it will damage other pan materials and the seasoning on cast iron or carbon steel. Because this combo is so abrasive - that’s how it cleans so effectively - it will leave microscopic scratches. I consider this part of the beauty of a well-used item and it doesn’t bother me too much, but it’s good to know. For this reason I don’t use it on the mirrored surface of the pots. Also because of the abrasion, it can leave behind trace amounts of very fine steel dust, so I recommend a second wash either by hand or in the dishwasher after cleaning with these two.
While this isn’t really an appliance-focused list - appliances can be budget-restrictive and depend on personal needs - there’s one that deserves special mention.
Countertop ovens have greatly evolved into high-quality full-blown cooking appliances, way out of the league of their crappy toaster oven predecessors. They’re perfect for the day-to-day cooking needs of a couple or small family (we’re not roasting turkeys every day!): compared to regular ovens, they heat up much faster, use less energy, and don’t heat up your entire kitchen (this was the final selling point for me during one particularly hot summer). Many models also have convection, which is something that even some full-size ovens may lack! A countertop oven has become my primary oven, and I can literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve used my full oven in the three+ years since I made the switch.
My current countertop oven is the Anova Precision Oven, which is an “upgrade pick” that includes advanced control over the humidity level during cooking, making it a combination or “combi” oven - previously very expensive appliances exclusively found in restaurant kitchens, and now accessible in a home environment at a much more modest size and price point. It’s much more spacious than your average toaster oven; the interior is about 17” wide x 13” deep x 10” tall, which fits a 10” cast iron skillet, a half hotel pan, or a Dutch oven. Having control over the humidity lets you do things like inject steam during bread baking for maximal oven spring (this is the real deal compared to common substitutes like ice cubes, spraying water, etc), and you can even use the oven to cook sous-vide without a water bath or bag (!). There are many other techniques possible in the range between 0% - 100% humidity; I’ve only begun to explore them myself.
Previously, I had a Breville Smart Oven Pro, which is smaller and cheaper and can’t control humidity but otherwise has all of the same advantages including convection and performs excellently. The only main downside of the Breville was difficulty in cleaning, due to its delicate interior nonstick coating and exposed heating elements. This limits the cleaning products and methods that can be used, and the nooks and crannies are near impossible to clean effectively. Conversely, the interior of the Anova is flat stainless steel with fewer exposed elements, meaning it can be cleaned with oven cleaners and restored to like-new condition no matter what.
The Anova is almost the perfect appliance, but it’s worth mentioning I have experienced a few drawbacks in just under a year of ownership at time of writing. I’ve had occasional issues with an unpleasant plastic-y odor during cooking, and the unit incorrectly thinking the water tank was empty even though it was full and well-seated. This is just my experience though and not guaranteed to be the case across the board.
Overall the Anova is pricy, but despite the hiccups it’s worthwhile if it’s in the budget, and a good thing to pick up on a Black Friday sale (I saved a couple hundred bucks off the retail price this way). Otherwise, the Breville is still an excellent buy.
Like I said above, knives are highly personal and these are the ones I’ve collected over the years. No matter which kind of knife you have, I strongly recommend using the “pinch grip” (the “blade grip” as seen in this article). It feels weird at first, but is ultimately the method that will give you the most control and maneuverability with the knife.
From top to bottom:
Previously I had a Cuisinart ice cream machine that works by placing a large insulated bowl in the freezer for a night or two, and then using it to churn your base. The bowl takes up a ton of freezer space, and I had a couple total failures when I evidently hadn’t frozen it for long enough and my base remained a half-chilled soup. This combined with the fact that ice cream is a surprisingly complex and deep rabbit hole meant I wasn’t making ice cream often enough to justify keeping it around, and I sold it. If I were to get back into the hobby, I would consider a self-refrigerating unit although they’re considerably more expensive, or more likely a Ninja Creami that works by very finely pureeing a frozen-solid base with blades into smooth ice cream, similar to a Pacojet from restaurant kitchens which typically goes for over $5000!
Previously I had a Breville Juice Fountain Compact. It worked quite well and I was satisfied with the juicing performance (although it’s extremely inconvenient to clean), but I was only using it for the fine-dining recipes on this site; I haven’t cooked like that in several years, and I don’t drink juice on its own, so I sold it.
Previously I had an Excalibur 5-rack food dehydrator. Like the juicer, this is an excellent dehydrator that performs well and I was satisfied with it, but I was basically only using it for the carrot cornets. I wasn’t getting any value out of it in my daily life - common things like fruit chips, fruit leather, and beef jerky aren’t really my go-to’s, so I sold it. The only thing I’ll miss is being able to perfectly make cured egg yolks.
That wraps up this very lengthy piece and pretty much everything I have to say about kitchen equipment. Thank you for reading! If you have thoughts on any of the items, or feel I’ve missed something that’s even better, let me know in the comments! And if you’re loaded up with an armful of new kitchen gear and are looking for something to cook, why not have a look at the recipes?