Even More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs

DSC02048 (2)My argument around the holidays is always if you are going to buy someone kitchen gear, make it something essential and useful. Don’t bother with futzy, single use things. And if you can’t make it something useful, then make it something edible (tea, coffee, liquor, or spices are all awesome things that don’t need to be consumed immediately). These are a few things in my kitchen I love. If you’re looking for even more ideas, check out the other two iterations of this list I made: Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs and More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs. I still stand by every item I mentioned previously, and use them constantly. With the exception of the citrus squeezer, which I recently had to replace because the coating was chipping off, I still use all of those exact items weekly, if not daily.

This list is working from the bottom up and clockwise through what is in the photo above.

Commercial baking sheets. Do your baking sheets ever make a popping noise in the oven? And then when you open the door to look, the baking sheet is no longer flat, but warped? Those should be demoted to craft-only baking sheets. Invest in a couple really nice baking sheets which are meant to withstand high temperatures (like those in an oven!!) and they will last a lifetime. I have half and quarter sheet pans which I use frequently (the standard size in a home kitchen is actually a half-sheet pan, the giant ones used in commercial kitchens are full). (My half and quarter sheet pans look vastly different because the half has logged over 5 years of constant use, and the quarter is only a year old.)

Cooling racks the same size as your baking sheets. These were a game changer for me. I bought a cooling rack without measuring it, only to find it was much thinner and longer than a standard half sheet pan. This is very inconvenient when you need to nest a cooling rack within a sheet pan for very important tasks like allowing chicken wings to rest in the fridge prior to baking, or cooling/draining just fried breaded eggplant.

Fine mesh brewing basket. This isn’t cooked gear per se, but I still find this invaluable. There are plenty of adorable tea infusers out there (like the MANATEA!!!!!!), but….THEY DON’T WORK. I want to drink tea, not water full of leaves. This is the only strainer I’ve used that has holes that are so fine that even rooibos can’t get through it.

1/4 cup measure. Admittedly, I bought this after reading Julia Turshen sing its praises, and she sure was right. This tiny cup is endlessly useful and has saved what I’m sure will account for many hours of my life that I could have spent measuring 4 individual tablespoons, but instead just measured once. (It is also great for measuring cocktail ingredients, and far easier to pour than a shot glass.)

Glass containers for food storage (shown with the red top). I don’t know where I was without these in my life. They stand up to being filled with hot foods, stack, don’t stain or retain smells, and work great for reheating in an oven or microwave. I’m partial to the 4 cup size, which I think is the perfect portion for a lunch, but I have a few larger and a few smaller containers that I wouldn’t want to go without. The lids are not as durable at the glass bases (mine lasted about 2 years), but you can buy replacement lids separately.

A mandoline (no, not a mandolin). This does some with a caveat, because it is really easy to slice of the tip of your finger with one of these. But….they do make consistent, thin slices or matchsticks of many a vegetable. My one complaint with this particular model is it is fairly narrow, so if you have a large vegetable you have to cut it down a bit.

For a bit more fun, check out this year’s edition of my absolute favorite gift guide.

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More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs

Last year I wrote up a very short gift guide of incredibly useful kitchen items that I fear are overlooked as gifts because they are not flashy enough. I still stand by every one of those items and continue to use them on a weekly, if not daily basis (especially my beloved scale). Very specific items (deviled egg plates! banana slicers! Moscow mule mugs!) may seem like the thing to get a cook that has everything, but the reason they don’t own them is because they aren’t needed. (In fact, Moscow mules are traditionally served in copper mugs because the girlfriend of the bartender who invented them had a copper mug company. Source: The Drunken Botanist)

And seasonal gifts like GingerBread Kids Cakelet Pans are useful (if you can call them that) a tiny portion of the year, and are exactly the kind of thing you donate when you move because the idea of putting time and effort into packaging and transporting something so trivial makes their absurdity very apparent. (Pro tip – Goodwill is full of cakelet* pans for real cheap right now!) Give kitchen gifts that people will box up last, and unpack first when they move into a new place. I love these three items so much I brought them with me to cook Thanksgiving last week. They reduce effort and waste, are constantly useful, and are useful for cooks of any skill level. Like last year, I’m linking to examples but it’s not the specific brand that is important here.

*I was not aware cakelet was a word until I found this pan. When did cakelets become a thing???

More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs - Vegetal Matters

Silicone spatula – I especially like the models where the spatula is one piece (not a head with a handle made from another material). They wash nicely, and there is less chance of the head falling off or weird gunk getting stuck.  I probably don’t need to tell you these are essential for wiping down the sides of the food processor and getting every last drop out of measuring cups, bowls, and pans. Owning one is rarely enough.

Citrus squeezer – Yes, you can try squishing citrus on the counter with your palm or microwaving it to get more juice out (or squishing then microwaving, which Robert Wolke found in What Einstein Told His Cook to provide the highest juice yield). But those methods only make citrus easier to juice if you are doing it by hand. I find this low tech squeezer to greatly magnify my squishing power with its leverage and pressure. As a bonus feature it keeps almost all the seeds out of whatever you are making. I do also have one of these juicer/strainer combos that is better for larger citrus and/or higher quantities (read: cocktails), but I keep one of these squeezers readily accessible for my daily needs.

Silicone baking mat – I never want to go back to my life without this. I don’t even remember the last time I made cookies that stuck to the pan. Use it in any recipe that calls for parchment paper or a foil lining of a baking sheet. Nothing sticks, ever. I’ve had this one three or four years and yes, it is a bit weathered, but no worse for the wear. I use it for roasting tofu, crackers, cookies, rolls, and anything that threatens to be sticky.

If you are looking for even more ideas, I keep a board of items on Pinterest (but some are more dream items than small gifts, and since I don’t own them I can’t officially endorse). What are other hyper-useful gift ideas for the home cook?