[Updated April 12, 2011]

In addition to my cookbook addiction, I also am fond of kitchen gear. I’m not talking about the motorized contraptions that marketers come up with to sell on infommercials. No, I like my kitchen gear to be relatively simple and multifunctional, and most of my gear fits the bill.

Here is the stuff that I can’t live without:

1. KitchenAid stand mixer. Yes, it’s a smaller one from the mid 90s, but it’s still running strong, and I just love the cobalt blue color. I bought an extra mixing bowl which really comes in handy for marathon baking sessions. I’ve been tempted to buy a second paddle attachment for the same reason. It’s the most expensive piece of gear in my kitchen, except for the large appliances, and it was worth every penny. I’ve broken or worn out more hand mixers than I care to admit, so even though this cost me some money initially, I’ve probably saved myself a small fortune in replacement mixers.

2. Chinese cleaver. I picked it up in Kowloon, Hong Kong and it has been a sturdy and wonderful addition to my kitchen since 1990. I use a stone to hone the edge every so often, and it works like a charm. My husband became enthralled with it when we were dating, so I helped him find them in an Asian grocery store and get one of his own. We have a #3 and a #4, although I primarily use the #4.

3. Chicago Cutlery knife set. This was a Christmas present a couple years ago, and it’s been so handy and a nice replacement for all the miscellaneous knives that never quite worked. I selected the set that is all stainless steel, including the handles, just like my Hong Kong cleaver. They retain their edges and cut cleanly. Of course I was tempted by the beautiful (and expensive) Wusthoff and Henckels knives, but I’m raising kids and can’t justify several hundred dollars for knives—not when my Hong Kong cleaver only cost me about $2.50 and the Chicago Cutlery set was only $50.00 at Target. Both will probably last me a lifetime.

4. Half sheet baking pans. These cost me less than $10 for a set of two at my local warehouse club, and they are indispensable.

5. Carbon steel wok. I’ve tried the nonstick kind and the electric kind, but this wok holds up year after year when the nonstick coatings on the others have been peeling away. It’s well-seasoned and I just clean it lightly with a little hot water and a gentle brush.

6. Antique cast iron skillet. I won’t fixed cornbread in anything else. Whether you need to caramelize onions, blacken fish or chicken, or cook up some veggies for fajitas, this pan can do it all. Also in the cast iron category is my late grandmother’s dutch oven.

7. Stockpots, 8 and 10 quarts. I also have larger versions, but these get the most use. I boil pasta in them, make soup, chili, spaghetti sauce, etc. I picked out the Wolfgang Puck pots because of the strong riveted handles and the glass lids, and the nice price at TJ Maxx.

8. Rice cooker. I’ve had one since 1995, and I won’t go without it. The rice cooks up nice and sticky, perfect for picking up with chopsticks. You can find a decent Oster model at Target for around $40, less if they are on sale.

9. Oxo Good Grips scoops. I requested these for my birthday a few years ago, and they have gotten a good workout. I have all three sizes, #20, #40, and #60. I use them to scoop cookie dough, ice cream, and cupcake and muffin batter. I’m sure there are other uses that I haven’t come up with yet, but give me time.

10. Zyliss Pizza Cutter. This is the newest addition to my gear arsenal, and it was definitely worth it. I’ve tried many pizza cutters over the years and have never been satisfied with any of them. This thing is just plain cool and makes quick work of pizza crust, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, you name it.

11. Silicone baking sheets. These are the best things to hit kitchens since parchment paper. Nothing sticks, and they clean up so easily. I also like the Silicone Zone Pastry Mat, which is great for rolling out dough. The measurements are right on the mat.

12. The food processor. It’s hard to make pesto without one.

13. Kitchen scale. I used a Polder model for several years, and it was great for precise measuring for baking. The movers broke it (grrr) during our recent move, so they bought me a new scale! I got the Salter 6005, and I like it even better than my old Polder. The button for changing between kilos and pounds is right on top, as well as the button for the tare function. The button and display surfaces are sealed so liquids can’t get in, and it has a removable stainless tray that can easily be washed.

14. Baking stone. I use it for making pizza and many other kinds of bread, especially pita and other flatbreads. For many years I used a 12-inch round pizza stone, that is until I dropped and broke it. I found a KitchenAid 16-inch stone and pizza cutter set at the local warehouse club, and I really enjoyed using it. Then we moved to the new house and found out that the stone is too big for the oven. The current stone is a 14″ x 16″ rectangle.

Do you have a piece of gear that you can’t live without? Write me and let me know!


  1. says

    My can’t go without kitchen tool is a mesh colander. I use it to sift together ingredients for baking and draining pasta. I can’t stand the tedious task of squeezing the handle on a traditional sifter, this is faster.

  2. Keely says

    My newest tool is a fine hand-held grater. I use it to zest citrus, grate parmesan cheese…. It was pretty expensive for it’s size ($20 at William Sonoma), but has lasted much better than any grater I have ever purchased. I love it!

    Though I completely agree about the kitchen-aid! I have my grandmothers that is probably at least 20 years old now, and still works great.

    I also love the new utensils that withstand 600 degrees….They don’t melt in pans, or when you leave them sitting on a burner.

  3. says

    I use a fine mesh strainer for sifting too. And I do love the silicone spatulas for the same reasons. I had to add my kitchen scale and baking stone to the list today, because both of those get a regular workout.

  4. Lori says

    My newest cannot live without is one of the most basic tools. I finally splurged on a can opener from Pampered Chef. I was flat out amazed and excited over a can opener. Its the little things right? LOL

  5. Angela says

    I’m looking for suggestions for a good Mandoline. I know you have one but I didn’t see it listed as one of your ‘can’t live without items’. Is there one you would recommend?

  6. says

    Yes, we do have a mandoline slicer, although I would not recommend this particular model. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very sharp and does the job, BUT the blade attachments fit so tightly that they are hard to remove. Every time I use it I worry that I’m going to lose a finger or two trying to pry off the blades.

    So we’ll probably get a new one sometime this year since the current model is about 7 years old, and when I do I’ll be sure to post about it here.

  7. Diane Mantia says

    I am interested in finding cooking gear for children, hot pad mitts, mixing bowls, etc!
    Any suggestions?

  8. says

    Most of the gear my children use is normal adult-sized stuff, although I buy cheap, $1 plastic measuring spoons for them since they like to bend my nice stainless set. I purchased aprons for them an online merchant that unfortunately is no longer in business. We have one child-sized rolling pin and plan to acquire two more, but I’m still searching for a good deal on that. When I find some good sources, I will pass the information along!

  9. Lisa says

    I have been using a Pampered Chef mandolin for several years now. I am sure that it is not the very best on the market, but it has served me quite well. I even purchased a replacement blade (assuming that the blade would quickly dull), but have yet to need it. It has grater, adjustable slicer, v-slicer, and strip cutter attachments and a food holder to protect your fingers.

  10. Tori says

    it’s my 21st birthday soon & a friend of mine’s mum works in a knife shop, so i asked for a mezzaluna knife…. was this a bad idea, when I only own the basics in terms of cheap knives? and does anyone know if a single or double blade is better?

  11. says

    Hi Tori: I know that some people really love their mezzalunas, so there is no right or wrong on this one, it’s just a matter of what you are comfortable using. I’ve heard that double blades give better results, but since I do not own one, I cannot speak from personal experience.

  12. Keely says

    The ultimate fall utensil in my kitchen is an apple corer, slicer, peeler. Every year we make at least one trip to a local orchard to purchase apples and cider and make an amazing apple crisp and mulled cider.
    I always used my mom’s contraption before that literally clamped to the table or counter-top, but purchased my own this year. It is a model that securely suction cups to any VERY flat surface. (I prefer the clamp model, and if I every find one will definitely replace the suction cup one).

  13. says

    Keely, I have one of those suction countertop apple peelers, too, though I haven’t used it as much as I thought I would. I end up peeling apples by hand because it doesn’t seem to follow the shape of the apples as well as I would like, though I do like how thin it makes the slices.

  14. says

    Besides my Kitchen Aid mixer, and my cast iron skillets, my favorite kitchen utensil is hands-down my bamboo spoons. I absolutely love to cook with wooden spoons and the bamboo (I think mine are Martha Stewart) ones are so sturdy. I never reach for my metal ones anymore.

  15. Paul Camp says

    I use an unglazed terra cotta saucer from a large plant pot instead of a stone. Stick it in the oven upside down and it works perfectly well. Cost $3 from Home Depot garden department instead of $50 from Cook’s Warehouse. Two warnings: don’t get anything with a glaze since all pottery and tile glazes are poison, and don’t put it in a hot oven else it will shatter. Then you’ll have to spend another $3.

  16. says

    Hi Andrea!
    After reading your first post with The Daily Tiffin, I came over here and explored all your little tabs. (I’ve been a fan of yours for a while) Then I found this post on gear and kitchen gadgets, just like mine on DT. WOW! Great minds think alike!

    Spatulas & Corkscrews