[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!