You don’t need a ton of fancy tools or equipment to make most of the recipes I share here, but these are the things that I reach for time and time again that make my time in the kitchen easier and more productive.
Last updated: 5/13/2020
Note: Some of the links included here are affiliate links, which means I might make money if you click on them, including through Amazon Associates and IndieBound’s affiliate program (but not all of them are affiliate links because I’m only going to recommend things to you that I would actually buy myself, and it turns out you can’t — and shouldn’t — buy everything on Amazon.)
Anchor Hocking Glass Bowl Set — This set of 10 nesting glass bowls will cover all your mixing, serving, prepping, and double-boiling needs. I know 10 bowls in such a wide range of sizes might seem like a lot, but when the biggest can be used to proof a batch of no-knead bread dough and the smallest to serve some soy sauce for dipping, I guarantee you’ll find a use for all the bowls in between. And unlike plastic bowls which get scratched and lose their color, these will always look good on your dining table.
Metal Bench Scraper — Metal bench scrapers are an invaluable, versatile tool for the busy home chef. They’re great for scraping off your cutting board, dividing dough, transferring chopped veggies from board to pan and so much more. I prefer a rubber grip for its ability to withstand trips through the dishwasher.
Kitchen Scale — Depending on how you scoop flour into a measuring cup, it can weigh anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces — a huge variation that can dramatically affect your results. A kitchen scale will help cut back on the number of measuring cups you need to wash, and you’ll get more reliable results from all your favorite recipes. There are dozens of models out there, but I like these because they’re affordable and have a raised platform that prevents whatever you’re weighing from blocking the digital display screen. (For more on baking with weights and for a chart of standard weight measurements for common ingredients, click here.)
Plastic Bowl Scraper — Plastic bowl scrapers are flexible, with one curved side that fits neatly into any mixing bowl. They function as an extension of your hand, bending to scoop, mix, and scrape with less effort than a long-handled tool might require. I have about 6 of them and there are times when every one is in use because I grab them so often.
Stainless Steel Nesting Measuring Cups — These cups nest neatly inside each other and have markings on the inside to show smaller cup sizes — making each one useful for multiple measurements. The handles are also sturdy and won’t snap, bend, or break, which is what’s happened to every single plastic set of measuring cups I’ve ever bought in my life. (That said, this 19-piece set of plastic cups has some of the most unique measuring sizes I’ve ever seen — the 2 tsp spoon and 1.5 cup measuring cup are incredibly handy — even though the handles are prone to breaking.)
King Arthur Flour Rectangular Measuring Spoons — These rectangular measuring spoons are actually narrow enough to reach deep into any spice bottle. They’re sturdy, easy to clean, and I like that you can pair them next to each other to get exactly the amount you need in just one scoop.
Tovolo 6″ Mini Whisk — Why bother getting out a whole big whisk when all you need is a mini to beat one egg or mix some cinnamon and sugar together? This one is sturdy, effective, and comfortable to hold.
Microplane — For years I thought I didn’t need a microplane. The first time I applied one of these to the business end of a block of parmesan cheese, I saw just how much of an idiot I had been. They are so much better than box graters for finely grating cheese, and can also be used for citrus zest, nutmeg, and shaving the burned bits off otherwise perfect loaves of bread.
Metal Wire Mesh Strainer (in 3 sizes) — Perfect for sifting flour and powdered sugar without getting hand cramps and for straining sauces, syrups, gravies, pasta, and chicken stock. You might not think you need one of these, but once you have them in your kitchen you’ll be surprised by how often they come in handy.
The Perfect Beaker Liquid Measuring Cup — I was first introduced to this magical measuring cup in a class I took at King Arthur Flour. It’s one of the most accurate measuring cups you’ll ever use. The narrow base allows for precise measuring even of small quantities, and you can skip getting your measuring spoons dirty by measuring tablespoons and teaspoons right into the beaker. Every now and then I see one of these at Home Goods, but the best price I’ve seen on it otherwise is straight from the King Arthur Flour shop (linked above).
Disposable Chopsticks — I always have disposable chopsticks on hand not just because we eat a lot of udon soup for dinner, but because they’re also great for scrambling eggs, holding cake tiers in place, hasslebacking potatoes, stirring coffee, making stir fry, removing things from hot oil, mixing certain doughs, and, most importantly, for eating Cheetos without getting orange dust all over your hands.
HUJI Stainless Steel Round Cutters (Set of 11) — Okay, so, this is not actually my top pic for round cutters but my actual top pick (which has color-coded rings) is perpetually sold out and this is my runner up. I love this set because of how neatly the cutters fit into the tin for storage, and in comparing other similar sets, this one had rings in standard sizes. You can use the biggest one to make english muffins or to coax irregularly shaped cookies into circles, and the smaller ones are great for cutting dough for pierogis, hamentashen, ravioli, and more.
GIR Mini 8″ Spoonula — After seeing Erin McDowell talking up GIR (which stands for Get It Right) on Instagram I had to give their products a try. They’re all excellent and come in a range of gorgeous colors but I truly love the mini spoonula. I’ve tried so many silicone spatula/spoon combos and most are frustratingly inflexible, making it impossible to scrape your dough or batter off cleanly onto the edge of a bowl. That is not the case with GIR’s spoonula which is the perfect blend of sturdy and flexible, and because it’s one seamless piece, it’s super easy to clean too. If you shop on GIR’s website use this link to get $10 off your first order of $40+.
THE BEST BOWL COVERS EVER — I know, I know this link takes you to a page that claims to sell “plastic hair processing caps” but these are actually terribly mismarketed plastic bowl covers. No more wrestling with saran wrap that clings to itself or refuses to cling to the bowl, these elastic caps fit snugly around most sizes of bowls and can be used multiple times before they rip or tear. If you make a lot of bread, you’re going to want to keep some of these around.
Pots & Pans
USA 9×13″ Cake Pan — Your standard 9×13″ rectangular cake pan is good for so much more than making cake. I use mine to make focaccia, shepherd’s pies, and, yes, okay fine, it’s the perfect size for making one of those famous Milk Bar cakes, too. What I particularly like about this one is the sharp edges of the corners, which guarantee a perfectly rectangular cake every time.
Butter Warmer — A small pot like this is invaluable imo. I use mine when I need to hard boil or poach a single egg, heat up a mug of broth for a sore throat, and to make fudge for ice cream and chhonk for dal. When scaling down a recipe or using smaller quantities of ingredients, if you don’t also scale down your cooking surface, you risk your liquids evaporating or your food burning. A small pot, is exactly what you need to have on hand in those situations. [1/2 quart / 2 cups / 16 oz]
USA 9×5″ Loaf Pan — This 1.25 lb loaf pan is perfect for banana bread, ginger-pumpkin pound cake, and babkas. Just like with the 9×13″ cake pan, I appreciate that USA pans have crisp sharp edges which make your finished desserts look neat, and the rippled surface makes it easy to remove them from the pan.
10.25″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet — Take care of your cast iron right and you’ll have it forever. It’s the best way to get a nice sear on a piece of meat, can also be used to make beautifully crispy skillet pizzas, and can go from the stove to the oven without a problem. You’ll want to read up on how to properly clean and season yours — with enough care and repeated use it’ll develop a super slick, shiny, almost nonstick surface.
Oval Dutch Oven (5 or 7 qt) — Enameled cast iron products give you all the cooking benefits of cast iron, with the added perk of an easy-to-clean surface. I prefer an oval shape which can accommodate long or round breads, and is excellent for making stews, soups, sauces, and more. Just like regular cast iron, these dutch ovens can go from the stove to the oven and excel at retaining heat. If you’re looking to splurge, you can get a Le Creuset model — they’re pricier, but also come with a notoriously generous lifetime warranty under which the company will replace pots that are even decades old.
Norpro 9.5″ Stainless Steel Removable Bottom Tart Pan — If you want a gorgeously golden brown, crisp tart bottom you’ll need a stainless steel tart pan that does not have a non-stick coating. Yes, you’ll want to generously butter this or spray it with non-stick spray before use, but you’ll get a far nicer crust with it and it’ll slip out of the tin just fine.
4-Quart Enameled Cast Iron Covered Braiser — This high-sided everyday braising dish is one of the most-used pans in our kitchen. It’s oven-safe up to 450F and, though it’s not recommended that you stick it in the dishwasher, we’ve been doing that for years with no harm done.
The Original Baking Steel — This 15 lb sheet of piece of steel is worth every penny for crispy bottomed pizzas, airy ciabatta bread, and can even be used on a grill or gas stovetop as a griddle for making smashburgers, diner-style homefries, and english muffins. It’s easy to clean, won’t crack or break, and doesn’t stain or absorb oils. As soon as I brought this baby home I threw out my old, oil-stained, too-small baking stone and never looked back. If you’re curious about the science behind why the baking steel works, click here.
Victorinox 8″ Chef Knife — For years this knife has been the top pick from America’s Test Kitchen and Wirecutter (though Wirecutter demoted it in favor of a far more expensive option this year). We have two 8″ Victorinox chef knives and one 10″ Victorinox chef knife and they’re excellent, reliable, and affordable additions to any knife block.
Mini Serrated Knife with Round Tip — I don’t know why I have such an affinity for my mini serrated knife with a round tip, but I do! I use it to slice bread, cakes, bagels — anything I’d use a bread knife for, I reach for this instead. The rounded tip is nice because I don’t have to worry about stabbing into my hand if I’m slicing a particularly crusty loaf of bread, and the small size makes it easier to maneuver than a large bread knife.
20 Slot Universal Knife Block — If you, like us, already have knives and just need a better way to store them, this is the knife block for you. We tried those fancy “slotless” knife blocks, but found that the knives ended up cutting through the straws, and that the blocks couldn’t hold that many knives at once. This one can hold all of our knives, plus some kitchen shears, a honing steel, and a cleaver.
Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy 5.5 cup Rice Cooker — After years of getting by just fine with a $20 dorm-sized rice cooker I was skeptical of the added value a pricier bells-and-whistles rice cooker would add. Then, we got the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy and my rice game changed forever. Not only does the Neuro Fuzzy consistently make excellent rice, it keeps it warm for 24+ hours, has a timer so you can set your rice in the morning and have it ready exactly at dinner time, and it also comes with a helpful book about how to prepare and rinse your rice for the best results.
KitchenAid 3.5 cup Mini Food Processor (18 colors) — When you need the chopping/pureeing power of a food processor but don’t need the cup capacity of the big-ass model, this 3.5 cup mini one has you covered. It’s perfect for a quick pesto, gremolata, salsa, hazelnut praline paste, or guac. I like that it has a small opening in the top so you can drizzle in oil as it’s running, and that you activate it by squeezing down on the lid with the handle. Easy to use, easy to clean, and the cord wraps into a hidden gap in the base to keep it neatly tucked away in your cupboard.
AeroGarden Hydroponic Garden — AeroGarden’s indoor hydroponic gardens make growing everything from herbs and flowers, to my favorites: jalapeños and tomatoes, a breeze. Instead of buying individually packaged herbs in those plastic clamshells when you only need a few leaves, grow your own and snip just what you’ll use. Get a model with an extra-tall light hood so your plants can really grow into their full potential.
KitchenAid Mixer Ice Cream Maker Attachment — If you have a KitchenAid mixer and want to make ice cream, this attachment is hard to beat. As reviewed in this Ask the Practical Kitchen post, it’s easy to clean, has minimal moving parts, and is incredibly efficient compared to the competition. It produces consistent and reliable results at a reasonable price point, and takes up minimal space in your cupboard. (Note: If you have a 6, 7, or 8 qt mixer make sure you get the attachment designed for your mixer.)
Anova Sous Vide — A sous vide is an immersion circulator which can be attached to any large pot or bucket. It circulates water at a precise temperature, allowing food (sealed in an airtight container) to cook in a water bath without overcooking or drying out. We use ours to make carnitas, but it also helps you achieve precise doneness for steaks and makes the best carrots I’ve ever eaten. Unlike some of Anova’s competitors, this model has manual controls so you don’t need to use an app to control it. There is a cheaper model (the anova nano) but it doesn’t have an adjustable clamp, which limits what you can attach it to.
Plastic Deli Containers with Lids (45 pcs) — I’m not kidding when I say adding this set of deli containers to my kitchen changed my life. They nest inside each other, they stack nicely in the fridge, and the lids can be paired with all of the containers. They’re freezer and microwave safe, which makes them perfect for storing and reheating all kinds of leftovers. My fridge has never been more organized. This set is sturdy, BPA free, and comes with 15 small (8 oz), 15 medium (16 oz) and 15 large (32 oz) containers.
King Arthur Flour Yeast Set — The acrylic container in this set is exactly the right size to hold a full 1 pound package of active dry yeast and fits neatly in your freezer door to keep your yeast fresh longer. The best part of the set is the 2¼ tsp measuring spoon — exactly the amount of yeast that comes in one of those little packets.
Wine Glass Markers — Put an end to those dreaded “oops, I think that was your glass” moments at your next dinner party. These markers draw on glass so guests can clearly label theirs, and you can wash the ink clean off with a damp towel or in the dish washer.
Stainless Steel Roll Top Bread Box — The feature that makes this a winner is the tempered-glass top. Most bread boxes are windowless, which is great for storage, but makes it far too easy to forget what’s inside. The clear top makes it easy to remember what you’ve got… before it starts growing mold.
Oven-Counter Gap Protector — These flexible strips of silicone fit neatly into the gap between your stove and the counter next to it, preventing drips, splashes, stray noodles, flying veg, and anything else that might come flying out of a hot skillet from getting wedged in spots you can’t reach.
Joseph Joseph 4 Cutting Boards with Storage Case — When making a dish with lots of different prep required, these Joseph Joseph cutting boards are great to have within arms reach. The upright file-folder storage case means you can keep them on the counter without sacrificing counter space, and they’re easy to clean in the dishwasher.
Progressive Brown Sugar Keeper — This container easily holds a 2 pound bag of brown sugar, but the best part is the terra cotta disc that clips on to the underside of the lid. Soak the disc in water for 15-20 minutes, pat dry, and clip it to the lid. It’ll keep your brown sugar soft and scoop-able, preventing pesky clumps from forming.
Cambro Buckets with Lids (2 qt / 6 qt) — Yeah, yeah, Tupperware are all well and good but when you make a huge batch of chicken stock, are proofing a double loaf of your favorite bread dough, or straining whey from your goat cheese, nothing beats a Cambro bucket. Make sure you get one that comes with a matching lid (for some reason they’re occasionally sold lid-less). The measurements on the outside of the buckets are helpful for knowing just how much [whatever] you’ve got inside, and if you’re making bread dough — for knowing when your dough has truly “doubled” in size.
Jot Magnetic Spice Tins — When it comes to creating a magnetic spice rack there are plenty of expensive or DIY approaches available to you. But these 2.5″ round tins from the Dollar Store which you can get for $24/case (that’s 48 tins!) are perfect for storing all your favorite spices within reach. NOTE: There are also bigger 3.75″ tins, but they’re less reliably in stock.
Silicone Egg Bites Mold — I’m gonna be honest, I have literally never used these to make egg bites. I use them to freeze chicken or vegetable stock in 1/4 cup measurements or to freeze pesto or fresh herbs in oil to use with pasta for quick and easy dinners. Once the stock or herbs have frozen solid, I take them out of the mold and store them in bags or airtight containers in the freezer.
Meal Planning & Grocery Shopping
Weekly Magnetic Meal Planner Notepad — Nothing keeps my meal planning/grocery shopping routine on track like these refrigerator notepads with the days on one side and grocery list on the other. Each sheet is perforated, so I take the list with me, and leave my plan on the fridge so I actually remember what I’m cooking!
Magnetic Pencil/Pen Cup — If you’re going to keep a running grocery list on the fridge and, you know, actually write things down when you think of them, you need easily accessible writing implements. Keep them on the fridge right next to your grocery list, and you’ll never forget what you need while you hunt through your kitchen for a pen.
Reusable Produce Bags — Say goodbye to single-use plastics and bring these reusable drawstring produce bags with you to the grocery store. Each bag has a “tare” weight on it for the cashier to subtract so you don’t get charged for the weight of the bag (not every grocery store can accommodate this, but the bags are pretty light). The best part? They’re machine washable. Disclaimer: These will not help your produce last longer in the fridge.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat (Amazon, IndieBound) — This is a cover-to-cover kind of cookbook. And while I know that sounds intimidating (it took me a good 6 months to work up the courage to crack it open) the illustrations make following Nosrat’s instructions a breeze. Even if you never make a recipe straight from the book, the straightforward explanations will transform your entire approach to food, teaching you how to apply simple, restaurant-level techniques to elevate your everyday cooking.
Gotta try: Garlicky green beans, buttermilk roast chicken.
Bread – My favorite bread making book for beginner and intermediate bakers. Big glossy photos, easy to follow recipes, and lots of before-and-after examples help empower you to start tweaking and adapting your favorite bread recipes. More on why I love this book here.
Indian-ish by Priya Krishna (Amazon, IndieBound) — I bought this book as part of The Kitchn’s Cookbook Club and it has completely changed the way I think of vegetarian food, and making Indian food. The recipes are easy to follow, Priya includes a photo list and glossary to help make the ingredients easy to find, and the meals are so hearty and satisfying even the most carnivorous of meat eaters won’t feel like their meal is missing meat.
Gotta try: The aloo parathas, the dal, and the Malaysian ramen.
How to Bake Everything by Mark Bittman (Amazon, IndieBound) — The title really is what it promises. If you need a basic, straightforward recipe for pretty much anything from puff pastry to drop cookies to pizza dough, tarts, pies, sweet, savory, fougasse, ciabatta, sourdough and more, this book has you covered. The detailed illustrations and charts are hugely helpful, and I like that most of the recipes include a list of suggested variations if you want to go beyond the basics.
Smitten Kitchen Everyday by Deb Perelman (Amazon, IndieBound) — Deb is the OG of food bloggers, and you really can’t go wrong with her recipes. From ingenious shortcuts for making fall-off-the-bone ribs without a grill, to a formula for making the best birthday cake that can be scaled up or down as needed, to vegetable mains and entrees kids and adults alike will love, this cookbook has a little bit of everything for everyone.
Gotta try: Miso Maple Ribs, Best Birthday Cake
The Food Lab (Amazon, IndieBound) — For a scientific approach to cooking, look no further than J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab. Part visual textbook, part cookbook, Lopez-Alt shines a spotlight on the science behind many popular recipes and techniques, explaining how to get the creamiest mac & cheese, crispiest fried chicken, or two-minute foolproof hollandaise? This is the book for you. I especially appreciate that he walks you through the recipe development process; understanding that there are multiple ways to make the same dish and why he recommends certain ones has been hugely helpful to my own cooking journey.
Gotta try: Pesto Sauce, Fried Chicken, Slow-Cooked Bolognese
Looking for cookbooks that are particularly great on Kindle or Apple Books? Not every cookbook is formatted well for eReaders, but I’m keeping an ongoing list of my favorites here.
Where Cooking Begins (Amazon, IndieBound) — Bon Appetit‘s editor at large Carla Lalli Music’s debut cookbook is the epitome of practical cooking. The book is broken down into three parts: The Strategy, The Techniques, and The Recipes. She begins by explaining her grocery shopping and pantry philosophy before demonstrating a handful of basic cooking techniques and how to apply them to a variety of ingredients. She then uses those techniques in recipes throughout the book. Each recipe is accompanied by a list of “ingredient swaps” to help you take the same recipe and adapt it based on the season or what you happen to get in your CSA box that week.
Barkeeper’s Friend — This stuff is NO JOKE. When you have a pan with a stubborn stain or oil or grease burn marks that just won’t budge, Barkeeper’s Friend will be your friend too. We use it on all our baking pans and especially on our All-Clad pans to keep them looking good-as-new. Simply apply a small amount to a wet surface and scrub for 60 seconds, rinse, and repeat if — and I do mean if — needed.
OXO Cleaning Brush Duo — Perfect for scrubbing tough stains, cleaning water bottles, humidifier pieces, and getting into all the nooks and crannies of your favorite appliances. I like that they clip together — makes them much harder to lose!
Rumford Aluminum Free Baking Powder — Look, I don’t know how credible or not credible the scary information about the dangers of aluminum is, but if I can buy baking powder without aluminum in it… it certainly can’t hurt.
Citric Acid — Crucial for making goat cheese, citric acid is also commonly used for canning, and as a preservative in jams, jellies, candies, and more. It can also be used in seasoning mixes when you want a slightly sour, citric flavor without using something like lemon juice or zest which will expire quickly.
Thai Rice Flour — When shaping sourdough bread or any bread in a wicker banneton or brotform basket, this is the flour you want to use to line the basket. It’s finer than AP flour and less likely to fall off the walls of the basket, plus it doesn’t clump up the way AP does.
King Arthur Flour Everything Bagel Topping — My favorite bagel topping is KAF’s everything bagel blend. Unlike Trader Joe’s “everything but the” seasoning, KAF’s blend doesn’t include salt which can throw off the chemistry of your dough and absorb water from your bagels, making them dry and dehydrated.
Whole Cardamom Pods — A few of these go a long way. Steep in milk, tea, or sauces for a minty, citrusy, herbal flavor. Crack them open and grind the seeds for a flavor that’s much more intense than if you buy it pre-ground. A few of these go a long way, so you’ll have this 2 ounce jar for a while.
Whole Nutmeg — I’m not saying you have to be like Alton Brown and always have nutmeg in your pocket, but when it comes to adding nutmeg to a recipe whole nutmeg is the way to go. Take a microplane to the end of one of these and you’ll get a flavor that’s far more intense than the pre-ground stuff, meaning you can use less of it to get a much richer flavor. Each one of these little nuts lasts basically forever, too.