I will admit it, I have been spoiled by my kitchen gadgets. I can't imagine cooking without them. Over the years of engagement registries, wedding gifts, housewarming lovelies, and culinary splurges, my husband and I have managed to stock a pretty good kitchen with the help of our family and friends. If you had asked me ten years ago whether I would now be drooling over Williams Sonoma catalogs like they were made of the finest Swiss chocolate, I'd start to snort. I grew up chopping salad vegetables with a dull steak knife and didn't even have a dishwasher (besides me) until I was in my late twenties!
Now I have what I consider to be my "Top 5 Kitchen Helpers", well, besides my three year old! Don't get me wrong, I don't think you need to spend a tremendous amount of money on these things, but there are one or two items where you definitely get what you pay for. These culinary items have really helped my efficiency, preparation, and presentation each and every time I've used them. Of course there are exceptions to always getting the latest and greatest - I still use my great grandmother's depression-era potato masher every Thanksgiving and treasure my Mum's old aluminum baking pans. Still, having a stand mixer is amaaaaaaazing!
Top 5 Kitchen Helpers
5) Non Stick Baking Pans. I love them. Gone are the days of trying to pry an overdone cookie off the sheet with the strength of the Hulk and still failing... and yes, the cookies below do rest on a piece of parchment, but they're delicate! Non stick means easy transfer to a cooling rack and breezy clean up. I have four in my pantry. They still get grimy, no matter how much you spend on them, so you don't need to go crazy with fancy ones.
4) An Array of Cutting Boards. Having the correct cutting board for your purpose is so important! Cutting raw meat on a traditional wooden board is a sanitation no-no, so having either a wooden composite or a plastic board is necessary. I love wood block boards for cutting veggies and even rolling out pastry. Glass or ceramic is easy to clean but very knife-unfriendly - the blades will dull almost instantly - stay away!
3) A Stockpot. Having a large stockpot on hand has totally changed how I make soups, stews, broths, and even boiling potatoes. It's so nice not trying to cram a turkey carcass into a too small pot to make stock, or taking every pot in the house to make homemade soup in batches large enough to freeze for the winter. It's really no sweat now with the help of the proper pot! We have 3 and a 5 gallon pots for making stock. Lots of stock.
2) A Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer. Yes, I named dropped, but I will deal with the consequences! I adore my mixer and use it as often as possible. Cookies, cakes, breads, batters, sauces, fillings, frostings.... The list goes on and on. This is the workhorse in my pantry.
1) Some Sharp Cooking Knives. Honestly, the best that you can afford. I know it sounds strange, but given the chance to register for knives is one of the best ideas ever (reassure your sweetie that they are only meant for cooking!). Having a sharp, balanced knife is so essential in cooking. Besides getting beautifully smooth chops and shorter prep time, it is actually safer to use a sharper quality knife than to handle a duller version. Dull knives slip off your food and cut you. Sharp knives cut your food. A Santoku (Japanese chef knife), a medium utility knife, and a small pruning knife are the three really important ones. Unless you spend a lot of time boning fish. Also an easy to use sharpener (not the honing steel rod, an actual sharpener) is a great tool to have in your kitchen.