A Benriner Mandoline
The Benriner Mandoline Plus ($49.95), on the other hand, features a sharp, angled blade that cuts much more efficiently than the awkward straight blades or clumsy V-shaped cutters. Walk into any four-star restaurant, and I guarantee you'll find at least a couple Bennies—as they are affectionately called by line cooks—occupying a prominent place in the kitchen.
Faster slicing means more time to spend with each other for the holidays, which may be a good or a bad thing.
An Immersion Blender
The interchangeable attachments (whisk, mini-chopper) aren't worth the space they take up, but at least its detachable handle separates the blade shaft from the motor, which makes for easy cleaning.
An Instant Read Thermometer
The Splash Proof Super-Fast Thermapen by Thermoworks has a hefty $96 price tag, but it's money well-spent. It's head-and-shoulders above the competition with a stunning range of -58 to 572°F (-50 to 300°C), 1/10th of a degree precision, unparalleled accuracy, and a read time of under three seconds. Because of its wide range, you won't need a separate meat, candy, or deep-fry thermometer—a single tool does all three tasks, and how.
A Potato Ricer
It's one of those things that you might never think about buying for yourself, but once you get one, you'll never go back to the old potato masher again.
A Used Cast Iron Skillet
Look for clean models that are 100% cast iron (no wooden handles, please!) from reputable buyers.
A Good Pepper Mill
$45 might seem like a big chunk of change, but a real pepper mill is much better than the plastic disposable type, and it's an investment that will improve practically every savory food item you cook. The Unicorn Magnum Plus Pepper Mill ($45) is sturdy, has a tough, nickel-plated grinding mechanism, an easy-to-load design, and a quick grind-size adjustment screw. It puts out a heavy storm of pepper with each twist, and with care, it should last a lifetime.
A timer, like the Polder 3 in 1 Timer, Clock & Stopwatch ($14.97) can prevent that. It's got an easy to read display, an unobtrusive size, intuitive buttons, a loud alarm, a magnet for sticking to the fridge, and a nylon lanyard for keeping it right around your neck, so there's no way you can forget about your roasting peppers—even if you leave the kitchen.
It's not a replacement for a good thermometer, but it's great to remind you of everything going on in your kitchen.
A Microplane Grater/Zester
No, I take that back. My favorite thing is to grate fresh nutmeg on top of my gin flip. (Or is it to sprinkle chocolate shavings over my soufflé?)
No, I've got it: It's being able to throw out my single-tasking garlic press and using my Microplane to grate garlic into tiny, even mince. Or ginger. Or shallots.
So many things to grate, so little time!