Essential Tools

There's enough to worry about when you're cooking a holiday meal, so make sure you're not left scrambling to find the right tools at the last minute. This list of essential equipment is a good place to start.

If you ever plan to tackle homemade pie crust or rolled sugar cookies, you'll need a rolling pin. Tapered French rolling pins are more maneuverable and more durable than other styles, and they're easier to clean as well.

There's nothing better than a good cast iron skillet for searing meat and vegetables, baking cornbread, or making our pull-apart stuffing rolls.

High-quality Swedish steel and Japanese design, along with great features like a perfectly balanced handle and blade and an ergonomic bolster, make the Misono UX10 Santoku one of our favorite tools in the kitchen.

We can't tell you how many times we've burned bread crumbs or forgotten about the nuts we were toasting in the oven. At least, we used to. That was all before we got ourselves a couple of these loud, easy-to-use kitchen timers that can hang around your neck—so you never forget about something in the kitchen, even if you leave the room.

You can't bake a pie without pie plates, and the tough tempered-glass plates from Pyrex have proven themselves over the years. Here's how to pick the right pie plate for every job.

The best recipe in the world won't help you if your oven is mis-calibrated. A simple oven thermometer will guarantee that you're cooking things right.

This wooden spoon from Le Creuset is the one you'll reach for time and again. It's gorgeous to look at, its flat front makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables, and its smooth, ergonomic grip makes using it a joy.

The Dutch oven is the true workhorse of your kitchen pot arsenal. Over the holidays, it's where you'll par-cook your roasted potatoes. It's where you'll sauté your vegetables for stuffing and where you'll cook down your pie fillings.

You don't need an electric knife to carve your holiday roast or bird—just a nice, sharp carving knife, like this one from Wüsthof.

The Cadillac of kitchen thermometers is indispensable when you're roasting turkey, making candy, deep frying, or whenever precise temperature control is needed. With a big display and a blazing-fast measuring time of under two seconds, you won't find a better, easier-to-use thermometer out there.

Casseroles are perfect for holiday feasts because they can be assembled ahead and baked off before supper. A good casserole dish will heat your food evenly, keep it piping hot at the table, and look good in the process.

Don't want to spring for a Thermapen? Get yourself the less expensive Thermopop. An easy-to-read display rotates at the touch of a button so you don't have to twist your head to read it. It takes a few seconds longer to read temperatures than its big brother, but it's every bit as accurate.

A fine-mesh strainer is indispensable for a whole range of kitchen tasks, from making sure your chicken stock is free of sediment to producing silky-smooth custards.

Another essential kitchen tool, the Microplane grater does fine grating way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg and cinnamon or taking the zest off a lemon, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.

If you want to step up your game from a potato ricer, a good food mill will do the same job, plus it'll work year-round for straining tomatoes for sauce, fruit for jams, and any number of other straining or pureeing uses (try it on your cranberry sauce!).

How do you make perfect gravies, sauces, and reductions? A nifty pot called a saucier. The durable stainless steel is cladded with aluminum for even heating, essential for temperamental ingredients like caramel and egg custards. A curved bottom makes whisking a snap (no more lumpy gravy!), and the wide top encourages evaporation for fast sauce reductions. You can buy cheaper versions than this All-Clad saucier, but this is one piece of equipment where quality really makes a difference.

A good digital scale is an essential tool for bakers or home charcuterie makers. The OXO Food Scale comes with an easy-to-clean removable stainless steel weighing surface, great accuracy and precision, and a pull-out backlit display to make measuring simple, even for large or unwieldy items.

A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using one. Use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another to portioning dough to giving your cutting board a quick clean.

Whether you're making your mashed potatoes extra-fluffy or rich and creamy, a potato ricer is the best tool for getting those cooked spuds silky smooth (of course if you prefer your potatoes chunky, that's ok too!).

A workhorse cutting board is great to have in the kitchen, but for the dinner table, you'll want something a little showier, like this teak end-grain board.

There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome. Several NYC restaurants have commissioned custom apron designs from the company for their chefs and cooks, and I'm pretty psyched to wear one of these bad boys at home, too.

A handheld mandoline-style slicer is great for shaving vegetables for salads or cutting perfectly even planks of potato for your Hasselback Potato Gratin. The V-shaped blade of our favorite version stays sharp and slices evenly, pass after pass.