When fall and winter roll around, I start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that these stoneware baking dishes get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. They're great-looking on the table and provide gentle, even cooking all around for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.
A pressure cooker is a cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. The good ones aren't cheap, but man, is it ever worth having one. A countertop electric model gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. With the Breville Fast Slow Pro Cooker, not only do you have complete control over your pressure cooking (including any pressure level from 1.5 to 12 psi), you also have a slow cooker and a rice cooker built right in. It'll even sear meat for stews.
The ChefSteps Joule is the smallest circulator on the market. It's sleek, compact design fits in a drawer and it heats quickly and accurately. It has the advantage of the ChefSteps community and legacy content built into its app, though its one downside is that it requires a smartphone or tablet along with a registered account to operate.
The Cadillac of kitchen thermometers is indispensable when you're roasting meat, cooking steaks, making candy, deep-frying, or carrying out any other task where precise temperature control is needed. It's got 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.
A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using it. I use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving my cutting board a quick clean. Next to my chef's knife, the bench scraper is the tool you'll see in my hand most often.
I never knew how much I'd appreciate having a soda-maker at home until I got one. I'm a fizz fiend, and that used to mean sugary sodas. Now it means sparkling water any time I want it. For an extra $50, you can upgrade to the Power Source, which allows you to choose your carbonation level at the touch of a button.
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 backlit pull-out display to make measuring easy, even for large or unwieldy items.
A good steak knife should cut steak well, and it should look good while doing it. French-made Laguiole knives are the gold standard in performance, with extra-sharp edges for easy cutting, a long life, and gorgeous handles with distinctive bee-shaped bolsters. (Beware inexpensive knockoffs!)
I tested dozens of stovetop pressure cookers before settling on Kuhn Rikon's Duromatic. It has a heavy sandwiched-aluminum-and-steel base that gives you even heat, and a pressure gauge that makes telling exactly how much pressure has built up inside visual and intuitive.
A large mortar and pestle is one of the most underutilized kitchen tools. Not only is it faster than a spice grinder for small amounts of dry spices (particularly when it comes to cleaning), it draws out more flavor by crushing rather than shearing. It's also the perfect tool for making pastes out of moist ingredients, like herbs, garlic, and shallots.
Proper seasoning is one of the most important parts of cooking, and if you're still using plain table salt from (heaven forbid!) a saltshaker, you're shooting yourself in the food. Using kosher salt from a salt cellar lets you feel exactly how much salt is getting into your food, whether it's a tiny pinch or a big ol' wallop.
What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? I love this teak cutting board because it's large enough for major projects, but lighter than thicker boards, making it easy to move from the kitchen to the dining room. It's made from scraps of larger teak products, making this cutting board a good environmental choice as well.
Breville's newest entry in the food processor department is powerful, large, and packed with features that make it best-in-class, like a blade drive that runs like the base of a blender (no more leaking sauces) and a slicing blade with adjustable width, giving you more power and versatility in the kitchen.
I've cracked my way through quite a few baking stones. With the Baking Steel—a solid sheet of steel designed to replace a baking stone—that's a thing of the past. Not only will it last forever, but, with superior thermal properties, it produces the best pizza crusts I've ever seen in a home oven.
In this book, Meathead Goldwyn, the founder of AmazingRibs.com, distills decades of research on the art and science of barbecue and grilling into a single volume that shows not just the best ways to take food to live fire, but why the techniques work. Far more than a recipe book alone (though there are tons of bulletproof recipes), this text will teach your favorite barbecue lover the hard-tested fundamentals of outdoor cooking, giving them the confidence to cook anything, even without a recipe. The myth-busting and equipment tips alone were enough to get me hooked.
Wooden peels absorb excess moisture and have a rougher surface than metal, which means that your stretched and topped pizza dough will remain loose and easy to launch far longer, saving you from potential pizza-spilled-all-over-the-oven accidents. Though there are cheaper options around, I love my Perfect Peel Baker's Board, handcrafted to last a lifetime from gorgeous solid cherrywood. They'll even put initials or a logo on it if you'd like!
Old cast iron has a perfectly smooth nonstick surface that's surprisingly easy to maintain. You can sear, bake, roast, braise, stew, and deep-fry in it, and there's nothing more thoughtful than a gift that you have to expend a bit of effort to find (check out eBay, yard sales, and flea markets). Of course, these modern Lodge pans will do in a pinch if vintage isn't in the cards.
Wooden pizza peels are too thick to easily slide under a pie once it's hit the oven. For that, you'll want a thin-bladed metal peel. Basic models made of thin-gauge aluminum, like this Kitchen Supply peel, are just fine for the occasional baker, but they'll bend and warp eventually. If you're going to be making pizza multiple times a year for many years to come, you might want to spring for something a little more heavy-duty. I use the KettlePizza Pro Peel, which has a thick-gauge aluminum body that extends fully past the solid teakwood handle.
I have a problem with wooden spoons. I collect them like nobody's business. But there are a few I always turn back to, and this one, from Le Creuset, is one of them. It's gorgeous to look at; it has a flat front, which makes it great for scraping up fond or stirring vegetables; and it's got a smooth, ergonomic grip that makes using it a joy.
When it comes to portioning pizza, a knife simply won't cut it. At least, not if you don't want to drag cheese and toppings all over the place. For my money, nothing beats a traditional pizza wheel.
I can't tell you how many times I burn bread crumbs or forget about the nuts I'm toasting in the oven. At least, I used to. That was all before I got myself a couple of these easy-to-use, loud kitchen timers that I can hang around my neck, so I never forget about something in the kitchen, even if I leave the room.
In the inexpensive-thermometer department, the ThermoPop comes in an impressive package. 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, the Thermapen, but it's every bit as accurate.
These days, I keep this solid slab of steel permanently atop one of the burners of my stove. One side has a pebbled surface—ideal for getting extra-crisp, better-than-a-baking-stone crust on homemade pizzas. And, unlike a baking stone, this thing is going to last forever. The griddle arrives as shiny steel, but with just a few uses, it seasons up into a dark, slick nonstick surface that can be used for everything from pancakes to eggs to hamburgers to grilled cheese.
Not all containers are built the same. OXO's Pop Containers stack neatly in the cabinet, make it easy to see exactly what's inside, and have a neat push-button top that forms a perfectly airtight seal, keeping your dry pantry goods fresher for longer.
Sous vide cooking—cooking foods in vacuum-sealed pouches in precisely controlled water baths—is no longer the exclusive preserve of fancy restaurant kitchens. The Anova Precision Cooker is the best home water bath controller on the market, with an easy-to-use interface, Bluetooth support, rock-solid construction, a sleek look, and an affordable price tag to boot.
Know someone who's interested in sous vide cooking? They're gonna want this. And it's handy for way more than just sous vide cooking. A vacuum sealer makes it really easy to save meats or other foods in the freezer, and it keeps air (read: freezer burn) off it all. The Oliso sealer uses a unique resealable-bag system, which means far less wasted plastic than a conventional cut-and-seal vacuum sealer.
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 the most-used knife in my arsenal.
There are a lot of custom-designed pizza ovens out there in various price ranges. I haven't tested all of them, but my favorite so far is the Uuni 2S. It consists of a small stainless steel box with a pizza stone set inside it. You load up a hopper on the rear of the unit with wood pellets, light it up with a torch or lighter fluid, and let it preheat. About 15 minutes later, you're ready to cook. This little powerhouse hits temperatures in excess of 900°F and bakes up Neapolitan-sized pizzas in just 60 to 90 seconds.
I've never been to Zahav, the Philadelphia restaurant where Michael Solomonov serves his Israeli cuisine, but its namesake book has nevertheless changed the way I cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. I've loved the Yemenite beef soup (and the accompanying hot sauce), his wide focus on vegetarian-friendly dishes, and a host of homemade condiments that will elevate almost any meal, even if you don't follow full recipes from the book.
I'll admit it: I'm a pepper mill snob. I need my mill to produce a shower of evenly crushed peppercorns. I want to be able to control the size of those grains, from a rough crush to a fine powder. Not only that, I want my pepper mill to last. With a solid metal burr and a unique easy-to-load design, this is my favorite pepper mill of all time.