If there's one thing I don't mind spending money on it's kitchen gear. Because I know (and, I'm guessing, so do you!) that having the right tools and gadgets makes cooking, cleaning, and just general time spent in the kitchen so much better.
Unsurprisingly, I have my favorite kitchen buys of the year at the top of mind...always. Which is why I asked my fellow Serious Eats editors: What was their favorite kitchen-related purchase of 2021? Here's what they had to say.
Coffee Grinder and Brewer Cleaning Tablets
Working from home and being a parent of two small kiddos has meant brewing a swimming pool's worth of coffee each day. With increased usage, my coffee grinder and automatic drip brewer have gotten funkier, faster. These professional cleaning products are a godsend. The grinder-cleaning tablets are made from flavorless, food-safe grains; just run them through the grinder to give all its inner parts a good scouring of stale coffee bean dust and oil. The alkaline coffee brewing tablets, meanwhile, easily clean brew baskets and carafes by melting away built-up coffee residue (note, it is not a descaler, you'll need a different product for that). The result is a fresher, cleaner tasting cup of coffee in a snap. Yeah, this is my kitchen gear highlight of the year—my life is real exciting right now. — Daniel Gritzer, Culinary Director
I bought a lot of new equipment this year to outfit my home kitchen for all the recipe testing I've had to do as I'm writing my ramen cookbook. I bought, for example, a brixometer; I upgraded my KitchenAid to a professional series model; I finally got a Vitamix; I picked up a range of ladles and other sundry items that I've long wanted to purchase but always viewed as "optional" and therefore not worth the expense. But even though I bought all this stuff for my kitchen, the best thing I bought this year was a pair of cut-resistant gloves. I've mauled my hands many, many times over the years, and I have several ugly scars, nerve damage, and restricted range of movement to prove it, and yet I always thought of these gloves as taking kitchen caution to an extreme. I was a fool! If you've ever shucked an oyster or a clam and gotten perilously close to stabbing yourself (or if you've ever stabbed yourself with an oyster shell), or if you've ever had to go to the ER because you thought using a mandoline slicer would be a good idea, pick a pair of these up. They will undoubtedly save you time, money, and health insurance headaches, and they also make the prospect of using a mandoline that much sweeter. Whereas before I used my mandoline semi-regularly, now I use it all the time! — Sho Spaeth, Editor
I had the same colander for years and it well, wasn't great. It didn't drain well and had a squat base, allowing water to flow back into it after straining. (Sink water pasta? No thank you!) This colander is a huge upgrade. It has tons of tiny perforations that allow for easy drainage and an extra-tall base, so there's no back flow. Worth every penny. – Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, Commerce Editor
A Kitchen Timer
For years I've kept track of cooking times using my phone and an array of shoddy timers, and it's consistently been a disaster. But it took the stresses of this year—and my phone's timer app crapping out just one too many times—for me to finally whisper "not today, Satan" and order one of ThermoWorks' combination kitchen timers. And let me tell you, I'm never going back. The TimeStick Trio, as the name suggests, combines three separate timers into a single, waterproof unit. It can count up or down, it has an incredibly strong magnet on the back (no more having timers fall into your pots!) and it even has a lanyard in case you want to hang it around your neck like an overzealous gym teacher. It's great, I love it, and if you need to keep track of the cooking times of more than one dish at a time, you should probably buy one.— Jacob Dean, Updates EditorContinue to 5 of 7 below.
Cooking Oil Solidifier
I don’t do a lot of deep-frying at home, mainly because cleanup is a hassle. So when I came across FryAway, a powdered “cooking oil solidifier” that promises to make fryer oil disposal a breeze, I was immediately intrigued. I picked up a couple of bags, and put the product to the test while working on my fritto misto di mare and filetti di baccalà recipes for Feast of the Seven Fishes. Per the instructions, after I finished frying, I stirred the powder into the hot pot of oil and set it aside to cool. Half an hour later, the oil had hardened into a solid puck, thanks to a process known as oleogelation, that I was able to slide into the trash. No awkward funneling of used oil into plastic bottles and deli containers. No mess. No fuss. This is a game-changer for at-home frying. — Sasha Marx, Senior Culinary Editor
A Bench Scraper
I’ve long known the perks of keeping a bowl scraper on hand. While it can be argued that a square-edged metal bench scraper isn’t that much different, this has somehow become one of my most used tools. I love it for slicing into doughs, cleaning up scraps from my cutting board, and transferring loose ingredients into pans or bowls. It just makes everything a little neater and a little easier. I love this one because it’s sturdy, has a sharp enough edge to cut into softer things, and has a little ruler! — Jina Stanfill, Social Media Editor
Quarter Sheet Pans
I also got four more quarter sheet pans. They're in near constant rotation: For cooking dinners for two, baking just a couple of chocolate chip cookies, toasting nuts, the list goes on. There are lots of quarter sheets out there, but, in my opinion, the ones from Nordic Ware are the very best. They're warp-resistant, last a very, very long time, and have tall walls that are easy to grip. — Riddley