Stainless Steel Honing Steel
This is our top pick among stainless steel honing steels for your knives. It's inexpensive and comfortable to hold, and, like most metal steels, it's magnetized, which means it'll hold on to any tiny bits of metal that might come off the knife, and prevent that stuff from getting in your food.
Precision Coffee Maker
While you can get it brewing with just the push of a button, the Breville offers layer upon layer of fine-tuned control for the coffee geek who wants to tweak brew variables. Finishing near the top of our taste tests, this spendy machine allows you to control brew-water temperature and time and the blooming phase. It can also make cold brew, and it’s compatible with popular pourover devices like the Hario V60 and Kalita Wave.
Now & Again
This cookbook by Julia Turshen, author of Small Victories and Feed the Resistance, is full of simple, delicious meals for everyday eating, parties, and holidays. Better yet, each one includes a bunch of suggestions for how to remake it as leftovers. It's a trove of great, creative ideas, and a must for any bookworm.
The Cocktail Chronicles
Having The Cocktail Chronicles at your side is like having a friend who always knows a good drink recipe for whatever you've got on hand. It doesn't talk your ear off or suggest something with a dozen ingredients. Instead, it shares classics, recent spins on classics, and drinks you've never heard of but can easily mix up and enjoy, and the introductions are never preachy or boring.
Extra-Large Silicone Ice Cube Tray
Souper Cubes is the brainchild of two Serious Eaters, Michelle and Jake, who wanted to develop a better way to portion and freeze soups, stocks, and stews. The food-grade silicone mold features four one-cup cube molds, perfect for meal-prepping and stocking up on winter warmers for the long, cold months ahead.
Le Creuset Cake Stand
If you've ever been given a homemade birthday cake, return the favor by buying your favorite baker this iconic cake stand. Its heavy base keeps cakes secure and makes all types of decorating techniques a breeze.
Best Budget Blender
The KitchenAid is a solid budget blender choice that brings mayo together easily and purées soups to a smooth consistency. Available in 21 colors to match just about any decor, this KitchenAid was the quietest machine we tested, and the jar has one of the best drip-free pour spouts.
Cooks who do a lot of preserving, or keep several types of flour, rice, or other dangerously similar-looking ingredients around the kitchen in plastic or glass jars, need a practical way to identify the contents of all those vessels. The Brother P-Touch label maker—which prints and slices off labels quickly, in your choice of 14 fonts, and even on multiple lines—does the job admirably. But that's not the only reason, or even the most important reason, this device should be on your gift list. The real reason is that, for a certain type of organization freak whom you probably know (or are), labeling everything, from bottles of homemade syrups and dressings to recipe files to kitchen cabinets, is a particularly habit-forming kind of fun. Of course, a label maker is handy for all sorts of non-kitchen-related tasks, too, so there's no need to be prescriptive—just let the fastidious recipient's imagination run wild.
Fixed-Cup Spice Grinder
The sleek and minimalist design of the Krups means it's easy to hold, handle, and store—perfect for anyone tight on space. Even without a removable bowl, cleanup is a cinch because spices never get trapped beneath the blade, and there are no unnecessary ridges or notches to clog with spices. The one-touch operation makes it easy to use, and it quickly yields a fine and consistent grind in both large, tough spices and smaller seeds.
While an immersion circulator can be used with any old pot, we strongly suggest using a Cambro container, small or large (or both) depending on what recipes you have your eye on. Pots aren't as well suited for sous vide as Cambros, as plastic is a better insulator.
We love a good multitasker, and this lid organizer definitely makes our list. Of course, it can slide into a cabinet and keep lids in order, but it can also serve as a dish-drying rack for your plates.
We’ve used many oyster knives, and the R. Murphy Duxbury knife is our hands-down favorite. It has a fat, grippy handle that's easy to wield, and a short blade that tapers to a point and always manages to find the sweet spot on an oyster's hinge. The slightly sharpened blade edges make slicing through the muscle and removing the top shell as smooth as butter.
The Cuisinart is an easy-to-use, powerful blender that aced many of our tests. This model’s dashboard is intuitive, and it features a built-in timer that counts down for you or can be programmed to stop after a certain number of seconds.
Kids Cut Resistant Gloves
As you start to introduce real knives into your child's cooking habits, make sure to keep hands and fingers safe with these cut-resistant gloves, which come in plenty of fun colors and sizes.
One of the best cookbook gateways into Middle Eastern cuisine, and an obsessive and personalized exploration of the many cultures and traditions that make up Jerusalem's culinary world. What will you find here? A recipe for the best hummus of your life, for starters; messy-beautiful dips and salads; and the delicately spiced soups, grains, and vegetables Yotam Ottolenghi has become famous for.
9-Inch Glass Pie Plate
Cheap pie plates made of tempered glass give you much better results than heavier (albeit prettier) ceramic pie plates. Glass is also nonreactive, which makes this type of dish perfect for all sorts of pies.
Fancy Cheese Knives
Spending $50 on cheese knives feels a little silly, especially when a regular knife does the trick just fine. But that's why they're the perfect gift—arguably unnecessary, but nonetheless useful, they feel like a real luxury. We're pretty sure they also raise your "real adult" status by at least 10 points. Especially when they're these beautifully crafted Dubost Laguiole knives. We like the simplicity of the olivewood handles, but they do come in other colors and styles, with the same high-quality blades.
Magnetic Knife Rack
Not only do magnetic knife strips save space, they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too).
Curious Chef Kid's Mitt Set
Our very own Sasha Marx did a ton of testing on the best kids' tools while working at Cook's Illustrated. He recommends Curious Chef oven mitts, which are designed with little hands in mind.
Glass Baking Dish
This three-quart baking dish comes equipped with easy-to-grip handles for effortless transfer to and from the oven. The tall, straight sides are perfect for generously layered lasagnas and deep bread puddings. Its compact and lightweight design makes it a great choice for small kitchens. Although it’s not broiler-safe, at only $20, it’s a great budget-friendly choice.
One-Handed Kitchen Tongs
Even if it's possible to unlock your tongs with just one hand, most models require a free second hand to pull a tab and lock them again. Oftentimes when you're cooking, there's no second hand available to do that when you need it. For that reason, we looked far and wide for true one-handed locking tongs. The best of the bunch are the Rösle Locking Tongs. These feature a sliding mechanism that's activated by the tongs' angle: Point them toward the floor, squeeze, and they unlock; point them toward the ceiling, squeeze, and they lock again.
A vertical spoon rest is the kind of sensible, space-saving kitchen innovation you won't realize you need until you try it. This one is a clean-and-simple two-part affair, with a dishwasher-safe stainless steel bowl and accompanying vertical rack. Rather than taking up precious countertop with the long handle of your cooking utensil (all while its business end relaxes in a puddle of the sauce that you're ostensibly trying to drain from it), simply prop your spoon or spatula upright against the rack, allowing the liquid to drip off more thoroughly.
If you know someone who has a taste for a well-made cocktail, but lives far from the heart of the Brooklyn drinking scene, this book is the perfect gift. It features 300 innovative and classic drink recipes from the best bars of the borough; every cocktail we've tried from it so far has been killer. The drinks Carey Jones has selected aren't dumbed down at all, but, for the most part, you're not looking at mile-long ingredient lists, either.
Washoku: Recipes From the Japanese Home Kitchen
The food you'll make out of this book is undeniably healthy. It's full of vegetables, whole grains, pickles, miso and other fermented foods, and lean protein. Much of it is also the kind of food that works equally well served hot, at room temperature, or straight out of the fridge the next day. It's convenient when you're cooking out of a book primarily for flavor, but health and easy-to-use leftovers tag along for the ride as well.
Ice Cream Scoop
The Zeroll is our favorite ice cream scoop because it’s comfortable and lightweight, and it forms nice mounds of even the chunkiest flavors. Inside the aluminum handle is a food-safe mineral oil that transfers the heat from your hand to the tool’s bowl, which makes cutting through rock-hard ice cream easier.
The curving shape of a balloon whisk conforms nicely to bowls and sauciers, making it easy to scrape every surface and reach every corner. Because there aren't too many tines, it won't get gunked up when you're making thick batters, like the yukone for Stella's bagels and crusty dinner rolls, and its hollow shape makes it easy to knock out whatever's trapped inside.
Taketsuru Pure Malt Japanese Whisky
Anyone who appreciates Scotch (or good spirits in general) will embrace Nikka's exquisite whiskies. The Taketsuru Pure Malt is named for the company's founder, who studied in Scotland before bringing whisky distilling back to Japan. This bottling has a slight fruity character, with lingering sherry on the finish.
The Whirley Pop is the fastest, most convenient way to make popcorn, popping out cups of the stuff in under a minute, with virtually no un-popped kernels. It also produces fluffier popcorn than any other stovetop method (air poppers might have it beat in that department), and it's excellent for distributing toppings.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven
How much praise can we throw at a Le Creuset Dutch oven? This is one of those things couples put on their wedding registries and desperately hope someone buys for them. This is a pot you hand down to your kids. This is a piece of cookware that you will use for everything, including serving at the table, and then you won't want to put it away because you just like looking at it. This is a workhorse of the kitchen. Yes, it costs a lot. But things that are built to last a lifetime despite daily use usually do.
Kristina's mom's signature dish is her homemade lefse, a Norwegian potato flatbread rolled gauze-thin and cooked on a round griddle, just like this one, at a blazing-hot heat. If you're not into the Scandi thing, you can use this griddle to make crepes, injera, or regular old pancakes.
Anova Precision Cooker
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 one of the best home water-bath controllers on the market, with an easy-to-use interface, Bluetooth support, rock-solid construction, a sleek look, and an affordable price tag to boot.
Messermeister Knife Case
Most professional cooks own a knife bag so they can tote their knives around from one job to another. But knife bags can be really useful storage options, as well. They're compact, they can hold many knives, and they can be moved around as needed, which means you don't necessarily need to have a dedicated knife drawer as long as you can find somewhere safe to stash your knives.
Misen Chef's Knife
This is the holy grail of inexpensive chef's knives: incredible quality and design, high-end materials, perfect balance, and a razor-sharp edge.
The Foods and Wines of Spain
For decades, Spain stood in the gastronomic shadows of France and Italy, not receiving nearly enough attention for its own amazing ways with food. Then the country's restaurant scene exploded with chefs like Ferran Adrià, and suddenly the rest of the food world was racing to catch up. To understand those chefs requires understanding the traditional Spanish foods that formed the basis upon which they experimented so wildly, and Penelope Casas's book is one of the best starting points to do so. Flip through its pages, and it won't take long to see that Spain has always deserved a more prominent place in the eyes of the hungry world.
Feed the Resistance
After a year of more to protest than what feels like ever, Julia Turshen compiled her favorite meals to feed a hungry crowd coming back from a long day of resisting. Whether you're hosting fellow organizers after a march or feeding friends as a form of emotional support in trying times, these large-format recipes satisfy.
Brooklyn Biltong Dried Beef
Biltong is a dried meat, similar to jerky, that hails from South Africa. As we understand it, the process is distinct from making jerky in that the meat is given a vinegar bath before drying, which gives the final product a slight tang. We got samples of Brooklyn Biltong's stuff a while back, and while we can't actually recommend the "Original" flavor, which is a little bland, the "Jo'burg Steakhouse" variety is addictive. The "Zulu Peri Peri" flavor ain't bad, either.
Hedley & Bennett Kid's Apron
If you want to dress your kids up like the pros, go for a restaurant-grade apron by Hedley and Bennett.
Joyce Chen Cook Book
Even if you've never heard of Joyce Chen, even if you never pick up a copy of her out-of-print cookbook, even if you aren't a big fan of Northern Chinese cuisine, we can flat-out guarantee that Joyce Chen has changed the way you eat or cook. For one thing, Joyce Chen invented the Chinese lunch buffet that we know from countless suburban strip malls in the US. For another, she's the original patent owner for the flat-bottomed wok that's enabled so many American cooks to begin stir-frying at home. Chen made it her mission to make Chinese food accessible to an American audience, and although the recipes in this book, for dishes like velveted chicken, beef with snow peas, and moo shi pork, may be a little dated (Chen's call for lean meats in many of her recipes reflects the health-conscious trends of the 1970s), they and their creator helped clear the path for generations of restaurateurs, TV chefs, and cookbook authors to come.
Awesome Chef's Knife
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 knives.
Louie Mueller's Brisket
Slow-smoked brisket is Texas's best-known contribution to barbecue culture, and, though you can now get it in just about every major city, you still need to go to the source to get brisket so good it will make you cry. But if you can't make it to Texas, ordering Louie Mueller's brisket is the next best thing—they ship the whole brisket, which means you get plenty of the critically important fatty half.
How do you make perfect caramels, ice cream, gravies, 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 in which quality really makes a difference.
Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
This hefty volume ranges from regional Mexican cooking down through the complex cuisine of Peru, over to Argentina's famed grilling tradition, and much, much more. If you want to understand how an empanada or arepa differs from one country to the next, this is the book to grab.
The Noma Guide to Fermentation
The hottest new nerdy book of kitchen geekery has to be The Noma Guide to Fermentation by Rene Redzepi and David Zilber. If you know someone who's mixed koji up with dried fish to make a kind of fish sauce, this is the book for them. Also a good gift for anyone who's into drying meats or pickling—it details methods and processes that take those hobbies a step further.
Olivewood Salt Keeper
Something we see a lot in home kitchens is salt that's way too inaccessible, whether it's tucked into a cabinet or sealed into a difficult-to-use dispenser. Considering how frequently salt is used in recipes, it should be within reach at all times. Along with our salt pig, we recommend this olivewood salt cellar with a swing-top lid. We like to keep one salt container at each side of the kitchen, so we never have to reach too far for good seasoning. Depending on how your kitchen is set up, you might want to consider having salt in more than one place, too; generally it's most useful right by the stove and wherever you do most of your prep work.
Grating ginger is a minor pain in the ass—rub it on a Microplane, and the grater's holes quickly become clogged with the ginger's long, tough fibers, making the tool less effective and difficult to clean. A porcelain or ceramic grater, like this one from Kyocera, has tiny little pointy teeth that do a miraculous job of rapidly reducing the ginger to a purée, while separating out those annoying fibers. When you're all done, it's a lot easier to clean, too.
This is a great introductory stone for sharpening Japanese knives. The combination of grits gives you everything you need: The coarser side quickly restores an edge, while the fine side smooths and polishes.
Fancy Glass Pitcher
Niki received this classic Waterford pitcher as a wedding gift, and it's become a workhorse in her home. When she's not using it to decant wine, it's hard at work serving cocktails, ice water, and juices. And in between any special occasions, you can drop in some fresh flowers and use it as a vase.
For quick, even baking and the perfect crust on treats from brownies to hot cross buns, what you want is a nine- by 13-inch anodized aluminum baking pan. Anodization ensures the metal is nonreactive, which keeps recipes such as lemon bars and lasagna from taking on a wonky metallic flavor. Our favorite brownie pan goes the extra mile with a removable bottom, making it easy to extract fragile desserts for slicing into bars.
Meia-Duzia Portuguese Jams
On a recent trip to Portugal, Ariel discovered this line of homemade jams and honey, and, worried that she'd never find them again, she brought 12 tubes home. Turns out you can buy them online, too. The packaging is beautiful, and the products, like pumpkin and orange jam with rosemary, fig jam with port wine, and apple jam with cinnamon, will revolutionize your cheese plate.
While organization is key for cooking effectively, it's also helpful to be organized and stocked for cleaning up. To make the process less stressful and time-consuming, make sure you have everything you need at arm's reach, starting with soap. This Command soap rack can hang right next to your sink—and won't leave any holes in the wall when it comes time to move.
You could use any old spoon to stir a cocktail, but a bar spoon is best suited for the job. Long and slender, it can reach to the bottom of a tall mixing glass packed with ice, without getting stuck on the way in or out. Its twisted handle isn't just for aesthetics, either—it's designed to spin gracefully in your fingers as the spoon goes round and round, minimizing the jostling of the contents with the spoon bowl and reducing splashes and spills. Plus, it just looks cool.
Electric Countertop Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is the cooking vessel that just keeps on giving: Once you discover the time-saving feats it's capable of, you'll never look back. If you have the space for it, a countertop electric model, in particular, gives you set-it-and-forget-it convenience. Breville’s Fast Slow Pro Cooker gives you complete control over your pressure-cooking, but also works as a slow cooker and a rice cooker.
This remarkable book, from Martin and Rebecca Cate of San Francisco's Smuggler’s Cove, traces the birth and evolution of exotic drinks and tiki bars—bars that embodied an American escapist fantasy. A lively exploration of our country's drinking history (and the current tiki scene), it's essential reading for rum lovers, offering the best categorization we've encountered of the head-spinningly diverse spirit. The mai tai recipe is great, too.
This Zyliss salad spinner was far and away the top performer in our tests, due to its space-efficient design, solid construction, and minimal-effort drying mechanism.
Yoobi Scissors for Kids
We’ve written extensively about why shears are so important in the kitchen, and they're just as important a tool for kids as they are for adults. We like the blunted ones by Yoobi for safely snipping herbs, greens, and more
Bar Keepers Friend
Even if you maintain good cleaning habits, a pan can lose its like-new appearance over time. Small spills that run down the outside of a piece of cookware can burn on, oil can polymerize, and eventually that shiny, silvery metal will have splotches tinged yellow and thin stains of carbonized black. The best method we've found to fix this is scouring with the powdered version of Bar Keepers Friend, which contains oxalic acid, among other ingredients. Together, the oxalic acid and the powder's abrasive properties will clean away much of those stubborn stains.
Stainless Steel Rail
Install this bar on a wall over your stove, and you can hang small pots and pans, ladles, and other frequently used tools on it for rapid access. Place it elsewhere, and you can hang not only kitchen towels from it but also bottle openers, scissors, honing steels, and anything else you use often and would rather not rummage around in drawers for.
The Man Who Ate Everything
Despite its fast pace, self-deprecating style of humor, and easy readability, there's an insane amount of usable information packed into every paragraph of The Man Who Ate Everything, and, what's more, you find yourself actually remembering the stuff. Not everything he writes about is immediately useful in the kitchen, but it's guaranteed to make you successful at cocktail parties and Jeopardy! tournaments alike.
Zingerman's Gift Certificate
It's hard to find a better-curated food catalog than Zingerman's. They are righteous folks, they know seriously delicious food when they come across it, and they sell it at a fair price. Nothing in the catalog is cheap, but then again, good food rarely is.
You're definitely going to want this if you're getting serious about sous vide cooking, but it's handy for way more than that. A vacuum sealer makes it really easy to save meats or other foods in the freezer, especially as it keeps air (read: freezer burn) off everything. The Oliso sealer uses a unique resealable-bag system, which means far less wasted plastic than a conventional cut-and-seal vacuum sealer.
A tourné knife can be good for more than just tormenting culinary students. It's perfect for peeling onions and garlic, hulling strawberries, removing stubborn potato eyes, and much more.
Lighter fluid is fun to play with, but it can impart an off flavor to your food. A chimney starter is faster, cleaner, more efficient, and better for the environment. It's a tall metal cylinder with holes punched in it and a grate at the bottom for holding the charcoal. It works with the power of convection: When a lit newspaper is placed at the bottom, igniting the lowest coals, the hot air rises up, pulling fresh oxygen in through the vent holes and through the bottom. This constant supply of fresh oxygen, coupled with the fact that the metal efficiently reflects heat back toward the coals, means you require nothing more than a single piece of newspaper and a match to turn a full six quarts of coals into a roaring inferno within 20 minutes.
12-Inch French Whisk
As the name implies, this whisk excels at helping to prepare French cuisine. Use the plethora of tines to make a classic béchamel, develop a pan sauce with butter, or whip up a French meringue. The shape makes it easy to maneuver in small pans, reach into the corners of a pot, and provide enough agitation to aerate or emulsify.
Bangkok is a great gift for anyone who loves cooking Thai food at home and wants to expand their culinary repertoire. It's a steal for the noodle soups alone, but we particularly enjoy Punyaratabandhu's seafood recipes, like the pan-fried salted king mackerel steak.
Best Poultry Shears
OXO's poultry shears include a locking mechanism that's easy to engage and disengage, a looped handle that won't allow greasy hands to slip when squeezing hard, and a take-apart hinge for thorough cleaning. But what really makes it our top pick is that it's one of the only pairs of shears we tested that can both snip through squirmy skin and cleave through bone. If your poultry shears can't do that, you might as well not own them.
Miracle-Gro Twelve Indoor Growing System
After previously lauding Aerogardens for how easy they make it to grow herbs at home (and how having a constant supply of fresh herbs has changed her cooking), Ariel's upgraded to this larger system from Miracle-Gro. The increased size—it's about as big as a side table—and bright lights allow you to grow a bounty of lettuces, herbs, and other greens, and you can program the app to turn the lights off and on according to your schedule. An expensive but excellent gift for anyone who loves fresh produce and fears their own black thumbs.
Straight-Sided Sauté Pan
This straight-sided sauté pan from All-Clad has a wide, flat base for searing off big batches of meat, and high sides so you can braise, stew, or simmer several meals' worth of food directly in it. It's the ideal vessel for stove-to-oven dishes like this Braised Chicken With White Beans, or a one-pot pasta dish like our Macaroni and Beef. Versatile and robust, it makes comfort food all the more comforting.
The Best Anchovies in Olive Oil
For our anchovy taste test, Ortiz was certainly the most gourmet brand we tried. Every other sample cost us less than $2.00 per ounce. What sets it apart? Tasters applauded its "smooth texture," describing it as "tender and meaty." A number noted its relatively mild, clean flavor, a certain "pleasant sweetness" and "cheesy Parmesan flavor."
The Cuisinart’s build is rock-solid, with riveted handles, a snug-fitting lid, and triple-ply stainless steel cladding (a core of aluminum sandwiched between layers of stainless steel) from the base to the top of the pot’s wall. The wide, flat handles are very comfortable and leave plenty of space for oven mitt–covered hands.
Countertop Kitchen Timer
If you're not sold on the merits of a kitchen timer that you can roam around with, this OXO countertop timer is the best option out there.
Microplanes do fine grating work way better than those tiny, raspy holes on a box grater. Whether you're quickly grating fresh nutmeg or cinnamon, taking the zest off a lemon, or turning a clove of garlic into a fine purée, the Microplane is the tool to reach for.
Reinventing the Wheel
Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is the perfect gift for anyone who loves cheese. Written by the husband-and-wife duo of Bronwen and Francis Percival, it offers a fascinating look into how industrialization has transformed cheese production, and some insight into positive aspects of the cheesemaking process that may have gotten lost along the way. If you haven't already, do take a look at our interview with the Percivals to get an idea of what the book contains.
Frankies 457 Olive Oil
Fancy olive oil always makes a good gift, but there's a difference between fancy olive oil and good fancy olive oil. The house oil from Frankies 457 Spuntino in Brooklyn is delicious (i.e., great on fresh bread and in dishes), is DOC certified, and comes in a chic tin that prevents light from spoiling the product.
Kid's Make-a-Cake Mixer Set
Vicky's four-year-old niece is obsessed with Stella. This wooden stand mixer set is a perfect gift for the young baker. It has eggs that you can actually crack!
Perforated Sauce Spoon
While it’s called a “sauce” spoon, this perforated spoon can’t really be used for spooning sauces given its holes. But it’s incredibly handy to have—in many instances it’s much less awkward to use than a long-handled slotted spoon for fishing solid ingredients out of sauces and liquids.
Unlike crackable baking stones, the Baking Steel is a solid sheet of steel. Not only will it last forever, but, with superior thermal properties, it produces the best pizza crusts we've ever seen in a home oven.
Kuhn Rikon 4-Inch Colorful Paring Knife
This Kuhn Rikon paring knife is the perfect paring knife for a budding cook. At 4 inches, it's a great size for smaller hands but it is just as sharp as any professional knife (so be careful!).
If you're interested in dabbling in modernist cooking, start with a gram scale. Capable of measuring to the hundredth of a gram, this is an absolute must-have when you're working with hydrocolloids, where accuracy is paramount.
Colorful Matte Plates
These small plates are some of our favorite photo props, not only because they come in an array of soothing colors, but because their matte finish doesn't reflect too much light. Hello, gorgeous cheesecake.
Culina Stainless Steel Grilling Basket
A good grill basket should be durable, with a tight enough weave to allow very small foods to be cooked without risk of getting lost. Finally, it's worth hunting down one that's sizable enough to cook large batches of food in one go. One of our favorites is the simple Culina stainless steel basket. The metal mesh keeps even the smallest food items up on the grill grate where they belong. You can even toast or smoke nuts in it.
Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous dollops of yogurt, a heap of cooked grain, or a serving of sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.
Best Round Measuring Spoons
The four-piece Amco Advanced Performance Measuring Spoons are accurate and easy to work with. The handles have little stands on them that help keep the bowls nearly level, for accurate filling when the spoon is on the countertop, and the wide, shallow design makes it easy to clean out sticky ingredients, like honey, with a small spatula.
Leave-In Dual-Probe Thermometer
The Smoke is designed for grillers and barbecuers, but it’s a precise two-probe thermometer that can be calibrated and is just as handy indoors. Use the meat probe to gauge the temperature inside a roast and the ambient probe to track the smoker or grill’s temperature.
Food- and Cocktail-Themed Lip Balms
Every lip balm Stewart & Claire makes uses great ingredients that you won't hesitate to smear all over your mouth, but the coolest are the custom scents devised by the company, many of them inspired by foods. There's also a cocktail-inspired trio that includes Negroni, with spiced orange and juniper, and Old Fashioned, with cedar, vanilla, and black pepper. The Tiki balm is, as you’d expect, tropical, with traces of coconut, mandarin, and mango.
Manual Pasta Machine
Fresh pasta is incredible, but unless your rolling pin skills are in the 99th percentile, there's no real way to get pasta dough thin enough without a pasta machine. We own and occasionally use a KitchenAid stand mixer attachment, but we find a clamp-on manual countertop model to be almost as easy to use (and far cheaper).
8-Inch Nonstick Skillet
No matter how well you maintain your carbon steel and cast iron pans, they won't deliver the same degree of cling avoidance as a modern nonstick surface. For this reason, we like to keep just a couple of nonstick pans at home, which we use exclusively for cooking eggs, though they're helpful for making thin pancakes like crepes as well. An eight-inch skillet like this one is the perfect size for making a classic three-egg omelette.
14-Cup Food Processor
The Magimix impressed us with each slicing, chopping, grating, and puréeing test we tossed at it, especially with pizza dough, which it combined so well that no additional kneading was required.
Our Favorite Ice Cream Machine
The value-to-cost ratio on this lightweight model can’t be beat. It uses a pre-frozen, coolant-lined canister to chill down the ice cream base, eliminating the need for salt and ice or an expensive compressor. When properly frozen, the canister churns up in less time than any other model we tested, for creamy and smooth ice creams and other frozen desserts. This undemanding model has one button, a lid that easily snaps into place, and a small footprint for tight spaces.
Cupcakes do best in aluminum pans, like this one, that keep their crusts delicate and pale.
10-Inch Nonstick Aluminum Skillet
No matter how well you maintain your carbon steel and cast iron pans, they won't deliver the same degree of cling avoidance as a modern nonstick surface. For this reason, we like to keep just a couple of nonstick pans at home, which we use exclusively for cooking eggs, though they're helpful for making thin pancakes like crepes as well. While an eight-inch nonstick pan works for a classic three-egg omelette, we suggest a 10-inch skillet for scrambling larger batches of eggs or for making frittatas.
Intense Drinking Chocolate
This isn't your standard hot cocoa. It's a rich drinking-chocolate mix, made from organic, 74% cacao single-plantation chocolate from the Dominican Republic and 68% cacao wild-harvested chocolate from Bolivia. Whisk the ground chocolate with warm milk for an intense cocoa experience: It's silky and deep, with hints of orange zest, cinnamon, and juicy berries, tempered by a subtly bitter edge.
Oh, man, do we love our Vitamix blender. Whether we're making super-quick smoothies or the creamiest, smoothest purées and soups imaginable, the Vitamix is unparalleled in its power.
Pasta Attachment for KitchenAid Stand Mixer
This KitchenAid attachment takes all of the frustration and fussiness out of making fresh pasta, and, unlike the manual alternatives out there, it's incredibly easy and efficient to operate on your own. Hello, homemade ravioli!
The Chili Cookbook
This isn't just a chili cookbook. Author Robb Walsh digs deep into the beloved dish's ancestry, tracing threads through Mexico City, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Hungary, Greece, and the Canary Islands. Walsh is one of food writing's best storytellers, so the book is a satisfying read that's best enjoyed with a big bowl of chile con carne.
The Best Kitchen Tongs
The steep, 13° angle on their stainless steel scalloped ends enables the OXO Good Grips Tongs to securely grasp foods in a large range of shapes and sizes, from a whole chicken to thin spaghetti to tail-on shrimp. The build features a responsive and durable spring, large rubber grips, and pinch-free, stay-cool handles.
Stoneware Pinch Bowls
To help kids get organized before cooking a meal, make sure they have their mise-en-place in these handy, colorful stoneware bowls.
Bayless's skills as a recipe writer are exemplary. As is true of any good recipe writer, his recipes are meticulously tested and designed with the constraints and knowledge of the home cook in mind. There are only a few photographs, interleaved on glossy inserts, but the printed pages of the book are sprinkled with clear illustrations that demonstrate unfamiliar techniques, such as how to tuck banana leaves around chicken for pollo pibil (the original pit barbecue from the Yucatán) or how to fillet whole fish for pescado a la veracruzana (poached fish topped with tomatoes, capers, and olives).
At their core, cooking chopsticks are just like tongs, except with way more precision thanks to their delicate, narrow form. They're longer than the chopsticks that come with takeout, which keeps your hand farther away from the heat, and a string keeps the pair connected. We keep a pair in the utensil crock by the stove and use them instead of the more traditional fork when making a French omelette.
Ceramic Honing Steel
This is our top pick among ceramic honing steels—perfect for those who want to hone frequently, but put off sharpening for as long as possible.
Taking a cue from those in the office who have worked in professional kitchens, we rely pretty heavily on these containers to store veggies or dry goods. They can also be filled with stocks or soups and stored in the freezer (it helps that they're stackable), and this size is perfect for keeping leafy herbs, like cilantro and parsley. You can even use them for drinking cups in a pinch.
OXO Good Grips makes a simple and affordable citrus reamer that'll take up very little space in your cupboard; it performed quite efficiently in our tests, despite the drawbacks inherent in all reamers.
Food Storage Containers
Not all food storage 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.
One of the most common things we see in the home kitchens of friends and family is salt that's way too inaccessible: It's either squirreled away in a cabinet or sealed inside a shaker that dispenses salt in a frustratingly slow sprinkling. But salt is the ingredient we use more frequently than any other, and it needs to be within easy reach at all times. One of your best options is a dedicated salt pig, a ceramic container designed just for this purpose. They tend to have wide openings that make it easy to reach in and grab big pinches of salt. An overhanging top helps keep dust and other unwanted particles from falling inside. They're also large enough to hold a decent supply of salt, reducing the frequency with which you'll have to top up.
Sorghum syrup is made from the pressed juice of sorghum grass, which grows prominently throughout the American South. This amber-colored syrup has a unique, nutty flavor that's both sweet and savory. And since the 1960s, the Guenther family of Muddy Pond, Tennessee, has been making some of the best.
A good wooden spoon is a must for any kitchen, and this one, from Le Creuset, is top-notch. 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.
If you ever plan on hosting a taco party featuring hard-shell tacos, having a mold to shape those freshly fried shells is essential. We like this single-shell model because we can use it to fry in our wok; the multi-shell models require a deeper vessel or a dedicated deep fryer, and the oven-baked versions don't come out as delicious.
Countertop Seltzer Maker
Make your own seltzer water at home with this easy-to-use unit. It comes equipped with LED indicators displaying three levels of carbonation and a BPA-free bottle that locks into the unit with no twisting, and it requires no batteries or electricity to operate. This model fits 14.5-ounce and three-ounce CO2 cylinders, which can be traded in for just the cost of the gas at your local hardware or home-goods store.
Schott Zwiesel Wine Glasses, Set of 6
While this glass performed very similarly to our favorite modern glass, the Schott Zwiesel, it has a sparer design, is more compact, and features a thinner stem that some testers preferred.
The Complete Nose to Tail
The Complete Nose to Tail combines Fergus Henderson's seminal The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating with its sequel, Beyond Nose to Tail. Don't let the name mislead you: It does shine a light on offal, but its primary focus is Henderson's unfussy, straightforward cooking, the most famous example of which is his signature dish of roasted bone marrow and parsley salad. While that dish may have spawned a thousand imitators, both here and across the Atlantic, cooks the world over would do well to crib from some of the other recipes in the book. The recipe for duck legs with carrots alone makes it worth the price, and "trotter gear"—chicken stock fortified with wobbly bits of pigs' feet—is a pantry staple that everyone needs in their life.
Metal Pizza Peel for Retrieving Pizzas
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. We recommend the KettlePizza Pro Peel, which has a thick-gauge aluminum body that extends fully past the solid teakwood handle.
GelPro Floor Mat
If you love to cook and host parties, you'll know that a lot of prep time is spent on your feet. Why not make at least the cooking part a bit more comfortable with one of these gel mats? It'll provide some nice cushion under your feet, so when it's time to put on your party shoes, you'll be ready.
This santoku from MAC's professional line is an absolute pleasure to use, no matter the task. It's lightweight, well balanced, sharp as can be, and comfortable to hold. It made perfect carrot cuts, broke down a chicken with ease, and filleted a whole fish as if it were a fish-shaped block of butter.
To make good tortillas at home, you need a tortilla press. Though you might find lightweight aluminum presses out there, this one, made of cast iron, is heavy enough to easily press your masa mixture into perfectly flat little tortillas, with minimal effort on your part.
ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide
The Joule is an impressive piece of sous vide machinery packed into a ridiculously lightweight and compact device. It has almost everything you could ask for in an at-home immersion circulator—it's accurate, it heats up water quickly and quietly, and it has a sleek design with innovative features, like a magnetic base that clings securely to the bottom of many pots.
This is the least expensive of our top three picks for inexpensive skillets that perform just as well as fancy ones. While its curves are deeper than those of the other two skillets we like, it still has a nice, wide cooking surface to work with.
Black Matte Dinner Plates
Get these if you want to up your Instagram game! These are the plates we use the most in our photo shoots—the matte texture makes a great surface on which to make any food pop.
Chetna's Healthy Indian
Chetna's Healthy Indian is a bright, colorful ode to Indian home cooking. Written by Chetna Makan, an avid home cook and semifinalist on The Great British Baking Show, it offers an array of quick, wonderfully flavorful recipes. From a simple green bean, coconut, and tamarind salad to fish wrapped in floral banana leaf, this cookbook has something for everyone.
Nylon Omelette Fork and Turner
The nylon fork-and-spatula set from Calphalon includes a stiff fork that works perfectly for agitating eggs into creamy, tender curds for a classic French omelette, while babying your pan's surface like a newborn infant.
Best All-Around Flexible Slotted Spatula (Fish Turner)
The Victorinox Chef's Slotted Fish Turner is an all-around great spatula for a little over $20 (at the time of testing). The curve of the flipper and the angle of its front edge are just right for slipping under a delicate piece of fish or scraping the bottom of a pan. It's lightweight, flexible, and easy to control, but still strong enough to lift a half-pound burger. The wood handle is comfortable, though it's also the only downside—it means this spatula is not dishwasher-safe.
Hoping to familiarize yourself with Jamaican food beyond jerk chicken and curried goat? Want to learn more about the evolution of Caribbean cuisine? Provisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking is the book for you. Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau share 150 bright and exciting vegetarian recipes inspired by the women who first taught the two sisters to cook. The recipes are accompanied by gorgeous photos, and a thorough history of Caribbean foodways. It's an inspiring—and delicious—ode to the women who make Caribbean food great.
Rancho Gordo Beans
A bean is a bean is a bean. Or is it? Once you go down the rabbit hole of eating quality dried beans, you'll fall in love with their variety of flavors, textures, and colors: Some are starchy, some are nutty, some are earthy, and some are slightly sweet. Rancho Gordo is one company that sells some really cool ones to try.
In-Drawer Knife Storage
If you prefer to keep your knives tucked away, as opposed to on the wall, this in-drawer knife dock is a great solution. It keeps knives out of sight but easy to grab, without the risk of nicking yourself in the process.
Laguiole en Aubrac Steak Knife Set
If you're into more of a classic luxe look, then you'd be hard-pressed to find a more iconic design than a Laguiole-style steak knife. Unfortunately, the term "Laguiole" is not protected or regulated by a trademark, which means that there are a lot of shoddily made knockoff "Laguiole" knives on the market. However, there are a small number of real-deal producers, like Laguiole en Aubrac, that make beautiful knives of exceptional quality with a timeless aesthetic.
Safety Can Opener
The Kuhn Rikon has an intuitive design that makes latching onto cans a cinch. While safety can openers are usually a little harder to turn than traditional rotary-style ones, the Kuhn Rikon is about as easy as a safety can opener gets. It also has built-in metal pincers that lift the lid off without getting your hands messy.
There are plenty of fancy built-in storage solutions out there for your pantry, but many sacrifice utility for looks, while saddling you with a hefty bill. Metro shelves, on the other hand, will run you under $60. They're affordable, easy to clean, and tall enough to fit larger appliances. What's more, if you get some S hooks, you'll be able to hang all of your utensils, strainers, mandolines, and even pots and pans right from the unit.
GrillGrates for the 22.5" Weber Kettle Grill
If you've ever used a gas grill and grown frustrated with unfixable hot and cool spots and overall weak performance, this tool is for you. Made from hard anodized aluminum, the GrillGrate system sits directly on your existing grate, amplifying and evening out the heat, which allows for more even cooking, flare-up resistance, and exceptional sear marks.
Large Piping Tips
Most piping sets include a vast array of tiny tips that never get used, but these tips are large and versatile enough to be put to work on a near-daily basis. Whether you're using them for classic cupcakes, swirls of whipped cream, deviled eggs, or twice-baked potatoes, these tips will make every piping job more beautiful.
Kid's Cutting Board
These fruit-themed cutting boards will help kids get excited about honing their knife skills. Along with being fun and colorful, they have non-slip edges to keep kids focused on what's important: safety.
Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker
Char-Broil's digital electric smoker is very easy to use and has WiFi connectivity, so you can monitor and control the smoking session from a paired smartphone. Electric cookers lack serious heat and combustion gases, making them better suited for imparting a light smoke flavor, especially on bigger cuts of meat.
Roccbox Outdoor Pizza Oven
The Roccbox is an incredible little oven with simple, reliable operation, whether you're using gas, wood, or charcoal to fire it. It consistently hits wood-fired-oven temperatures and maintains them for as long as you are cooking, with no fussing or babysitting, which means more time enjoying pizza with friends and family and less time coddling a temperamental flame.
If a waiter’s friend is too difficult, but you don’t have the space to store a larger, lever-style opener, the Brabantia is a nice solution. This one-piece tool sits on top of the bottle and, with six rotations of the thumbwheel, presses against it, lifting the cork out using a nonstick-coated worm.
The OXO Good Grips citrus juicer boasts a unique design that we found to work as advertised. It's an especially good choice for those who need their orange juice freshly squeezed.
Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Of the affordable immersion circulators that we tested, the Accu Slim performed the best. It's a bare-bones machine with a simply display interface—no bells and whistles, no paired app, no Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity—but that's what makes it appealing and such a great deal. It knows its lane and keeps to it, performing the essential task of an immersion circulator quite well: heating and circulating water at a precise temperature.
Cake Stand for Serving
A rad cake stand will make any layer cake look like a work of art (and make any occasion feel special).
Ironwood Gourmet Acacia End-Grain Prep Station
At a fraction of the cost of our other favorite boards, this acacia end-grain cutting board will do its job more than well enough. We've given this brand many years of home and test-kitchen use, and our boards hardly look different from when they came out of the box. The harder acacia wood will be a little less gentle on your knife blades, but not so much that you should rule it out.
Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion
Serious Eats' former drinks editor Maggie Hoffman has packed this book with 65 terrific make-ahead cocktail recipes. Entertaining guests while serving them libations should be stress-free, and this book makes it so.
Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder
Baratza's Virtuoso coffee grinder is routinely picked by pros as the home grinder to beat and for good reason: Its well-made conical burrs produce a wide range of grind sizes, the results are consistent, the machine is solidly built from both metal and plastic, and it's all backed up by good customer service.
Best-Buy Compact Instant-Read Thermometer
This thermometer is in almost every way equal to the ThermoPop, which was the best-in-class from our inexpensive-thermometer tests. The only area in which it falls short is the length of its probe, which isn't quite long enough for bigger roasts.
Silicone Liquid Measuring Cup
Unlike glass measuring cups, this flexible silicone version has a textured pattern on the surface, so it won't get slick or slippery when wet, and it's thick enough to provide a temperature buffer if you're working with hot liquids. It's equally well suited to adding chicken stock to risotto and pouring cold ice cream base into the machine.
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.
After years of putting up with a cheap toaster that she picked up at the supermarket, Stella recently upgraded to this super-fancy Italian job in cool mint. Its sleek design and soothing pastel color transform the kitchen's most boring appliance into a statement piece, and it does a great job with the toast itself. Plus, it's really dang pretty. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to read this toaster's priceless reviews.
OXO Good Grips Two-Piece Grilling Set
A quality spatula and tongs are essential for good grilling. Seek out ones with long handles, such as OXO's two-piece grilling set, to keep your fingers as far from the heat as possible. The nearly flat, scalloped edge on the OXO tongs is especially appealing—it's extra easy to slide the tongs under meat, vegetables, and other ingredients on the grill.
Incredible Beef Ribs
Louie Mueller's beef ribs are so good, we feel comfortable comparing them to Aaron Franklin's brisket. These gargantuan specimens of flesh and bone give new meaning to fall-off-the-bone-tender, and they have such a concentrated beefy flavor, you'll think you're eating beef confit (which, in a way, you are). How big are they? One rib feeds two people, easily.
This etched mixing glass from Japan looks stunning on a bar cart and even better in action, whether you're stirring a Negroni, a Martini, or a Manhattan. Mixing glasses made from two parts joined together sometimes split at the seam, but this version, made in one piece with a beaker-like spout, can stand up to heavy use.
The Taste of Country Cooking
There are countless great books on American regional cooking, and dozens of them on the South alone. But Lewis's tribute to Southern cooking is particularly important, because it goes beyond just great recipes to tell her story of growing up in Virginia in a farming community founded by freed slaves. The Taste of Country Cooking is less an overarching reference work on Southern cooking and far more of a personal tale, and, given the history, that's what an essential book on the topic demands.
Nordic Ware Platinum Collection Heritage Bundt Pan
A Bundt pan is essentially a functional sculpture that can spruce up an open kitchen shelf quite nicely, even if it never gets any use. Give one to the baker (or bakeware admirer) in your life, and, as long as you promise shared cake, we're sure you'll be allowed to borrow it any time.
Benton's Country Ham
Benton's country ham is an exemplar of American charcuterie. We recommend the deboned and trimmed smoked ham (just $3 more than the whole smoked ham), but the cured, unsmoked ham is also fantastic. With shipping, it's about $90, which is still a steal when you consider the quality and quantity, and the fact that the trimmings can be used to make many, many super-smoky pots of beans. Fry slices up with brown sugar and brewed coffee, and eat them with a stack of parathas—trust us.
What Einstein Told His Cook 2
What we find really great about both books in this series is their episodic, casual nature. Have a few spare minutes? Just flip to a page and find out what bones contribute to a good stock (collagen, baby!), or what freezer burn actually is (and find out that airtight plastic wrap isn't actually so airtight after all).
Plenty More highlights the versatility of vegetables with 120 inventive plant-based recipes. It takes a degree of commitment to cook through this book—many, though not all, of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes require extra time spent sourcing unusual ingredients or toiling in the kitchen—but the reward is food that is enigmatic and downright dazzling. The ideal gift for anyone who thinks vegetables are boring, and for those who know they’re not.
Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater
In this book, the writer, a food critic turned stay-at-home dad and a serious lover of dad jokes and dry humor, talks about his experiences raising his young daughter, Iris, and how he dealt with her ever-changing tastes in food. The book is an easy, fun, and hilarious read, even for folks who don't have children.
A high-speed hand blender is great for whipping up silky soups and purées, making emulsions like mayonnaise and Hollandaise, or smoothing out sauces, all right in the pot. No need to dirty up an extra blender jar!
Beautiful photos accompany Nik Sharma's impressive recipes. The best of the bunch embody the kind of inventive cuisine that draws from multiple cultures to produce dishes that can only be described as emphatically, joyously American, like the roasted carrots with sesame, caraway, chili, and nori. Great for cooks looking for inspiration yet still hopelessly devoted to classic, comforting dishes.
We've owned many models of corkscrew over the years, but a good old folding waiter's corkscrew is still our favorite for ease of use, ease of storage, and longevity. A good one will have a two-level lever system to make pulling out even tough corks a snap, along with a beer bottle opener and a foil cutter.
Best All-Around Pepper Mill
The Fletchers' Mill Federal grinds consistently and quickly, excels at fine grinding, and comes in 11 finishes to match a wide range of kitchen decor.
Misono Travel Knife
After experiencing one too many Airbnb kitchens with terrible knives, Daniel invested in a travel knife: a small, sharp blade to take with him so that cooking can be a pleasure even when he's not at home. The wooden sheath makes it safe to keep in a bag, but remember not to fly with it in a carry-on.
An ideal gift for any lover of cherries, Manhattans, or whiskey in general, these cherries trade the cloying sweetness of maraschinos for the boozy bass notes of great whiskey. Use them in your go-to whiskey cocktail, or to top a favorite dessert.
Dinosaur Kids Apron
For the little paleontologists out there (who also love to cook), here are few adorable dinosaur aprons because dinosaur aprons are adorable.
Elegant (but Dishwasher-Safe) Wine Glasses
These wine glasses feel fancy enough for an elegant dinner party—and you can throw them in the dishwasher after, which is a pretty rare attribute. Their sturdy construction means you (or your giftee) can expect to hang on to these for several years.
If you love beautifully seared steaks, golden-brown grilled cheese sandwiches, and crispy-skinned fish and poultry, this is a great thing to have in your kitchen. Chef's presses help you get even contact between ingredients and your skillet. They're vented, so you won't accidentally steam your food, and they're stackable, so you can get a couple for weighing down heftier items.
When we're cooking with garlic, we're pulling out the press nine times out of 10—even with the slightly fussy cleaning, it's still faster and easier than chopping fresh garlic on a board.
Take it from us: Living in hot urban apartments makes storing age-worthy wines nearly impossible, unless you don't mind risking the life of a pricey Burgundy by putting it through years of extreme temperature swings. Anyone with an interest in building even a modest collection of special-occasion bottles should get a wine fridge. It's a small investment that protects your real investment.
Budget Coffee Maker
While we tested machines that are five times pricier than the Braun, its performance in taste tests, its ease of use, and its wallet-friendly price pushed it to the head of the pack.
This two-layer tiffin is neat and attractive without being too cutesy, and it's small enough that it won't occupy too much space in a shared office fridge. In the warmer months, it'll do just as well for packing sandwiches and individual portions of salad or fresh fruit for a picnic.
Level up this year's pecan pie by giving the bakers in your family or social circle a big bag of fat and buttery wild pecans. Their freshness, flavor, and tender texture will ruin everyone for those limp and withered supermarket brands.
All-Clad One-Quart Saucier
The low, sloping walls of this small 1-quart saucepan make whisking easy, perfect for making and finishing delicate sauces, and reducing small volumes of liquids. It’s also small enough to double as a butter-melter.
Island Creek Oysters by Mail
Few things get us as excited as a good raw bar, but most of the time, we eat far too little because, after the first couple dozen oysters, it just gets to be too expensive. That's even truer when the oysters are top-notch, like the briny little suckers from Island Creek up in Massachusetts. But you can order their oysters online by the 50- or 100-count for much less than they cost at most restaurants, for an at-home shucking extravaganza.
Aluminized steel isn't our favorite material for layer cakes, as it encourages the development of a heavier crust. But for that very reason, it's amazing for baking an evenly browned loaf, whether we're talking about classic banana bread or a sour cream pound cake. We like the sharp corners and tall sides of Chicago Metallic's eight-inch aluminized steel loaf pan, also known as a "one-pound" loaf pan.
Hawker Fare is a wonderful introduction to some of the flavors that make Isan and Lao cuisines unique. The recipes are excellent, but what we find so compelling about the book is Syhabout's story: a refugee who arrived with his family in the United States at the age of two, Syhabout went on to pursue a career in fine-dining. Only after establishing himself did he embark on a personal journey of discovery to find out more about the food of his forebears.
Dishwasher-Safe Flexible Slotted Spatula (Fish Turner)
If you're looking for a dishwasher-safe fish spatula—which happens to be less expensive than our winning Victorinox, though it's also slightly flimsier—we recommend the Wüsthof Pro Slotted Fish Spatula. At about $15, it's one of the least expensive spatulas we tried, and it still does a fine job of flipping and scraping, even in a crowded pan. The flipper flares a little wider than the one on the Victorinox, so lifting things like pancakes is a bit less of a balancing act. But the Wüsthof flipper is also more flexible than the Victorinox one, so, while it could still hold a hefty burger, the perch felt more precarious.
Kid's Kitchen Learning Tower
Kenji says that the best thing he has for his daughter is her helper stool, which is like a step stool with a little fence around the top so she can get at counter height on her own without the danger of falling.
Budget 12-Quart Stockpot
If you’re the type of cook who forgets to use oven mitts when reaching for hot pots, the rubbery grips on the Cook N Home might just save you from a serious burn. During our boiling test, the rubber stayed cool enough to touch without oven mitts (though keeping them close by is a good idea).
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
This book is, and possibly always will be, the go-to English-language source on regional Italian cooking, and for good reason: Hazan was deeply knowledgeable, exacting, and opinionated, as all good Italian cooks should be.
While the usefulness of a vegetable peeler should be obvious to anyone who's ever cooked, the necessity of a Y-peeler may not be quite as clear. But trust us: They are categorically better than those swivel peelers a lot of people use. And they're cheap!
This type of strainer, called a Hawthorne strainer, consists of a flat disk affixed to a coiled spring. The spring traps large chunks or slivers of ice and other solid ingredients, such as muddled fruit or mint leaves. The spring also allows you to control the flow of liquid from the shaker, and the strainer does a generally excellent job of keeping small ice chips, citrus pulp, and particles of muddled ingredients in the shaker, where they belong.
Not only can you cook perfect plain rice in this traditional Japanese clay pot, but it doubles as a vessel for flavorful one-pot stews and hot pots, and an infinite variety of noodle and rice dishes. Anyone interested in Japanese home cooking should have one.
Teddy Bear Aprons
Why would you spend all this time getting your kid into the kitchen if you can't photograph them in an absolutely adorable apron? Okay, fine, an apron is functional, too, keeping them clean and making them feel like real professionals. There are countless aprons across the internet, but we're partial to these teddy bear–themed ones.
Silicone Cookie Spatula
The misleadingly named Silicone Cookie Spatula from OXO is actually a great all-around tool. Its flipper is silicone-coated steel, so it's strong, but still sharp-edged and flexible. The spatula is on the small side, but its size actually makes it easier to manipulate in a crowded pan. Plus, if you only keep a nonstick spatula around for cooking eggs, you may never feel the need for anything larger.
Stainless Steel Ball Whisk
They may look odd, but ball whisks are useful for reaching into the sharp corners of a pot, where the rounded tines of a balloon whisk won't quite fit, and for pushing across flat surfaces, like a wide skillet, when making scrambled eggs. Use them to whisk things in measuring cups, too, where the tines of a ball whisk will splay to reach the corners.
Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite
Vegetarian cookbooks are easy to come by these days. Some are subtly so—between all of the recipes highlighting kale, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower, it's hard to fit in the meat—while others, like Sarah Copeland's cookbook Feast, embrace the title and its implied wholesomeness. But Feast is far from a dour health food cookbook. The meals it teaches you to make are abundant and colorful—they just happen to lack meat.
Daniel's been lusting after one of these hand-painted ceramic tagines since seeing one in a cookware store a couple years ago. They require some special care, and possibly a heat diffuser to prevent cracking from intense direct heat, but they're worth it just to look at, even if you never cook in them. If you do, a future of flavorful North African stews, presented beautifully at the table, awaits. They also come in a variety of designs and colors, meaning you can find the perfect option for any home.
Fish & Shellfish
In this book, Peterson not only explains the most important cooking methods for various kinds of fish and shellfish, but also provides an abundance of recipes in which to try them out. You'll also find very useful step-by-step color photographs of how to prep, clean, and fillet just about any seafood you can imagine, including eel.
Heavy-Duty Bread Knife
This Dexter-Russell bread knife is a tank that's perfect for even the toughest cutting jobs, according to our tests.
Affordable Japanese Chef's Knife
We were impressed by all the Mac knives in our testing, across their range of price points, but this one came out on top thanks to its combination of price and performance. While not inexpensive, it was one of the more affordable Japanese-made knives we tested. This blade is comfortable in the hand and has hollow-ground dimples to help reduce friction when cutting.
This versatile cocktail jigger features two primary measures for one- and two-ounce pours, but what makes it especially useful are the etched markings inside each cup indicating 0.5, 0.75, and 1.5 ounces, so that you don't have to get out multiple jiggers just to make a cocktail.
V-Blade Mandoline Slicer
This slicer from OXO has four thickness settings (plus a locked storage setting for safety), which can be quickly set with the turn of a dial on the side of the slicer. Each setting is clearly marked in both millimeters and inches, making it easy to instantly know the thickness of the slice you're going to get. A fold-down stand allows this slicer to either be set on a cutting board (with the legs down) or perched over a bowl (with the legs up).
Muffin Pan Liners
If you can buy only one muffin pan for both muffins and cupcakes, we recommend getting a nonstick pan, along with these greaseproof foil liners to reduce browning in cupcakes.
The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science
A New York Times best-seller! The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji López-Alt, is his column by the same name on this very website, blown up to 900-plus pages (and seven-plus pounds) of concentrated culinary science. Gorgeous color photos, detailed how-tos, and elaborate explainers cover ingredients, technique, gear, and the secrets of the universe underneath it all. May include puns.
Be Your Own Bartender
This is a fun, interactive book featuring over a dozen flowcharts to guide you to the perfect drink for every mood and occasion.
Laurie Colwin is the best friend you never knew you had. Her tales of cooking, both successfully and disastrously, are charming, honest, and hilarious. While the book reads like a memoir (that you won't be able to put down), its recipes are accessible and sound so delicious that you'll want to make them right away. That is, after you've finished the book.
Stainless Steel Boning Knife
This knife is perfect for those who want to experiment with specialty Japanese blades without shelling out too much cash, or for those with aspirations of understanding how to make yakitori at home. Unlike a true honesuki, or Japanese poultry knife, this one has a double-beveled, asymmetrical blade, so it's a little more multipurpose—it can be used for deboning poultry and other meats, but it can also be used for slicing and chopping in a pinch—and it's easier to maintain for novice knife sharpeners than a single-beveled blade. But it really shines at deboning chickens. If you're used to using a flexible Western boning knife, it is nothing short of miraculous to experience the ease with which this knife's tip can maneuver around a bird's bones; it sometimes feels as if the knife is willing the bones to rise up out of the meat.
A stand mixer is obviously great for mixing batters and doughs, but we also love the range of KitchenAid attachments available for purchase—once you have the base, there's suddenly a whole world of homemade sausages, pastas, and fresh juices at your fingertips.
Ceramic Utensil Crock
To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old-fashioned crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.
Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This perforated one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous mounds of beans, vegetables, and pieces of meat from their cooking liquid or sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.
A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether it's thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. This basic OXO slicer has three thickness settings and perches over a bowl to easily catch the slices as they fall.
The One True Barbecue
Race relations, religion, the New South versus the Old: These are just a smattering of the heavy issues Rien Fertel writes about through the lens of—well—smoked meat, in this new book. And, while you might be thinking, "Oh, man, another book about barbecue?", this one stands out from the crowd thanks to Fertel's superb writing and storytelling skills. In a book that's part culinary history, part personal narrative, and part tale of an American road trip, Fertel travels throughout the South, documenting the men who have long stood behind the fires practicing the time-consuming pursuit of whole-hog barbecue—the ones who have been keeping alive the embers of what once seemed like a dying art, and the ones who are inspiring a new generation of pitmasters today.
Manhattan chef Jody Williams's Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food is as charming and inviting as the restaurant that inspired it. This is a book to get greasy and damp as you cook through its pages, and it's a nightstand read, dreamy and warm, to flip through as you wind down. Channeling a traditional French bistro, with a bit of Italy and a touch of New York thrown in, the recipes are classics, both inspirational and totally doable. Some are so simple that they hardly count as recipes at all—they're more like suggestions for how to better your day with a plate of food, from breakfast through dessert after a lingering, late-night supper. Perfect for your impossibly, effortlessly stylish friend.
Balloon Whisk Set
The curvy shape of a balloon whisk conforms nicely to bowls and sauciers, making it possible to scrape every surface and reach every corner. Because there aren't too many tines, it won't get gunked up when you're mixing up thick batters, like for crusty dinner rolls, and its hollow shape makes it easy to knock out whatever's trapped inside.
All-Clad Two-Quart Saucepan
This small 2-quart saucepan is perfect for making and warming sauces, cooking small portions of grain, and heating liquids.
Jacques Pépin's New Complete Techniques
Jacques Pépin has more than 20 cookbooks to his name, but this one might be the most universally useful to home cooks. Clear photos and descriptions walk newbies through holding a knife properly, then using it to slice and dice an onion and debone a chicken. But there's also an endless number of little tricks and tips, like why your salad greens should be bone-dry before you dress them, that will raise your kitchen IQ.
Chef's Knife for Younger Kids
This knife is a good choice for kids who are transitioning into using grown-up blades. It has a plastic loop to keep the index finger safely away from the edge, and a guard for the other hand, allowing the child to practice the claw with less risk if they make a mistake.
An essential tool for pan-frying fish, a flexible spatula is also useful for making smashed burgers and blotting excess grease off of steaks and chops.
Wire Cooling Rack
Wire racks are essential for resting meats, both pre-cooking (if they’ve been salted) and post- (to keep them out of their pooling juices), as well as for cooling cakes, cookies, and the like. Any time you need air circulation around your food, whether before, during, or after cooking, a wire rack is a must. These are designed to fit standard rimmed baking sheets.
Nonstick Muffin Pan
Reflective metals like aluminum keep muffins from browning along the bottom, which is why we prefer to bake them in a dark, nonstick muffin pan, like this one.
Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling
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 us hooked.
Embossed Rolling Pin
For the baker who has it all, embossed rolling pins can make even the most traditional shortbread seem exciting again. We love this large, open paisley pattern—its design works well with many styles of dough, so it's a great starting point before you experiment with pins that have a more intricate pattern.
Le Creuset Stoneware Casserole
When fall and winter roll around, we start thinking about rich, comforting casseroles, which means that stoneware baking dishes like this one get pulled out, filled, and popped into the oven at least once a week. It's great-looking on the table and provides gentle, even cooking all around, for really nice, crisp edges on your lasagna.
Mid-Priced Japanese Chef's Knife
Even lighter in weight than its more expensive sibling, the UX10, the Misono 440 offers an incredibly agile experience, with an especially sharp out-of-the-box blade. It handled all our testing tasks with ease. The price variance between this one and the UX10 mostly comes down to the steel used, a difference most home cooks won't likely notice, making this one a good intermediate choice.
They may not come in the most festive or glamorous packaging, but you can't go wrong with Effie's Oatcakes. Buttery, crumbly, nutty, and salty-sweet, they're insanely addictive.
Rice, Noodle, Fish
Warning: Reading this book might lead to the purchase of some very expensive plane tickets. The Roads & Kingdoms crew will get you hungry for a journey to Japan: for onigiri basted with chicken fat, juicy one-bite gyoza, milky-white tonkotsu ramen broth, and briny sea urchin.
Pretty Melamine Plates
Lightweight and virtually unbreakable, melamine can be super convenient for outdoor entertaining or big parties. Unfortunately, it's not always super attractive. That's why we're so in love with these plates, which look like hand-painted ceramic, with the weight and heft of, well, plastic.
Deep Sixth Pan
You can use a deep sixth pan to store all sorts of items, including braises and stews, cooked beans in their water, and grains. Once you're done using them, toss 'em in the dishwasher, then nest them together for easy storage.
S-Hooks for Stainless Steel Rail
If you have a towel bar in your kitchen—or wire shelving units—it helps to have some S-hooks to hang from it. From them, you can suspend bottle openers, scissors, and any utensil or tool that has a hanging loop on it.
For our money, this is the best carving knife on the market, ready to dispatch a roast turkey, leg of lamb, or bone-in ham with aplomb.
The iGrill thermometer connects to up to four different ambient and leave-in meat probes. The ambient probes can be set near the surface of the grill grate, allowing you to accurately track the temperature inside your grill, while each meat probe can be inserted into whatever you're cooking, allowing you to keep tabs on exactly what's happening in your grill while the lid is closed, all via Weber's app. You can set alerts, too, so that your phone will summon you as soon as each piece of meat reaches your desired temp.
White Piggy Otoshibuta
An otoshibuta is, in essence, a lid; the original ones are made of wood. But it's not just any lid: It's submergible. That means you can set an otoshibuta directly on the surface of the food you're cooking, which is useful for simmered foods and pickles that require keeping everything covered in liquid. Since they're not made of metal and fit a variety of diameters, they're also really handy as bowl covers when you're reheating food in the microwave.
Long tweezers have the strength of tongs coupled with the same precision and tight grip of a tool you might find in an ER. They allow you to turn over a thick ribeye with ease, and even garnish it with some fragile herbs immediately after, if you're in the mood. If you don't mind getting a little close to the heat, long tweezers are the perfect utensil for carefully flipping vegetables or hot dogs on a grill without letting any slip through the grate. Their simple design means that there aren't any grooves or pockets for food and gunk to get trapped, so cleanup is a cinch.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill (WiFi-Enabled)
We believe Green Mountain's Davy Crockett is the best portable pellet smoker currently on the market. It employs Green Mountain's advanced digital touch-pad controller, with an integrated meat thermometer that lets you check internal meat temp with the flick of a switch. Plus, its WiFi capabilities enable you to monitor and control the smoker from your smartphone or laptop.
The Trudeau is comfortable, light, and fast—out of the openers we tested, it required the fewest number of turns to sink the worm. The two-step fulcrum works consistently to lift the cork from the bottle, with both synthetic and natural corks.
Many of the milk frothers out there do a poor job of emulating the thick, creamy foam produced by a good espresso machine's steaming wand, over-aerating the milk to the point of developing a light sudsy texture. Nespresso's frother is different—it whisks the milk but manages to get much closer to the ideal cappuccino foam. Plus, it has a nonstick interior that’s easy to clean, and a hot/cold setting for hot or iced drinks.
12-Inch Silicone Whisk
When you're working with nonstick cookware, a silicone whisk is essential. But even with traditional metal cookware, silicone has a muting effect, like a silencer for your whisk, so it's pretty handy if you're trying to keep quiet in the kitchen. (The clatter of a stainless ball whisk in a bowl can be fairly deafening in the early-morning hours.)
Mini Angled Measuring Cup
This small, quarter-cup liquid measure from OXO is indispensable in the kitchen, making all the awkwardness of measuring something like one and a half tablespoons a thing of the past. You can use it at your home bar, too: Its fluid-ounce markings make it a handy stand-in for a cocktail jigger.
Fluted Cookie Cutter Set
These fluted cookie cutters add flair to any basic cookie.
Stella loves that these Good Cook Silicone Spatulas are thin and flexible and heat-resistant. Plus, their bamboo handles are easy to grip and won't get slick with steam.
An Invitation to Indian Cooking
Madhur Jaffrey has become one of the foremost authorities on Indian cooking since she published An Invitation to Indian Cooking in 1973. It and her subsequent books helped introduce American cooks to a cuisine that, at the time, was hardly known here at all.
Anson Mills Grits
We know: It might sound nuts to mail-order cornmeal and grits, given that they're found on any supermarket shelf. But we’d argue that you haven't experienced the best cornbread, grits, or other classic Southern dishes until you've had them made with the kind of high-quality stuff Anson Mills is selling. It'll change how you understand those foods and what they can be.
Bear Aprons for Parents and Kids
Want to match your kids in the kitchen? Go for this apron set, which comes with sweet chef's hats and other fun cooking accessories.
We usually aren't the biggest fans of the big and beautiful cookbooks put out by super fancy restaurants, in part because they have limited appeal to most home cooks, even if they are fascinating windows into the processes and methods of some of the best chefs in the world. We'll make an exception for Estela by Ignacio Mattos, though, since it's as inspiring as it is informative.
The BoardSmith Maple Carolina Slab Butcher Block
A fine piece of woodwork, this maple end-grain board from The BoardSmith is thick, solid, and gets all the details right. It's also been time-tested by the author for three-plus years of heavy home use, so we know that with proper care, this board can last. It comes in a variety of useful sizes, and by default has feet attached, but you can request for them to be left off (you can also add a juice groove and other customizations, if desired).
Perceval Steak Knife Set
The 9.47 knife was designed by a former Michelin-starred chef, and, unsurprisingly, it's a dream to cut with. While its modern, minimalist look isn't for everyone, there's no arguing with its performance.
Native to Cincinnati, Ohio, goetta (pronounced "get-a") is a sublime beef and pork sausage made with steel-cut oats (as opposed to the cornmeal used in its close cousin, scrapple). Glier's is one of the biggest and best producers of the German-style pork product. Just slice it, fry it, and serve it with eggs and toast.
Splurge Heritage Baking Dish
It can be easy to brush off appearances as unimportant, but tableside presentation is a big part of a baking dish’s appeal. If you want excellent performance combined with a handsome and classic design that will look great on your holiday table (or on your Instagram account), Staub is your best bet. This heavyweight dish heats evenly in the oven at temperatures up to 575°F (300°C) and has great heat retention, keeping food hotter longer when you're serving. The generous four-quart capacity is ideal for large roasts and extra-deep casseroles.
Pretty espresso cups make a nice hostess gift and stocking stuffer on their own for coffee fiends. But when they're Le Creuset, they're even better—mostly because everything from the French heritage brand is aesthetically pleasing and built to last. Oh, and these cups might be the most affordable Le Creuset pieces on the market. So, if you want in on the trend for a moderate price, they make a good starter item.
These elegant crystal glasses from Riedel came out on top in our tests, impressing both professional sommeliers and casual wine-drinkers with their ability to capture the aromas of red, white, and bubbly wines.
Elizabeth David on Vegetables
Elizabeth David on Vegetables will teach you how a bag of grocery store onions can be transformed into an unforgettable roasted side dish, and how some fresh shelled peas can yield the most vibrant soup you’ve ever tasted. Filled with recipes that are simple, straightforward, yet often revelatory, this book also features a few of David’s best essays, as well as gorgeous photography.
While we don't believe that a roasting pan is generally the best tool for large roasts—a wire rack set in a sheet pan often works better—there are times when a roasting pan with a rack is ideal. Cuisinart offers one of the best values in roasting pans on the market, and it can handle any job just as well as its more expensive competitors.
8-Inch Offset Spatula
If you're crumb-coating a cake or loosening homemade Oreo dough from the counter, an eight-inch offset spatula will always get the job done.
We love these small pint containers just as much as their nestable and stackable quart-size cousins for storing dry goods, prepped veggies, and even lunches for the week. They're sturdy enough to withstand the dishwasher and cheap enough that if you need to throw one out, you won't feel too guilty about it.
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art
Shizuo Tsuji's masterwork on Japanese cooking is as useful today as it was when it was first published, more than two decades ago. He takes you through essential equipment, cooking techniques, ingredients, recipes, and the philosophy that underlies it all. Reading this book doesn't just help you learn to cook Japanese food; it helps you to understand and appreciate it far more, too.
Char-Griller Akorn Kamado Kooker Charcoal Barbecue Grill and Smoker
The Akorn is a double-walled, insulated steel egg that is much lighter and in some ways more durable than the popular Big Green Egg. It performs fairly close to traditional kamados at a fraction of the cost, so you can spend your saved bucks on getting some great meat.
Preserving the Japanese Way
If her first two books are any indication, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is poised to become the Julia Child of traditional Japanese home cooking. In her second book, she tackles the deeply fascinating world of Japanese preserving. From easy pickles made by packing foods in miso (kabocha squash! eggs! apple pears!) to homemade miso, salt-rubbed vegetables, and air-dried fish, these recipes should be the next frontier in all your home preservation undertakings.
2-Piece Boston Shaker Cocktail Set
We prefer to use a Boston shaker over a three-piece metal cobbler set, which has a tendency to seize up. Boston shakers open easily, they're relatively inexpensive, and even if the mixing glass breaks, you can replace it for cheap. Using a Boston does require you to have a separate strainer, but that means you can choose a strainer that'll do the job well.
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
For anyone new to vegetarianism, or even just new to cooking in general, the vegetarian volume of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series should be considered essential. If what you want most is a cookbook that will teach you how to cook, this is it: Bittman excels at laying out the basics and showing you how to riff on them, becoming a self-sufficient cook in the process.
2-Quart Glass Baking Dish
Whether you're making a rhubarb crisp or tiramisu, a two-quart baking dish (usually measuring seven by 11 inches, or else eight by 10 inches) is the perfect size for most baking projects. Pyrex makes a reliable baking dish, and you can't beat that accompanying lid!
Beyond Curry Indian Cookbook: A Culinary Journey Through India
Indian food has a reputation for being difficult and time-consuming, with hard-to-find ingredients and new techniques. But in this book, Serious Eater Denise D'silva Sankhé breaks Indian cooking down into simple techniques that any home cook can master to produce amazingly flavorful dishes with minimal effort. Over the course of more than 100 recipes, Denise introduces us to simple cooking from every region of India, focusing on home-style dishes that move well beyond the world of curries. We're also super stoked that she's included notes with every recipe on whether it's vegan, vegetarian, and/or allergy-friendly.
The Food Lab Video Series
Serious Eats' own J. Kenji López-Alt brings his popular column to life in this six-episode series. With help from food blogger and cook Katie Quinn, Kenji demonstrates techniques, busts myths, and 'splains the science behind perfect burgers, tender roast chicken, exquisite chocolate chip cookies, and much more. Rent or download individual episodes, or the whole show!
To make doing the dishes a little less, well, wet, we suggest a good drying mat. This one from All-Clad is super absorbent and machine-washable. It also comes in six colors, so you can match it to your kitchen—true, color coordination isn't a must for your cleaning supplies, but we'd call it a plus.
Colorful Tea Towels
Heavy-duty kitchen towels have a tendency to accrue big, ugly stains. That's why it's nice to keep a separate set of more attractive towels for gentle drying, transporting too-hot-to-handle serving dishes, and lining bread baskets. These colorful, summery tea towels instantly brighten any kitchen or tabletop, while still doing a stand-up job at the tasks they were made for.
Le Creuset 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven
The Le Creuset is the gold standard among Dutch ovens, and, while pricey, it lives up to its reputation. The pot is easy to cook in, has comfy handles, and is backed by a solid reputation for quality enamel.
Stainless Steel Food Scale With Pull-Out Display
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.
PDT Cocktails App
Enter all the bottles you have at home when you start, and the app will tell you all of the drinks you can make, with recipes straight from New York's famous PDT cocktail lounge. You can also search for drinks of a certain type or cocktails created by a specific bartender, and save favorites for making again.
Kentucky-based writer Ronni Lundy is an expert on the foods and foodways of the Mountain South. In her book Sorghum’s Savor, she explores the history and folklore, and the many uses, of the region’s staple sweetener. Recipes range from fried chicken to sorbet.
Sure, you can serve crushed-ice cocktails in a regular old glass, but these shiny pineapple-shaped tumblers really up the ante and make a tiki party feel special.
Ariel's dad lives in Florida and never drinks enough water. These little tumblers are the perfect compromise for getting him to drink just enough to not get totally dehydrated every day. And if he refuses to fill them with water, at least he can use them for alcoholic beverages. The final plus: They stack, so they won't take up too much space in his cabinets.
Palm Leaf Napkins
From stuffing to mashed potatoes to turkey, the holidays tend to feature a lot of brownish foods. And we're not complaining. But if you'd like to add some green to your table without actually eating any, these vibrant cloth napkins are a great way to do it.
This All-Clad model features extra-deep divots for maximum syrup capacity, makes two small waffles at a time, and contains a drip tray for minimizing spills and messes. The heavy stainless steel body and plates heat up quickly and evenly for consistent browning. The machine is compact in size and features cord storage and locking handles, making it easy to tuck away into any cabinet or on any shelf.
Collapsible Freezer Lunch Bags
These PackIt cooler bags come in a variety of sizes and styles, and all of them can be collapsed and chilled in the freezer overnight to provide refrigerator-level temperatures for a 12-hour period. Not a lunch-bag person? No problem—it's still handy for toting beers to the park or beach, or transporting raw meat to barbecues and campsites.
Culinary Coloring Book
Jessie Kanelos Weiner's vivid and imaginative watercolors have enhanced several of our stories. Her book Edible Paradise: A Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables is a great therapeutic outlet. For those who enjoy it, coloring can leave you with a profound sense of zen-like relaxation and accomplishment. Weiner's fanciful landscapes are organized by season, and each one is a riot of vegetation, edible plant life, and tantalizing market scenes. They'll encourage you to paint (or pencil) the town red—in any colors you like.
Wooden Pizza Peel for Launching Pizzas
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, the Baker's Board Perfect Peel is handcrafted to last a lifetime from gorgeous solid cherrywood. They'll even put initials or a logo on it if you'd like!
The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Another encyclopedic essential for the vegetarian kitchen, Deborah Madison's The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is one of the most beloved vegetable cookbooks out there. It's thorough and approachable, combining coverage of the fundamentals with a reverence for produce that feels distinctly Northern Californian. Madison has lived in Santa Fe for a long time now, but she got her start cooking in and around San Francisco, including at Chez Panisse, and it shows. This is not a new book—the original Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone came out in 1997; this update was published in 2014—but that California sensibility has given it an enduring vitality that some other, older vegetarian cookbooks lack. Like the newer generation of vegetable-forward chefs, Madison champions placing fresh, local ingredients at the center of the plate.
Baking Steel Mini Griddle
We like to keep this solid slab of steel permanently atop one of the burners of our 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.
When you're storing spices, it's essential to keep them not just organized but fresh, too. Keep them airtight in these spice tins, so they'll last as long as possible. Our suggestion? Make like a professional kitchen and do a little label-making to ensure you don't mix up your paprika with your cayenne.
Functional, but with an elegant twist: The width of the forks and spoons is just slightly smaller than that of your standard set, and they feel slightly longer in the hand. This set is a good and long-lasting upgrade to those starter Ikea sets.
The simple geometric design of this runner will bring some warmth to your table, while protecting its surface during entertaining season.
Best Rectangular Measuring Spoon Set
The most accurate set we tested, the OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Spice Jar Measuring Spoons have narrow heads for access into most sizes of spice jars, while their shovel-like bowls scoop easily into powdery cinnamon and densely packed brown sugar. The five-piece set's handles are covered in comfortable nonslip rubber, and the bowls are a cinch to sweep level after scooping.
Masala Dabba Spice Container
There's a lot to say about how to manage your spice collection. First and foremost, pay attention to freshness: If you can't remember when you bought that bottle of paprika, chances are it's transformed into sad red sawdust. To keep your spices at their peak (and keep them organized), pick up a masala dabba like this one.
Diamond Honing Steel
This is our top pick among diamond honing steels. While diamond steels are a bit controversial, as some say they remove far too much metal from the blade, this Messermeister won't set you back too much if you want to try one out.
A hefty weight and a narrow head design make this an extremely efficient fish scaler. We've used it on smallish porgies, bigger black sea bass and fluke, and just about everything in between. It's a significant improvement over the clamshell we used to use, and something about its design reduces the spray of scales.
Dave Arnold, master cocktail maker, inventor, and founder of the now-shuttered Booker and Dax in NYC, won't just accept the common assumptions about cocktail technique—his mission in this excellent book is to dig into the science of how the very best drinks are made. This is a must-read for inquisitive types who like to host cocktail hour at home.
Mini Rubber Spatulas
These dainty little guys will be your new best friends. They are perfect for reaching into the tight nooks of spice grinders or deep into blenders, and ideal for scraping the last bit out of a jar. They're also heat-resistant and great for stirring small pots of sauce or caramel.
Punt e Mes
Punt e Mes is both bitter and sweet, like a rich bottled vermouth cocktail that'll please lovers of Italian amari. It's delicious stuff, wonderful chilled on its own and fantastic with Cynar, lemon, salt, and orange bitters in this cocktail. If your favorite drinker hasn't tried it, make the introduction.
Even pros like to use rulers when they pick up a rolling pin. Our favorite ruler has measurements that start from the very edge, so it can be stood upright to measure the thickness of any dough. Rulers are also great for keeping you on track when you cut rectangular cookies, crackers, and strips of pie dough for a lattice-top pie.
Presto Tilt-N-Fold Griddle
Presto's Tilt-n-Fold model is very simple to set up and operate, and it has a compact design that makes it easy to store in kitchen cabinets when not in use. It has a large, smooth, nonstick cooking surface that heats mostly evenly, can be set at an angle to drain grease, and is easy to clean. We love the price, too.
What we’re looking for in a slotted spoon is pretty straightforward. It should be comfortable to hold, with a generously cupped spoon that drains quickly. The wide business end on this one has 12 cutouts, so boiling water can find the nearest exit as you fish out eggs, pasta, or dumplings.
Stovetop Pressure Cooker
We 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.
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
Eight hundred recipes. Yes, you read that right. Really, it shouldn't be surprising, given that this definitive work by Claudia Roden encapsulates so much of the Middle East, a region with such diverse cooking styles that each one could inspire a thousand books. Persian food? Check. North African food? Check. Turkish cooking? Check. Everything else? Check, check, check.
Vietnamese Food Any Day
An eloquent ambassador for Vietnamese cuisine whose recipes are always reliable, Andrea Nguyen is one of our favorite cookbook authors. Vietnamese Food Any Day educates the reader about a variety of Vietnamese techniques and provides recipes that are eminently cookable—part of Nguyen's goal with this book was to avoid calling for any esoteric or hard-to-find ingredients, so each and every recipe can be made with items that are easily found at a large grocery store.
Messermeister Avanta Steak Knife Set
The Messermeister Avanta steak knives deliver premium performance at an unbeatable price. They are well-constructed, remarkably sharp, and very handsome.
Glass Food-Storage Container Set
These glass storage containers are super affordable compared with other dry-storage solutions. They're a little heavier than plastic containers, but they nest well, and they're great if you need to transport any of your ingredients.
Round Cookie Cutter Set
A set of nested round cookie cutters that will see you through 99% of common baking projects.
12-Cup Food Processor
The smaller version of our favorite 16-cup food processor, this Breville Sous Chef has the same adjustable slicing blade and an easy-to-assemble work-bowl design, with quiet yet powerful performance.
Porcelain Baking Dish
This baking dish is both lightweight and durable, at a price that’s hard to argue with. The large looped handles are easy to grip with both oversize oven mitts and kitchen towels, making it easy to lift from a hot oven. It is broiler-safe up to 500°F (260°C) for crunchy, golden-topped casseroles and gratins.
Best Budget Immersion Blender
Our budget pick outperformed immersion blenders four times the price. It’s great for whipping up silky soups and purées; making emulsions, like mayonnaise and Hollandaise; or smoothing out sauces, all right there in the pot. No need to dirty up a blender jar!
The New Best Recipe
If you're tired of pancakes that fall flat, if you're sick of roast chicken that looks lovely on the outside but is dry and stringy inside, if you get paralyzed by choosing between the dozens of banana bread recipes a quick Google search turns up, if you've never made a meatloaf in your life and want to make sure it comes out right the very first time—The New Best Recipe is an invaluable resource that you'll turn to again and again.
Anyone who loves soft-boiled eggs deserves the perfect cup to eat them from. These sturdy stoneware Le Creuset cups come in a range of beautiful colors. They're totally classic, which is a good thing because they'll also last for generations to come.
REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill
REC TEC offers high-quality pellet smokers featuring excellent digital controllers and sturdy construction. With a 40-pound pellet hopper, a 680-square-inch cook surface, and nine inches of headroom, the REC TEC 680 is a large, smartly constructed pellet smoker. It also looks awesome.
When you're portioning out cookies and muffins, a good scoop can be a huge help. This one is the perfect size for most drop cookies, and a natural for ice cream and even meatballs.
Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking
Tackling all the food in China is no easy task, which is why we tend to gravitate more readily to works that keep a more limited focus on specific regions and cooking styles. Still, a single book that provides a good overview is extremely helpful when trying to get one's bearings. This book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo does a laudable job at that, starting you out in the market with an introduction to shopping and ingredients, then proceeding into the kitchen to cover basic techniques and classic recipes.
Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking
Michael Solomonov's Israeli cookbook has changed the way we cook. His recipe for tahini sauce, which includes a novel technique for incorporating garlic and lemon, is alone worth the price of admission. We'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.
At a certain point, you need to give up on proper knife storage and just think safety: How can I toss this knife into a drawer and not cut myself on it later when fishing around for matches? The answer is blade guards. It's smart to put them on knives in a knife bag, but they're also essential if you're keeping any knives in a place where they're free to bang around—they'll protect the blade edges and you.
Breville Crispy Pizza Oven
If a rice cooker got it on with a Roomba, we imagine their offspring might look a bit like the Breville Crispy Crust countertop pizza oven. It's a plug-and-go appliance that promises "professional brick-oven results right in your own kitchen," for about $150.
Portable Kitchen Timer
Kitchen timers are useful, portable kitchen timers are super useful, and the ThermoWorks TimeStick Trio is the best kitchen timer on the market.
Small Toaster Oven
At just over $100 at the time of testing, this Panasonic punches above its small size. The Flash Xpress is the smallest toaster oven we tested (as well as the funkiest-looking), making it ideal for tighter kitchens. But it was also the quickest to melt cheese and the best at holding a consistent temperature.
Aprons get all the attention, but they don't protect your clothes nearly well enough, leaving large swaths of sleeves and shoulders exposed to spatters and stains. You could always put on a shirt you don't care too much about before donning an apron, but a protective work coat like this keeps your clothes safe without requiring a complete costume change.
Ceramic Sangria Pitcher
This pitcher arrives sangria-ready. The pinched spout is a genius detail that keeps all the fruit and ice from splashing into your glass, and when it's not filled with sangria, it can be used as a vase. We love a two-fer!
Breville Smoking Gun
Equipped with an assortment of wood chips, the Smoking Gun allows you to easily smoke anything indoors with just the flip of a switch. It's instant fun right out of the box.
Insightful (and very well-written) memoir by the elder statesman of food and cooking in the United States. From his early memories of picking salad for his mother to his recollection of eating raw clams on a Connecticut pier, the book shows how food is not just a passion or a career; food, for Jacques Pépin, is life.
Tojiro's santoku knife held its own throughout the testing. It feels a little chunkier in the hand than our top pick, and it cracked one slice of carrot before sailing through a dozen more slices without any problems. It's a well-made knife, offering an excellent money-to-quality ratio.
Joy of Cooking
A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.
Play-Doh Noodle Makin Mania Set
This Play Doh noodle-making set comes with its own extruder for tiny pasta fans. There's also a tiny ravioli maker and (non-edible) toppings.
White Serving Platter
This simple, affordable serving tray from Williams-Sonoma will be a boon to even the most minimalist of cooks: The generous size of the large version (14 by 18 inches) holds a dinner party's worth of side dish or pasta, the classic white goes with everything, the handles and surprisingly light weight make it easy to maneuver, and it's dishwasher-safe on top of it all.
Pourover Coffee Brewer
There are enough coffee-brewing devices on the market to drive a person crazy, but it's hard to beat a quality pourover brewer like this Japanese one. It's compact and solid, making it ideal for home or the office, and it brews a mean cup of coffee. It claims to make two to four servings, but we find it's perfect for a full 12-ounce single cup, too (note that you need these filters for it).
The Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook
While you certainly can make dumplings on your own, it's always better (and more fun) with company. Use this amazing compendium of dumpling recipes to throw a good old-fashioned dumpling party.
Flat Metal Skewers
Single-use wooden skewers are just fine if you only rarely cook meat-on-a-stick, but if you kebab your dinner more regularly, a set of sturdy reusable skewers is a sound investment. We like to use flattened metal skewers, which prevent vegetables and meat from rotating as you maneuver them on the grill.
Food Grinder Attachment
The great thing about buying a meat grinder attachment is that you already know that the hardest-working part of your grinder—the motor—is going to be a workhorse that can power through even the toughest grinding projects. Stand mixer attachments are a great option if you make a lot of sausage. You can grind the meat directly into the bowl, then attach the bowl to the machine and immediately start mixing it with the paddle to develop protein. It's a real time-saver.
Budget Leave-In Probe Thermometer
Precise enough for most cooking tasks, the Polder is intuitive to use and has a kink-resistant round cable that we found effortless to work with. The Polder’s six-inch-long probe is tied for the longest we tested, and it comes with one of the best pot clips.
Due Buoi Wide Spatula
We love the Due Buoi Wide Spatula almost as much as the beautiful smashed burgers it helps make. If you're partial to burgers or do a lot of grill or griddle work, add one of these to your arsenal. It's got a business end that's five inches long, a generous girth of 3.9 inches at the front, and a hefty weight of 7.76 ounces—it's just large enough to successfully smash a ball of beef into a four-inch patty, but not so large that it doesn't fit into a small skillet.
Cuisinart 5-Quart Dutch Oven
For those who can’t justify spending hundreds on a heritage brand, the Cuisinart is a smart choice that'll serve home cooks well. A wide bottom, short sides, and a heavy build that retains heat very well make this pot a bargain in the crowded under-$100 market.
Insulated Beverage Bottle
The Hydro Flask is designed to keep water cold for hours on end, but its vacuum-insulated walls don't discriminate between beverages: The 32-ounce flask can also accommodate a full bottle of wine, or a big batch of margaritas. It's ideal for picnics and trips to the beach, no matter what you're drinking.
Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
Fuchsia is a scholar of the highest order, and her recipes are packed with interesting cultural and historical lessons and observations. She's also a technician, which means that you're going to learn about the 23 distinct flavors of Sichuan cuisine (no, it's not all má and là), as well as the 56 (56!) different cooking methods employed by Sichuan chefs. On top of that, her recipes truly work.
In My Kitchen: A Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes
To those who are already devotees of Deborah Madison's classic volumes on vegetarian cooking, parts of her book In My Kitchen will seem familiar. The recipes published here, as Madison explains in the introduction, have all made their way into her regular routine, and they include tweaked and tinkered-with versions of dishes that have appeared in past books. And yet nothing in this cookbook seems repetitive or dated. In step with vegetarian food generally, Madison's cooking has evolved over the years, becoming lighter, brighter, and often simpler. "We change as our culture changes," she writes, "and I found I have been cooking in a more straightforward, less complicated fashion."
Mortar and Pestle
With both parts made of rock-solid granite, the Thai mortar and pestle is (literally) a heavy hitter, and arguably the most versatile type of large mortar and pestle you can own. Its heft and weight, especially when combined with the stone-on-stone action that the all-granite build provides, make it ideal for one of its intended uses: making a Thai curry paste.
D'Artagnan Porcelet Collar
It can be hard to find skin-on, bone-in pork shoulders for roasting, but luckily D'Artagnan has got us all covered with their fantastic porcelet shoulder. We think everyone should ditch the tired holiday spiral ham this year, and slow-roast a milk-fed piglet shoulder instead. We promise it won't disappoint.
Best Silicone Tongs
When you're cooking with scratch-prone, nonstick, or enameled cast iron pans, the scalloped silicone ends on these tongs can withstand temperatures up to 600°F (316°C) without leaving a mark. The body is nearly identical to that of OXO's stainless version. While that silicone coating makes the tongs safe to use in damage-prone cookware, it also makes the grabbers a hair more bulky, which means they're slightly less deft than the stainless steel version.
If you make a fair amount of noodle soups at home, particularly for multiple people, you should pick up a couple of these baskets. (They're also great for blanching small quantities of vegetables.) The baskets are cheap yet sturdy, and they're smaller than a lot of the fancier ones out there, so they'll fit in pots that are more home kitchen–sized.
Hedley & Bennett Parachute X Napkins
We've long loved the beautiful aprons made by Hedley & Bennett, and recently noticed that the brand had teamed up with Parachute Home to make all sorts of kitchen towels and napkins, so you get that cool Hedley & Bennett style with the nice, soft craftsmanship of Parachute. We love these colorful napkins because they're super soft and machine-washable (perhaps the most important thing).
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 our money, nothing beats a traditional pizza wheel.
A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using them. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.
Stolzle Eclipse Wine Glasses, set of 6
The Stolzle Eclipse Wine Glass is a great pick if you frequently host large parties or events. The price per glass is extremely low, and the glasses come in sets of six, as opposed to two or four. This was the least expensive glass we tested, and it performed nearly as well as some of our other favorites. It is shaped very similarly to the other classic glasses we tested, but is slightly bulkier, heavier, and less elegant.
The Best Bialys
Everyone talks about New York bagels and their Montreal counterparts in quasi-religious tones, but our prayers get answered every time we eat a Hot Bread Kitchen bialy. Bialys are an endangered species (think of them as a toasted Jewish English muffin with caramelized onions in the center), but Hot Bread Kitchen is doing its best to make them fashionable again. Now, if only Taylor Swift would put an HBK bialy on her Instagram feed.
Precision Electric Kettle
This kettle offers the widest range of temperature settings of any kettle we tested, making it great for tea lovers.
Brushed Nickel Command Hooks
To store utensils and make better use of wall space, we love Command strip hooks, which come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. They're quite durable and can stay on walls for years. If you're a renter, they're an especially good way to store tools, towels, oven mitts, and more without poking too many holes in the walls.
Staub 5 1/2–Quart Dutch Oven
The Staub’s classic flat lid hides spikes underneath that are designed to evenly shower your food with moisture. The pot heats evenly and is a pleasure to cook in. It's also handsome enough to serve from at the table.
Stainless Steel Dry Measuring Cups
The five-piece Norpro Grip-Ez Stainless Steel Measuring Cups took the top spot in our tests for accuracy, and it wasn’t even close. Not only that, the bowls are securely joined to the comfortable nonslip handles, and manufactured to tight tolerances, which helps with level sweeping. The unique oval cup shape comes to a narrow end, acting like a shovel to dig into compacted ingredients, like brown sugar.
The Art of Eating
If you love food in any capacity, The Art of Eating is essential. A collection of five of M. F. K. Fisher's works (including Consider the Oyster and The Gastronomical Me), this book is at once a resource for good cooking, an enthralling love story, and an insightful guide to the intersection of food and culture. PS: It's too big for most stockings.
Martha Stewart 6-Quart Dutch Oven
We cooked a very good pot of jambalaya in this under-$100 model. While you can spend two or three times as much on fancier Dutch ovens, there's a lot to like about the Martha Stewart: a large-diameter pot bottom, comfortable side handles, and a simple, handsome design. But, at nearly 14 pounds, it's also the heaviest six-quart model we tested.
Weber Spirit E330 Liquid Propane Gas Grill
The Spirit E330 was introduced last year to replace the E320. The two models are identical except that the 330 adds a 7,500-BTU sear burner between the left and middle main burners. Sear burners are one of our favorite extras for gas grills. You'll love turning this baby up to 11 when searing steaks and burgers.
Korean Fermenter Crock
These fermentation crocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but they all have the same smart design: An inner lid can be pressed down against the surface of the brine, ensuring the vegetables remain submerged (and thus don't rot), while the lids lock into place to keep bugs out.
Cutie Pie Onesie
A cute, punny onesie for the baby and future food lover in your life.
From the slide-out rack to the intuitive controls, the Breville is an easy-to-use toaster oven with excellent performance. It quickly and evenly toasts bread and bakes frozen pizza and pot pies. The preset for cookies makes it simple to bake off nine treats in less than 15 minutes.
Marble and Acacia Wood Cake Stand
Like a pretty Bundt pan, a beautiful cake stand has an aesthetic value of its own, even without a cake—but present it with your giftee's favorite cake on top, and it will also be a nice reminder of the day.
Forget those puny kitchen torches designed to make crème brûlée for ants. If you want some serious torching power in the kitchen, for putting the final touch on fancy desserts or for finishing off a sous vide steak, you want a high-output torch like this one. You'll get a deeper char than you'll ever be able to get from using a skillet alone.
12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
If you don't yet own a cast iron pan, now's the time to get on the wagon. A capacious cast iron skillet is an incredibly versatile tool, perfectly suited for searing, baking, roasting, stewing, and braising; if it's well seasoned, its surface will also be relatively nonstick. And, despite the rumors, cast iron cookware is surprisingly easy to maintain, requiring just a small amount of effort to keep it in good enough shape to last a lifetime. This 12-inch version is ideal for baking a big batch of cornbread or whipping up a one-pan, stovetop-to-oven dinner on a weeknight.
Rose and Orange Flower Water
Forget flowers—they'll be dead by the end of the week. These flower waters, on the other hand, will last (most of) a lifetime. Both rose and orange flower water will stay good just about forever on the shelf, and a drop or two is all that's needed to give any recipe an aromatic boost. Try a splash of rose water with a strawberry or rhubarb dessert, or orange flower water in a classic New York cheesecake, where its gentle perfume can work wonders.
Mid-Priced Western Chef's Knife
One of the more affordable options among the German-style knives tested, Mercer's Genesis chef's knife delivers good bang for the buck. The knife is quite a bit lighter than the Wüsthof Classic and has a grippy rubber-and-plastic handle that's comfortable to hold.
Dyson Handheld Vacuum
We like to keep our kitchens very clean. This handheld vacuum (which a few of us have, use, and swear by) ensures zero crumbs left behind, whether in that small space under the dishwasher or in the crevice between the stove and the cabinets.
Bamboo Expandable Cutlery Tray
There are plenty of utensils that don't need to be out on your counter or walls, and for those, we like this adjustable cutlery tray that can slot right into a drawer. Its many sections are built to fit all sorts of cutlery, from your longest salad forks to those cute baby spoons.
If you want to start making legit espresso at home, this machine from Breville is a great investment. We like that it has a built-in burr grinder that will stay set at whatever dosage you've decided is best for your shot, as well as an adjustable pre-infusion time. Getting the hang of it—and dialing in—takes a while, but ultimately, the results are impressive.
If we had to pick only one person to cook for us forever, it might well be Yotam Ottolenghi. (Oh god, how we hope we're never in that position—cough, cough, wink, wink.) We think we could eat at his table for the rest of our lives and never get bored. His previous three cookbooks (Ottolenghi, Jerusalem, and Plenty) inspired a global epidemic of fevered fandom. A follow-up to Plenty (which, with its creative, largely Middle Eastern bent on vegetarian cooking, was pretty much the best PR vegetables ever got), Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking From London's Ottolenghi expands his already-bursting universe of plant-based cooking.
The River Cottage Cookbook
What makes it worth reading? Turns out that the usefulness is hidden in its prose. It's Hugh's geeky but down-to-earth fascination with raising and foraging your own food that will either fascinate or bore you. Each of the four chapters—Garden, Livestock, Fish, and Hedgerow—starts with a lengthy study of not just how to grow and harvest vegetables, livestock, seafood, and wild plants, but also what has the best flavor when, and the environmental impacts of the various choices you can make.
A sushi mat (tatami in Japanese) is the only way to successfully make maki rolls, which means that if you ever host sushi parties, you'll need to have a few on hand. They consist of thin bamboo sticks knitted together with thread, so they're very flexible in one direction but rigid in the other. This makes forming tight, even rolls a simple task.
Silicone Ball Whisk
They may look like novelty whisks, but ball whisks are super useful for reaching into the sharp corners of a pot, where the rounded tines of a balloon whisk won't quite fit, as well as whisking across flat surfaces, like a wide skillet, when you're making scrambled eggs. We use ours almost exclusively for whisking things in measuring cups, where the tines of a ball whisk will splay to reach the corners. Plus, it's longer, easier to handle, and more effective than a simple fork.
Paring knives don't need to cost a lot to do their job—questions of balance and build quality matter less in a knife that fits almost entirely in the palm of your hand. Of all the ones we tested, this inexpensive blade from Wüsthof came out on top, with a razor-sharp edge and comfortable grip. This is our new go-to paring knife, and we already have several of them at work and home.
Sesame Street Let's Cook!
Keeping kids inspired can and should go beyond the kitchen, too. One of our freelance food contributors, Katherine Martinelli, has two young kids, and she highly recommends Sesame Street cookbooks.
Best-Buy Carving Knife
If you're looking for a more budget-friendly carving knife, the Mercer is your best bet. It's made from the same steel as the Wüsthof that we highly recommend, but the blade's a bit stiffer and the grip slightly less comfortable. It'll still get the job done just fine.
Bocuse's Regional French Cooking
Unlike so many chef cookbooks, this one features simple, honest recipes for classic regional French dishes. No crazy flourishes or flights of fancy; just solid French country cooking from a master.
Inexpensive Wire Grill Brush
Grill brushes come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but for a tool that sees so much use, we find it hard to justify spending a huge amount of money. This simple, heavy-duty wire-style grill brush has served us well for years, and if it ever wears out, well, it's cheap enough to replace.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a true pantry at home. If that's you, try some of these under-cabinet storage sets. They can hold up to six pounds of whatever you want to store, from dish soap to snacks, and help you make best use of the space you do have. As with most Command technology, you won't need to poke any holes in your cabinets to hang these up.
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.
There's form, and then there's function, and 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.
Waffle Cone Maker
For us, a waffle cone–maker is an investment that brings tremendous personal satisfaction and one that will more than pay itself off in a lifetime of freshly made ice cream cones, waffle bowls, and other treats—it's the gateway gear needed to make truly homemade Drumsticks and Chocotacos from scratch, not to mention waffle-adjacent desserts like homemade Kit Kats, Sugar Wafers, and stroopwaffles.
Best Plastic Liquid Measuring Cup Set
If concern over weight or risk of breaking glass has you in the market for a plastic set of measuring cups, these lightweight OXO Good Grips 4-Piece Angled Measuring Cups were the second most accurate ones we tested, and they include a handy quarter-cup measure.
Plastic Squeeze Bottle
Having a couple of plastic squeeze bottles around is always a good idea; they're great for making salad dressings and storing other homemade condiments. They also open up the possibility of buying certain sauces and oils in bulk, which will save you a bunch of cash in the long run.
Chinese Tea Set With Gaiwan
Do you know someone who's getting into tea? Like, really into tea? This is the tea set to get for that person. It comes with a traditional Chinese brewing vessel (a gaiwan), a decanter, four tasting cups, and a beautiful wood tea tray with a rack to store all the pieces. At $120, it's not cheap, but it's a bargain compared with other well-made tea sets, especially when you consider the high-quality, paper-thin porcelain. For tea lovers looking to dig into tea ceremonies, this set has everything you need.
Ruhlman and Polcyn do a great job of demystifying one of the more abstruse cooking arts, showing that, while charcuterie may seem daunting, it can be gratifyingly easy. Start simple, with the pancetta, confit, rillettes, and duck prosciutto, and you'll find yourself with a mold-inoculated curing chamber in no time.
Traditional Can Opener
With a classic shape that’s intuitive to use, the EZ-Duz-It was among the fastest models we tested. This well-built opener grabs on to cans easily, has a balanced weight, and cut smoothly through every size tin we threw at it.
Cast Iron Combo Cooker
A combo cooker is the key to getting a gorgeous, shattering crust on homemade bread. It acts as its own little steam chamber, like what you'd find in a professional bread oven, and it costs way less than a kitchen renovation.
What's the point of perfectly roasting that turkey or prime rib if you don't have a pretty surface to carve it on? We 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.
Simple Coffee Maker
The Bonavita is one of the faster models we tested, and it earned high scores in nearly all of our tastings. A single switch governs all of its operations, making the brewing process incredibly simple.
Welding Gloves for Grilling
After going through countless inadequate grilling mitts, we got ourselves a pair of welding gloves to use when grilling or smoking and never looked back. With great heat protection, dexterity, and construction, these are a necessity for every backyard cook.
Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder
It's almost impossible to find good-quality Dutch cocoa in supermarkets, so make it easy for your favorite baker (or yourself) to whip up the best possible chocolate treats by buying it in bulk online. This cocoa powder is unusually dark, with an earthy chocolate flavor that produces out-of-control brownies, devil's food cake, and ice cream.
Punch Bowl Set
We have this 10-piece punch bowl set in our office, and it's been put to very good use. It's big and impressive while still being affordable, which are the best qualities you can hope for in holiday-party decor.
Wildfish Cannery Smoked Salmon
On a recent press trip to Alaska, I was introduced to this fancy canned salmon. The king and white king versions blew my mind—hands down the best canned smoked salmon I've ever had. It's pricey, making it more of a special-occasion indulgence than a daily canned-fish option, but one taste will prove its worth.
Mediterranean Mortar and Pestle
In the south of France, Italy, and other Mediterranean regions, marble mortars with wooden pestles (often made of olivewood) are quite common. It's next to impossible to find this variety in US stores, unless you get lucky and find one at an antiques shop or estate sale. They can, however, be ordered online. We got ours through an Italian vendor on Etsy, and it's an object of pure beauty. More importantly, it excels at making pesto and similar sauces, as well as emulsified sauces like mayonnaise and aioli.
A utility knife may not seem like it belongs with all your other essential kitchen knives, but it’s one of the most useful to keep on hand, as it ensures you're always one quick snap away from a freshly razor-sharp blade. Perfect for detail work, this knife will finely dice apples and cut a perfect basil chiffonade even when all your other kitchen knives are in need of sharpening.
An Everlasting Meal
We don't know if there's a book about cooking that we've thought about more than this one by Tamar Adler, a former Chez Panisse cook who was once an editor at Harper's Magazine. It's about cooking simply, and enjoying the simple meals that naturally follow from thinking about your ingredients in cycles. We forget, sometimes, that the leftover stems from blanched broccoli are wonderful cooked with olive oil and piled on toast; that their cooking liquid could be the base of a soup; that the stems of greens like Swiss chard and kale make a lovely pesto. She reminds us that stale bread can make something delicious and that yesterday's bean broth could be the start of a pasta dish today. This book sends the valuable message that dinner doesn't always need to be a big deal.
The Breville produced crispy brown waffles the fastest and with the most consistent color of all the batches we tested, making it the best option if you prefer thinner waffles. Although it makes only one waffle at a time, it reheats and cooks rapidly, so you can crank out waffle after waffle with ease. The built-in drip tray, nonstick surface, and minimal design keep cleanup effortless.
This cookbook is a great guide to learning how to use a donabe cooker. It offers a wide range of recipes to help give you an idea of just how many one-pot dishes can be made using a donabe, plus background on the history and variety of donabe cookers.
Curious Chef Hand Mixer
This kid-friendly mixer is the perfect size for small hands to help with mixing up batters, dressings, and more. You also won’t need to worry about finding a spare outlet, since this mixer is manually operated and requires no electricity.
Cooking with fresh herbs makes every recipe better. Cooking with fresh herbs that you grew all by yourself makes life better. The AeroGarden takes the guesswork out of growing herbs inside, with an automated light to keep your parsley and thyme thriving and weekly reminders for water and nutrients. Just prepare yourself for epic amounts of basil.
When we tested bread knives earlier this year, we were absolutely blown away by the cutting quality of Tojiro's bread knife. It surpassed every other serrated knife, cutting beautifully clean slices of even the most tender bread and making quick, neat work of ripe tomatoes. It's a must-have for any kitchen.
Docking, or pricking with holes, provides steam vents so doughs lie flat. You can do it by stabbing your raw pizza dough a thousand times with a fork—or you can give it a pass with this tool, perforating the whole thing quickly, evenly, and perfectly. It's also our favorite way to dress up cookie and cracker doughs, as the uniformly spaced polka dots add an undeniably professional touch to treats like chocolate-filled shortbread cookies, DIY Wheat Thins, and chocolate digestive biscuits.
If you want your home cocktail equipment a little less out of sight and out of mind, consider highlighting your bourbon and bitters with a bar cart. The combination of curves, straight lines, and brass finish in this one makes it feel very mid-'50s. Mix drinks on the upper shelf, and stash ice buckets, glasses, and other supplies down below.
Baratza Encore Coffee Grinder
There's a lot to be said for Baratza's entry-level Encore grinder, which comes in a lighter-weight, all-plastic housing. It packs the same motor as the more expensive Virtuoso, and it includes a slightly less effective burr set that grinds nearly as well as—and slightly more slowly than—the Virtuoso. Also worth knowing is you can upgrade the burr set in the Encore to the one made for the Virtuoso, if you do ever end up feeling like the Encore isn't quite cutting it.
Presto 22-Inch Electric Griddle
This lightweight model comes with fully detachable handles that make cleaning and storing it a breeze; it will easily slot into the cabinet with all your baking sheets and cooling racks; and its nonstick surface has a textured crosshatch pattern that helps keep pancakes from sliding around and eluding your spatula when you're trying to flip them.
We often use a steamer basket to cook eggs because nestling a few of them into this rack not only cooks them evenly and gently, but does so with none of the shell-cracking risk that comes with dunking eggs into simmering water. OXO’s version is roomy, fitting pots eight inches and wider, with plenty of space for larger things like salmon, piles of veggies, or dumplings.
Leave it to the former owner of Murray's Cheese Shop, Rob Kaufelt, to come up with a cheese that is both global and local at the same time. Kaufelt's crew discovered cheesemaker Walter Rass's extraordinary Annelies cheese in a small village in Switzerland. Wheels of the stuff are shipped to the New York shop, where they're aged for nine months in the Murray's cheese cave before being sold to the public. The result is a nutty, caramelly, toasty cheese that needs no cracker for completion.
Hot Sour Salty Sweet
Rather than focusing on the cuisine of a specific country, in this book, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid trace the connections between flavors and cultures along the Mekong River. The book starts in southern China and follows their travels through Burma, into Laos and Thailand, and finally down into Vietnam. With gorgeous photography and compelling essays, Alford and Duguid present a version of Southeast Asia that is at once peaceful, dynamic, and captivating. Never has a book caused us to want to book a plane ticket so quickly—though this urge was matched by an even stronger desire to jump into the kitchen.
Mastering the Art of French Cooking
What is there to say that hasn't already been said? This is the original work that exposed countless Americans to classic French cooking, forever changing the course of this country's cuisine. Never mind if some of the recipes are a bit labyrinthine. You should own it. Both volumes. Period.
Broil King Professional Portable Nonstick Griddle
The Broil King was the top-performing electric griddle that we tested in terms of consistent heating and cooking results, turning out batches of perfectly browned pancakes. What's more, the legs of the Broil King can be adjusted to pitch the cooking surface, which helps drain fat into its grease trap.
Hands-Free Soap Dispenser
Messy cooks—or germaphobes—will love this easy-to-use soap dispenser. Unlike some other models that have finicky settings, this Simple Human dispenser changes how much soap you get based on where your hands are: Keep them up high for just the right amount to wash your hands, or move them lower for enough to clean a few dinner plates.
Leave-In Probe Thermometer
While it’s one of the most precise thermometers we tested, the ChefAlarm is also easy to use. The probe, which comes with a pot clip, has about six inches of usable length to reach into the thickest roasts, and springs on both ends of the 47-inch-long cable that protect it from wear at common failure points.
Tying a roast or a joint is a useful technique that helps it retain a nice shape as it cooks, which leads to both better presentation and more even cooking. Whether you prefer regular old square knots or butcher's knots (our preferred knot), be sure to use 100% cotton twine because it grips the meat nicely as you're tightening and won't melt or burn in the oven.
Electric Kettle for Coffee Lovers
This electric kettle has an elegant gooseneck spout that makes pouring a thin, controlled stream easy—very helpful for Chemex and other pourover coffee methods—and a base with controls that allow you to set a specific temperature and hold it there.
Budget Waiter’s-Friend Corkscrew
For about the same price as a very inexpensive bottle of wine, you can own a Truetap, which feels like it should last a lifetime. The all-metal handle has curves and grooves that help make finger placement more comfortable. The worm is covered in a nonstick material, so it drives into corks easily.
How to Read a French Fry
Russ Parsons's How to Read a French Fry doesn't try to be everything to everyone, and it doesn't pretend to be an encyclopedia of food science. Instead, it's a well-curated package of only the most useful and interesting scientific tidbits, with a straightforward, "just the facts, ma'am" approach. Each of the six chapters is about a single basic concept of food science: how frying works, how vegetables ripen, how beans and pasta soften, how meat reacts to heat, how eggs are the most useful culinary tool on the planet, and how fat, flour, and water come together to form pastries and cookies.
The Original Bear Paws Shredder Claws
In addition to making you look like Wolverine, shredder claws make quick work of pork butts (hello, pulled pork!), smoked chicken, smoked chuck roasts, and other meats, allowing you to tear the meat into shreds in no time. Sure, you could try doing it with forks, but you'd better have a lot of time on your hands.
Almost every element of this slicer is a little unorthodox, so we were surprised when it clearly outperformed all of its competitors in our slicing tests. If you're looking for the tool to make quick work of your next prime rib, this is it.
Fixed Can Opener
The Gangy uses a single tooth-like blade to repeatedly puncture the can’s lid and has no gears where food, water, or grease can accumulate and get funky. The opener’s wide, rounded metal body is comfortable to hold, and, while it’s not as fast as a rotary version, with practice you can work around a can fairly quickly.
Trying to get your mom to finally write down all those family recipes? This sleek Moleskine journal will get her organized and become a precious family heirloom in the process.
Espro Press P5
Thanks to a few simple innovations in the filter and beaker design, this French press fixes some of the brewing device's biggest drawbacks. The result is a cleaner batch of coffee that won't accidentally over-steep.
This is a book for people who like to live extra large, and by that we mean people who are intrigued enough by the microwaved foie gras recipe to consider trying it some day. It's a text that espouses an eating- and cooking-philosophy as much as it is a collection of recipes.