The Essential Kitchen Equipment We Wish We'd Bought Sooner

A look at the cooking equipment we love using and wish we'd bought a long time ago.

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adding oil to pesto in a mortar and pestle

Vicky Wasik

When you work at a food site, it usually goes without saying that you don't just like to eat great food—you like to make it, too. The latter is obviously true of our recipe developers and editors, but virtually every member of our team is passionate about getting their hands dirty in the kitchen. So, when we recently started recounting our lists of shame—those kitchen items we always knew we should own, but waited an embarrassingly long time to acquire—it's safe to say we all surprised one another with the gaps in our respective arsenals. Here's a look at the cooking equipment we love using and wish we'd bought a long time ago. May it serve you well.

An Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

I lasted many years without an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. They were years full of desire and longing, but I was a poorly paid line cook, and Le Creuset, one of the most respected manufacturers, ain't cheap. I had work-arounds—sometimes I'd borrow my sister's and not return it for months on end—but that only got me so far. I eventually splurged (then bought another on sale, in a smaller size), and I've never looked back. My Le Creusets are workhorses in my kitchen, constantly used for sauces, stews, braises, and more. Other than my hot-water kettle, these enameled Dutch ovens are also the only cookware with a permanent home on my stovetop; they're almost never out of rotation long enough to see the inside of a cabinet. I cannot imagine functioning without them. Daniel Gritzer, culinary director

Growing up in a Jamaican household, nothing announced a good time fixing to happen like the clangor and scrape of the big Dutch pot being exhumed for stovetop duty. The unspoken promise of a whole heap of food and fun company to share it all with was nearly always kept. My nine-quart Staub cocotte, with its color scheme, enamel, and stainless steel pig for a lid knob is as different as can be from the round-bellied, unadorned piece of my childhood. It makes (and keeps) the same promise, though: whatever ingredients enter its vastness—the upper torso of a Thanksgiving turkey, hand-crushed tomatoes for red sauce sorcery, marinated chicken thighs, or twiced-dredged eggplant slices—always comes out perfectly delicious. It’s to a point now where my my partner comes running when she thinks she hears the particular sound constellation of “piggy pot” landing on the stovetop or oven rack, curious as to what magic will ensue. Never mind if your only company is you; you above all people deserve a good time, and a large-capacity Dutch oven will ensure you many. George Stern, contributor

Parchment Paper Sheets

Overhead view of cake pans being lined with parchment paper

It took me an embarrassingly long time to buy myself some 16x24-inch full-sheet, flat parchment paper. Oh, the profanities I've hurled while wrestling rolls of parchment paper that refuse to lay flat and immediately—all-too-enthusiastically!—curl up under themselves. Pristine, perfectly-cut large parchment paper is one of those things you take for granted in a commercial kitchen. At home, I use parchment paper for cookie baking, for fish en papillote easy dinners, for cutting out rounds to line my cake pans, and to make stencils for decorating (to name just a few of MANY uses!). There are pop-up versions of parchment paper that are definitely an improvement on the rolls, but they never give you that full-sheet pan length, and the folds make certain tasks, like making a piping bag, annoyingly difficult. I got my 16x24 sheets from the local restaurant supply store, but something similar is available online; use it for big tasks, or easily cut it in half to fit a standard half-sheet tray. Katie Leaird, contributor

A Squeeze-and-Pour Silicone Measuring Cup

I've been putting up with annoying measuring-cup drips for years, but recently, after some piping-hot chicken stock trickled down my arm while I was making risotto, I decided I'd had enough. I bought this flexible measuring cup and have found it a godsend for both sweet and savory projects. The textured pattern on the surface means it won't get slick or slippery when wet, and the thickness is enough to provide a temperature buffer if you're working with hot liquids. It's great for adding the milk to my vanilla butter cake, or for pouring cold ice cream base into the machine. It's such a ridiculously simple thing, but I wish I'd given up on my glass measuring cups long ago. Stella Parks, editor emeritus

A Quarter Sheet Pan

The infuriatingly small oven in my current apartment is what finally got me to buy some quarter sheet pans. After purging larger sizes from my collection out of necessity, I don’t know where I would be without these smaller sheet pans. They’re just the right size for toasting nuts, baking off one or two cookies from the freezer (saved for emergencies), roasting small portions of vegetables or fish, and warming up leftovers. Like most New York apartments, my counter space is limited, and these take up just the right amount of space when prepping food‚ too, whether I’m getting ingredients ready, cooking in batches for a braise, or using them to catch scraps. —Jina Stanfill, social media editor

A Mortar and Pestle

close up of finished pesto in a mortar and pestle

The mortar and pestle falls squarely into the category of "you don't know what you're missing" tools. If you are like I was a few years back and don't own one (preferably one of the large, granite Thai varieties), let me tell you something: You don't know what you're missing. I sure didn't. See, a mortar and pestle is the best tool for drawing out the flavors of aromatics and spices destined for curry pastes, marinades, sauces, dressings, pestos, salsas, guacamole, and anything that you might currently be making in the food processor. While a food processor shears between plant cells, a mortar and pestle crushes them, releasing more flavor into your food. Not only that, but the easy cleanup (a quick rinse is all you need) and the ability to work in small batches make it faster than a food processor or spice grinder for most of your day-to-day projects. Now that I have one, my food has never been tastier. It's also great for the soul: The opportunity to pound out your frustrations only makes dinner taste that much better. J. Kenji López-Alt, culinary consultant

Sheet Pan Lids

I’d dismissed sheet pan lids as unnecessary gimmicks, but my mind has changed recently, especially since I’ve been making so much bread at home The translucent lids snap snugly onto half and quarter sheet pans, essentially converting them from pans into containers. This is particularly useful for cold-fermenting balls of pizza or pita dough or bagels in the fridge, or when proofing low-profile breads like rolls, pretzels, or focaccia. They are also great for covering sheet pans in the freezer while you are freezing things like berries in a single layer before transferring them to zipper lock bags. And if you have more than one, they are stackable. One thing to keep in mind: Not all sheet pans are exactly the same size, even if they stack together snugly. The lids I purchased only snap onto certain pans, so I recommend buying the lids as part of a set, so you can be sure that you have matching pairs. Andrew Janjigian, contributor

A 3-Quart Saucier

I'm cheap, so I'll make do with some subpar tool for years before ponying up the cash for a significantly better replacement. For example, right now I use a stupidly dull swivel peeler instead of shelling out under $10 for three super-sharp Y-peelers that are guaranteed to make my life better—I'll probably wait a year before I do. I could think of any number of kitchen tools I waited far too long to buy, from a decent bread knife and a bench scraper to a half sheet pan.

But two tools I purchased recently left me in a slough of self-recrimination for longer than usual: my All-Clad three-quart saucier, which I actually requested as a Christmas gift from my wife (did I say I was cheap?), and my flexible slotted spatula. I used to use a beat-up nonstick (!) pot to make things like custards and sauces—even going so far as to buy a nonstick whisk for the stupid pot—and I worked (sort of) with a combination of a plastic spatula and a pair of chopsticks to turn my Spanish mackerel fillets or burgers. I can't recommend these two tools highly enough. Sho Spaeth, editor

A Citrus Squeezer

I never saw the appeal of a citrus squeezer when you can just...squeeze a lemon with your hands. But once I started cooking more of my meals during the pandemic, I found myself juicing a lot more lemons (though none for lemonade, unfortunately), and I got tired of fishing out the seeds that inevitably fell into whatever I was making. I reluctantly purchased a citrus squeezer, and I haven’t even thought about squeezing a lemon with my bare hands since. Yasmine Maggio, assistant editor

The Perfect Pasta Pan

I’d had my eye on our pick for the perfect pasta pan for quite some time. But, I held off on purchasing it because it was specifically for finishing pasta and I hadn’t accepted that I’d have to make space for it in my kitchen. It wasn’t until 6 months later, after endlessly getting frustrated with spilling pasta all over my stovetop, chasing after those errant noodles, and then cleaning up the mess, that I caved and made my purchase. And, I’m so happy I did. I make pasta a couple of times a week and this pan has made the whole process much more pleasurable and much less stressful. Kristina Razon, associate editor

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Vicky Wasik

I have to admit to having been extremely skeptical about Daniel's "perfect pasta pan" recommendation. I didn't doubt Daniel's sincerity, I just didn't see a use for it. "I have a wok," I said to myself; isn't it the same thing? My frugality makes me agonize over buying anything at all, let alone another pan for my already crowded kitchen. But the other day, just because it's been pasta crazy around here for months, I finally broke down and bought the pan, and it's really everything it's advertised to be: It makes it very easy to agitate its contents to achieve that perfect mantecatura, or the emulsion of oil and pasta cooking water and sauce and melted cheese that coats each and every square millimeter of around 12 ounces of whatever pasta you're tossing around, which is pretty difficult if not impossible with any other standard sized pan other than a 14-inch wok. As to the wok objection: Yes, it's very similar, but the high sides facilitate a sort of circular tossing motion that is at once both very effective and very satisfying; add to that the fact that the chrome offers a great backdrop for watching as the emulsion forms and streaks the bottom of the pan, and the pan is very entertaining to use. And, of course, it's relatively cheap, so I haven't felt (that) bad about buying it, although I do feel a little bad about how often I'm using it—pasta's great and everything but this pan is bad for observing the maxim of "moderation in all things and in all things moderation." —Sho Spaeth, editor

An Infrared Thermometer

Since my culinary school toolkit came with a candy thermometer, I never thought twice about buying another type of thermometer for years...despite how terrifically sticky, gloopy, and occasionally dangerous it was to clean an above-boiling wad of sugar off a candy thermometer. It wasn't until I started working at a restaurant equipped with multiple infrared thermometers that I realized how simple and delightful they are to use. No mess, no crusty bits, no cleaning required— not to mention, no need to squint at the red bar and potentially misread the temperature. These are really affordable to buy, and work for everything from temperature-checking your sugar and gelatin-based mousses to checking my oil temperature for frying. I use it constantly! Jenny Dorsey, contributor

Pasta-Rolling Attachments for a Stand Mixer

Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Since I started working at Serious Eats, I've purchased a whole lot of cookware and gadgets, from super-sharp kitchen shears to a Thermapen, the latter of which has made me a much less paranoid cook (and eater). After a breakup, I even treated myself to a KitchenAid stand mixer—okay, it's just possible I have a shopping problem. But my absolute favorite addition has to be the pasta-rolling attachment for the above-mentioned stand mixer. Though I'd wanted to make my own pasta from scratch at home for a while, I'd never had the space to roll it out or the muscle mass to use a hand crank. Between Niki's primer on the science of the best fresh pasta and my handy roller, I've successfully made beautiful fettuccine and ricotta ravioli. I have two full recipes' worth of dough in my freezer right now, and I can't wait to roll them out and see what else I can do. Ariel Kanter, commerce director

Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

I'm not sure how I survived so long without a small collection of stainless steel mixing bowls. They're cheap, they don't take up much space (because they nest!), and they're useful for a million different things. I spent years prepping ingredients on a cutting board, then carefully trying to shuttle the garlic around the peppers and onions without knocking anything into the pan prematurely. Now, I just slide each ingredient into an appropriately sized bowl. I use the small ones almost every time I cook, but the larger ones are perfect for tossing a salad or serving a giant pile of popcorn. —Paul Cline, principal product manager

A Salad Spinner

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

A few years back, I took a rejected salad spinner from my mom's kitchen. It was large, cumbersome, and difficult to store in my tiny studio-apartment kitchen—no wonder she was trying to get rid of it. I used it regularly until, one day, it finally fell off the top shelf I was forced to store it on (it was the only shelf tall enough to fit its gigantic pump/crank), and the plastic bowl cracked open. I'd seen Daniel use our recommended Zyliss spinner hundreds of times during recipe testing, and at last I had an excuse to buy one! I actually ended up getting the smaller version, which is perfect for my small space and for washing modest amounts of greens or herbs. —Vicky Wasik, visual director

Swedish Dish Cloths

Not only do these paper-based dishcloths come in a variety of fun colors and prints, but they’re also reusable. They're made of cellulose and are highly absorbent (way more than regular paper towels) and they've allowed me to cut down on using paper towels significantly. When they're dirty, I wash them in my dishwasher along with my dishes, dry, and then reuse. Nik Sharma, contributor

A Pressure Cooker

Person selecting rice function on Instant Pot multi-cooker

Vicky Wasik

I've been listening to my colleagues wax rhapsodic about pressure cookers for years now. But even after tasting some of the amazing fruits of their labor, like Daniel's Butternut Squash Risotto With Frizzled Sage and Brown Butter and Kenji's Green Chili With Chicken, I was still skeptical about adding one of these bulky instruments to my already-crammed kitchen. Not only do the electric ones take up a lot of space (we don't need to dive into my irrational fear of the stovetop variety), but I've always been a taste-as-I-go kind of cook—the idea of piling a bunch of ingredients into a pot and pressing a button just didn't sound fun.

But since my father gave me an Instant Pot, I've learned about a whole new type of fun. The one where your kitchen is way less messy at the end of your meal, your food tastes incredible, and typically long-cooking dishes are finished in a fraction of the time.

Most exciting to me, perhaps, is that a pressure cooker allows you to undertake multiple cooking projects at the same time. So, the last time I had a big dinner party, I didn't have to structure my whole day around oven availability—I managed to make Ragù Bolognese in the pressure cooker, Stella's phenomenal cherry pie in the oven, sautéed asparagus on the stove, and a salad at the kitchen island. The entire undertaking took under three hours, and I was able to bring everything to the table at the right temperature, at the exact same time. Niki Achitoff-Gray, editor-in-chief

A Spice Grinder

A pile of whole peppercorns

For a long time, I was not convinced that grinding whole spices was worth the effort. Even after I made the switch, I never bothered to buy an electric spice grinder because it seemed like yet another gadget to store. I was used to using a small mortar and pestle even though my "ground" spices had a mix of very unevenly sized bits and the pounding probably annoyed my neighbors.

Sick of painfully biting into rocky bits of spices, my sister eventually bought the one recommended by Serious Eats. After trying it out, I never looked back. It greatly decreased the effort required for cooking with whole spices and I found myself more eager to try new recipes. The spice grinder now sits proudly at the front of my equipment shelf. —Maggie Lee, UX designer

Piping Bags and Tips

I can't tell you how many times I tried to pipe frosting with just a plastic bag and a hole snipped in the corner. It never worked. It was always messy. The resulting piping job was...not good. When I started baking more often, I finally picked up a set of piping tips and disposable pastry bags. It has made all the difference in the world. Now I have total control of whatever I'm piping, whether it's chocolate frosting for my birthday cake last year or fluffy meringue for Stella's meringue mushrooms. —Ariel Kanter, commerce director