Ok keep in mind that some of this is my not so humble opinion. It amazes me when talking to friends who like to cook like me how some of them don’t know these things. So when it come to ingredients simple things can make a difference in your final product.
Also there are some things I consider standard equipment and others that aren’t but I just LOVE so much that I recommend them. I’ve included links to some things so you can check them out.
Never buy salted butter. Salt is added to butter to make it last longer. This is a hold over from when we didn’t have proper refrigeration. Now we do so why bother with the salt! I prefer to control the amount of salt in what I’m making myself. Now some will argue that pretty much every recipe conceived up until about, I don’t know, 50 years ago was done so using salted butter. It was the norm. So what? I still don’t use salted butter. Unsalted just tastes better.
Never buy imitation vanilla. Ugh, it’s made from chemicals or, according to some sites, beaver butt (not kidding, google it). Again this is just something that I prefer and I always buy the real thing.
This is a really important ingredient and you should never ever use iodized salt when cooking. Nor, in my opinion, in seasoning your food. Table salt sucks and has a funny taste to it because it has been iodized. I always use either kosher salt or sea salt. Both can be a little chunky but I have a mortar and pestle to grind it down so it’s finer. I usually have 3 or 4 different types of sea salt on hand as well.
- Briny, usually French and cheap, for pasta water
- Flake, for several of my baked recipes
- Higher quality, again usually French, for seasoning
- Smoked, again for a couple of recipes I have
Having a good set of pots and pans is essential for any kitchen. I settled on Le Creuset pretty early on in my cooking life. Not to say they’re the best but they are for the most part an excellent brand. I also like Straub but by the time I “found” them I had already started down the Le Creuset road. Part of the reason I like these 2 brand is that they’re NOT made in China. And they are incredibly durable and last forever. Do I use other pots and pans? You bet, but none of them compare in my mind and I use my Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven the most.
I’ll be honest about this one, it took me a couple of years to catch on to using it. My significant other bought me one via a Kickstarter campaign before they really started coming out as a consumer model. Mine sat in the box meanwhile until one day I finally decided to give it a try. Boy did I start kicking myself for not trying it sooner once I realized how fantastic it was. High end restaurants have been using them for years.
Basically you’re cooking via a water bath, where the Sous Vide keeps the temperature at a constant degree. What this means is you can’t overcook what you’re cooking. This is how you can always get a perfect steak for example. I absolutely LOVE it!
The Kickstarter one fell apart after a couple of years and I’ve replaced it with the Anova Sous Vide, which works great as well. If you’re looking to get one I recommend NOT getting the wi-fi enabled version, it’s a waste of money as I have almost never gotten it to work via wifi. It comes with a handy app that suggests cooking times.
Again these are one of the things that you should invest in. Cheap knives will be your downfall! Having high quality, sharp knives, will make your cooking experience must more enjoyable. I settled on Wusthof Classic 7-Piece Block Set myself but there are a lot of high quality brands out there, like Henckels.
This is another item that took me a while to get into but once I did boy have I never looked back. This is a multi-purpose device. It can work as a slow cooker, a rice maker, a yogurt maker, and a pressure cooker. It’s the later that really makes my day. I can make pulled pork in an hour, as opposed to 5-6 hours traditionally. I have the Instant Pot 6 Qt.
There are not a lot of gadgets in my kitchen that serve one purpose but this is one of them. You can use it to chop a bunch of stuff, like herbs but I basically use mine for garlic. It makes a nice pile of minced garlic in no time, as opposed to chopping manually. I love mine and unlike most of the equipment on this list it won’t break the bank. Cuisinart Chopper
When it comes to baking or desserts, this is pretty much a must have for me. I’ve had my KitchenAid 6 Qt.Stand Mixer for years. Very durable and I like that you can add functionality using a bunch of somewhat pricey attachments. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a hand mixer, but it doesn’t get that much use anymore. And this has saved me a lot of kneading when it comes to bread thanks to the dough hook.
I have 2 of these. A large one, probably 10 -13 cups, which I’ve had for at least 25 years. And then a smaller, mini one. The large one is good to grating cheese, slicing veggies, making pie crust, etc. I use the small on for small batches of stuff, like olive tapenade or pesto.
Large – Cuisinart Food Processor