Anyone who has been in one of my classes will have heard me tell why I’m a tough customer when it comes to gadgets. So I decided to write my ultimate list of the pieces of equipment I can’t live without.
How to use this list
I’ve split the list into my absolute essentials, nice to have, baking kit and investments. Use this as an opportunity to have a good clear out of old, useless things. Donate them to charity or sell them on eBay. Read my post about how to organize your kitchen here.
How buying from this list helps
If you buy these bits of kit through the UK and US Amazon links below, the price you pay doesn’t change, but I get paid a small fee. This helps fund the time I spend blogging and recipe testing and keeps my class prices down. I will never ever recommend anything I don’t love, even if I’m offered a fortune!
Just click on the red links (double tap if you’re on a phone or tablet) and you can add the item straight into your Amazon cart to buy later. If a price is shown in dollars and you are in the UK, it will take you through to the Amazon UK item in pounds once you put it in your cart.
These are the things I am tempted to put in my case when I travel. They are also the items my students find the most life-changing.
Microplane fine For zesting citrus, mincing garlic.
Microplane coarse For grating ginger, Parmesan, carrots and apples.
Silicone spoon spatulas – I have 8 of these as I use them for everything – don’t just keep them for baking as I know many people do. Throw away your wooden spoons and use these instead. They can go in the dishwasher and can be used at super-high temperatures so they are great for stirring food in a pan. They get every last bit out of your pans and bowls so you don’t waste a spot of food, making clean-up easier.
Mini silicone spatulas – To get every last bit out of the jar. Immensely satisfying and thrifty.
Pepper grinder This is probably the thing most of my students rush to buy after class. I love how easy it is to refill – just pour your peppercorns through the wide chute, instead of scattering them all over your counter, like what happens with most fiddly pepper grinders. It grinds a ton of pepper in one go, making you quicker in the kitchen.
Citrus juicer A hit of lemon or lime at the end of a recipe is essential for brightening flavours. This gets the most juice out of your citrus with the least mess.
Maldon salt – Another one of my obsessions, and one that my students love and quickly adopt. The texture of flavour is amazing.
Salt container – to keep your salt near your food prep area. This is pretty enough to carry to the table too. That’s what we do anyway. I think this plus a box of Maldon is a pretty lovely gift.
Onion goggles because I bawl when I chop onions. These are the only things that have ever worked and I have tried EVERYTHING!
Scanpan frying pan These pans are fabulous and well worth the investment. They are non stick without being coated in scary Teflon. Health benefits of avoiding Teflon aside, these pans are great to cook with, they work on induction as well as gas and electric. You can use metal in them without the non stick surface being affected. I use mine every day. I use a bigger one for meals for our family of four – stir fries, meat and fish with pan sauces, eggs, pancakes etc. I use a smaller one for cooking smaller amounts, or when I need two pans on the go. If you are just getting one, get the bigger one. Be sure to buy the ones with metal handles so that you can brown something in the pan and then put it in the oven or under the broiler [grill] to finish off cooking. I also love the big lidded chef pan they make.
Digital scalesI’m trying to convert all my lovely Americans to the merits of weighing rather than using volume when cooking. And if some of you decide to start using grams instead of ounces too I’ll be over the moon! Weighing is more accurate and less messy than using volume cup measurements; meaning you’ll get much more consistent results when you bake. They are also a brilliant way to get children to practice their numbers. Just put any bowl on these scales. Press the re-set button to cancel out the weight of the bowl then add your ingredients. Zero out (or re-set) after each ingredient and add the next. Simple.
Measuring cups Because so many US recipes are in cups, I do keep a set of these on hand. They work best when recipes are less precise or less fine-tuned. Think rough and ready cookies rather than recipes that require more precision.
Measuring spoons This set is brilliant as the shape means it will fit in even narrow spice jars.
Measuring jugs – mini, medium, large I love the way these jugs have the measurements on the side but can also be viewed from above, meaning you’re not always bending down to see how much something measures. I have them in the 2 cup, 4 cup, 1 cup sizes as I cook a lot. If you’re just buying one, get the biggest size.
Dutch oven I love my enamel-coated, cast iron Le Creuset. They are one of the most expensive items in my kitchen but the quality is unbeatable and I will have them forever. They work on induction as well as gas and electric. I don’t have a crockpot [slow cooker]. Instead, I use my Le Creuset pans to cook stews and soups low and slow in the oven while I go off and do what I need to do. Buy the biggest you can afford – round or oval doesn’t make any difference. This shallow one is great for smaller family meals and is what I use to make my shakshuka.
Cookie sheet/baking tin I use this really sturdy baking sheet for much more than baking. I mainly use it to roast vegetables or other one pan meals as it copes well with high temperatures and doesn’t buckle like cheaper ones can. But it is also great for all kinds of baking. I often use mine to transport food around instead of a tray too. Just be sure to check that this size will fit in your oven! I usually line mine with parchment paper or a Silpat reusable silicone liner to make clean up easier and to avoid things sticking. Again, check you are buying the liner that fits your tray.
Saucepans I like stainless steel pans with a nice heavy bottom, metal handles and lids so I can put them in the oven. Even with all the cooking I do, I only have a set of 3 saucepans. I actually got mine at TK Maxx (Home Goods), I find they always have the best quality at the best prices and I usually mix and match between ranges to get what I need. Be sure to check yours are induction compatible if that’s what you cook on.
Scissors I use these to snip bacon, sausages and chicken into a pan rather than a knife and board. I also use them to snip herbs or salad greens.
Cutting boards I don’t like to use wooden boards as I find them hard to clean. I also don’t like glass boards as they blunt knives. I buy 2-3 of these inexpensive plastic boards and change them every 6-12 months when they start to stain or scratch. They can go in the dishwasher which is the best way to get them clean. If you are in Ikea any time soon, their are also brilliant and cheap as chips.
Metal tongs should feel like an extension of your hand and essential for lifting and flipping things in pans or on trays. I have 4 pairs because I like to use one pair when I’m handling raw meat or fish and then switch to a clean pair when I’m handling the finished, cooked item.
Slotted spoon I use this to pull things out of pans when you want any cooking liquid or fat to be left behind.
Ladle for serving soups and stews easily. I also use mine for making pancakes.
Can opener It is amazing how complicated and tough to use many of these can be. This one isn’t.
Box grater Most people only use these to grate cheese. I use it mainly to get my raw veggies into chewable sized prices. The more work the grater does, the less work my jaw has to do! Use the slicing side (two, horizontal blades) to shred fennel and cabbage for slaw. When my boys were younger, I used it to grate raw apple into their oats in the morning too, easier than using apple sauce.
Colander To drain pasta, boiled vegetables and potatoes. Also to wash lettuce, berries and other fruits and vegetables. I like to have a bigger one but also these little ones for washing berries and draining canned beans.
Kettle I was amazed how many people in the US don’t have this. In Britain, a kettle is usually the first thing anyone buys when they leave home. Even if you don’t drink tea, use this to quickly boil water for boiling pasta, rice or vegetables and you’ll save at least 10 minutes of waiting time.
Knives – You only really need three knives; a chefs knife, a paring knife and a serrated bread knife. My favourite knife manufacturer is Global as the handle and blade are all from one piece of metal so are not going to break. The blocks with loads of knives in only really serve to make the knife companies lots of money rather than to help you. I’d much rather you use a good chefs knife for most jobs and really get used to using it confidently. Technique aside, the biggest impact you can have on your knife is to get it sharpened regularly. Ask the chef at your local restaurant where they get theirs done or use one of these.
This is the knife my (4 and 5 year old) children use. The round ended knife in particular is great for little hands and gets them used to using knives safely. I also use this to cut tomatoes.
Peeler I use this to peel vegetables but also to create long ribbons of carrots, cucumbers and other vegetables to add a nice texture to salads.
Food processor My advice to buy the one with the biggest capacity you can afford. I tend to only use a couple of the blades my processor came with – the grater and the standard chopper. Don’t be swayed by food processors with multiple blades as you won’t really need them for most recipes. I use my processor at least five times a week to make pesto, bread crumbs, curry paste, cauliflower mash and this lifesaver cake.
Whisk I use this to mix sauces to get rid of lumps. I also use it to whisk dry ingredients together when I’m baking instead of sieving them.
Mixing bowls To use when microwaving, prepping or baking. You can also use them to serve salads or other sides or to store things in the fridge.
Roasting pans I like to have a sturdy metal deep sided roasting pan like this for roasting turkey, chicken or other meats. I like metal because I can use it on top of the stove too, usually to make a pan sauce after the meat has finished roasting. You can also use it to bake a lasagna. I also have these ceramic roasting pans which are great for any foods you want to make and freeze, or to bake in the oven and then serve straight to the table in the same pan.
Serving platters are the modern way to go to make the food you’ve worked hard to make look pretty. They also mean no delicious ingredients get buried as they can in a bowl. I like to use plain white plates and platters so that food stands out.
Salad servers I love these ‘hands’ for tossing and serving salads and other dishes where large quantities need mixing well such as granola.
Olive oil for dressings This is what I use in my pesto and salad dressings. It is great value for an oil with such great flavour. Be sure to keep it (and any other oils) in a dark cupboard, away from heat to stop them going rancid.
Nice to haves
Mini food processor I only bought one of these recently. I’d never thought I needed one as I use my big food processor so much. But, this little one is so useful for making quick pestos and for grinding breadcrumbs and nuts for my dukkah. Because it is so small, it is easy to grab out of the cupboard and can be washed very easily. If I had to only have one food processor I’d still go with a bigger one but if you can fit two in your life this is really handy.
Immersion blender I use this so much. It is the easiest way to blend soups in the pan you cooked them in. It is so easy to wash. I also use mine to make speedy homemade mayonnaise and smoothies. You don’t need to buy one with lots of add ons, this one is perfect.
Griddle pan When I moved to California, this was one of the first things I bought. I thought it would make me feel like a real American to cook my pancakes on one of these. I soon realized that this big pan is not just for pancakes; it is a great way to make stir fries or any food that is too much to fit into a regular frying pan. I’m yet to find this available in the UK but you can buy it from the US store and pay for shipping. Do note that this one doesn’t work on induction.
Spiralizer This is a recent addition to my kitchen. I love it for making courgette/zucchini noodles (zoodles) which I use in salads or in place of spaghetti or noodles. My kids can’t tell the difference between pasta and these noodles so I mix half and half with pasta and sauce and they get extra veggies without knowing.
Ice cream maker I know many people buy these and leave them in the cupboard never to be used. I do use mine and love the resulting ice cream that has minimal ingredients.
Steamer I tried bamboo and metal steamers in the past but never got along well with them. Then I found this brilliant silicone one. The feet sit on the bottom of any pan and the flexible shape bends to fit inside any size pan. And it goes in the dishwasher and doesn’t absorb smells making it wonderful for spicy foods and fish. I have both the large and small, but if you’re just getting one I’d get the large.
These are all wonderfully useful items but are on the pricier end of the list.
Scanpan big, lidded chef pan I love my Scanpan frying pans but this is a great addition if you have a big family or need to cook in bigger quantities. It also has a lid making it great for braised dishes like my Shepherds pie. I also use it to roast a whole chicken. It goes into the oven and works on induction.
Toaster oven I hate clutter on my counter tops but this is brill. On hot days it doesn’t heat up my kitchen like my regular oven does. It allows me to make small dinners for my boys quickly and easily without resorting to the microwave. It saves energy too. We use it to toast our bread and bagels and I use it to bake cakes, cookies and roast meat and vegetables or bake pasta just like I do in a regular oven. I regularly make dinner for all four of us in this with no difficulty.
Vitamix the cult of this is well documented. Not only for the strong motor but for my favorite feature – the fact you can push things down as you blend rather than stopping and starting the blender. Choose either this one or this one depending on your budget. You’ll be delighted with either.
In addition to the spatulas, whisks, bowls and scales I’ve included in the list above, these are my top bits of baking kit:
Stand mixer – I use my Kenwood Chef stand mixerto make cakes, cookies and to whip cream and egg whites. My grandma and mum both had a Kenwood so it was not even a question what I’d buy when I got married and finally had the budget for one. They have just launched stateside and are brilliant. Alternatively, you can buy the American classic Kitchenaid stand mixer. It is really handy to buy an additional scraper beater as it reduces the amount of time you need to stop and scrape the bowl as you mix. If you are a keen baker it is well worth investing in a spare mixing bowl, particularly if you are making recipes that involve egg whites to be whipped separately from other ingredients.
These Jadeite cake stands are what you need to display your creations in the most beautiful way. To avoid storing mine, I use it to hold fruit instead of a fruit bowl when I’m not using it for cake.
A cooling rack like this will help you cool your creations without the dreaded soggy bottom!
Disposable piping bags I shy away from disposable things, but if you’ve ever tried to clean a piping bag you’ll understand why I will break the rules and buy these!
Rolling pins are not just for rolling dough. I use mine to bash meat to make it thinner. I use it to crush ice cubes or cookies for crumbs. My sons try to use them as weapons. The list goes on.
Sturdy muffin pans are great for, well, muffins and small tarts. I can’t really say much more than that.
A spring form cake pan will enable you to easily remove your cakes and cheesecakes from the pan with minimal sweat.
The classic pie plate. As American as apple pie.
Pastry or basting brush If you want to brush egg wash onto your bakes, or brush oil onto your equipment, these silicone brushes are the hygienic, easy clean way to go.
Scone or cookie cutter set For perfect scones and cookies.