Here is a collection of my favorite cookware, gadgets, and food products that I use every day in my own kitchen from the companies I trust. I also include my favorite Cookbooks from mentors outside of my family. I hope you find this helpful to find what I consider to be the best products out there. These are the things I can’t be without. This list will be updated periodically with new or improved products I have found.
I have learned over the years I was a hoarder of gadgets. If I saw an infomercial for a kitchen gadget I went searching for a phone. And if you bought two you got a better deal! Well, after seeing a roomful of unused items, (I still have some but I hid them from my husband) I have learned you only need the necessities. Yes, I may splurge on an item but now I have control (somewhat) of the situation.
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In My Kitchen
Vitamix – this machine is invaluable to me. I use it everyday and have had it for over 10 years. It was the best anniversary present my husband has ever given me. I use it to make my Blue Cranberry Smoothie, Pineapple Crush Smoothie, and my Ultimate Green Smoothie, as well as my Peruvian Pesto, and pureeing sauces and soups. It is a workhorse in my kitchen and one of my favorite appliances that I could not do without. People see it on my counter and comment on how expensive it is and it isn’t cheap. But, if you are investing in an appliance that can be used everyday without fail, then this is it. If you ever have a problem, they offer a great guarantee to back up their product.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer – I actually have two of these. One is a 5 quart which was given to me as a wedding gift by my uncle Tony who has since passed away. I used it all the time, but when I started making bread often, it was too small to hold the amount of dough. I still use it for lighter jobs and it is still going strong. I will never rid of it as it works perfectly and it has sentimental value. I bought a stronger motor with a 6 quart capacity for the bigger jobs. You will only need one and it is a workhorse in the kitchen.
Cuisinart Food Processor – this is another machine that hasn’t failed me. I had the 11 cup which was perfect and purchased when I got married. I then purchased the stainless steel 14 cup a few years ago to match my other appliances and I gave the white 11 cup to my Mom. I admit, I do miss my original 11 cup.
Good set of pans – I have all brands, but my actual set is made from Costco’s Kirkland brand that I purchased after the ones I received from my bridal shower gave out on me – they weren’t cheap either. I was at my local Costco and saw the display of pans and they were such a great price I bought them and haven’t regretted it since. I also bought sets as gifts for my family when they started out. I love these pans as they are high quality and I recommend the stainless steel.
Le Creuset Dutch Ovens – I use my 5 quart, 7 quart when preparing soups, sauces, chili, and when I bake my Dutch Oven Bread. They last forever and I use them ALL the time. I admit I have purchased less expensive brands only to find they chip then start to rust. Sometimes, you get what you pay for. There are a variety of colors to choose from but I started with the classic Marseille Blue.
Cast Iron Skillets – 8”, 10”, 12” – I love my cast iron skillets. I highly recommend you get them as they are not expensive and they last forever with proper caring. I would recommend getting all three sizes, but if you had to have just one, then the 10 1/4″ inch (10″) is the one I couldn’t go without.
Stock Pots – I have several stock pots in sizes 8 quart up to 24 quarts and one or two of them are Kirkland brand. You don’t have to spend a lot on them but get a good quality one with a good heavy duty bottom.
Bose Speaker – I know this may seem like it doesn’t belong as part of my kitchen essentials, but it is an item that I could NOT do without. When I cook – especially when I am home alone – I blast the radio. It makes me happy and when I’m happy when I’m cooking, the food comes out better. I dance and sing and pretend I’m a diva on stage singing anything from Tom Jones (my favorite singer whose music is the reason I have a third child) to Sia. Play music when you cook. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it makes you happy. I think I’ve played Juan Gabriel’s “Hasta Que te Conocí” at least 1000 times. Music is a MUST in the kitchen.
A set of Good Knives– I use Cutco knives. I purchased the Ultimate Set when my sister was selling them as a way to help pay for her school. You’ll faint when you see the price, but back then it was less expensive. Also, they have deals and they were at my local Costco and were selling sets as such a good price, I almost bought another set until my husband pulled me away. I grew up with Cutco knives and my Dad bought them when years and years ago. I use them everyday in my kitchen and they haven’t let me down. The knives I use the most are the petite chef, the French chef, the 3” and 4” paring knives, their kitchen shears which are fantastic, spatula spreader, carver, bread knives, boning knife, and cleaver when I chop bones for broths. I love my knives and sharpen them myself with my favorite knife sharpener.
This sharpener is awesome, gets the job done, and I don’t have to worry about cutting myself. I never liked using the sharpening rods. The sound of sharpening knives was like nails on a chalkboard. There’s also a non-electric model that works wonders too.
Crock Pot or Slow Cooker – my favorite crock pot was the Rival I received at my bridal shower 27 years ago. Unfortunately, they don’t make things like they used to because the ones today run too hot. I have tried almost every brand without it matching the quality of my old one which was a true slow cooker. I feel a petition is needed to convince the company to go back to their original specs. I also thought the designs of flowers made it seem homey, but I’m sure that’s probably an old fashioned design. Now everything is stainless steel or red. The glass cover was thick and heavy which was perfect rather than the ones offered today at a lesser quality. The handle is now plastic and the glass is thin with a metal edge. I feel if I accidentally tap the counter it will break. If you are fortunate enough to have an older one passed down to you grab it and be grateful.
Thermometer – I just received a ThermoWorks Thermapen for Christmas and I’m thrilled. Yes, it’s expensive, but if you do as much cooking as I do, it’s worth it. I have 3 other instant reads by Taylor. I use these all the time. I am thinking of getting a ThermoWorks instant read pocket as I hear it gets great reviews. I’ve had a few cheaper brands and let me tell you how frustrating it is when it reads wrong and you remove an expensive roast at what you think is the perfect temp and it turns out overdone even after allowing 10 degrees for resting time after cooking.
Cutting Board– I have 2 wooden ones, and the rest are plastic. I do have a fancy boos cutting board I received as a gift. The wooden boards have lasted me for over 20 years and are still going strong. As for the plastic boards, get thicker good quality boards and stay away from the flimsy thin folding ones.
Balloon Whisk – perfect for egg whites, whisking dry ingredients, and batters. I have a 10″ whisk for whisking anything and a smaller 8″ for small jobs like whisking my Spices. You can get a set of all three here.
Dough Whisk – I was given one for Christmas and I have to tell you I LOVE this whisk. I wish I knew about it sooner. It’s open flat design allows for easy mixing making it the perfect choice when mixing a wet dough or starter. The quality is impressive and it’s offered at a great price. Highly recommended for bread makers.
Tongs – I recommend Edlund tongs as they are heavy duty and have lasted many years. I’ve purchased less expensive brands and even a more expensive brand at one of those fancy kitchen stores and it broke the first time I used it. I also recommend having a few tongs on hand. I have one 16″, several 12″, and a few 9″ and sometimes when I’m cooking I’m using 3 at a time. Also great for serving and tossing salads.
Fish Spatula – this spatula is perfect for frying and flipping. The wide slots towards the tip allow for grease to drain. It’s sturdy, yet flexible and it’s my go to especially when frying my Pan Fried Haddock.
Dough Scraper – this is a must if you work with dough allowing you to scrape, flip, and/or lift.
Digital Food Scale – I have an older Kamenstein that hasn’t failed me but it doesn’t seem to be on the market anymore. I use a digital food scale and find it a must when making my doughs. When making cakes I don’t even measure the flour. I just weigh everything. I highly recommend you get one.
Rubber Spatulas – I have a few and they are different sizes. A skinny one for getting every drop of tomato paste out of the can or scraping the inside of my Vitamix container. I have one for cooking and one for baking so I don’t get that weird taste of onions when scraping cake batter. I have a heavy duty one from Vollrath that I love with a longer handle that I use for cookie dough. I highly recommend any of the Vollrath spatulas because they are high quality, heavy duty, and get the job done. I’ve had mine for years and they never fail me. I know this sounds strange, but if you are at the store and see a spatula you are thinking of buying because it’s a great deal, smell the spatula. I don’t mean stick your nose on it or anything, you won’t need to get that close. If the plastic smells like it was just sprayed with chemicals, don’t buy it. You should see me when I’m at the gadget section of HomeGoods.
Wooden Spoons – I have at least 10 wooden spoons all different lengths. I keep the ones I use for baking separate from the ones I use for cooking.
Measuring Cups – I have 5 sets. I keep 1 cup, ⅓ cup, and ¼ cup each in my flour and sugar containers allowing easy measuring.
Cooling racks – if you bake you need at least 2 of these but I recommend 4 if you like bake often. Get good quality ones that won’t rust.
Microplane Zester/Grater – it really comes in handy and it’s not expensive. Use it for zesting citrus, grating cheese, nutmeg, etc. Great tool and it doesn’t take up a lot of room.
Splatter Screen – trust me, if you don’t want grease splattered all over the place then get one of these. Saves time with cleaning up all the mess.
Kitchen Utensil Set – Spatula, ladles, turning fork, slotted spatula, and spoon – get a good quality ones with some weight to them. I have Cutco utensils that came with my set, but I also have others that are high quality. I don’t use plastic except for one spatula when using a nonstick pan.
Baking Sheet Pans – Baking Sheet Pans are an invaluable item in my kitchen. I use them for cookies, roasting, appetizers, bars, etc. I have about 8 or ten of these and yes, I use them all – especially during the holidays or parties. Get one or two…or four!
In My Pantry – this list will grow and change
Aji Amarillo – This is a necessity when preparing my Peruvian dishes like my Peruvian Deviled Eggs. It’s not too hot, but it gives some spice to any dish. I’ve used this brand as well as this one. You don’t have to only use it for Peruvian recipes as it will add a little spice to your favorite recipes.
Granulated Garlic Powder – When I use or state garlic powder in my recipes I ONLY mean granulated garlic powder. Garlic powder, which has the consistency of talc, is not what I use. I buy in large quantity as I use it almost everyday and it is included in my Adobo Seasoning, tgc Spice Rub, Taco Seasoning, and Sazón Seasoning.
Granulated Onion Powder – As stated above, when I use or state onion powder in my recipes I ONLY mean granulated onion powder. Onion powder, which has the consistency of talc, is not what I use. I buy in large quantity as I use it almost everyday and it is included in my Adobo Seasoning, tgc Spice Rub, Taco Seasoning, and Sazón Seasoning.
Cookbooks – Although I have well over 100 cookbooks and hundreds and hundreds of magazines, if I were to recommend the best, this is what I would recommend. It isn’t because I think all the recipes in each of the books are exceptional. I admire these chefs because they are passionate in their cooking and wanted to share their passion with me, the reader. These cookbooks weren’t inundated with pictures and extreme detail, rather they were written in a common sense language. Some had no pictures at all displaying a sketch instead. It didn’t matter as the explanation was there and all you had to do was follow directions. Today, it seems there is so much detail, I feel like there’s an assumption that I’m incapable.
Everyone has their favorite cookbooks, but these are mine. I bet you already know a few of the authors…
Julia Child Cookbooks – I wish I had the opportunity to meet the woman. She was the queen of food TV who shared her passion of cooking with the viewing audience. I saw her mess up a few times on TV when watching the older shows and that is when I fell in love with this woman. She was real. She didn’t talk to you like some of the TV personalities today. She spoke to you as if you were in her kitchen and with respect. I once saw one of her later shows where she tried a dessert and started to cry because it was that good. Do you know I cried too when I saw that? I wish there were more like her today. We miss you, Julia.
Jacques Pépin – this man is a genius as a chef. Watching him cook with Julia was funny as they would sometimes disagree. But, in the end, they would always toast to each other and you saw the love of friendship between them. He actually taught at Boston University which was 10 minutes from where I used to live. I wanted desperately to take his class, but couldn’t afford it and had to work. I regret that I didn’t make that happen as he was such an inspiration to me.
Mary Ann Esposito was another cook I watched on Saturday mornings. I loved how she explained things and when she spoke in Italian, I would smile because her pronunciation was so pronounced. She lives just north of me in the state of New Hampshire and I’m hoping someday I will run into her so I can say “Buon Giorno, Mary Ann!”
Marcella Hazan’s cookbook was the first in which I actually took notes. I felt like I was in a class with her teaching me the common sense way of cooking. She reminded me of how my uncle Tony would teach and explain things to me. Common sense cooking is using all your senses to create magic in the kitchen. There is no need for measuring as everything is done with taste and smell. That is how I actually cook everyday in my kitchen. Don’t worry, I do measure when I’m writing my recipes so you can get the same results.
Shirley O. Corriher’s cookbook was a pleasure to read as it taught me the science of cooking. I check her book first when I want to know how one ingredient interacts or is affected by another.
Biba Caggiano was another chef I watched on TV. She was a class act and created simple amazing dishes on her show. Her cookbook was simple and the pictures made you hungry just looking at them.