Up until this year, one might have said that I was an “all the gear, no idea” sort of cook. I had (mostly through one off recipes, boyfriends who made me buy things like meat thermometers and cast iron skillets, and getting older and just accumulating all of the “adulting things”), invested in most of the important stuff to cook with but did I use it regularly? Nope, sure didn’t! Flash forward to lockdown and now I’m suddenly cooking all of the time and also getting more experimental in the kitchen because hey why not, what else is there to do?
So today I wanted to round up 10 of my most essential kitchen tools and gadgets for you! I hope it’s helpful or at least interesting!
First, some small space thoughts!
My kitchen is pretty small in the scheme of things. I feel badly saying that as it’s definitely bigger than some of the spaces I’ve lived in, but then again I’ve also lived in some abysmally small apartments over the years. It’s all part of that NYC life. I only have one small counter and not a ton of storage so I have to be really careful. Basically, if one new thing comes in, something else has to go. For example: when I bought my air fryer I said goodbye to my slow cooker. I loved the slow cooker but only used it maybe a few times a year to make chili and stews.
There are other ways to cook those things; whereas I use my air fryer every single day (usually to roast veggies for one – but we’ll get to that!!!). The air fryer is 1000% worth the counter space!
My Top 10 Most Essential Kitchen Gadgets
On the countertop:
A few gadgets live on the counter. But just a FEW!!! Bc again, I don’t have a lot of counter space to work with so the things that are out are of the utmost VIP status. If it’s on the counter, it’s IMPORTANT.
Low Profile Vitamix Blender
I bought my Vitamix so long ago (I think 7 or 8 years ago? What is time!?) and I am not sure if this is the exact one I have (I know myself and can’t imagine I spent $600 on it) but this one looks the most similar to the one I have (I have it in red!). It definitely was expensive but I think mine was $300 or $400. A Vitamix is definitely an investment but it is something you buy once (also recommend looking for refurbished models!) and have forever. I love it because of the low profile (by profile I mean height, this is much “shorter” than the other Vitamix blenders) – it fits nicely under my kitchen cabinet.
I make a Daily Harvest smoothie with it at least once a day, and I also use it to make SOUPS in the winter. Having a powerful blender is such a game changer for soups… I’m a big fan of using cashews + vegetable broth as a “cream” base and this makes them so creamy and rich. Note: for soups you can also use an immersion blender… I personally have better results with the Vitamix, though!
I had to shout out my beloved Aerogarden as it’s currently taking up a prime slice of counter space (I had to relegate the air fryer to my side table. I’m not crazy about having it out like that but there’s nothing I can really do at this point!) I LOVE my Aerogarden and I love having it in the kitchen as it reminds me to add fresh basil, parsley, or mint to my salads (or cocktails) and it’s also just really nice having some greenery in the kitchen! You can read my full review of the Aerogarden, I love it so much, it’s been one of my most favorite projects (and purchases) of quarantine! I cannot recommend it enough for fresh herbs and spices.
I initially bought this marble tray for my bathroom (I keep my skincare products on it) and liked it so much that I ended up buying a second one for the kitchen. I keep the things I use most – my olive oils, my CBD drops and vitamins, and my salt & pepper shakers on this tray. It’s really chic and a great way to make your odds & ends look a little bit more pulled together… grouping them on a tray makes them look intentionally “styled” as opposed to just “out” and messy.
I use my Nespresso Vertuoline machine SO MUCH. I’ve had it for 6 or 7 years now and it’s still in perfect condition. I’ve thought about buying a french press or something more compact that I could stick in a cabinet but there is something about having this wonderful little contraption make me a perfect cup of coffee for one in the morning… (and then another one in the afternoon!) I love it, it’s the best coffee (IMO – we can disagree!) and it is worth every dollar (and inch of counter space). I’m so happy that (in New York) we can recycle the capsules now, I’d always mailed them back to Nespresso but had a bit of guilt doing it.
I keep my air fryer on the high top table I have next to the stove. I originally designed that nook to be a place to hang out and chill so wasn’t thrilled about putting something on it. But I use my air fryer nearly every day so I would have been really annoyed putting it away every day! I use the air fryer mostly to roast vegetables – asparagus, broccoli, etc. It’s just nice having a way to easily roast your veggies without a lot of dishes. I just throw it in there with some salt, pepper, and olive oil and voila. Perfectly roasted vegetables. I also use it most weekends to make those delicious stuffed bagel balls. So it’s definitely worth the space it takes up.
I will also add that I keep getting asked (mostly from friends’ husbands) if this is a “good” air fryer. Actually, I have no idea. I think so? I really love it? It does a good job and it’s not very expensive. But is it the best air fryer? Probably not? Who knows. I bought it bc Becca recommended it, she bought it because she thought it was cute. We both really like it though.
Other stuff I love and use constantly!
I remember asking my sister and brother-in-law what I could get them for a gift and both of them agreeing: a microplane. I was like whaaa? What even is that??? But I was ultimately influenced by them and use my microplane for a LOT of things but most notably for grating fresh garlic or ginger or making lemon or lime zest. It’s so handy and can also grate harder cheeses in a pinch. This is strangely one of my most-used items. But when it’s this easy to grate up garlic and ginger, you do it more often! Or making lemon zest for salad dressing and pancakes and topping off ice cream or anything, really. Lemon zest makes everything better!
I used to have a big, beautiful stainless steel juicer but it took up way too much space! Someday when I have a house and a big Nancy Meyers style kitchen I will get one as I love fresh juice. But this little hand held guy is great for squeezing lemons and limes when cooking, or… if I have the time to spend (as it does take a little while), making juice for margaritas (specifically, Liz’s skinny margaritas, which call for the fresh juice of oranges, lemons, and limes.) I cut the lemons and limes in half and quarter the oranges.
This fancy spatula/turner contraption
This spatula is so nice. I feel weird raving about a spatula and I have several others, but if you have something delicate like a crepe or a pancake, this flips it over so perfectly. It’s expensive for a spatula but it’s truly perfect. I love that you can order a right-handed or left-handed version.
In my day to day I try not to use any single use plastic. This doesn’t always happen (spontaneous iced coffees are the main culprit!) but at home I don’t use any plastic bags or saran wrap and stasher bags are a great way to do that. The different sizes make them the perfect place to stash everything from cheese to fresh herbs (wrapped in a paper towel to help them last longer) to fruits and veggies and oddly shaped leftovers.
My Le Creuset “Braiser” Oven
I did a partnership with Le Creuset (the absolute dream!) a couple years ago and was spoiled with some beautiful cookware. And I love it as much as I did when I first got it. It’s all amazing but my most used piece from the collection is the “braiser oven,” as you can cook pretty much everything in it. Sometimes I use it as a skillet and sometimes I stick it in the oven to bake something. It’s amazing for those dishes that start on the stove top and finish in the oven like the baked pasta I made the other night or roasting a chicken.
Honorable mentions: this chef’s knife, this baking sheet set and these sheet pans (perfect for making one pan dinners – my fav!), my mini food processor (great for when you just don’t feel like chopping an onion!), this casserole dish, this mixing bowl set (love that they stack, perfect for fellow small space dwellers), these measuring cups and measuring spoons, and this big cutting board, which is so beautiful that it doubles as a serving platter (and instagram background, ha ha).
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photo by Tory Williams.
I’ve been wanting an airfryer for the longest time I’m moving out soon so I might just get one instead of a toaster oven!
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
I highly recommend doing that! I just use my oven to make toast, etc!
Stasher bags are the BEST!
Side note, do you like your sonos?! We have some company gifts we can pick from and that Sonos is an option and I’m curious about it!
I love them so much!
And as for Sonos this is actually an old photo. Mine broke. I ended up getting an Alexa Echo Show (I think that’s what it’s called) and love it as a speaker but it also does so much more (reads the news, answers my questions about the weather or random things like if you should put tomatoes in the fridge!)
I have two Sonos in my apartment and love them! The set up is quick and easy and you can pair the speakers together so they play simultaneously but you can still adjust volume on each separately.
Yes to so many of these things – Vitamix, we’ve had ours 8 years and love it! Nespresso Vertuoline – 100% yes and our is 6 years old hahaha. When you told me in NYC you could recycle with everything else I was so excited that it could be coming to us soon. For now I will diligently mail them in 🙂 Microplaner, stashers, Le Creuset are all good choices – well done!
It was such a happy piece of news! I know they spent a lot of money working with the city to make it happen; hopefully it can roll out! And also: so glad you agree. XO
Love this post, we are all spending more time in the kitchen these days!! My air fryer is like a toaster oven too and it’s the hardest working item in my kitchen for sure! I recommend exploring cooking meat in there, so good! I’ll literally make a whole meal in 20 min, cooking the meat and then the veg while the meat cools!
Agree so much – it’s really so useful! I haven’t attempted meat yet (besides chicken tenders lol) but am def intrigued. It is so easy, especially when I’m just cooking for myself!
I would like to echo your microplane recommendation… it changed my life! (It’s the best way to ‘mince’ garlic). I find a lot of my favorite kitchenware at TJMaxx, they have tons of nice brands. I found the le creuset casserole dish there for $25 and many All-Clad stainless steel pans/pots!
Holy crap, that is amazing – what a great find!!!!!
Love the containers you have your utensils in! Can you share where those are from? I want that same chic, clean vibe instead of the bright colored one I’m using now.
Thank you! They all came from West Elm with the exception of the little neon pitcher which (a gift from my sister) came from Mud Australia (I think she bought it at ABC Home). xo
Hello! Could you share where the cookie jar with the leather pull is from? Thanks!
West Elm but several years old! I don’t think they make anymore, but these are similar: https://bit.ly/2ZO2zvk
Yesss to so many of these!! We got the Le Creuset braising pot as a gift and it’s one of the most used items in our kitchen, so versatile and easy to clean! Stasher bags, nespresso, and microplane are all almost daily use as well!
YAY so glad you agree!
If your chef’s knife is an extra, you don’t really do much food prep.
I don’t really understand the point of this comment, but the point of the post was to share my favorites. I love my knife and use it every day but didn’t have a ton to say about it. LOL. Thanks for the weird judginess, though!
I have to say the list is very different than what I would suggest-
KitchenAid stand mixer
Whoops hard to choose just 10
Knives are basics, not gadgets. I wouldn’t have included mine in this roundup either even though they’re easily my favorite kitchen items.
Such a fun post! Coming from a family of great cooks, my kitchen is overflowing , but that’s the way I like it. I have Le Creuset , Staub and Allclad pans. I also have some gorgeous vintage pieces from Griswold, Wagner and Dansk. You can great buys on Etsy and estate sales. Your favorite spatula (and mine too!) is called a fish spatula. Mine is a less expensive brand (Winco) @ $15. I use it for everything from fish to cookies. I love your cute little air fryer ,but realized it’s kind of redundant for me because my favorite appliance is my Breville mini toaster oven. I make granola, roast veggies, chicken, fish and bake in it too! It’s a second oven, but I love it when its hot and you don’t want heat up your kitchen with your big oven. In my family we joke about having a cooking help “hotline”. I love and use almost every one of your favs. I’m cooking a lot for the family and dad since he is quite ill and doesn’t have the energy to cook much anymore. I miss dinner parties! Cooking for the family makes me miss them a little less. 🙂
Oh that is so interesting and good to know, thanks for the tip!!!! And love your list. It sounds like you are an amazing cook 🙂
Hi! Great post! I have two questions – do you hand wash your stashed bags? And, what do you use to cover a dish in place of Saran Wrap? Thanks! That’s all for now.
Yes – I don’t have a dish washer, so everything gets hand washed.
I put most things into glass tupperware but in the off chance I’m covering a bowl (really only when making dough and letting it rise) I use beeswax wrap! xo
I have a portable dishwasher that hooks up to my sink. Game changer! It doesn’t get quite as hot as a built in does, but gets stuff really clean. its safe to wash most things. I’ve even cleaned my bathroom light fixtures in it! I have a marble top on mine, doubles as counter space in my small kitchen. Also saves water!
What a great post! I’ve been on the fence about purchasing an air fryer but now I think I’ll definitely have to get one. Looking at the aerogarden too! Lol! Thanks for all the recommendations. LOVE your podcast btw!
You’re so welcome!
this is a fun post! i’m so hesitant to spend a lot of money on a fancy blender but all the inexpensive ones i’ve ever purchased have barely worked…so maybe it’s time to go for it!
It really is worth the investment. Def recommend finding a refurbished one if you can to save some $$!
It’s so not weird to rave about a spatula! Finding a good one is hard. I have two of the same one because I’m a lefty & my hubby is a righty lol
It really is just perfect! So glad you agree and love that you guys have two!
FWIW, Consumer Reports ranks the GoWise pretty highly so it’s probably a very good air fryer. Just ordered one 🙂
OH! Great to know!!! Haha 😉 it’s great I just have no idea if it measures up to others.
This was a fun read! I love kitchen gadgets! I also have a super tiny kitchen, so I’m always having to prioritize as well. I’ve had my eye on an air fryer and I like your swap for the slow cooker… may have to do the same myself.
It was a good swap!!!!!! And glad you enjoyed the post!
Where is the yellow painting from in the first photo? I checked your blog post from last year about decor but didn’t see it. Thank you in advance – it’s so beautiful!!!
Hi Courtney, Thanks, I’m so glad you like it… it’s one of my favorites and was one of the first pieces of original art I ever invested in. The artist is Catherine Howe – definitely check out her work, she’s AMAZING. I purchased my painting from her at Ober Gallery in Connecticut.
Thank you!!! Checking out her site and the gallery now.
You have made me add a few new things to my kitchen list now!
Oh good!!!! 🙂 xo
Hi I hate overflowing gadget drawers. I have a few things in containers like yours. Then I put up a very thin towel rail and hooks. Now the majority are hanging up and easy to choose.
That’s a great plan!
Salad dressing wonderful as are all your other products— thanks for not pushing and for your honesty about things.. has made me want to know more! Will look for more fun inspiration from you!