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.
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 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.
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.