When I first got into cooking and bread baking (not very long ago), I started collecting kitchen tools, gadgets, cookbooks, pots and pans, small electrics, and various other things one might find at Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma. Remodeling our 1960s kitchen and the completion of my master's degree collided.
First, I needed shiny new kitchen toys to match my shiny new kitchen. Second, after completing a 60 unit degree, I couldn't read anything other than books meant for teenage girls (I completed the entire series of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), or cookbooks.
After a few years of trial and error, here are my recommendations for splurging:
- The Breville Smart Toaster Oven: This thing has been a total workhorse for me. It's about $250, but has been well worth the money. I only have one oven, so this one has served as a backup, including the time when my oven's computer crashed in the middle of baking bread, and I had to finish it in this. It toasts, broils, bakes, convection bakes, reheats, and performs miracles. It is my backup oven on holidays. I've owned it a long time and have zero complaints. In researching this post, I just discovered that they've come up with an even larger version of this oven. Let's just say, I'm in big trouble.
- The KitchenAid 7 Quart Pro Line Stand Mixer: True confession time... I have two stand mixers, this one, and the 5 Quart Artisan. Once I started baking bread, I realized that the Artisan would not hold up to making breads with a stiff dough, such as bagels. I have not regretted purchasing this mixer. I've owned mine since 2013 and it shows no sign of wear and tear.
- This Vitamix Blender is well worth the extra money. While I don't use a blender that often, when I do, I'm so happy I have this one. It's reliable, easy to use, and so easy to clean. There is nothing this thing can't handle.
- Hello Thermapen! If you bake bread, grill meat, or bake poultry, you need this tool. Trust me on this one. This thing is so accurate and fast, and will be your new favorite kitchen toy. I use this every day. I keep back up batteries on hand, just in case. I love mine! Don't settle for cheap imitations. This is the real deal.
- There are a lot of expensive food processors out there, but my favorite is the classic 14 cup Cuisinart. I have this one, and back it up with a mini food processor, rather than deal with one with multiple containers. I have owned this food processor for about four years, and have used it at least once a week. It's another work horse in my kitchen.
Here are some of my recommendations for Saving (or not splurging):
- Half Sheet Pans. You can't own too many. The ones I love are about $15 each, and I use them for baking everything. I also love these quarter sheet pans. There is no need to buy anything that is more pricey.
- While the temptation to buy gorgeous expensive knives is compelling, you can't beat Victorinox Fibrox knives for value. I own the 10 inch bread knife, the Granton edge slicing knife, the chef's knife, and several paring knives from the line. I've noticed no difference from higher priced lines.
- This Swissmar Borner V Slicer is a great substitute for an expensive mandoline. At 25% of the price of a stainless steel mandoline, you will be able to easily and safely slice and julienne vegetables and fruits.
- A carbon steel flat bottomed wok is very inexpensive. Do not get lured into getting a nonstick or electric version. Call Tane at the Wok Shop and tell her that one of the Wok Wednesdays participants referred you. She will take good care of you.
- Cookbooks! Of course! Some of my newest recommended titles include Dories Cookies, Breaking Bread: A New World of Israeli Baking, Sourdough: Recipes for Fermented Bread, and A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood.
Other thoughts on Save or Splurge?
I'm a big fan of All Clad pans. They are really pricey, so I fill out my collection by hitting the Williams Sonoma Outlet in Primm, Nevada (it's pretty much my Disneyland), or ordering from Cookware and More.
What recommendations do you have for gifts for your favorite cook? Where do you find deals?
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase, I will receive a tiny commission.