Let’s say money is no object, and we can all have whatever we want. We polled a swath of our regular contributors to Paste Food about what’s they’d consider the ne plus ultra of personal kitchen gear, and their answers were surprisingly modest, given the lack of limitations in the scenario. No one said “a 79-cent vegetable peeler!”, yet it turns out no one is dreaming of firing up a $50,000 grill-in-a-boat or owning Ian Curtis’ onetime kitchen table.
Nope, we just want things that will make our cooking lives a little easier—and, in some cases, a little foxier.
Last year, I splurged on a serious set of Mauiel copper. I can’t bring myself to hide it in the cupboards, but right now, sitting in a fleet on the butcher block isn’t doing my counter space any favors. One of these made-in-America iron pot stands by Enclume is definitely a must-have. (JoAnna Novak)
Gourmet meals at home are great. No need to beg for a hot reservation, no servers to tip, no mess to clean up in the kitchen…Oh wait. That pile of dirty dishes is completely yours to clean up. Skip the cooking and dishwashing and head straight to the oyster, the ocean’s answer to attainable luxury. Grab the gently curved pakka wood handle of the HiCoup oyster knife, and get to liberating the glistening flesh inside those rough bumpy shells. If you’re not lost admiring your own reflection on the blade’s mirror finish. If you’re not cooking, you better look real good for your hot dinner date. The less cooking involved in making food, the nicer the tool should be. (Minerva Orduno Rincon)
We had a ridiculous paella at our wedding reception in 2014—but it was definitely a risky move in the sense that neither of our families had any clue what paella was. Could we make a hamburger for Uncle Roy? Could Grandma Aggie handle the level of spice? Forget dress drama, I basically tore my hair out explaining to people that it’s just a simple rice dish. But of course, great paella is so much more than a simple rice dish, and I’m a sucker for traditions, so in order to honor our wedding anniversary and turn more people on to paella, I’d love to have a paella pan of my own. (Jackie Varriano)
Counter and cabinet space is always at a premium in my apartment, and even though an Instant Pot isn’t exactly small, it does do the work of a few different over-sized machines, and it does it well. Pressure cooking is the solution to many of life’s problems, and you can use the Instant Pot as a rice cooker, slow cooker, and yogurt making as well. It’s basically magic. (Laurel Randolph)
There’s something cozy about working in a spatially challenged apartment kitchen; it reminds me of the time I worked pastry and salad at the same, 2’ cutting board in an upstate New York restaurant. Still, I’d love to be able to turn around and set hot sheet trays on a cooling rack on an island behind me—and not on the stove! (JoAnna Novak)
For those of us who are obsessed with fermenting, these are as beautiful as they are practical. Far from a gadget, its beauty lies in its simplicity, helping you to harvest wild yeasts to make sauerkraut and kimchi. The one I really have my eyes set on is from the In Ferment line from Hadar Iron in Seattle; I spotted one last time I was at the lovely restaurant and food store London Plane and knew I was going to eventually need to get my hands on one. (Anna Brones)
I have an electric range with coil burners. And as far as their heating power, those coil burners are major wusses. All things considered, there are worse fates. I’ve developed workarounds—even for making acceptable stir-fries using my flat-bottom carbon steel wok (which I love). But for a stir-fry that achieves the elusive balance of fresh-crisp-tender-smoky in under 120 seconds of cooking time, it takes some serious BTUs. Instead of making concessions, I just want the real deal: a restaurant-grade wok range. Look out, dinner: no more middling stir-fries. (Sara Bir)
The KitchenAid Spiralizer stand mixer attachment looks amazing (if a little intimidating), especially in cherry red. It’s like the Cadillac of countertop appliances. No vegetable would be safe, with this in my kitchen—I’d core, peel, slice and spiralize my way through the year, probably greatly increasing my intake of raw foods. (Shawna Kenney)
I’ve seen many a bar back be sent on an errand to the neighborhood Sonic Drive-In for a bag of ice, and there is a reason why. Pellet or “nugget” ice is moldable, coated for slower melting, and even makes that store-brand seltzer look good. That’s right, Santa Baby, this woman wants an under-the-counter pellet ice maker, not the paltry amount you might get from the door of a high-end fridge. I love iced herbal tea, unusual sodas of all kinds, cocktails for back porch sipping, and easy slushies, and this ice is perfect for all. This model delivers a restaurant size supply (up to 80 pounds a day production) for all these beverages, and my favorite ice is always at the ready. I love ice. I really love ice. (Stephanie Burt)
It wasn’t long ago that sous vide at home was strictly the territory of the fanatical foodie, the technically inclined, or those with wads cash to spare. Not anymore. At less than $200, Anova’s Precision Cooker immersion circulator lets you connect your kitchen to your smartphone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, proving that yes, that fancy phone in your pocket can help cook your dinner. Want to nap while your free-range grass-fed rib eye gently cooks into a perfect medium rare? Set a cooking program from the app’s preloaded recipes, get some worry-free shut eye, and wake up to perfect ready-to-sear steak. No worries, no overcooking, no breaking the bank. (Minerva Orduno Rincon)
I’ll admit to the horrible habit of trying to clean the bowl of my KitchenAid while the paddle is still turning—but I’ve mostly curbed this, I swear! And, though I’ve been known to eat cookie dough, I’m so neurotic about portioning that I measuring out a scoop and set it aside until I’ve finished prepping. In other words, why do my spatulas look like they’re teething toys? I dream of finding one that holds its shape for more than a year. (JoAnna Novak)
I met the gorgeous Allen Han at the Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle this fall and fell in lust with this tea machine. It’s sleek, super high-tech, and brews the most amazing cup of cold green tea I’ve ever had. Of course I most likely wouldn’t use it to its full potential, would almost never drink green tea (it brews all sorts) and can’t afford the steep price tag, but this is a wish list and dammit, I’m wishing for it. (Jackie Varriano)
Years ago, the author of Cookin’ Southern Vegetarian Style showed me what was missing in my life—an electric skillet! Since then, this tool has been essential to my repertoire of risotto, curries, veggie fried rice and chicken-fried tofu. I am not well-versed in electric skillets, but they don’t seem to last longer than a year. I’m hoping Santa will bring me a high-end electric skillet, preferably one that doesn’t burn a ring of fire into itself after a few months. (Shawna Kenney)
After a knife, there are few more useful kitchen utensils than a spoon. But forget those sustainably-harvested wood spoons perfect for stirring risotto and polenta. When was the last time you actually made either one, anyway? You don’t have that kind of time to stir. What you do have time for is for a perfectly poached egg. Enter the Badass Perforated Egg Spoon by Mac Dalton and chef and cookbook author Michael Ruhlman. The spoon’s magic (or perfectly sized) perforations separate the useless liquid surrounding the thicker egg white, resulting in an ethereally smooth poached egg, no unattractive fly-aways attached. Badass? Maybe not. But definitively very cool. (Minerva Orduno Rincon)
Wouldn’t it be cool to have pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Perhaps this is a childish dream, but it’s one that could become a reality with an 800 ?F wood-burning oven. My only problem will be fitting it into my 500-square-foot apartment. It might make things a little hot around here, too. (Shawna Kenney)
The Yama, a slow drip coffee hourglass tower, is sometimes hundreds of dollars but makes a great cup of coffee. Plus they’re aesthetically pleasing to look at. Since the Japanese invented excellent ways to make iced coffee, they also build innovative coffee apparati. The slow drip Yama tower looks a giant hourglass, or a Rube Goldberg way to make concentrated coffee. Iced water from the top chamber drips through the other chambers and accumulates at the bottom. The whole process takes hours, but what you’ll have a clean-tasting cup of iced coffee. Plus, it’s hypnotic to stare at. Many coffee shops use this method, including One Line in Columbus, Ohio, who has a row of them set out. The towers come in different colors of woods and ounces, but they’ll cost you between $200 and $459. There’s also a sleeker Korean model called the Alley 600. If I had a bigger kitchen, a disposable income and already didn’t have so many coffee contraptions, I’d be all over this. (Garin Pirnia)
There’s no tool I use more in my kitchen than the stove. And—especially when I’m putting in work with my cast iron or grill pan—the entire kitchen can turn into a cloud of smoke all too quickly. The two things I wish I could add to my kitchen? A professional range and exhaust for increased temperature control and a kitchen I can actually breathe in. (Max Bonem)
With a motor strong enough to chop through wood, Vitamix is the gold standard in blending technology. Icy drinks? Perfectly blended. Smooth sauces? Oh so easy. Whole fruit smoothies? Duh. The thing is strong enough to pulverize soup and heat it up all in one go. This is my equivalent of a flashy and ridiculously fast sports car—I don’t need it, but boy do I want it. (Laurel Randolph)
I have a less-than-average sized fridge that’s not big enough for two people’s food, especially all of my boyfriend’s pickles and weird Asian sauces. What I’d love is a smart fridge, one that would alert me when I’m about to run out of something, or tell me where the freakin’ ginger is (we can never find anything). Smart fridges do exist. In 2000, LG launched the first internet fridge, replete with a LED screen. Using a RFID code, it reads what’s in your fridge. As nice as these sound, they cost in the thousands and the technology hasn’t been quite perfected yet. If I can’t live in The Jetsons’ world yet, then I would settle for a larger fridge with a crushed ice maker. (Garin Pirnia)
Is it just me, or is there something status-esque about wanting a Le Creuset Dutch oven? It’s like the Louis Vuitton handbag of one-pot, oven-to-table cooking. I can’t help myself—I’m a culinary social climber! (Holly Leber)
Go big or go home, as the tired saying goes. This is not a gadget or an appliance or a fixture. But I still like to think that kitchens—and the food that comes out of them—are instruments of greater understanding, something that seems to be in an ever-decreasing supply these days. Here’s to tolerance and patience. It’s needed for better cooking and for co-existence.