I am not a kitchen gadget person. I hate useless and stupid gadgets like a salad shooter, or a butter melting gun. These things are ridiculous pieces of junk purchased most often by people frantically shopping for last minute gifts for someone they know nothing about except "hey, doesn't he like to cook?"
That being said, I do like to have the right tool for the job. The right tool can make an enormous difference in how your dish turns out. This page is dedicated to the tried and true kitchen warriors without whom I would be lost!
1. Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
Accept no substitutes! Period. This is the the be all, end all, of electric mixers. The nice thing about a Kitchen Aid product is that it lasts forever with zero maintenance. Its is strong enough to make pasta dough and bread dough, efficient enough to whip egg whites into an ethereal fluff for butter cream or Angel food cake. It disassembles easily, cleans easily and looks fantastic in any kitchen. Are they more expensive than other mixers? Yes. Get over it. Cheaper knock off models break down all the time, are not powerful enough to handle the tough jobs, and ultimately cost much more since they have to be replaced every couple years. This is the last mixer you will ever buy. Plus now they come in a wide selection of colors and you can even get decals for them!
2. Charcoal Smoker
This is the charcoal smoker we use and we love it. It is not expensive and is a real workhorse with two grill racks inside so you can smoke a beef brisket at the same time you are smoking a pork shoulder, or you can easily smoke two ducks at the same time. We have even smoked our Thanksgiving turkey at the same time we smoked a pumpkin (later used for soup). There are lots of other models on the market, so find the one that will work for you! I think a smoker is an indispensable piece of kitchen equipment, well worth the investment. Anything you can grill, you can make 10 times more delicious by smoking it!
3. SCANPAN non-stick skillet
A good heavy non-stick skillet is essential equipment. Not only will you use a lot less oil, but everything will turn out better. EVERYTHING. I love the SCANPAN brand from Denmark. It's very heavy weight for even temperature distribution, absolutely nothing sticks to this pan, and the best part is that they are safe for the use of metal utensils. I got mine as a very generous gift from Heidi, and it is my favorite skillet ever. The End.
4. Pressure Cooker
I use a Presto Pressure cooker like the one above (and yes, since I'm usually enjoying a tasty beverage when I cook, my pressure cooker looks blurry in real life too!). They can be dangerous if you over heat them or don't clean out the pressure valve each time after cooking (and by dangerous I mean they explode!), but I have actually never known that to happen. Using a pressure cooker can reduce the time of cooking for things like dried beans (1 hour and no pre-soaking!), beef pot roast (45 minutes), and even my beer-braised carnitas (1 hour 15 minutes). They are the original old school microwave, and I think you'll love having one!
And if you are interested, check out "Hip Pressure Cooking", a nifty blog all about cooking with pressure cookers... full of hip recipes, tips, tricks and cooking times, this is a treasure trove of pressure cooker goodness!
5. Cuisinart Food Processor
I can't imagine cooking without a food processor. If you like kitchen tools that can multi-task, this is your tool. From making the perfect mayonnaise, to perfect pie crust, to grating several pounds of cheese in seconds, to infusing sugar with citrus peel, I use my food processor for everything. And I have seen and used other brands, but I swear by Cuisinart. It is simple to use, easy to clean, powerful and durable, well worth the investment.
6. Potato Ricer
A potato ricer is absolutely essential for making perfectly smooth and light mashed potatoes, potato dumplings or gnocchi. They are super cheap and easy to use and clean. No they are not multi-taskers, but the task they perform cannot be done by anything else. Its a good investment. Just do it.