22 Big-Ticket Kitchen Items That Are Actually Worth the Expense
In a dream world, money would grow on trees, and every piece of equipment in your kitchen could be top-notch. But, that isn't reality. The trick is knowing where to allocate your budget instead of frittering away funds on less-important pieces. These 22 items are all worth investing in the next time your budget allows for an upgrade; consider it the ultimate (practical) kitchen-equipment wish list.
— Additional reporting by India Yaffe
Cast Iron Double Burner Grill
If you love the taste of grilled food but don't love cooking outside in the Winter, you'll freak out over this Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Double Burner Grill ($200). You can place this in the oven, and grill vegetables, meat, fish, or whatever you like on this ingenious pan.
Having a high-quality coffee maker is a hallmark of any sophisticated kitchen. This Breville Nespresso Vertuo Coffee and Espresso Machine Bundle with Aeroccino Milk Frother ($162, originally $250) will let you make homemade lattes and cappuccinos, as well as a classic afternoon espresso shot.
Cook meat perfectly, every single time. Sound like a dream? Well, meet your new reality with the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide ($199); it heats and circulates water to the perfect temperature consistently, and connects to an app so you get step-by-step instructions and can track how well your food is cooking. Whether the chef in your life is adventurous and innovative or all about convenience, they'll love this.
Electric Knife Sharpener
There's nothing worse than cooking with a dull knife, and now they won't have to, thanks to this Wüsthof Chef'sChoice Electric Knife Sharpener ($180).
Knife Block Set
Speaking of which, I've been to homes where the knives are just thrown about in a drawer, which is not only unorganized, but also incredibly dangerous. Invest in this safe, sophisticated Wüsthof Epicure 7-Piece Knife Block Set ($550). Your kitchen will never be the same.
Pitcher & Stirring Spoon
If you host often, you know that having a pitcher makes life so much easier. The Anthropologie Glam Pitcher & Stirring Spoon ($68) can sit so beautifully on your dining room table. Plus, the pretty long spoon is such a fun accessory.
Enameled Dutch Oven
A high-quality, enameled cast-iron dutch oven like this Staub seven-quart oval cocotte ($364) is a budget-buster, but its versatility more than makes up for it. You'll want to display it stove top not only because it's aesthetically pleasing, but also because you'll be reaching for it so often. (It's the best thing for soups, stews, deep-frying, and braising.)
Don't bother with a knife set; your money is much better spent on a solid chef's knife, paring knife, and bread knife (the other knives that come in a set typically get little use). While top-notch versions of each will prove their worth, a chef's knife like this eight-inch Global model ($100, originally $125) will get the most use.
Wooden Cutting Board
Protect the investment you made on high-quality knives with a wooden cutting board, which is much gentler on blades than plastic and glass models. (Seriously, don't even think of using a glass cutting board.) For everyday use (and especially for prepping meat and seafood), we're partial to Epicurean's wood composite boards ($50) as they're dishwasher safe. If you can muster hand-washing, an end-grain cutting board ($150) should last a lifetime, is even gentler on knives, and is attractive enough to serve food atop.
Scanpan Fry Pan
Until we tried a Scanpan Fry Pan ($90 for 10-inch, originally $139), a virtually scratch-proof, eco-friendly (read: not Teflon) nonstick pan, our philosophy was to stick with inexpensive nonstick cookware and replace as soon as its nonstick coating wore off with use. (Typically annually.) This pan is a game-changer: not only does its nonstick coating last for years, but we also no longer have to worry about ingesting flaked-off Teflon or inhaling fumes from overheating the pan.
The sticker shock might be hard to stomach, but we'd argue that a high-powered blender like the Vitamix Explorian E310 Blender ($350) is worth every penny. The texture of pureed soups, smoothies, and sauces made in one is incomparable; we consider ours an investment in our health.
We know what you're thinking: "$100 for a thermometer? WTF!" But hear us out: meat (especially big steaks and roasts) is pricey and easy to over- or undercook without an accurate instant-read thermometer. While we wish there were solid inexpensive models, nothing compares to the Thermapen ($99) for speed or accuracy.
Variable-Temperature Gooseneck Kettle
Bonavita's variable-temperature kettle ($82, originally $100) isn't for everyone, but if you geek out on tea or coffee, listen up. Temperature control allows you to treat delicate tea leaves right, and the gooseneck will help you perfect brewing pour-over coffee.
A Solid Food Processor
If time is money, then a solid food processor, like Breville's 16-cup model ($400, originally $600), may just provide the best return on investment of any of these items. This large bowl size allows one to breeze through prepping produce, and a second 2 1/2-cup bowl is ideal for smaller jobs.
All-Clad Stainless Steel Pan
Thin, inexpensive pans don't heat anywhere near as evenly as an All-Clad stainless steel pan ($115 for eight-inch size) does, making it much more difficult to properly sear food without burning. With proper care, these pans last a lifetime.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
If you only bake occasionally, a hand mixer does the trick, but if you're an avid baker, a KitchenAid stand mixer ($280, originally $500) is the gold standard. Also worth noting: a full suite of attachment options makes this item much more versatile than one might think.