10 Kitchen Tools That Are Worth Their Investment

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We’ve discussed kitchen tools everyone should have, and tools everyone on a budget should have, but if you’re willing to put a little money into your home cooking, here are some solid kitchen tools that may cost a little more than usual, but will pay you back in flavour, time saved, or just plain quality of life.

Additional photos by Warren Layton, pseph, The Homesteading Hippy, Claire Lower, Chris Hunkeler, Mike McCune, Kevin Purdy, Bruce, and Erik Forsberg.

#10 A Food Processor

It’s really tough to understate how much good a food processor in your kitchen can do. Sure, you could always just grab a knife and get to chopping, slicing and julienning, but a food processor can do so much more than cut up vegetables. A solid one can mix dough, make deliciously smooth pesto or hummus and emulsify salad dressing in a snap.

Want to get adventurous? Try making pizza dough, home-ground burger patties, or even perfect whipped cream.

You can get some inspiration for what to do with your own food processor — or some good reasons to consider buying one — in our Kitchen Tool School feature on them. Trust me, I only have a small, space-saving model, and I use it for hummus, pesto and devilled eggs all the time and couldn’t imagine not owning one.

Our pick: TributeCollection Food processor FX 3030 for $149.00 (Save 40%)

#9 A Slow Cooker

You don’t have to spend a lot of money from whole chickens, delicious slow-cooked ribs and even dips, all with little to no effort at all. Want something sweet? That piece even has recipes for overnight oatmeal or cheesecake — all in a slow cooker.

Best of all, you can make virtually any recipe a slow-cooker recipe with some simple tweaking, so you can have your delicious gourmet meal without the time standing over the stove or heating up your home using your oven.

Besides, there’s nothing like coming home to a delicious, hot meal waiting for you — you’ll save time cooking and save the money you’d spend ordering out after a long day.

Our pick: Breville The Smart Temp 6L Slow Cooker for $99

#8 A Pressure Cooker

Pressure cookers are invaluable kitchen appliances and they have come a long way from the old “careful it doesn’t explode” variety that our parents and grandparents had. They’re safer than ever, more functional than ever and besides, who doesn’t love the idea of a super-simple fondue or cheese dip, a whole roast chicken, 30-minute chicken broth, or even delicious fresh bread, all without firing up the oven?

Best of all, pressure cookers don’t have to be terribly expensive and some of them can even pull double duty as slow cookers and rice cookers, like the ever-handy Instant Pot.

Our pick: Hawkins Big Boy Aluminium Pressure Cooker 14L for $149 (save $146)

#7 An Immersion Circulator (Sous Vide)

Immersion circulators, or sous vide machines, can definitely be pricey. Some of our favourites are around $250 and while you don’t need a sous vide machine and our Sous Vide 101 feature was all about me using a cooler to cook steaks, if you do decide to invest in one, you can get some huge benefits.

Once you have one, the tastiest burgers you’ve ever had are just a few minutes away, as are deliciously perfect steaks and the eggs — soft or hard boiled — of your dreams, made at home, where it’s legal of course. Lay down the entrance fee now and you’ll be paid back a thousandfold in deliciousness, effortless cooking and of course, some really ingenious recipes.

Our pick: Sunbeam Duos Sous Vide & Slow Cooker for $299 (save $10)

#6 A Good Thermometer

A cooking thermometer is a must in any kitchen and will mean the difference between haphazardly poking meat thinking your fingers or your face can tell if they’re done (neither of which are universally accurate) and actually knowing that it’s the perfect temperature and texture. Heck, a good thermometer will even help you make perfect cocktails.

I’m a big fan of Thermoworks’ Thermapen (as is the always-amazing Alton Brown,) as I’ve mentioned before, but if you don’t want to spend the money, there are other models that are equally sensitive for less money.

Our pick: Classic SuperFast Thermapen for $119

#5 A Quality Blender

Most of us have a blender in our kitchens, but when you bought yours, what did you look for when you picked it up? The wattage of the motor maybe, or the size of the carafe? A good one will excel in both of those departments sure, with a strong motor and a large carafe that’s big enough for what you want to put into it, but there’s so much more to consider.

While you don’t need to blow out your budget on a Blendtec or something extremely pricey, you should at least buy carefully and spend a little on something that will do multiple jobs and last you a long time. Go forth and smoothie, soup and emulsify without fear.

Our pick: Nutribullet 1000W N10-0907DG 9 Piece Set for $169

#4 A Bench Scraper or Pastry Cutter

While a lot of the items we’ve mentioned so far can be expensive, the humble bench scraper doesn’t have to be — it’s just not nearly as common in home kitchens as it really, really should be.

After all, at most a good one will set you back a mere $20, with serviceable options close to half that price and once you have one, you’ll never beat up your knives trying to scrape the last bit of anything off of a cutting board again, you’ll never have trouble dividing dough or bread or ground meat for burgers again, you’ll never have trouble getting clean sides on a frosted cake again and you’ll always have a tool to help you clean up counter-tops before, during and after cooking.

Seriously, get one of these, it will change your life.

Our pick: Cuisipro Stainless Steel Deluxe Pastry Blender for $29.95 (save $13)

#3 A Mandoline

The mandoline is super useful, and can give you perfectly julienned vegetables in no time, easy vegetable noodles without having to buy and store a massive spiraliser and more.

In fact, in an interview with Mark Bittman, he told us that the mandoline was one of his favourite workhorse kitchen tools.

Of course, a mandoline can definitely be a dangerous tool if you don’t know how to use one, but the basics are pretty simple: Go slow, and use the hand guard.

Our pick: Progressive PL8 Professional Mandoline Slicer for $79.99 (save $40)

#2 Good Cast Iron Pans

Ah, cast iron. Cast iron cookware is essential in any home kitchen and once you get used to them and get your favourite one well seasoned, it’s possible you’ll never use anything but cast iron for just about anything you want to cook.

They don’t have to be expensive, either — maybe you need a couple of cast iron frying pans and buy them new, pre-seasoned. Maybe you get some hand-me-downs from a family member or a op shop bargain that needs to be re-seasoned and can last the test of time.

That’s the beauty of cast iron — buy it once, and as long as you care for it, it will last you forever.

Most people also assume cast iron pans are only good for steaks and meat — and while they’re absolutely great for those things, they’re also useful for a wide array of other amazing dishes, from pizza to fondue. Even if you don’t want to make frying pan pizza, you can use your cast iron as a pizza stone.

Not enough? Grill fish in minutes, roast a whole chicken, even roast your own coffee beans. Need we continue?

Our pick: LE CREUSET Signature cast iron skillet 23cm for $110 (save $20)

#1 A Good Chef’s Knife

Most of you likely already know that a good chef’s knife can make a huge difference in your cooking. A solid blade that you’re comfortable using can make cooking easier, and a lot more fun. What you may not know is that investing in a good knife makes a huge difference too — and we’re not talking about spending hundreds (although you could certainly do that), just a few more than whatever came in that knife set you really shouldn’t have bought when you moved out on your own.

Even some affordable models are budget upgrades that will transform the way you cook, as long as you know what to look for. Think about how you cook, choose between carbon steel or stainless, learn to keep them sharp (because as you may have heard, dull knives are more dangerous in the kitchen) preferably with a water stone and even an affordable chef’s knife will be an investment that lasts you years.

Comments

  • Dont dangerously overfill your pressure cooker like in the photo. Buy a good quality one for the stovetop, not some rinky dink one with plastic latches.

  • My thoughts.
    10. Food Processors. They take up much bench space, hard to store and difficult to clean
    Unless you are cooking for a family of 10+ they are best avoided.
    9. Slow cookers. You have rocks in your head if you do not have one. A must have.
    8. Pressure cooker. I don’t have one, no comment.
    7. Sous Vide cooker. If you are cooking for one or have the family around, a rice cooker would be a better investment.
    6. Thermometer. One of the best buys I ever did was a from a bargain shelf in Bunnings. Alas no more available. It shines a laser light on an object and registers it’s temperature. If you find one similar…… Grab it. Any thermometer is good, Learn how your oven behaves, learn by trial an error how long to cook a steak
    5. Blender. Oh, My, they look good in the adverts. Lemme tell you, they are not all that necessary. You can do the same job quicker with a kitchen knife and a stick blender, with less clean up time.
    4. A bench scraper. Buy a mezzaluna instead. It will not do the same job, but it’s money better spent. (Scanpan Mezzaluna is the best. Good also for chopping up pizzas.)
    3. Mandoline. Best used before you sample the cooking sherry. If you are cooking for one use a knife instead, Cooking for fifteen, it is a big timesaver. Not safe for children.
    2. Cast Iron Saucepan. Forget all your non-stick saucepans with coatings that you worry about if you overheat them, that need special utensils to stir them, that you discard after 10 months because the bottom is shining bare aluminium.
    Cast Iron is the way to go.
    My pan cost $15 from K-Mart. I treat it well. keep it dry, no detergent a wipe over with Grapeseed Oil now and again. I can get it so hot that it sets off the smoke alarms, I can keep it so cool that I can cook scrambled eggs as light a kiss from my maiden aunt.

    1. A good Chef’s knife. Get one. Not too big. Get one a useful size. 16 cm Blade is good
    Spend little if you must, and be disappointed every time you use it. Spend big and worry about the expense. Middle way. Scanpan 15cm Chefs knife is good.

    • I swapped my slow cooker for a good pressure cooker and haven’t looked back.
      Very rarely get the slow cooker out now. The pressure cooker does the same job in 1/4 of the time, it just doesn’t “brown” anything. As long as you know what to expect a good pressure cooker is definitely a must have.

      ps: you can not get better cooked and easier rice than that made in the pressure cooker. Rice cookers included.

  • You can sous vide without a circulator, just learn to control your stove…

    you can slow cook without a slow cooker with an oven-proof pot and an oven…

    Blender’s are great if you like smoothies… ^_^, plus I have 2 citrus trees in the back yard so tons of orange juice…

  • I’ll plus one the pressure cooker, i bought a Tefal minutcook pressure cooker and it has all but replaced my slow cooker, instead of cooking a piece of silverside in a slow cooker for 6 hours, a litre of water some seasonings, salt and pepper and in 90 minutes you have the perfect piece of silverside.

    I have also cooked stews, casseroles and soups in it as well.

    Also, i’ll plus one a good quality chefs knife, i had a Kyocera ceramic knife and it was the best knife i had ever used, unfortunately they are brittle and i broke mine foolishly cutting a piece of pork crackle.

  • List is clearly missing a good mixer like a Kenwood Chef. Mine is about 30 years old and cost me $80 off gumtree.
    Surprised this didn’t make it above a Sous Vide machine.

    • +1 for the Kenwood. I have a 703A at about 40 years old also off Gumtree. Cost $10 as it was “broken”. My housemate fixed it with new brushes and capacitor and she’s as good as new. I also have quite a few attachments for it: colander and sieve (mouli), mincer (make my own chicken mince), sausage maker, pasta maker, blender, slicer and shredder (for coleslaw etc) plus the k beater, whisk and dough hook.

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