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.
#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.
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 to get a good slow cooker, but you don't want to cheap out on them either. A solid mid-range one that gets just hot enough and can maintain its heat over time will let you cook all sorts of amazing things, 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?
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
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.
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.
#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.