Look, the way I’m interested in food isn’t about sustenace. Chef’s love to brag, “Feeding people is such an important pursuit” but the truth is that if you just wanted to feed people there are a lot more efficient ways than serving butter-poached quail with mushroom espuma. No, for many of us food is an obsession to fuss over — just like movies, TV, or video games. It’s a recreation and it’s meant to be fun.
The gadgets listed below have made cooking fun for me. They allow me to spend less time chopping and more time obsessing over “flavor profiles” like a pretentious assh*ole. With that said, I realize that some of the things on this list are going to seem silly-as-all-hell to some readers, and I get it. I’ve ranked them in order of utility — so that once you cross your own metaphorical Rubicon with this guide, you don’t have to keep plowing ahead.
Listen, be condescending about all my other choices, but you should seriously buy an ice cream maker. There are about a million reasons, but here are my top four:
- It isn’t particularly expensive.
- The ice cream is better than anything you’d ever get at a store.
- It allows you to make concoctions and weird flavors.
- People act like the ability to make ice cream from scratch is goddamn devil magic and will forever treat you like a Michelin-starred chef.
I made “Date and salted vanilla bean” ice cream for Thanksgiving, and it was #1 on my list of things I was thankful for.
You need these shears. It’s easier to trim meat, cut herbs, cube chicken, etc. They aren’t expensive, they stay sharp for a long time, and they’re constantly useful. Of all the things on the list, this is certainly the most crucial for a chef to have.
Also, your date will be impressed when you snip chives over an already-plated dish. Trust me on this.
We all know that a regular cheese grater has the side with smaller holes — for fancy grating, zesting, or rasping. What this tool presupposes is, “What if it didn’t?”
Can you grate with the rectangular grater found in every kitchen in America? Probably. Will it look as cool as leaning over your date’s plate to add a little parm, or rasp a few shreds of nutmeg atop her coffee? No, no it won’t.
In the power rankings of “things you need to not make cooking feel incredibly f*cking tedious” this is probably #1. The ability to chop veggies instantly is just wonderfully convenient. For $30-odd bucks it’ll pay for itself in the first week. Salsas, pastes, mirepoix — literally everything is easier.
Another upside to this particular model is that it’s build like an old Renault — the ones that can be fixed with three pieces of candy corn and some spirit gum. Mine has been technically broken for a year now and I still use it daily. Cracks in the housing seem to cause no real problems and there aren’t enough working parts to make duct tape a bad solution.
For anyone who is serious about cooking, a mandoline isn’t an option. The ability to slice vegetables thinly and uniformly is important and there’s just no better way to do it. Plus, anyone who owns this has the #1 product that Chopped judges cringe over.
“Uh, oh! She’s going to try to slice the candied bull testicles with the mandoline. Let’s all wince for the cameras!”
On the personal tip, these things are the best. I probably over-use mine, but God, I do everything with it. You can make potato chips, scalloped potatoes, and carrot medallions for your mac and cheese.
I use oven gloves because I’m Italian and was taught to not use spatulas or tongs on nice cuts of meat. So I literally flip stuff on the bbq by hand. If you don’t have that single overlapping bit of functionality, I can’t imagine a setting in which these could ever perform any better than the hand-me-down oven mits you got from your mom.
Also, this brand, in particular, looks impossibly dumb.
In kitchens and amongst chefs, there only seems to be one blender. It’s this one. You see it in every professional kitchen you enter and in the homes of any friend who would dare use the word “foodie” as a form of self-praise. I’ve had real-life people, who I actually enjoy, treat this stupid thing as a topic of conversation at dinner. It was ridiculous, but I guess when you drop 5-hundy on a blender you need to tell people than it can make soup.
True story: I once had a girlfriend who owned one of these and I developed an insane level of faith in the thing. One day, I put the blender jug in the freezer, full of smoothie, and forgot about it overnight. The next morning, the smoothie was rock hard. Idiotically, I set the jug on the blender base and flipped the switch. Naturally, I shredded some vital Vitamix part, because that was a stupid thing to do. I called the company, they diagnosed the problem over the phone and a part arrived the next day with repair instructions. I didn’t have to send them anything or pay a cent. The whole repair took five minutes and was easy…even for the unique brand of moron who tries to blend a frozen-solid smoothie.
So yeah, these are good. Get one if you can afford it.I can’t right now, but a dude can dream.
Jesus, I feel so whack for using this thing. It’s the most bourgeois thing on this list and there is obviously no way that you actually need it. That said… it’s kinda helpful. I don’t like a ton of citrus flavors on my food, and this allows me to give a spritz to fish tacos. It’s also a good way to make it seem like you know what you’re doing with cocktails, which I clearly don’t.
All that said, it’s only seven bucks and I use it way more than I would have ever expected.
Remember that Seinfeld joke where he says, “I’m not an orgy guy!”? Being a “juicer guy” is kind of like that (“I’d have to get all sorts of robes and lotions!”) except without all the cool sex stuff. All I really mean is that if juicing isn’t your thing, I get it. Personally, I’m all about it. I juice because juice makes me feel good, I juice ginger and take shots of it like I’m one of the cool kids in pilates class, I use it to extrude pasta, and I make sorbet with it out of frozen fruit.
Does that make me someone you never want to see socially? Fair enough. I’ll be over here if you need me, drinking ginger with all the other insufferable juicers.
I didn’t own this before I started this list. Therefore, it would have been out of the running. But now I own it, and I have severe buyer’s remorse. This thing looks 1) dumb 2) more effective than me cutting off kernels with my butter knife.
So now it’s a thing I have… at least until the next white elephant exchange rolls around.
(Still, not nearly as dumb as “1-click butter“)