These are a few of my Favorite Things . . .
I’ve compiled a list of items in my kitchen I can’t live without! Whenever I read a recipe on a blog, I want to know specifics. That’s just the type-A scientist in me. I’ve tried to pick out my ultimate favorite kitchen items to feature, but if you have specific questions, please ask! 🙂
Mini Cheesecake Pans – Hands down my most popular post is my Bailey’s Irish Cream Mini Cheesecakes. I purchased two mini cheesecake pans many years ago and have had fun making these small desserts. I have 2 other mini dessert recipes on my blog that use these pans (Pumpkin Spice Magic Bar Minis and Black Bottom Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites). The removable bottoms on these pans makes removing small desserts, especially cheesecakes, super simple. I love serving bite-sized desserts and bringing them to potlucks because they are easy to grab and people can try many different desserts when they are smaller.
Velcro Baking Strips – I use these every single time I make a cake. They help the cake rise evenly. I have two sets – one that is secured with pins and one that is velcro. As long as I’m only making 1 set of cakes, I only use the velcro ones because they are so easy!
Cookie Press – A cookie press is essential for making my grandma’s Butter Cookies as well as any type of butter spritz cookie (like these Chocolate Butter Spritz Cookies and my Citrus Glazed Butter Cookies). My grandma’s Butter Cookies are just about the best cookie ever, so it’s essential that I can make them on my own! My mom and each of my aunts have nice, metal cookie presses from many years ago. In graduate school, I got my own cookie press, but I do not recommend the brand. If I had to choose again, I would go with this one. It has excellent reviews.
For specific information on products I use for Cake Decorating, click HERE.
For specific information on products I use for Decorating Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, click HERE.
Small silicone spatulas – I use these just about every day, and have 10+ of them. Whether I’m mixing up a dip, folding in egg whites, stirring a caramel sauce, transferring batter from a bowl to a cake pan, sauteing vegetables, or even making scrambled eggs, these spatulas make every task easier. You’ll notice these in photos in MANY of my posts because I use them all.the.time! I love that they are one piece – no grooves for food to accumulate and no pieces to break off. Easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Because they are silicone they hold up to high heat so can be used to stir hot food in a skillet, and they are soft so they won’t damage a nonstick surface. I’ve even gifted them in “Favorite Things” holiday gift exchanges!
Small silicone pastry brushes – Like the spatulas above, I have several of these and use them all the time. Because they are also 1 piece, they are super easy to clean. I have also included these in my “Favorite Things” gifts. I use them to brush oil on a skillet or grill pan, to brush food with oil (like with these Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Lemon Sauce or on my Quick Homemade No Yeast Perfect Pizza Dough), to brush an egg wash onto pastry (like these Skinny Chocolate Chip Scones) or a simple syrup onto cakes or cupcakes, and more.
Flexible chopping mats – I use these daily. These are my cutting boards for vegetables, fruit, meat, virtually anything I need to cut. I love using the small ones to cut up fruit for my kids’ lunches. They are dishwasher safe and easy to fit in your kitchen cabinets or drawers.
Mini whisk – One of my favorite utensils is a mini whisk that I received as a favor from a friend’s wedding shower. I use it constantly. Most times when something needs whisking, a mini whisk will do and usually better suited than a large whisk. Anytime I make scrambled eggs or need to make an egg wash in a smaller bowl, I use this whisk, as shown in the photo below (also with a silicone pastry brush!). I use it to mix up sauces, dressings, and marinades. Because the mini whisk I have was a gift, I’ve linked one that looks the same size and has excellent reviews.
Grape slicer – This may seem like a silly gadget, but when you have little kids, you know how tedious it is to cut up grapes. When my oldest was little, I would literally cut each grape into 16 pieces. I just laugh now. By my third kid, I reduced it to halves or quarters depending on the size, but this handy grape slicer really works. It seems like it is always in the dishwasher because we use it constantly.
After much time spent troubleshooting, I now have homemade pizza making down to a science. The method that works best for me is outlined in my Quick Homemade No Yeast Perfect Pizza Dough recipe. It involves preheating the oven with a large pizza stone inside for 30 – 60 minutes at 500 degrees F (yep, hot!). The pizza stone gets very hot and helps make a crispier crust.
After the crust is prebaked, I take it out with the pizza peel and add toppings, then slide it back onto the stone to finish baking. You may have seen these pizza peels in pizzerias, and let me tell you, they make pizza making SO much easier!
Using parchment paper has completely changed how I make pizza. I used to fret over using a bunch of cornmeal or semolina so my crust wouldn’t stick to the pizza stone. And the toppings/cheese would inevitably get onto the stone and make for a very messy cleanup. There is virtually no mess with parchment paper. You just throw it away after and your stone is ready for the next time!
Small Appliances & Gadgets
KitchenAid Mixer – This mixer was a gift to me from my research advisor and lab mates when I defended my graduate thesis. It is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, and I’ve made countless recipes in it. Definitely my favorite appliance.
Mini-Prep Plus – My dad gave me this mini chopper for Christmas during a very difficult time for our family. My mom usually does all the gift buying, so it was extra special to receive this from him. I love this little chopper! When I don’t feel like using my big food processor, this is perfect for chopping up small amounts of herbs, making a small batch of pesto, or pureeing small quantities of food. I always use it to mix up the fig and date mixture when making the Warm, Sticky Figgy Puddings.
Instant Pot – My instant pot has replaced my slow cooker as my go to for slow cooking needs. I often add taco seasoning to chicken breasts with some chicken broth and slow cook for many hours to make “Taco Chicken” that I use for enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, or tacos. I like that it has the saute option so it can transform some dishes like a soup into a one-pot meal. While I use this at least once a week, I know I have not yet properly explored all of the functions of this machine.
Kitchen scale – The scientist in me likes to weigh out ingredients, especially when baking. I have an old kitchen scale I got at a kitchen store, but a number of kitchen scales are available online as well. This one has great reviews.
Instant read digital thermometer – Along the same lines as using a kitchen scale, I always use an instant read digital thermometer to check meat when cooking, to check the internal temperature of casseroles to make sure they are warm in the center, to test water temperature when working with yeast, and many other uses. I have an original Thermapen and a ThermoPop as well. Although I don’t have it myself, this thermometer has amazing reviews and a much lower price point.
Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition) – I received this cookbook as a gift from my wedding. My mom has the classic Betty Crocker cookbook, and I always loved flipping through it as a kid. I wanted one of my own and was so happy to receive this cookbook. Filled with kitchen tips and ingredient descriptions, this cookbook is more than just a collection of recipes. While I love that my mom’s is a ring-binder style, mine has a satin ribbon placeholder that I really like using. I love that the recipes are generally pretty simple and often use common pantry items. Anytime I make a pie, I always consult Betty for her filling recipes. My mom’s famous Easy Homemade Cream Puffs are also courtesy of Betty (although shocking absent from the Bridal Edition)!
The Silver Palate Cookbook – I first had a recipe from this book, Chicken Marbella, at my thesis advisor’s house and loved it so much I had to have the cookbook. Based on recipes from their famous shop in New York City, the authors Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins compiled famous recipes from their shop and catering days. I’ve made many things from this cookbook and love looking at the gorgeous photographs. On the back cover, Ina Garten is quoted as saying “Fresh, easy, and very delicious. Julee and Sheila changed the cookbook world forever.” I’m a big Ina fan, so this spoke volumes to me!
The Pie and Pastry Bible – My thesis advisor let me borrow this cookbook from her when I started baking more in graduate school. I fell in love with it. The author Rose Levy Beranbaum has filled this cookbook with gorgeous photos and meticulous details. The scientist in me appreciates her level of precision. Just about every dessert in this book is a “Show Stopper.” I go into more detail on this book and another favorite by the same author, The Cake Bible, in this post. I turn to this book whenever I want a beautiful dessert guaranteed to taste amazing.
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook – My dad likes watching America’s Test Kitchen and got me this cookbook in 2010. It is the most used cookbook I own. It is like an encyclopedia for fool-proof recipes. I have posted countless recipes from this book over the years, many have become staples for my family, like my beloved Easy Vanilla Buttercream and all-butter pie dough.
It’s clear from looking at my copy of the book that it’s well loved: there are post-it tabs sticking out and folded up pieces of paper as bookmarks. My cookbook is 2001-2010, but I now see they have the 2001-2021 edition available for pre-order! I think 10 years more of recipes warrants another copy! It’s every recipe from the show – how impressive is that! The 2001-2017 version is available now and looks pretty comprehensive as well.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my favorite things in the kitchen!