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What do I need for Christmas? What amazing doodad don't I have that I must?

My friends and family are bugging me for a Christmas wish list. I love to cook, but, over time, I've managed to outfit my kitchen pretty well - I think. But, then, I thought the same a few years ago and have replaced a bunch of items. Below are the highlights of my kitchen. What do you find essential that I'm missing? I'm probably looking at $200-250 between everyone. It does not have to be spend on one item.

* Lots of cast iron - two 12" Dutch ovens, two 10" Dutch ovens, two combo cookers, a 12" skillet, a 8" skillet, a fajita pan, probably more. (I do Dutch oven cooking while camping, hence all the Dutch ovens! I also have a Dutch oven table, welder's gloves and two lid rests for all that camp cooking.)
* Two All-Clad sauciers - 4.5 qt (James Beard special) and 3 qt.
* One 3 qt Emerilware by All-Clad saucepan - lots of surface area
* One small Sur La Table stainless steel skillet
* Three Kitchenaid non-stick sauce pans in various sizes. Not the best, but generally are just used for reheating, so not worth upgrading.
Stainless steel stock pot with various inserts for boiling and steaming. Not high quality, either, but heating water works okay.
* 6-quart non-stick Kitchenaid stock pot.
* 12-quart El Cheapo stock pot I use mostly for boiling corn.
* Calphalon non-stick omelette/crepe pan - that I use for eggs and crepes
* Calphalon non-stick square griddle - for grilled ham and cheese!

* KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer.
* Sunbeam stand mixer w/removable handle (that KichenAid is just too big for some tasks, like a cake mix).
* Immersion blender. Cheap brand, but not something I very rarely use.
* KitchenAid blender.
* KitchenAid food processor - best recommended by Cooks Illustrated.

* Wusthof 8" chef's knife
* Wusthof bread knife
* Victorinox 10" chef's knife
* Various Victorinox and Mundel utility knives.

* Plenty of bamboo and plastic stirring stuff.

* Enough silverware, serving dishes and eating dishes to seat and serve a garrison.

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  1. - do you have a microplane? that's definitely one of the best - and least expensive - kitchen tools on my list of essentials.

    - if you're a coffee drinker, perhaps a good burr grinder...or an Aeropress, which happens to be my new favorite toy:

    - if you're a tea drinker, a nice stovetop kettle, or a selection of loose teas

    - if you're a baker, perhaps a silpat or some silicone baking pans

    other random suggestions:
    - rice cooker
    - crock pot/slow cooker

    or you can forget about the tools and gadgets and ask for certain specialty ingredients or gourmet foods you wouldn't normally purchase for yourself.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I do have a microplane - and a digital scale I forgot to mention.

      I do bake, but mostly breads, not cookies or desserts. You did remind me that I've been eyeing French bread forms.

      1. re: SailingChef

        ok then a couple of other ideas:
        - cloche or bread crock
        - baking stone
        - instant-read thermometer

        or maybe a good bread baking book...?

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          I'd never heard of a cloche! Now, I realize that I just passed one up at a thrift store a few days ago! That would be nice. The only problem with that is storage. I actually don't have a very big kitchen, so I have to think before getting something so big. But, I'm definately going to consider this one!

          I have baking stones and love 'em!

          I don't have an instant read thermometer! Fantastic idea!

    2. I don't see any enameled cast iron in your list. How about a Le Creuset or Staub Dutch oven?

      2 Replies
      1. re: tanuki soup

        I keep coveting an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, but, then, I wonder what's wrong with my non-enameled ones. What do you see as the advantage of an enameled oven over my raw iron ones?

        1. re: SailingChef

          I think the main advantage is that enameled cast iron is nonreactive. You can make soups, stews, and sauces that contain vinegar, wine, tomatoes, lemon juice, etc. without worrying that they might damage the seasoning on your plain cast iron cookware or impart a metallic taste to the food.

          Also, a Le Creuset French oven is just so pretty. I think it's a good thing to put on your Christmas wish list because even people who aren't into cooking can appreciate its beauty and would enjoy getting it for you (unlike some useful, but puzzling and unattractive, kitchen gadget).

      2. Since you have a KitchenAid Artisan, I'd look at getting an extra bowl or bowls for it. You could get another 5 quart bowl or a 3 quart bowl for mixes and whipped cream. That way, you could get rid of the Sunbeam if you wanted. The KA bowl covers are also handy if you need to stash something in the fridge. Not amazing, but helps when making multiple things for one meal.

        5 Replies
        1. re: overresearched

          I do have the bowl covers and love them! I use them when I'm using the machine to make bread so I don't waste Saran wrap. Can't put them on tight, of course, or the rising bread would pop 'em!

          Extra bowls is a good thought. I noticed that they made a glass bowl for a special edition mixer and wondered if it was available separately.

          1. re: SailingChef

            What would be the advantage of a glass bowl ... maybe being able to see when things aren't perfectly mixed at the bottom??

            I used to have extra bowls for my old Kitchen Aid, and they were great for Christmas baking. I like letting the dishwasher take care of them, so having extra bowls is great when you're baking up a storm.

            Something I'd like to have is the new oblong measuring cups. I have two sets of round (also for baking up a storm), and so haven't been able to justify purchasing more. I also have multiple sets of measuring spoons for the same reason ...

            Oh, I have baskets for organizing my kitchen drawers. Are you happy with your organizational system? All kinds of cool things there ...

            1. re: SailingChef

              I have seen that special edition mixer of which you speak (the sexy red one at Williams Sonoma, right)? I hate to lust after things I don't need (I have a KA mixer in cobalt blue), but that's like wanting to trade in a sport sedan for a coupe. What a gorgeous piece of equipment it is!

              1. re: kattyeyes

                Would this be an appropriate place to confess that I did trade my cobalt blue KitchenAid for a jadite green one that matches my kitchen?? Then I was really irked when there was a bigger Martha Stewart one available ... I could *not* justify a third one ...

                1. re: foiegras

                  LOL, step into the Chow confessional, friend--you are absolved of all your culinary lust. ;) I feel SO much better about my desire for kitchen goods when I read posts like yours. THANK YOU!

          2. I was going to suggest a circulating immersion bath but then I re-read and noticed that it's $250 total and not per person.

            How about a Fluke FoodPro thermometer (Ir and instant-read probe) or a smoker? Or the Kitchen-Aid accessories to get into sausage making? That'd be nice to have along with a copy of Ruhlman's book (and a pig).

            2 Replies
            1. re: wattacetti

              I love the idea of the thermometer. One's going on the list for sure!

              I have a Little Chief smoker that I rarely use. In fact, I'm planning on selling it. What do you use your smoker for? (Maybe I should rethink selling it!)

              I've never made sausage. That's an idea. We don't eat a ton of sausage, but maybe we would if it was made to our exact tastes! I do have the grinder attachment which has barely been used, as well as the slicer/shredder attachment that got superceded by the purchase of the food processor.

              1. re: SailingChef

                I don't have a smoker (yet) but I do have the Polyscience smoke gun for very small applications. A smoker could be used to hot smoke fish as well as the typical barbecue staples but thought that would be an interesting alternative if you were doing the camp cooking thing already.

                Artisanal charcuterie is getting big, especially with bacon (which would then give you an application to use the smoker). And while you're waiting for those you can make fresh sausages for the grill.

            2. An electric kettle...esp if you're a tea drinker. Boils water superfast...indispensable IMO

              10 Replies
                1. re: Scrapironchef

                  Things on *my* Christmas list, but for next year, because this year I bought a fuzzy logic rice cooker and a Le Creuset Round French Oven:

                  1. Thermapen thermometer

                  2. Infrared thermometer (not just for cooking, but for finding air leaks in my not-well-insulated-house).

                  3. A set of odd-size measuring cups.

                  4. A cookbook, e.g., the Molly Stevens book on braising

                  5. A nice carafe, e.g., this Zojirushi

                  6. A new nonstick pizza pan

                  7. Some Oxo or some other thing from this America's Test Kitchen prize list
                  Note: the contest itself is over. I didn't win. :(

                  1. re: philly888

                    I just was looking at instant read thermometers on Cooks Illustrated and discovered the Thermapen. It sounds amazing, but I was stunned at the price! But, that's why it's a gift and not a household expense, right? :)

                    Thanks for the prize list! It's a great wish list, isn't it?

                    I have a carafe, but I never use it. We drink neither tea nor coffee in this house! Weirdos, aren't we?

                    1. re: philly888

                      2. Infrared thermometer (not just for cooking, but for finding air leaks in my not-well-insulated-house).

                      Off site - -58 to 932 degrees F, non- contact temperature readings.

                      Philly888 - How does this work?? I'm intrigued! It comes with it's own carrying case! So, you can just point it at food and it will determine the interior temp? Or, am I just being stoopid??

                      1. re: JerryMe

                        Hehe, no, an infrared thermometer tells you the surface temperature of the pan or something like a hot or cold liquid. Besides being useful, it sounds like something fun to play around with. Here's a quote from one of the Amazon comments:

                        "This thing is cool. This is something I use more often than I ever expected. How cold is tap water? Is enough heat coming from the fireplace? Is that fry pan ready for my tilapia? Does water really boil at 212 degrees? Is my wine at the right serving temp? Is my computer getting too hot? How accurate is my oven temp? "

                        Another comment relates how it helps in making perfect pancakes.

                        But I admit, I'm a guy, and I want it because it's a neat gadget. I'll probably drive everyone crazy, shooting the IR thermometer at the pans like Han Solo with his blaster, and sticking the Thermapen in every roast, steak, and even pork chop until they look like pin cushions.

                        1. re: philly888

                          I bought a couple of IR thermometers to use in one of the classes I teach and so far, it's mostly been used in my kitchen. It IS fun!

                        2. re: JerryMe

                          It tells the surface temp of whatever it points at, for interior temps you'll still need a probe.

                          Very handy item to have, I got mine at http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invt... $29.99. Solved a nagging misfire in my Fiat by seeing which branch of the exhaust manifold was cooler.

                        3. re: philly888

                          I have and love the odd-size measuring cups. The 3/4 in particular is incredibly useful ...

                        4. re: Scrapironchef

                          third the electric kettle. despite my love affair with my Aeropress i mostly drink tea. after years of being disappointed with every stove top kettle i owned, i finally switched to electric recently. i was initially on the fence about it because i bought - and returned - a couple of electrics that made the water taste nasty, but my current one is terrific. i snagged it at Costco a few weeks ago for $19.99, and the lowest price i've seen elsewhere, even on Amazon, is 33 bucks. pretty happy about the bargain! this is the one:

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            I have an electric kettle. It's pretty basic, but we don't drink coffee or tea! We've only used it on road trips to heat water for instant oatmeal or warming hot dogs! That's fancy eating, ya?

                      2. Dedicated electric spice grinder
                        Mini food processor (better and handier than the smallest bowl of the KA processor)
                        Knife sharpener (electric or not, depending on your preference, but I love my Chef's Choice model 130)
                        FoodSaver vacuum sealer with canning jar attachment
                        Peter Reinhart's new bread book, "Artisan Breads Every Day"

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Channa

                          Good thought on the Chef's Choice! Too expensive to justify normally, but that's why it'd be a gift.

                          I love the idea of the FoodSaver vacuum system. I'll have to research that. I've wanted a vacuum system, but only one that can use re-usable containers.

                        2. I would suggest one big present: a Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker. These things are great, and I use mine all the time. In fact I wish I had a second one! Especially if you like to cook any sort of beans or long-cooking grains, or make soup of stock very often, it's very useful and cuts way down on cooking time. They're also terrific for cooking meats and chicken and stews.

                          They come in all different sizes but this is a good all-purpose large one:

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: visciole

                            I forgot to mention that I have a small pressure cooker (gift on a previous birthday!), but I have considered getting a pressure canner. Have you done pressure canning?

                          2. Baguette or batard pans (Chicago Metallic makes some)

                            Not really a gadget, but certainly useful is a fabulously cool apron (actually the best one I have was handmade by a friend: it's double-sided and uses fabric with designs from the artist Shag)

                            Good wooden spoons--I swear my food tastes better when use my olivewood spoon compared to the cheapo ones :)

                            Ricer (multitasker--you can use it to remove water from spinach)

                            Spätzle maker

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: nofunlatte

                              The baguette/batard pans are a waste of good metal, they're a solution looking for a problem. buy yourself a good baking stone instead.

                              1. re: Scrapironchef

                                I was about to suggest a baguette pan and I could not disagree with you more.

                                I cook a great deal of my breads on a stone but to crisp up a baguette and to keep it’s shape you need a perforated specialized pan. I used to poo-poo these little gizmos until about 10 years ago when I was given one as a present and at my wife’s insistence I tried it our.

                                The baguettes came out glorious, much butter than the stone or cloth method I had used and reminded me of the baguettes I had in France during my apprenticeship there. Crispy all the way round, well formed and light and airy on the inside. Honestly you cannot make a great baguette without a baguette pan.

                                1. re: RetiredChef

                                  I think it's a bit of hyperbole to say you can't make a decent baguette without one. I've tried it both ways and find the Julia Child method of hot stone and pan underneath with a few ice cubes thrown in to create steam to work perfectly. I too got one as a gift, didn't improve my bread one bit. Then again, I've never seen one in use at Acme, Lucky's does use them though.

                                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                                    >>>I think it's a bit of hyperbole to say you can't make a decent baguette without one.

                                    I agree, but I didn’t say you can’t make a “decent” baguette, I said you can’t make a “great” baguette.

                                    Cooking baguettes on a stone causes several problems

                                    Any baguette cooked on a flat service will have a flattened bottom compared to one cooked in a rounded pan, while this may just appear cosmetically it actually creates other problems.

                                    A completely cylindrical baguette will allow airflow around most of it will cook at the same rate, therefore that crunchy delicate crust will be much more uniform, after all it’s the crust that makes a truly great baguette.

                                    Another reason is speed and accuracy. Proof in pans then back, no need to transfer to a stone and have the possibility of deflating your proofed product.

                                    It all boils down to what works for you and how picky you are, I have been baking for over 50 years and am a bit of a bread snob. A baguette, although deceptively simple to make decently, takes a few techniques and tricks to make truly great. Another example turning a decent baguette into a great one is the use of a mafter lame for scoring, it gives the swooping cuts that open better compared to the straight cuts by a regular knife. Mind-blowing difference, not but just enough that a true aficionado will appreciate it. It is these sort of sensitivities to minute details is what makes us all different and neither of us right or wrong, just opinionated about what‘s important to us.

                                    Cheers and happy cooking

                                2. re: Scrapironchef

                                  I completely agree. I tried a baguette pan a few times but I think a stone is much more effective and can be used for many other things.

                                  1. re: Scrapironchef

                                    I have both a batard pan and a stone and no, they aren't a "waste of good metal", so I respectfully disagree w/your opinion.

                                3. A waterstone and a steel as sharpening toys. Forget all the other gadgets, electric and otherwise for maintaining knives. I've got one of each of them and have consigned them to deep storage after getting a japanese waterstone and a ceramic steel.

                                  1. Since you bake, how about a scale?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: E_M

                                      I can usually rationalize kitchen purchases, but when endowed with a large gift certificate to W-S I got something that had often caught my eye in a variety of cooking stores, a copper pomme vapeur. You'd be of dubious sanity to buy it yourself. It is fun to use, but hey, all it makes is steam. But even when it is off duty it enhances the whole kitchen. Another marginally insane purchase is a French mandoline. Even if you only pull it out of the drawer every few weeks people will marvel at what it can do. If baking is your love, I commend a La Cloche and bannetons.

                                      1. re: tim irvine

                                        I use my mandoline several times a week -- can't imagine being without it.

                                        1. re: tim irvine

                                          OK, I have to ask ... what is the steam for? :D I've never seen this in a cooking store, but admittedly when I go in I'm generally on a mission, so my gazing is targeted ...

                                          1. re: foiegras

                                            Out of curiosity I found a copper pomme vapeur or potato steamer listed on Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. It *is* beautiful, a work of art, but costs $340-$390!


                                            One eBay seller sold one thinking it was an ice bucket:

                                            1. re: philly888

                                              Thank you! And that is a lot for steam!

                                              The lone reviewer on W-S has used hers daily for 35 years ... I'd say she's got her money's worth ;)

                                              1. re: foiegras

                                                given the amount of lead she must have ingested, I'm surprised she can still type.

                                                1. re: ringo2

                                                  Curious, what does tin-lined copper have to do with lead?

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Guess you don't live in California...

                                                    1. re: ringo2

                                                      I don't live in California either. Care to enlighten us?

                                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                                        Everything in California carries a Prop 65 warning. The parking garage in my building has a Prop 65 warning. Tinned copper cookware has a Prop 65 warning. Pool chemicals have a Prop 65 warning. Home Depot has a Prop 65 warning. Good intentions rendered meaningless by lack of reasonable threshhold requirements...


                                      2. Props to the preceding suggestions:

                                        Electric kettle. Even with 110v power, it still beats the stove.

                                        Thermometer(s). A thermapen gives a truly instant read from its probe, but is expensive. Cheap probe thermometers are indispensable. And an IR thermometer comes in handy.

                                        Pressure cooker(s). I'd be lost without my 7-quart Kuhn-Rikon. You can probably get a good Fagor for a lot less money, though. Pressure canners are their own separate animal. Anything under 16qt is useless, while anything over 10qt is unwieldy. Better to have a 6-8qt cooker and keep a 23qt in storage.

                                        Other ideas...

                                        An EdgePro Apex sharpening system. This is the shortest, cheapest route to razor-sharp knives. After a very short learning curve, you can use the included waterstones and the jig that holds them to consistently put a professional hand-sharpened edge on your knives with a minimum of effort.

                                        A grinder for your KitchenAid mixer. Home-ground burger and sausage is more than worth the work involved.

                                        And, for something pushing the edge of practicality... a PID temperature controller. Sous vide at home for $140. You have supply your own crock pot or rice cooker. It's what I've asked Santa to bring me.

                                        1. how about:

                                          a good whisk - i like my matfer
                                          candy/frying thermometer
                                          ice cream/gelato machine
                                          waffle maker
                                          a lame (for scoring your bread)
                                          nice bamboo cutting board
                                          pasta machine
                                          or, you could always ask for sterling silver marrow scoops. i gave a set to my sister one year!

                                          1. * programmable rice cooker
                                            * cutting board upgrades, new swivel peelers, measuring cup upgrades, food storage upgrades, new sets of heat-proof spatulas, pro cookie sheets, etc.-- whatever is old and non-ideal, yet you've been putting off replacing for 5-10 years ;-P
                                            * le creu dutch oven
                                            * new linen sets
                                            * vacuum-seal storage bowls/containers
                                            * roasting pan? didn't see on your batterie list-- do you not have one?
                                            * cookbooks of choice
                                            * kitchen shears (also not on your list. you will use for everything)
                                            * heavy cleaver
                                            * tomato knife
                                            * mortar & pestle
                                            * japanese or french microplane
                                            * expensive ingredients, syrups, extracts, kitchen parchment, vanilla beans, spices, spirits, ales, wines, and other comestibles-- why not?

                                            stocking stuffer list: extra paring knives, kitchen twine, strawberry/tomato huller, cheesecloth, olive oil hand soap, saffron, cake tester, personal water canteen

                                            1. I skimmed through pretty quickly and see lots of wonderful suggestions but didn't see a mandoline. I don't own but would like to have one. Another item I didn't ever use until about 2 years ago is tongs. I have regular and nonstick versions and use them constantly now.

                                              I am in your boat too, with a fairly well stocked kitchen. Some of my appliances are getting old and I wish they'd just kick the bucket already so I could replace. Case in point: Food processor is about 18 years old, looks terrible but still works so I can't justify tossing. Ditto 18 year old low end kitchen aid mixer.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: tcamp

                                                My dishwasher is from 1981 ... she groans when she starts up, but I can't bring myself to fire her when she clearly wants so badly to keep working ... plus I have to appreciate the fact that someone put in a really nice dishwasher almost 30 years ago.

                                                1. Do you have a lemon/lime squeezer? I one added to my drawer of doodads after squeezing an entire bag of key limes in the spring when many wise posters alerted me to this handy tool:


                                                  I picked up mine at Bed Bath & Beyond and have seen 'em at Marshalls/HomeGoods, too.

                                                  How about an Emile Henry ruffled "baker" or pie plate? The baker is on my personal wish list for sure.

                                                  1. A remote probe thermometer. Put the probe in the chicken, put the chicken in the oven, alarm rings when it gets to 162 degrees, pull out a perfect chicken.

                                                    Ice cream scoops for making cookies. I have a #40 (0.8 oz) and a #24 (1.3 oz) you could get a #60 for cocktail meatballs

                                                    Ceramic Spice grinders (they work for salt and pepper too)

                                                    1. i just wanted to comment about the pressure canner post- I bought a pressure canner over the summer and totally love it! i was able to can all the fresh veggies (and fruits, but can do those in a water bath) from the farm, so now i can enjoy them in the winter. it's great for pumpkin and fresh beans especially, since i don't want to buy them in a can because of the BPA on can linings. it's great to be able to can them at home in GLASS.

                                                      1. If you didn't get given it, buy it for yourself - a pineapple corer.
                                                        Of all the "gadgets" I've seen and tried it is the only one that really does a quicker and cleaner job than I do manually. And it leaves the shell intact for a presentation dish.