*Image via Retrouvius.
This morning, I was unloading the dishwasher and drying rack and it struck me that many of the items we use heavily in our home are not necessarily standard-issue household kitchen staples. To be clear, some are — chopsticks, tupperware, tongs — but the versions we have boast unique design elements that make them (in my opinion) leaders of the pack. Other items, like the Chef’s Press and our hi-soft cutting board, are a bit more recherche and deserve more wide circulation!
01. PYREX GLASS STORAGE SET — The best! The sizes are really well-considered; we always seem to have just the right size dish for leftovers/prep. I also love that they are glass (never get cloudy/warp) and can be popped right into the microwave or freezer.
02. RAMEN/PHO BOWLS — We don’t have this exact style, as we bought ours from a Vietnamese grocery up in Chicago, but we use these bowls ALL THE TIME. We do have pho or ramen frequently (at least once a week for lunch?), but they are also wonderful for serving side dishes, side salads, fruit salads, etc. Even good for popcorn and chips!
03. HI-SOFT CUTTING BOARD — Sushi chefs use these with their fancy knives, and I bought Mr. Magpie a few sizes for Christmas. He loves them! They have a kind of rubbery surface that keeps the board in place, and they are better on knives. You can feel it — the board kind of “gives” to them versus the occasional near-grind feeling you have when cutting on a wooden cutting board.
04. CUCKOO RICE COOKER — Widely considered the best (Mr. Magpie did a ton of research), we use this constantly. We probably have rice as a mealtime starch once or twice a week, and the kids love it. This is a wonderful set-and-forget option that yields a better output than stovetop rice, and definitely worth the expense if you make rice as often as we do. You dump in the water and rice, press “start” and have perfectly cooked rice on the way without doing a thing. It also keeps rice warm for hours.
05. EMILE HENRY BUTTER POT — We keep our butter out on the counter at room temp in one of these. (You fill the basin with water that creates a seal to preserve the butter.) I swear once you have room temp butter you’ll never go back — makes smearing on top of toast so much easier! We’ve turned multiple house guests onto this!
06. EMILE HENRY SALT PIG — The best design for grabbing a pinch whenever you need it!
07. HAAND RIPPLE PASTA BOWLS — If you eat pasta as much as we do, you will love these. They are the perfect shape and dimension for a serving of pasta, and I love the organic “wave” shape.
08. CHEF’S PRESSES — These are patented by a chef and with good reason. They are brilliantly designed. You can layer multiple on top of one another if you need a heavier weight (say, for a chicken breast), or just one for something thinner (say, a tortilla you’re charring in a cast-iron skillet). They are designed to keep whatever you’re browning fully pressed against the surface of the pan to maximize and even caramelization. We use these close to every time we cook!
09. ROSLE TONGS — These are magical. They automatically lock when you point skyward and automatically unlock when you point downward. Sounds gimmicky but amazing if you’re cooking with one hand, which happens a lot more than you’d think!
10. CHOPSTICKS — OK, nothing spectacular technically about these, but I just love the vibrant colors. Why not have a set you love? Currently on sale!
11. SPIDER WHISK — Great for removing ingredients from boiling water or fry oil, but I find we also use these as small strainers when in a pinch. I strongly recommend the style with the wooden handle — a lot of the whisks online have metal handles but you don’t want it conducting heat if you’re fishing things out of oil!
12. PEBBLE CHEESE GRATER — Like everyone else, we love our microplane, but this is a must if you serve a lot of dishes with parmesan or pecorino romano (e.g., on top of pastas and soups). It yields a wonderful texture that does not immediately melt into soup. It’s also really pretty! Worth the expensive shipping, trust me. Buy one for you and one for a foodie sibling/friend!
13. DINER STYLE PORCELAIN MUGS — We own nearly identical ones (they look SO similar) and they are fantastic. Coffee afficionados claim that porcelain is the best material out of which to drink coffee — something about the flavor and heat transfer. I also like that the diner style ones are not too thin-lipped, though. It makes for such a wonderful morning coffee drinking experience!
14. RICE BOWLS — Not our exact style (again, we bought from a Vietnamese grocery in Chicago up by Tank Noodle) but we find we use bowls this size constantly, whether for rice (as intended), dipping sauces, small sides.
15. 1/8″ SHEET PAN — I’ve made this claim a lot in the past, but I find I use the “mini” sizes of kitchen items all the time — mini cutting board, mini baking sheet, smallest pot, etc! This baking sheet is so handy for toasting nuts or bread, or prepping a handful of chicken nuggets for kids. I also find these baking sheets handy for ingredient prep. We are constantly using them!
16. FIVE GAL PAINT BUCKET — We use this for compost. It is really effective at containing smell, super cheap, holds a lot (we usually empty it into our compost pile once a week), easy to clean with a hose, and not precious in case it gets destroyed. We keep ours underneath the second sink in our kitchen so it’s out of sight.
What about you? Any kitchen essentials you feel are under the radar or that you have found “the best” version of? Please share in the comments!
P.S. My favorite baking gear.
P.P.S. Food storage gear.
P.P.P.S. A fun cocktail recipe to try.