Lamb braising in my Le Creuset Dutch oven, which is a fantastic gift to give that special someone. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

It’s time again for my picks for the big-ticket items, those expensive appliances and pots that are game changers, but real investments.

I’ve just started a relationship with Le Creuset, the company that makes the best enameled cast-iron cookware on earth. My go-to pot is the 7-quart Dutch Oven (they’re made in France and the company wants me to call them French ovens, which I find interesting since there really should no longer be a nationality attached to the thing; my preferred name for this one is “My Favorite Pot”). It’s what I bought my beloved Dad long ago; now, sadly, I have two of them. My other favorite is the braiser, the everyday pot in which you can cook just about anything. (Here’s one of the videos we did, where I use this pot to make an easy cassoulet.) I’m also partial to the smaller “ovens”—the 3.5-quart version is perfect if you cook for only one or two people.

For stainless-steel cookware, All-Clad is the best, and they aren’t paying me to say so. Here are their saucepans, plus a big sauté pan and a small oneMy favorite All-Clad pan is the saucier.

I recommend these Wusthof knives. You don’t need a ton of knives, but you need at least two: a chef knife (big) and a paring knife (small). A serrated knife comes in handy for slicing bread, and a flexible boning knife is helpful if you do a lot of cutting.

The Vitamix blender is an awesome machine.

The KitchenAid stand mixer. Far more important than a food processor, this is the workhorse in my kitchen.

Here’s the food processor I used to use, but the lid broke so now I have to turn it on manually and put a plate on top, which is kind of a pain. In professional kitchens, all the food processors are Robot-Coupes. They’re great, and until their marketing company contacted me and sent me one to try, I didn’t know they made one for the home kitchen. They do, it’s called a Magimix 3200, and while I don’t like the name, it’s a fabulous machine, with three different-sized bowls. Alas, available only at Williams-Sonoma.

The iPad2 and Kindle Fire are going to be game changers in the kitchen. These are the most exciting kitchen tools to come along in a decade. If you have one already, have a look at my bread baking app (on iTunes and Kindle Fire) and also the app for smart phones called Ratio (on iTunes and Android). I personally use Ruhlman’s Twenty on my iPad via the Kindle app: below, the finished braised lamb shank, from Twenty.

Cooking is a craft, and good tools are a must with any craft.

Braised lamb shank



SousVide Supreme, wants to want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Their Black Friday promotion, running this weekend (Fri thru Mon) online at

For only $449 ($749 usually), you can get a SousVide Supreme Chef unit and a free vacuum sealer ($129).


© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


18 Wonderful responses to “Holiday Gift Week: Big-Ticket Items”

  • @Saads12

    I have to say that even though I like Le Creuset, I got a Staub 4 quart cast iron Cocotte for a better price. And it works like a dream. It braises excellently, and then pops into the oven for falling off the bone meat with fantastic juices. So I think I will stick to Staub for now.

  • Victoria

    I would be very interested in your analysis of why you pick the KA Artisan stand mixer and not the lift-arm 6-quart professional.

    • Ryan

      I think it’s just a matter of how big a bowl you need. Too big, and it’s hard to use it for smaller amounts.

      I have the 6-qt arm-lift one. It would be less effective for something like a half recipe of cookies (1 stick butter/1 egg). But in the past I have made large batches of bread dough, and the bigger bowl/motor is definitely a help there.

    • ruhlman

      I should have mentioned both, for the professional, you’re right and for the serious home cook who uses it a lot. KitchenAid says it’s customers prefer the Artison over it, and it’s also the one I have, so that’s the one I mention. What’s most important is to have a good one, no matter brand!

  • Jenny

    I have a question. You rant and rant against round wooden spoons because they aren’t the right shape for straight sided saucepans and saute pans. Yet your “favorite” all Clad pan is a saucier, which has rounded sides, for which a round spoon is perfect. What gives?

    • Ryan

      Sauciers are made for whisk use. I don’t think that wooden spoons are the best tools for mixing sauces. You can swirl a liquid around, but you can’t dissolve a roux, scrape the sides, or work with low volumes as well as with a whisk. And forget about mixing quickly.

    • ruhlman

      Good catch! I use heatproof rubber spatula and flat edged spoon for this as well. Even with this a round wooden spoon only hits a dot of the pan at a time.

  • Heidi

    I love the idea of technology in the kitchen, and especially using the iPad for easy access to recipes. I already have the hard copy of Twenty, but I love the idea of looking up recipes on my iPad in the kitchen. I’m a new user and had no idea about the ability to search for words with in the text! Is there also the ability to put notes into the iPad on how a specific recipe turned out, my own cooking times, and anything else that will help me the next time I prepare the dish?

  • Martin Sovik

    As a guy who has this site bookmarked, and a Barnes & Noble bookseller who’s handsold your books to folks who’d never heard of you, I just want to assure your readers that the B&N Nook is easily as good as the Kindle Fire, and B& also has all your books. You keep seeming to forget to mention that. We humans who sell your books would appreciate it, B&N or independent.

    • Natalie Luffer Sztern

      Martin, as a Canadian with an Ipad and Nook app; I have tried to download books and very few allow it to go into Canada, so I have given up even exploring the site. Amazon has never had that problem. Now, of course the books are all food books and I have nada from Barnes and Noble because of this, although they say they do have books for Canadians I have not found that to be true. We are talking about 6 months ago as the last time I searched…now I don’t even bother going there.

  • Victoria

    I have Twenty in hardback book form and electronic form so I can look it up on my iPad and even my iPhone; it is terrific – highly recommended.

    I actually have the FIRST Cuisinart sold in the U.S. I would have to look at my warranty card to see when that was – sometime between 74 and 78 I guess. It was made by Robot Coupe. I have been debating getting a new and bigger one. After reading this I willask for the Magimix for Christmas. I also have had my 4-1/2 quart KitchenAid tilt-head stand mixer for over thirty years, and it was made by Hobart so I am very reluctant to upgrade, although I do sometimes think about it.

    • Paul Kobulnicky

      Never, never, never upgrade your Hobart Kitchen Aide. Spend what you must to keep it in repair but it is FAR superior to new KA’s.

  • csilverberg

    i would love to win all and everything that you are giving away so to do everybody else who is entering a favor just let them down easy and send it all my way thank you.


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