This is a revised post from last year with one key difference being that my mandoline, above, is in need of replacing and so I am hoping that the photographer of the image can take a hint.
Continuing holiday shopping week, here are my recommendations for modestly priced kitchen tools that are essentials in my kitchen. (All but one of the following links is to Amazon; I'm a part of its affiliate program—when you shop at Amazon via this site, it helps to support this site.) I own and love everything mentioned below.
The above Benriner mandoline ($25) is one of my most valued kitchen tools for uniform slicing, julienning, and making brunoise (a julienne turned into a dice). By far my most valuable electric device in my kitchen is the hand blender—I use Braun that seems no longer unavailable, but I bought this Cuisinart version for my mom ($60) and it works well—these devices all do the job of pureeing soups and sauces, easy whisking, quick mayonnaise, and I make vinaigrettes in the cup attachment, which will even emulsify a great Caesar dressing will pureeing the garlic. The hand blender is one of my most-used electrically powered tools.
Every kitchen needs a scale: this My Weigh KD8000 ($36) has been my go-to scale for years. Using a scale is the most reliable way of measuring, especially if you're baking (which is why more cookbooks are including, if not leading with, metric weights, as does the ground-breaking Bouchon Bakery cookbook ($33)—another lovely gift, come to think of it!). I use two, the KD8000 for pounds of flour, say, and this pocket scale ($9) for small amounts, such as 3 grams of yeast.
For measuring temps of roasts in the oven or on the grill, a cable thermometer is a great asset. I've been using this RediCheck cable thermometer ($24) for years and love it. When I cook the roast beast this Christmas, the meat will have a cable thermometer in it and an alarm will go off when it reaches 120˚F to tell me I need to pay attention.
People often ask for knife sharpening recommendations. I get my knives sharpened professionally a couple times a year, and I maintain their edges with DMT sharpening "stone," actually a diamond coated perforated metal sheet. At more than $100 depending on your needs, it's more in the higher price range but I wanted to mention it.
Every kitchen needs a good pepper grinder for freshly ground pepper that, importantly, doesn't grind too coarsely; you need a mill for fine grinding, and Peugeot’s are excellent ($55), the usual choice in the professional kitchen.
Can't forget the Microplane, a real game changer when the company (which originally created them for woodworking) introduced models for the kitchen, for all manner of zesting and grating.
And last but not least, while I'm wary of what Alton Brown calls the unitasker, the kitchen tool that does only one thing, I would be very sad to lose this lemon juicer. Fresh lemon and lime juice are always in play in my kitchen and this baby makes juicing the work of a moment. Worth the $10? Yeah.
For stocking stuffers, a plastic bench scraper ($4). Seriously. It's one of my most reached for tools in the kitchen, mainly for transferring chopped food into hot pans. It's one Michael Symon's favorite tools. When I did The Chew last week, there it was on his cutting board. Another stocking stuffer, for those literary cooks and aspiring food writers, my Kindle Single, about how I accidentally wound up writing about food and cooking, a short memoir called The Main Dish ($2).
Cooking is a craft, and good tools are a must with any craft.
© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.