I was in a store recently when I heard a catchy tune coming over the speakers. It took me a moment to realize that it was a jazzed-up version My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music. That tune holds a place near and dear to my heart. My sisters and I have never hesitated to spontaneously bust out into that song given the right cue.
Once I recognized the song, I started humming along. Then the rabbit hole presented itself. When it comes to the kitchen, what are my favorite things? Over the past few months of hosting numerous cooking classes, it has become very apparent which items are near and dear to my heart as I’m teaching. These are the items that are used in almost every single class. They’re also the things that clients are putting on their shopping lists before they walk out of the door. So enough with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. These are a few of my favorite things!
Plunger Measuring Cup
Also referred to as an adjustable measuring cup, this is one of those gadgets that might seem gimmicky, but trust me - you need this. Think for a moment about the frustration you feel when measuring out gooey ingredients like honey or peanut butter. In a standard measuring cup, a good amount of the honey is still stuck to the sides after pouring it off. Peanut butter barely budges. Now you’re having to use your rubber spatula to scrape it out of the cup, but some of it sticks to the spatula! The plunger cup solves this problem. Simply dial in the amount you need, fill up the cup, and give it a push. Just like a syringe, the ingredient is pushed right out leaving nothing behind. It’s a beautiful thing. In addition to honey and peanut butter, the plunger cup works great for a whole bunch of other ingredients that don’t cooperate in a standard measuring cup including yogurt, mayonnaise, and sour cream.
These cups range in sizes. I have one that measures up to an ounce and another that is a full cup. It’s the larger one that gets put to most use. While there are a number of brands available, I’ve been using the one that I purchased at a Pampered Chef party back in the late 1990s. I like this model because it can be turned upside-down to measure liquid ingredients. It also has a variety of units, which decreases the likelihood that you’ll need to do any conversions.
Microplane Zester and Grater
For many years, I had only one Microplane. It was specifically designed to zest citrus or finely grate garlic. After many years of use, the blades finally became dull. When I went online to order a replacement, the model I had been using wasn’t even made anymore. The newer model has a handle and isn’t quite as wide. It took a little getting used to my new one, but it works just as well as the old one.
While shopping for my new zester, I came upon another Microplane that is used for grating hard cheeses and ginger. Oddly enough, the tool I had for that job was also on its last leg, so I ordered it, too. What an excellent upgrade! It does such a fabulous job on a hunk of ginger, leaving all of the stringy stuff behind.
Six Inch Cake Pan and Six Inch Springform Pan
In 2020 when we were locked up in our house, I started to bake more often. I was using a standard size cake pan, usually 9-inch, just as I had always done. Once the cake was out the oven, my husband and I would eat a slice and then stare at the rest of the cake. Under normal circumstances, the leftovers would have gone to school with me where I would have either fed it to my coworkers or students. But those days were no more. Sure, we could have polished off the rest of the cake ourselves, but nothing good can really come of that.
Enter the 6-inch cake pan. Using just a single pan provides a cake that’s big enough for two people to have a nice dessert for a few days or for four people to have dessert after dinner. With two pans, you can make the cutest layer cakes that will easily feed 4-6 people. And don’t worry about all of those recipes that call for a 9-inch pan. The volume of the 6-inch pan is essentially half of the 9-inch pan, so you can easily just split your recipe in two. For box cakes, one box of batter will fit perfectly in two 6-inch pans.
After falling in love with the cake pan, I decided to get the 6-inch springform pan as well. Recipes that are written for 9 to 10-inch pans can also be split in half. I can’t speak for recipes for 8-inch pans, so you may need to play around with this.
Another benefit of the small size is that baking time is decreased. So far, everything I’ve made in my pans have been out of the oven within 15 to 25 minutes (I am using a convection oven). The cake tends to cool faster, meaning you are eating cake sooner! It’s a win-win.
Le Creuset Braiser
Sometimes called a casserole, sometimes called “the everyday pan,” this is my number one favorite thing. If I’m only allowed to bring one piece of cookware with me when I’m banished to a deserted island, this is what I’m bringing. As a matter of fact, during a recent camping trip, I made five amazing dinners using nothing more than this pan and my Coleman stove.
What makes the braiser so great? Versatility. You can make almost anything in this pan. I’ve had mine for 20 years and it has seen everything from roasted whole chickens to shakshuka. I’ve used it for breakfast, only to wash it and use it again for dinner. In addition to its versatility, it’s also very high quality. Yes, mine has a few scratches and some stains, but it’s cooking just as well now as the day it came out of the box. The price tag for one of these is a bit steep, but it’s worth every last penny. It’s what I call “forever cookware.” Unless there’s a disaster of sorts, you could pass this along to someone very special in your will.
In a world where there are stores dedicated solely to kitchen gear, it’s easy to accumulate cookware and gadgets that will see little use. What may be a lifesaver to one cook, is a dust collector to another. However, I feel pretty confident that the tried and true items on this list could become some of your favorite things as well.
What’s the one kitchen item that you could not live without? I would love to hear your response in the comments!